Andy Irvine 80th Birthday Concert, at Vicar St. Dublin Featuring: Paul Brady / Dónal Lunny / Paddy Glackin / John Doyle / Mike McGoldrick / Bruce Molsky / Rens van der Zalm / Nikola Parov / Ágnes Herczku / Chrysoula K.
Tickets to see Andy Irvine and friends cost €45 (including booking fee), and will go on general sale this Thursday, March 17th at 10am.
Andy Irvine will mark his 80th birthday with a show at Vicar Street Dublin on Monday, June 20th this year.
The veteran musician will perform alongside special guests Paul Brady, Dónal Lunny, Paddy Glackin, John Doyle, Mike McGoldrick, Bruce Molsky, Rens Van Der Zalm, Chrysoula K, Nikola Parov and Ágnes Herczku.
Multi-instrumentalist and trad/folk singer-songwriter Andy Irvine has maintained his highly individual performing skills throughout his over 50-year career.
Following Planxty, Irvine joined fellow trad outfits Patrick Street, Mozaik, LAPD and recently Usher’s Island. Andy has been a world music pioneer and an icon for traditional music and musicians in his time.
As a soloist, the performer fills the role of the archetypal troubadour with a show and a travelling lifestyle that reflect his lifelong influence, Woody Guthrie. His repertoire consists of Irish traditional songs, dexterous Balkan dance tunes and a compelling canon of his own self-penned songs.
During the various Covid-19 lockdowns in Ireland, the folk legend finally managed to compile the material together for his own Woody Guthrie album and recorded the results.
“I’d been planning to do a Woody Guthrie album for four years now, care to remember,” he told Hot Press late last year, smiling. “I got it together and I recorded everything, and now it awaits other people’s inputs. He’s my first and main influence. I’ll have to relearn all this material I’ve recorded, but I’m looking forward to it.”
“I’ve booked Vicar Street in June to celebrate my 80th birthday, because 10 years ago I played two gigs there for my 70th birthday with a couple of bands,” Irvine added. “Sweeney’s Man, Mosaik, and LAPD with Paddy Glackin and Liam O’Flynn. That gig was a great success. We put it together on a CD and on a DVD, and I don’t see why I shouldn’t do it again for my 80th. Then I’d be looking forward to my 90th!”
Tickets €45 (including booking fee) on general sale Thursday 17th March at 10am.
Revisit Andy Irvine’s 2021 Hot Press interview here.
Beginning in the 1950s, a landmark era for the revival of Irish traditional and folk music, and taking us on an intriguing journey to the present day, The Flourishing is an hour-long arts documentary takes us on an intriguing journey from the 1950s to the present day tracking the transformation of a wavering musical genre into one which is performed and celebrated around the world. The Flourishing will feature the work and voices of this most important generation – among them Paul Brady, Mary Black, Finbar Furey, Paddy Glackin and Andy Irvine, Tríona Ní Domhnaill, Mary O’Hara and Mary Bergin – and discover how they changed the course of Irish folk music forever.
The Flourishing will air Dec. 30th on RTÉ One @6.30pm
The musician pays tribute to his boyhood idol in a special show in Dublin tonight. Here, he talks about getting back to live gigs, collaborating with rising Irish stars and why the crowd went wild for Planxty.
It was love at first listen when Andy Irvine encountered the music of Woody Guthrie. It was 1957 and he was 15. The American troubadour’s stark folk songs took a fierce hold and wouldn’t let go. It’s a passion that still burns brightly
“It’s been a lifelong devotion,” Irvine says, speaking via Zoom from his home in Wexford. “When I first bought one of his records and played it I was hooked from the first bar of the first song — it was like, ‘Yes! I’ve found it — this is it.’ And I can’t quite explain why. There was an honesty about him and his music that I appreciated.
“He wasn’t all that good as a musician and sometimes when I play his music to people who don’t know him and I hear him through them, I think, ‘Hmm, it’s not all that great’. But I loved the way he played guitar and I loved his singing voice and I’d play the guitar in the same style that he did and I’d even try to copy his Oklahoma accent.”
These were the songs that encouraged Irvine to pick up a guitar, and so began one of the great innings in Irish music history. He also picked up a pen and wrote to Guthrie himself. “The world was a much bigger place then and it could be hard just to get information — I didn’t know if he was alive or dead or how famous he was. I wrote a letter to ‘Woody Guthrie, USA’ and after about three weeks it came back.
“Then I found out he was in hospital so I wrote to him there. I found out later that the people who would take him out at weekends, Bob and Sidsel Gleason, would read the letters to him. And they wrote back to me. I made some recordings for Woody of his songs and in a letter that [the Gleasons] sent me, they said that he had sung along with me.”
