The School of the Arts 60th Performing Arts Series is back with their spring performances from Goitse, Sweet Honey In The Rock and jazz composer Michael Mayo.
On Thursday, Feb. 25 Goitse opened up the start of the spring semester with a fun and energetic 75 minute set of original, remixed and classical tunes.
The witty Irish quintet held a workshop prior to their performance, and that musical workshop can still be viewed through the Washoe County Library system.
While the main event may have been their stunning performance on Thursday evening, the workshop gave families the opportunity to learn and appreciate classical Irish music and learn about the instruments that go into making the tunes.
This is the first time Goitse has performed for the UNR students, but after watching their performance, Irish folklore will linger on campus for the rest of the semester.
Goitse is a multi-award-winning quintet that formed after five gifted artists met at Limerick’s Irish World Academy of Music and Dance. Goitse was named Ireland’s “Traditional Group of the Year” and also received the “Freiburger International Leiter 2016” in Germany.
The band has also been named the leader of traditional Irish ensembles of the new generation.
Colm Phelan, Goitse’s Bodhrán player, has been playing classic Irish tunes since he was little. The Bodhrán is a Irish frame drum with goatskin tacked to one side. The drum is not very big, but certainty brings unique liveliness to the band.
“I’m trying to remember how to play music,” Phelan said at the beginning of the performance. “It’s been a long seven months.”
The band had only performed together twice in the last seven months due to the pandemic, and they warned the audience they may be rusty. Of course, the band performed very well, but this comment by Phelan broke through any performance jitters and had the audience laughing.
Along with his humorous personality, Phelan has won numerous medals through the years and holds the title of the first ever World Bodhran Champion in 2006. In the same year, he also won the All Ireland in Letterkenny for the second year in a row. Phelan graduated from Limerick with a BA in Irish Music and since then joined Goitse and released his solo CD “Full Circle.” Much more of Phelan’s achievements can be viewed on Goitse’s website.
The second member of the band is the lovely Fiddle player, Áine McGeeney. McGeeney graduated Limerick with a BA in Irish Music and Dance and a MA in Irish Music Performance.
Along with playing her fiddle, McGenney is an extremely talented vocalist, and sings many of Goitse’s songs in English and Irish. She is a founding member of the group and has toured all of the world sharing her love of classic Irish folk music.
McGenney was awarded “Female Vocalist of 2016” by Irish American News and through her many accomplishments has been sought out to lead workshops in fiddle and vocals.
“The first set we were playing I was a wee bit emotional,” McGenney said when describing their pre-performance practice.
After engaging the audience with a fun story about the band reuniting to play, McGenney lead into their musical adaptation of the Irish poem “An Bonnán Buí” by Cathal Buí Mac Giolla Ghunna.
Throughout the entire performance, Goitse captivated audiences with their upbeat polkas and their tear-brimming rhythms.
Many of their classical Irish tunes are attributed to Alan Reid, the band’s highly-adept multi-instrumentalist. Reid plays the banjo, bouzouki, mandolin and the oud. With his instrumental skills, Reid appearance in the 2014 movie “Noble” and is featured on the compilation CD “Leitrim Equation 3.”
The band affectionately calls Reid their classic Irish archive, as he’s passionate about taking old Irish tunes and recreating them into sounds that can be enjoyed by the new generation of Irish music lovers.
Goitse’s other very talented instrumentalist, Tadhg Ó Meachair, is the man behind the keys. Performing in many festivals throughout Europe, Meachair recently graduated from Limerick and has many titles from his playing of the piano and piano accordion.
During their set, the band played “Make Me A Polka,” composed by Meachair himself. When they played this polka the audience simply couldn’t help but tap their feet and dance along to the inspiring music. Goiste helped their audience enjoy live music again, and their performance made everyone smile.
Conal O’Kane is the last member in this talented quintet. O’Kane is from Philadelphia, graduating Limerick with a BA in Irish Music and Dance and MA in Irish Music. A multi-instrumentalist himself, he originally played fiddle and banjo before focusing on guitar. A few practices in, Goiste decided they wanted a guitarist to diversify their sound. With his insight on different melodic and harmonic structures of Irish tunes, O’Kane was an amazing addition to the band.
O’Kane is also an undergrad and postgrad guitar teach a teacher at the Irish World Academy.
With joy on each of the musician’s faces, they embraced the evening and asked the audience to forget about the pandemic and just focus on how music brings people together. The sentiment was comforting, and when the band finished each set the audience clapped, whooped and cheered.
After the band closed out their performance with “My Belfast Love” and “Transformed,” a pre-recorded Q&A session with Program Manager Shoshana Zeldner played. This Feb. 25 performance can still be viewed on-demand until March 11.
More information about Goitse, and the other two performances can be found on UNR’s performing arts website.
Emilie Rodriguez can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @emilieemeree.