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Ronan Browne - Truly an artist for all time
by William Ramoutar
It’s been a while, but do you remember where you were when you heard the Eurovision interlude put together for the 1994 contest to advertise Dublin and of course the rest of Ireland? Do you remember? Well I have to say it blew this lad off his feet. The phenomenon was of course Riverdance. That was the name of the tune and it grew from a seven minute showcase of the country into three shows travelling the world and but for a few things that have happened since, it has left the world stage. But in my estimation, that is only temporary. They will be back.
You remember it started off with the wonderful a cappella group Anúna with ethereal voices washing over you, then the drums, well at that time tom toms, but shortly after of course it was a few lads with drums that had been designed for the show. Of course then the uilleann pipes opened up and the remarkable Ronan Browne played them with such fire and passion that they were catapulted into the limelight like they never had been before.
Ronan was born into a musical dynasty in some ways. His grandmother was Delia Murphy who was an icon to many people because she brought many Irish songs to audiences in many countries. Because she was married to the Irish ambassador who went on to America, Australia, Canada, Germany and would you believe the Vatican! Delia Murphy sang wherever she could and the Irish tradition would not be what it is today if not for her efforts.
In many ways her grandson has surpassed his grandmother's feats because of the colossal amount of work he has done himself. At seven years of age he took up the pipes and was in the enviable position of having access to masters of the tradition who came to his parents’ house to show their talents. Seamus Ennis, Willie Clancy and Johnny Doran are some of the biggest influences to many present day musicians, and Ronan learned from them all. Also, the Dublin innovative fiddle player Tommy Potts made a great impression. Potts himself was influenced by many styles of music, including jazz and classical, and gave Irish traditional music his own twist. Ronan’s music has many twists and turns of its own. Initially he started recording with very traditional groups or bands and then in 1989 he helped out on a Canadian group’s release. I think since then there have been no boundaries or limits to his contributions or talents.
In 1995 he partook of an opportunity to play at another innovator’s recording studio, the great Peter Gabriel, ex-leader of the rock group Genesis. Gabriel had set up several scenarios for a wide collection of multicultural drummers, singers and traditional African, Japanese and Irish instrumentalists and musicians to pass from one room to the other. One particular group performed together and thus began the fierce Afro Celt Sound System, whose cross playing and rhythms took the public by storm. Ronan stayed for two successful albums and then, as he had still been performing with Irish musicians at home in Ireland, joined the group Cran with three other huge talents and still records with them to the present.
He has written and taken part in musical scores for many Irish motion pictures and they have been rather successful, in my estimation, because his style of playing is truly inspired and tugs at the heart of the listener. The films have been enriched by his music and it makes for an all-encompassing experience.
His generosity comes through on his playing and besides the uilleann pipes he performs on a huge array of tin whistles, low whistles, flutes and even some he has made himself. The works and releases to which he has contributed are in the dozens, and many I am sure you have heard.
The series to watch out for are the now legendary Transatlantic Sessions, Series 3 and two of the same series cd’s, Volumes One and Two.
The movies of note are Circle of Friends and The Secret of Roan Inish. Two fine windows into rural Irish life.
The first two cd’s of the Afro Celt Sound System.
Several contributions to the Celtic Tenors and the Irish Tenors.
But of course the main ones to watch out for are four of the Cran cd’s and of course his duet cd's with long time collaborator Peter O’Loughlin and actually has just produced and played on the latest called Legacy.
A superb book and cd with Cork poet Louis de Paor.
And one with the man from Galway himself Seán Tyrrell. (And So The Story Goes)
I could go on, but these reviews are supposed to pique your interest and curiosity in these artists and I hope I have done Ronan Browne some justice. His influence is far reaching and will continue, mark my words, you’ll see his smiling face and hear his huge talent and never forget the man. An Artist for all time.
Watch the original Eurovision Song Contest performance of Riverdance
Hear Ronan Browne play Port na bPúcaí
Main Photo Credit: Ronan's web site
Delia Murphy: Bray Arts
Seamus Ennis: YouTube
Cran: Ronan Browne's web site
Legacy CD cover from Amazon
Sean Tyrell/Ronan Browne/Glackin - And so the story goes cover from Amazon
This review written by William Ramoutar The presenter of IRISH WAYS RADIO PROGRAMME
WFCF Radio 88.5 FM
Every Sunday 11:00 am to Noon eastern standard time on the radio WFCF 88.5fm
Streaming live on iheart
William can can also be found on facebook
Thu, Dec 7, 2017
Holly and Ivy hanging up and
something wet in every cup*
Not so long ago, Irish Christmas decorations were much simpler than they are now. The children gathered holly and ivy for adorning, windows, doorways, mantles and pictures, and the father would carve out a turnip in which would be placed a large red candle. This would go in the window to light the way for the Holy Family on Christmas Eve. Only in relatively recent times did an Irish family have a Nativity scene and a decorated tree in the house. As for Mistletoe, it's quite rare in ireland and is generally associated with ancient Celtic and Druidic fertility celebrations; this is most likely where the custom of kissing under the mistletoe comes from.
*Old Irish Christmas toast
Image: Pashley Manor Gardens.
Click for More Culture Corner.
Derek Bell recorded Carolan's Receipt in 1975, the same year he joined the Chieftains. The selections include "Sídh Beag agus Sídh Mór," the first melody O'Carolan composed, as well "Carolan's Farewell to Music," which was his last. There have been dozens of settings of O'Carolan's compositions released since these, but none have surpassed the beauty of Bell's.
See our Article on O'Carolan
Click here for Carolan's Receipt.