Watching Danú perform was a great way to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. Danú is a highly acclaimed, award-winning Celtic band that plays traditional music with a few originals sprinkled in. They also perform the music on traditional instruments. It was a great cultural exchange of enjoyable Irish music. They played the same music that Irish settlers brought to America long ago that influenced such genres as folk, Americana, and bluegrass. As a music fan I was eager to hear the group.
The stage was filled just with chairs and microphones for the musicians. The lighting was kept simple. The sound was mixed perfectly and sounded splendid in the beautiful Merchant Hall at Hylton Performing Arts Center. There was nothing flashy about the show. The music and the success of the show rested on the musicians’ talents and execution.
The show opened with Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh singing an Irish before the band joined in for a series of reels and jigs. Her voice was rich, powerful yet restrained – touching on those spiritual places music can go. When the band started playing she started playing a flute. Before the show was over she played an assortment of flutes and whistles. Benny McCarthy added his talents on the button accordion. Oisin McAuley played the fiddle and added backing vocals, while Eamon Doorley played the Irish Bouzouki. The Bouzouki is a fretted instrument similar to the guitar and lute. Donal Clancy provided both lead and backing vocals and played guitar. Martin O’Neill, a Scotsman, played the Bodhran – which is a hand-held Irish drum.
The show was wrapping up a tour for Danu so the band was a bit adventurous. They tried out a song called “St. Patrick’s Polka” that they had never performed before, and sang a beautiful arrangement of Tommy Sands’ “The Country Down.”
Danú returned for a second set after a fifteen-minute intermission. They started the second set off with a instrumental followed by a song about Waterford, which is where the band is from in Ireland. Next they performed “Murphy’s Hornpipe, Lord Gordon’s Reel.” The instrumental highlighted McAuley’s fiddle playing. Next was a Scottish tune called “Scottish Broom,” which was an emotionally sad tune that highlighted Clancy’s guitar work and vocals. Surprisingly, O’Neill sat that song out. They closed the set with a song that highlighted everyone’s musical talents and everyone was given a solo on their instrument. I found O’Neill’s solo fascinating because it really demonstrated what one could do with a relatively small drum, although I felt his solo ran a bit long. Being a fan of fretted instruments, I enjoyed Doorley’s solo on the Bouzouki and Clancey’s on guitar very much. The band interjected many amusing stories and playful jokes about the Irish and the Scots. The band was really having a lot of fun and the audience was thrilled.
The band saved perhaps the best song for their encore, when they returned to the stage to perform the touching “Parting Glass” song – a song about solidarity, friendship, love, drink, and farewell What an appropriate way to end a St. Patrick’s Day celebration!
Running Time: Two hours and 15 minutes, with one 15-minute intermission.