Masters of their craft still in perfect harmony

Alan Owens

Reporter:

Alan Owens

A rare musical kinship: Martin Hayes and Dennis Cahill, who will perform in the Lime Tree Theatre, Mary Immaculate College, on Friday May 31.Picture: Derek Speirs
THE most successful musical partnerships share a symbiosis, an innate understanding of the other’s strengths and weaknesses.

THE most successful musical partnerships share a symbiosis, an innate understanding of the other’s strengths and weaknesses.

Unquestionably one of the greatest partnerships to have a grounding in Irish traditional music, Martin Hayes and Dennis Cahill share that rare musical kinship, fine tuning that has come both with time, yet more directly through their brilliance.

Hayes, from East Clare, is simply a fiddle virtuoso - the greatest of his generation. His comrade-in-music, Dennis Cahill, is a master guitarist from Chicago, as well versed in all forms of music as he is in trad.

He is acknowledged as one of the foremost innovative guitar accompanists in Irish music.

Together they make spell binding creations, particularly in the live sphere where their legendary live concerts have garnered international acclaim, the musicians taking trad to very limits, grabbing the audience by the heartstrings with their intense, powerful performances.

They met over two decades ago, and have been touring for 19 years, incessantly, as Hayes admits.

“That would be pretty close. We tour, we cover a lot of ground. We have many opportunities to do plenty of other things - and we do - but this is the thing that I am probably still most excited about,” says the fiddle player, who is a regular visitor to the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance in the University of Limerick - where he is a board member.

Despite their years of touring and playing together, encompassing three critically acclaimed albums, the most recent of which was 2008’s Welcome Here Again, Hayes says “this thing with Dennis” is still “very much the centre of what I do musically”.

It was a chemistry they noticed immediately.

“The one thing I knew, right from the beginning, was that we would always be able to find new and different things to do, that the way Dennis was set up and I liked to approach it, that we would continually find new things,” he says.

“Even after 19 years being on the road, we are still discovering things musically and finding a lot of opportunities, so we stay very excited about it. The day it felt jaded, we would stop.”

The duo, who will play in the Lime Tree Theatre next week, a fact that excites Martin, still strive for that inspiration, a sense of the music determining the end of their journey when they play live.

“Every night, it opens up a lot of potential,” he says of the collaboration.

“Mainly the thing we are always striving for is a greater level of spontaneity and connection and participation - to have that flowing every night if possible. So that every event is, in a way, hopefully unique.

This is helped by the musical contrast of fiddle and guitar, one lyrical and the other ever so methodical.

“We try to make every piece be a unique creation, to look for the uniqueness in every melody, find the richness already in a piece of music and see if we can bring that out.

“I feel like we challenge the boundaries on one hand, yet immerse ourselves very deeply in that experience too.”

Martin Hayes and Dennis Cahill perform in the Lime Tree Theatre, Mary Immaculate College, on Friday May 31. Tickets are available from 061-774774 or www.limetreetheatre.ie.