The Gloaming
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In Review > Concerts and Recitals

The Gloaming

NEW YORK CITY
Lincoln Center's White Light Festival
10/16/15

AS PART OF THIS SEASON'S Lincoln Center White Light Festival, The Gloaming, a lively band that performs Irish traditional music in a non-traditional manner, performed at Symphony Space on October 16 to a large and enthusiastic audience.

The Gloaming consists of five musicians, three Irishmen, a transplanted American and a native New Yorker. Their music includes reels and other traditional dance forms, lullabies and laments. The magic of this band comes across in the highly charged level of improvisation that occurs throughout. The original songs feature the soulful high baritone of Iarla Ó Lionáird, who also plays harmonium. Ó Lionáird’s lyrics are in a combination of Gaelic and English. Fiddler Martin Hayes provides a fiery, lead-guitar-style of fiddle solos, counterbalanced by the more subtle and nuanced style of Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh, who performs on an instrument he calls the Hardanger d’amore, an eight-stringed cross between a Norwegian Hardanger fiddle and a Viola d’amore. The solid rhythm playing of guitarist Dennis Cahill and the visionary meanderings of pianist Thomas Bartlett round out the ensemble and contribute greatly to the delightful originality of this band’s approach.

The evening at Symphony Space was a musical triumph. This was the final stop for The Gloaming on an American tour, and their music was alternately white-hot and profoundly reflective. It was a great joy to hear. The only marring aspect was in Bartlett’s grotesque stage deportment. Bartlett hovered over his keyboard like an ghoulish extra in a low-budget horror film, kicked, stamped and grunted to a distracting degree, and went through the better part of a bottle of wine during the set. It grew annoying, as the listener had to make a concerted effort to try to ignore Bartlett’s shenanigans to give this wonderful music making the attention it deserved. 

Many years ago, I was working as a recording engineer at a series of concerts. One of the follow-spot operators went out before the final show and got highly intoxicated. During the ensuing show, when called upon for his light cues, the drunken operator’s beam of light would come up anywhere except at its assigned location, even on the theatre walls. Ultimately, the other follow-spot operator took over as many of his errant colleague’s cues as he could. As that technician said to his intoxicated colleague, “Dude, there’s a right time and a wrong time.” I found myself recalling that incident as I tried to ignore Bartlett. I don’t know if his behavior was due to being happy to be back home or due to something else, but Bartlett, despite the brilliance and creativity of his playing, did not honor the music or his colleagues by drawing so much attention to himself. In any event, The Gloaming’s concert was a delight to hear, even if we in the audience had to keep our eyes closed or diverted from stage right. —Arlo McKinnon 

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