He is still tickled by the memory more than 60 years later and he says he was greatly touched when on a visit to the Woody Guthrie Centre in Oklahoma, he discovered that the letters he had written as a teen were on display there. “They had found the letters at the hospital when it was being knocked down and they ended up in his archive. I photographed them all and it’s like a diary from when I was 16 and 17.”
Tonight, at Dublin’s National Concert Hall, Irvine plays tribute to Guthrie in a special show as part of the venue’s acclaimed Tradition Now series. He will be accompanied by his friend, the Dutch multi-instrumentalist Rens van der Zalm.
“Despite my devotion to Woody, this is out of my comfort zone.”
Irvine turns 80 next year, but this genial man could pass for someone in his early 60s. Although he says his fingers can’t race around the fretboard like they once could, his body has not betrayed him and he is still able to play live — something he clearly loves to do.
“Sometimes, when I hear myself playing 20 years ago I think, ‘Wow, I don’t think I could play that piece now.’ It doesn’t bother me because I’m still agile enough to accompany myself in the way I want to. And over the course of this pandemic, I’ve changed the way I hold the plectrum and I think it’s an improvement.”
He greatly missed the business of playing live. “I didn’t enjoy those streaming performances,” he says, “especially the ones that weren’t live. There’s nothing like playing in front of actual people.”
Last weekend, he played at the inaugural Hibernacle festival at Claregalway Castle, Co Galway. “It was wonderful. Everything had been put together so well. Normally, you wouldn’t notice the organisation, but we were treated fantastically well. The collaborations were great and the music was fantastic.” Irvine was the elder statesman among a home-grown line-up that included Lisa Hannigan, Jape, Tolü Makay and Saint Sister. “In one of the collaborations, they sang all the harmonies in all my songs — I don’t know how they learned them so quickly!”
Irvine was born in London in 1942 to an Irish mother and Scottish father. He was drawn to acting at an early age and became something of a child star. He appeared in ITV and BBC productions and featured in the acclaimed 1958 film Room at the Top.
But music, which had been a central part of his life for as long as he can remember, started to take over after the Woody Guthrie discovery. He moved to Ireland aged 20 and never looked back. His first band, Sweeney’s Men, made waves in a country that could sometimes be hostile to anything that was considered ‘trad’. By the end of the 1960s, Irvine had earned a reputation as one who was keen to leave a distinct mark on culture. His mastery of the bouzouki, the traditional Greek stringed instrument, demonstrated a yen to try different things.
Irvine is revered for his gifts with several instruments, but two of them loom large in his affections. “The bouzouki looks like a guitar and I’m sure half the audience think it’s a guitar, but it’s got eight strings and it delivers a really special sound,” he says. “And I love the mandola — it’s tuned a fifth below the mandolin. It’s still a bit on the high side, but it’s got a lovely plaintive quality about it and it’s great for slow songs.”
He brought both those instruments and more to his next band, Planxty — by any measure, one of the most significant groups to have emerged from this country in any genre. Right from the off, audiences sensed that this quartet — Irvine, Christy Moore, Dónal Lunny and Liam Óg O’Flynn — was special.
“We did a tour supporting Donovan in 1972,” Irvine recalls, “and the first gig was down in Galway in a ballroom called the Hanger. We’d never seen so many microphones or so many lights. We went on and we hadn’t done much of a soundcheck — about halfway though it, the audience made noises. Initially, I thought there was a fight going on but I looked at the others and they were smiling from ear to ear. At the end of it, as the crowd went berserk for more, I came to realise that we had pulled the house down.
“We brought into the band what we’d been doing solo. Dónal Lunny was very important in that he was really good at knitting the whole thing together. Basically, Christy, myself and Liam were soloists and, somehow, that gelled to the success we got. I’m not sure any of us were ever sure about how or why we were so popular.”
Although Irvine found great acclaim after Planxty finished — not least when he and Paul Brady joined forces for a classic album in 1976 — he often longed for the band to reform. After Leagues O’Toole’s book and documentary on the band restored interest in the early 2000s, Planxty reunited. “They were some of the best shows I’ve ever done,” he says. “I really believe we were better, musically, in our 60s, than we had been all those years before.”
He has no intention of calling time on life on the road. He’s itching to get back out there and the New Year will see him tour with Liam Brady. The gigs had to be postponed due to Covid.
