Thursday, 12 January 2017

The Byrne Brothers

In my capacity as 'freelance contributor' to Irish Music Magazine over the past four years I have been very fortunate to meet, greet, interview, and hear, some of the most outstanding traditional Irish musicians worldwide.
People often ask me who has been the most inspirational to date. There is never one answer. But I will always say that Hanz Araki and his partner Colleen Raney will always stand out, as they travelled all the way to my family village of Muff, here in Donegal, a few years ago to say 'hi' and have a Guinness with me in the village local, The Squealing Pig Muff. That was a special meeting having interviewed Hanz a few months prior for Irish Music Magazine. Two exceptionally talented musicians and two exceptionally lovely people. (visit soon folks please)
Every month I am so fortunate that I get to speak with at least one amazing traditional Irish musician, and each continually inspires me with their love, passion, and dedication to our national culture and music.
My most recent interview was with three young lads from Gods county in Ireland...Donegal. Aged just 12, 11 and 7 I really was in awe when I met the three boys with their parents at The Cottage Bar in Letterkenny.
I normally host Children's Creative Writing workshops on a Saturday with The WRITE STUFF Kids Club but last Saturday I was meeting these three kids. And what a meeting this proved to be.
I was travelling back to Donegal in August last year from a short holiday in Cork and Shannon (Co. Clare), when I realised that the Fleadh Cheoil was actually happening that week in Ennis. Unfortunately I didn't have time to stop off as work awaited. Boy was I disappointed.
Just a few days later I watched online the outstanding live video posted by The Byrne Brothers' mother, of her three boys and father (her husband Tommy). It totally blew me, the nation, and the world, away. The Byrne Brothers not only impressed me that day, but they took the world by storm. This was the most watched online video in Ireland for last year. And here was little me meeting these lads just last Saturday. I really was in the presence of some very special children.
The boys shot to fame after their appearance on The Late Late Toy Show 2015.

Luca, Finn and Dempsey are now being sought after worldwide to showcase their outstanding musical and dancing ability. The boys are music and dancing enthusiasts. Just being in their company showed me how important this tradition and culture is to them.
Finn was in awe when I told him I'd interviewed and met Cathal Hayden. Luca just couldn't let go of his treasured 'button accordion' and little Dempsey (7) talked non stop of his love of music and dance.
I asked the boys where their love of music comes from. They didn't hesitate in telling me that they were all inspired by their Grandfather and their Dad, Tommy.
Tommy Byrne is one of the founding members of the world renowned trad music scene in Temple Bar, Dublin. But Tommy's history goes further. He told me,  I'm an Irish Show director and composer. It's what I've been doing for years. My biggest show was Celtic Dance Force in New Zealand with 30 dancers and an 8 piece band and toured NZ with it. I've another show called Ceili in the Kitchen I do with the boys that includes getting the audience (tourists) up for a ceili dance or two. And Slice of Ireland Show I directed for 4 years in The Central Hotel Donegal. I'm also a music producer with my own studio and have done the music for a Sky Sports Golf program that went out all over the world (You Tube).

So it's no surprise that these three young men are so gifted. It's in their genes.
The boys play a variety of traditional Irish instruments: the button accordion, fiddle, mandolin, bodhrán, banjo and tin whistle. They dance, they sing and they make their own music. For three primary school children, they incorporate a world of culture and tradition in one little space.
And last Saturday they had very little space and yet they showed myself and the people of Letterkenny just what they can do. They played a few tunes in The Cottage Bar and brought the place to life on a Saturday afternoon amid the darts and football that was on the screen.
What impressed me most that day was how grounded and rooted the three boys are. Their mother Julie sees to that. She told me about their small rural school that the boys attend outside Donegal town and how their teacher and Principal ensure the boys get no special attention but ensure that their educational needs always come first. 
Dad Tommy plays with his three sons and emphasises that they "are continually teaching me". Julie told me that the kids "always put a twist to their music and it's all their own creation". 
Earlier last week The Byrne Brothers filmed their first video in Dublin which will go along with their debut CD, The Family Tree. Tommy showed me the said video and I was so very honoured to be the first person to see such. I was very touched by the tear in Dad Tommy's eye as I watched it. To say he and Julie are proud is such an understatement. These parents are very much parents first and foremost. I shed a tear on my drive home just thinking about it. 
The Byrne Brothers, and indeed The Byrne Family, are US bound very soon. They are playing in Florida for St. Patrick's Day and then New Jersey and New York following that. 
I asked the three kids where has been the most memorable place they have played to date - bearing in mind they have been on The Late Late Toy Show, they have played all over Ireland and beyond, they have played in the US - and yet in unison they told me, "Temple Bar in the bar Daddy played in, Goartys Temple Bar."  Roots are instilled in these young men and familial tradition is paramount. It was very special to hear them all speak at once saying such. 
Being a mother to three sons myself I asked the boys about girlfriends - all hugged Julie at once. Mother is the only girlfriend at present and somehow I don't see that changing any time soon. (Oh how I recall those days long ago!)
America beckons for The Byrne Family in just a few weeks time and yet when I asked about future gigs they were again in unison about a gig which is happening as I write this - a gig in their mothers home town where their great grandmother can travel to see them. America is very exciting for them, but for their family, home is paramount. Again I was teary. The mother instinct just never leaves!
As a huge rock fan I was very honoured to meet my idol, Bryan Adams, a few years ago....I've met and hung out with Sinead O'Connor...I've chatted with and interviewed The Four of Us...I've interviewed and had drinks with Eric Bell (Thin Lizzy)...I've interviewed Elanor McEvoy...Cathal Hayden...Altan...Na Mooneys...We Banjo Three...Coscán....Beoga...and so many more.....but next time someone asks me who has been the most inspirational musician I've met to date I won't hesitate in saying....3 kids from Donegal....namely, Luca, Finn and Dempsey Byrne. I've recently had my ultimate 'claim to fame' with three kids from Donegal...Luca, Finn and Dempsey are my true heroes to date. Watch this space...these guys, alongside their parents, really are set to take the world by storm.


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