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Celtic Connections - T with the Maggies and the Glackins, City Halls

*****

Just after 10pm on Saturday some extra special magic hit Celtic Connections.

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What had happened already on this concert with its roots in Donegal’s singing and fiddling traditions had been special enough, with the meeting of four of Ireland’s great voices being prefaced by a fiddling brotherhood whose tunes touched the soul as well as motivated the feet.

But when Mairead Ni Mhaonaigh joined the Glackins – Paddy, Seamus and Kevin – in a fiddle foursome and drove the music the way she has consistently to make her band, Altan, a major force in Irish music, we were really being spoilt. The Glackins, as with Ni Mhaonaigh’s partnership with Clannad’s Moya Brennan and Triona and Maighread Ni Dhomhnaill, lend much credence to the school of thought that says you don’t perform traditional music, you share it. And they shared it beautifully, playing straight and true and when the focus shifted briefly from the Donegal style, with its Highland bagpipe-like phrasing, to the longer, rolling tones of County Clare, it felt like a genuine geographical shift.

T with the Maggies, with Manus Lunny (guitar and bouzouki) and Jim Higgins (percussion) adding subtle colour alongside Triona Ni Dhomhnaill’s piano and Ni Mhaonaigh’s fiddle, is a supergroup in quality and a bunch of pals by nature. Their voices blended gloriously, be it on a cappella songs such as the traditional, entirely danceable A Stor a Stor a Ghra or the thought-provoking group original Mother’s Song, and by the time they harmonised a simple, apt Farewell, Farewell, I can’t have been alone in feeling entertained, moved and thoroughly enriched.

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