“I craved audiences. And I missed it so much. I’d practice daily, but I came to find that I couldn’t play certain things, like the riff at the end of my song, O’Donoghue’s, and I thought, ‘This is the end, Andy. This is the slippery slope.’ But as soon as I was able to play in front of an audience — actual people — I found I could play it as well as ever.”
Andy Irvine and Donal Lunny revisited their 1973 album Planxty on Tuesday night, as part of the Up Close and Personal series at the Grand Social. The Up Close and Personal series is run in partnership by Hot `Press and Aidan Shortall of Up Close and Personal promotions, and is supported by the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media.
In 1973, Irish folk group Planxty released their eponymous debut album. Musicians Andy Irvine, Donal Lunny, Christy Moore and Liam O’Flynn transformed the landscape of Irish music, representing a pivotal moment in the evolution of Irish traditional music.
As part of the Up Close and Personal series, Irvine and Lunny revisited their legendary album, speaking with Hot Press’ Pat Carty about their lives and careers leading up to – and beyond – the creation of Planxty. Donal Lunny, Pat Carty and Andy Irvine. Hot Press presents Up Close & Personal with… Donal Lunny and Andy Irvine from PLANXTY at The Grand Social, Dublin.
Produced by Phil Coulter, who had a bit of a laissez-faire approach since the Planxty musicians had a clear-cut vision for their eponymous album, Planxty was a revolutionary album, sparking a wave of excitement in the Irish folk and trad community. As described by Carty, the work of Irvine and Lunny – and their Planxty cohorts – represented a “seismic shift” in the Irish folk idiom, due to their innovative mixing of ballads and tunes. For the musicians, however, the process was an organic one, driven by a love and passion for the music itself.
“I’m not sure that any of us really understood the success we acquired,” said Irvine. “It’s what we did.”
“It’s not that we had no control of it,” added Lunny, “but it’s what we loved.”
Throughout the night, Carty guided the musicians through their careers, talking about how they got to where they are now. For Lunny, he discovered music alongside fellow Irish folk icon (and Planxty man) Christy Moore. During sessions at Pat Downing’s, he found a like-minded community – and a new obsession.
“That’s really where I developed a passion for traditional music,” said Lunny about his times at Pat Downing’s.
Elsewhere, Irvine was an actor in London, where he was born and had spent much of his childhood.
“I was a child actor, and I was very good,” he admitted with a laugh. “I say that without conceit because all child actors are good.”
When he finally moved to Dublin, he said that he “found the niche in life [he] was looking for.”
After listening to the album’s opening track, ‘Raggle Taggle Gypsy’, Irvine and Lunny began their first live performance, ‘Arthur McBride’. From their seats on stage, the two men exuded a commanding presence and showcased their powerful musicianship. The song – by now an Irish folk standard – which expresses an anti-war sentiment, was greeted by huge applause from the crowd. Hot Press presents Up Close & Personal with… Donal Lunny and Andy Irvine from PLANXTY at The Grand Social, Dublin.
In between listens to ‘Planxty Irwin’, ‘Sweet Thames Flow Softly’ and ‘Junior Crehan’s Favourite – Corney Is Coming’, the musicians discussed their times on the road, the introduction of the bouzouki into Irish music, and where the name ‘Planxty’ came from – though it seems that both Irvine and Lunny were unsure of the origin of the latter word.
“It could have derived from the word ‘sláinte’,” Lunny started to explain. “You grow into the name, and the name becomes novel.”
‘The West Coast of Clare’ was the second track performed live, featuring delicate and precise backing on the musicians’ instruments. With the audience hanging on every note, the song’s deep emotions could be felt throughout the venue.
This was followed by the recorded versions of ‘The Jolly Beggar – Reel’, ‘Only Our Rivers’ and ‘Sí Bheag, Sí Mhór.’
Though Planxty’s ‘Follow Me Up To Carlow’ and ‘Merrily Kissed The Quaker’ went unplayed for time reasons – there was so much great conversation, the night flew! – the duo finished the evening with a performance of ‘The Blacksmith’. The Eastern European-influenced track is unique in its time signature and quirks, highlighting Irvine and Lunny’s incredible musicianship. Fingers were flying on both bouzouki and mandolin, the music filled with a passion that clearly hasn’t diminished since the original release of the album in 1973.
The final song was greeted by a standing ovation from a raucous crowd, who were whooping, hollering and cheering for the legendary musicians, capping off another excellent night of the Up Close and Personal series at The Grand Social. Hot Press presents Up Close & Personal with… Donal Lunny and Andy Irvine from PLANXTY at The Grand Social, Dublin.
See more pictures from Andy Irvine and Donal Lunny: Up Close and Personal here.