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Kavan from Cavan Harp CD


Kavan from Cavan harp CD


Kavan — a natural musician

Kavan Donohoe was always going to be a musician. The walk of life may yet take him on one or more career paths, but the music was, is and will be his one true vocation.

  Coming from a household where the very walls were ringing with jigs and reels, where family trips to fleadhs and festivals were the order of the day, and where his father, the irrepressible box player Martin Donohoe had amassed an archivist’s treasure trove of traditional recordings and trivia of all sorts over the years, it’s no surprise that Kavan was hooked on the music from an early age.

  And to those of us who’ve witnessed his mastery on the harp and uilleann pipes develop at an exponential rate over the last six or seven years, it’s no surprise either that, at the still youthful age of 19, he presents here a tastefully selected collection of tunes, in what will undoubtedly be the first of many CDs from one of Ireland’s most talented young multi-instrumentalists.

  With the apt and slightly audacious title Kavan from Cavan — do we detect the ould man’s hand in that? — this 13-track recording delivers what it says on the tin alright, but a lot more besides. Here the harp is given pride of place, and its versatility as an instrument is explored to the full as Kavan offers fresh interpretations of tunes ranging in tempo from slow airs to high-energy reels, with hornpipes, waltzes, round dances and jigs thrown in for good measure.

  Traditional melodies and works by past masters like Turlough O’Carolan and James Scott Skinner sit comfortably with contemporary compositions sourced on either side of the Atlantic from the likes of Phil Cunningham, Fintan McManus, Liz Carroll, and other acclaimed musicians of the modern era. We even get a tune from a rock band (‘Clocks’, by Coldplay) — which has to be a first for harp music!

  If the harp through its antiquity can claim to be the most traditionally “Irish” instrument of all, it’s only over recent decades that it is being accepted in the “traditional” session, and playing the lead in dance music tunes as well as airs and accompaniment. In that sense, this new CD by Kavan Donohoe marks an important addition to a growing collection of recordings that is bringing the harp to the fore and seeking to re-establish and redefine its place within the dynamic and ever-evolving genre that is Irish traditional music.

  The uilleann pipes, of course, have always held a special place in the Irish tradition, and like the harp, the instrument is also recognised as among the most difficult to master. But Kavan’s command of the pipes can be heard to good effect in a stirring rendition of James Ennis’s The Morning Thrush, coupled with that old favourite, The Old Bush. It’s a track that will whet the appetite for more, and we’ll be expecting the Cavan man to bring his piping skills to the recording studio many times again in the future.

  The same might be said of his low whistle and tin whistle playing, which is given an outing here on the delightful set of French flavoured round dances, and which will, again, no doubt feature prominently in future recordings from this exciting young artist.

  Added to the mix, too, are contributions some of the finest musicians on the contemporary traditional scene. If the multi-talented Kavan left his guitar in the case this time out, it’s because he’s given the duties on that instrument to world-renowned six-string wizard Tim Edey. Enhancing the recording still further is the bouzouki of Fintan McManus, the bodhran of Niall Preston, and the flute playing of Kavan’s sister, Savannah Donohoe, who has a bright future in the music in her own right.

  Having already won numerous awards and toured and recorded extensively, Kavan Donohoe has, even at this early stage, built up an enviable track record in trad, one that many musicians twice his age and older would be happy to attach to their names.

  He belongs to an enthusiastic generation of highly talented, technically accomplished up-and-coming musicians in whose safe hands the tradition will remain vibrant, alive and well for many years to come.

—Mickey McDonnell


Last Updated: July 29, 2014, 4:59 p.m.