Review by Joseph Sherman
The first thing I notice at the concert is that Téada is not Danù. One youthful player less (both ensembles feature immensely talented musicians in their 20s), and no pipes or vocals, but it’s more than that; it’s the angle of approach to the music and the arrangements.
On the first, the Téada folk are more forthcoming, perhaps even more knowledgeable, as demonstrated on stage, about the origins of the tunes they perform; and where arrangements are concerned, theirs are evident and notably layered. Danu sounds distinctly arranged on that band’s CDs, but they do employ multitracking (Donnchadh Gough, for example, is the percussionist as well as the uillean piper) that makes reproducing the same sound live difficult. Danù dives in with purpose, and an exciting band it was (‘was’ because the band has dissolved since its last appearance on PEI). Téada is more studied than aggressive, but what a tight little band it is, no question. All but one of the musicians have something to impart verbally, as well as musically.
Oisin Mac Diarmada, heralded as a phenomenal fiddler, measures up, certainly as validated by one knowing musician-friend I spoke with during the break. The other standout for me—a revelation when I’d dubbed the Gough fellow the finest bodhran player I’ve ever experienced live—is Tristan Rosenstock, a lanky instrumentalist (the one instrument solely) who is the best slow drummer I’ve watched play. He uses, as does Gough, a medium-size drum with no hand rods, and a slim tipper for intricate effect. Accurate to say that the bodhran, in his hands, becomes more of a tuned instrument than something only to beat upon. I’m impressed. Téada’s sound includes button accordion, flute(s), and bouzouki and guitar.
A compact concert before a respectable house, larger if the CBC issue had been resolved sooner. All arts endeavors have suffered for the loss of promotional and celebratory airtime on CBC Radio. Still, those present respond enthusiastically, and Téada can hope to return to a core fan base.
From the high reel with which Téada opens the performance through the jigs (slip and hop), reels, polkas (in a peachy arrangement) and intricate barn dances that characterize their chalkboard study of contemporary-traditional Irish music, there’s a determined and high-spirited energy that once again demonstrates just how talented is the latest generation of Celtic players. Reassuring in a cooling climate.