The Gloaming

The Gloaming is fiddle master Martin Hayes, guitarist Dennis Cahill, sean-nós singer Iarla Ó Lionáird, hardanger innovator Caoimhin Ó Raghallaigh and New York pianist Thomas Bartlett (aka Doveman).

These five master musicians, each with highly successful individual careers, have come together to create new music which pairs memorable, yearning melodies with a progressive style.

Although charged by the traditions of Ireland, what The Gloaming do with the structures of Irish music is anything but simple nostalgia. They introduce deep wells of personality and experience. Lyrics are drawn from the history of Irish literature, old and new. The music is played with the authority of virtuosos. The result is unclouded by sheen or sentimentality. Instead, it’s haunting and emotionally charged. It sounds ancient without being a mere reproduction.

Martin, Caoimhín and Dennis have been recognized for extending the Irish and Celtic music traditions, balancing traditional rigor with an energy that seems entirely new. Thomas has been identified with the independent rock scene for his work with artists as diverse as The NationalGlen Hansard, and Antony and the Johnsons. Iarla has made many ground breaking recordings with the Afro Celt Sound System, his distinctive voice venturing far beyond the boundaries of any one genre.

In early 2011, the five musicians first met to explore their collaboration at Grouse Lodge Studios in Ireland’s County Westmeath, an hour northwest of Dublin. They discovered a shared musical aesthetic that transcended the genres for which they’d become known. Later that year – newly christened The Gloaming – they went on their first Irish tour, including a sold out debut show at The National Concert Hall, Dublin. The sell-out hints at the excitement surrounding their formation, as does the fact that Ireland’s Prime Minister, Enda Kenny, was in attendance that night. Summer 2013 saw their return with more packed concerts in London, Amsterdam, Paris and New York.

2014 saw The Gloaming play more shows in the UK, Ireland, Germany, Belgium, Holland, Australia, Canada and America, notably a performance at London’s Royal Albert Hall as part of Ireland’s President Higgins’ state visit to Britain – their appearance a special request from the President. A triumphant return to Dublin’s National Concert Hall in Spring 2015 preceded a sell-out show in The Barbican’s main hall, followed by the Port Fairy Folk Festival, WOMADdelaide, the Auckland Arts Festival and WOMAD New Zealand.

The Gloaming were the worthy winners of the 2014 Meteor Choice Prize for Irish album of the year, fending off competition from Hozier, Aphex Twin, Sinead O’Connor, U2 and Damien Rice.

Hayes is the musical centre of The Gloaming – the player sat centre stage at their concerts, while the ethereal voice of the great sean nos singer Iarla Ó Lionáird envelops it.

"Vocals, two fiddles, a guitar and a piano - it doesn't sound like a traditional band really. It doesn't sound like it should sound." Martin Hayes

I remember the first time I heard Martin play,” says US pianist Thomas Bartlett, “and there was something that happened to my body that I hadn’t experienced before, where I felt like my heart would expand and contract with the way he was playing .” It’s a good summation of how many listeners respond to the master fiddler from County Clare.

With Hayes in the string section, Caoimhin Ó Raghallaigh’s hardanger fiddle is the music’s expressive underworld, probing the depths with drones and abstract textures, setting the reels and airs in a musical chiaroscuro. “Caoimhin was part of a new generation of musicians, young and thoughtful,” says Hayes. “It’s not so easy in a traditional music form to find your voice; it’s a tricky thing, and he did, he found a unique voice and a very unique way of playing.”

US guitarist Dennis Cahill’s is minimal, percussive, punctuating playing that lifts and amplifies specific spots, like musical acupuncture. “It’s the mark of a great piece of music,” he says, ”  when it’s bendable, and it doesn’t lose its integrity, and I think the tunes are spectacular like that, they can be played in a lot of ways.”

Thomas Bartlett’s piano is perhaps at the furthest remove from the folk tradition that Iarla, Martin and Caoimhin share. “Maybe why this band is working well,” he says, “is that I don’t recognize the lines that the rest of this band sees. They’re very happy to go outside of those boundaries, but the fact that I don’t even know the tradition helps make them disappear.”

Further reading

The Gloaming announce new album and share two tracks

The band's third album will be released on 22 February, ahead of their European and US tours.

The Gloaming at the National Concert Hall: ‘An experiment in controlled happenstance’

A closer look at the phenomenon that is The Gloaming's annual sold-out residency at the NCH, Dublin.

7 Real World album covers re-created with Lego

Two 11 year olds combined their favourite things —Lego and world music— in this wonderful rainy...