FolkWorld Live Review 12/99:

Ireland's Young Generation

The Pure Irish Drops Tour 1999

By Michael Moll

Aine Fitzpatrick & Michelle O'Brien; photo by The Mollis The Pure Irish Drops is a Germany based tour project bringing together every year three outstanding musicians of the Irish music scene, to present their instruments and styles. While all tours before have been based on the old established masters of Irish traditional Music, the Pure Irish Drops 1999 presented the Young Generation, featuring Michelle O'Brien, Áine Fitzpatrick and Brendan McCarthy - three of tomorrow's masters of tradional Irish Music.

The Pure Irish Drops normally play club style concerts, where the audience can experience the musicians' styles just in front of themselves, in an intimate atmosphere. The clubby atmosphere is an important part of the successful concept of the Pure Drops, giving an alternative to the big Celtic Festival tours in Germany - the likes of Irish Folk Festival and St. Patrick's Day Celebration tour - playing in front of a thousand people.

The last concert of this year's tour took place in one of the old established and prestigious German venues for Irish Folk, in the "Sonne" ("sun") pub in Herne, Northrhine-Westfalia. Unfortunately, only a small bunch of people came to see a masterpiece concert, the best Irish Music event of this season.

Benny McCarthy and Michelle O'Brien; photo by The Mollis The concert starts off with two solo numbers of each musician. First on is Benny McCarthy, a young musician who is already a well known face on the Irish trad circuit. Playing his button accordions also in Ireland's top young trad band Danú, he has been on several of the biggest folk music stages in the world. This tour gives the rare chance to experience a few solo numbers of this skilled musician. With his lively tunes and witty comments, Benny has directly the audience going.

Áine Fitzpatrick plays afterwards two sets on the concert flute. The girl is yet unknown in the international scene, but her skill is proved by the three All Ireland Champion titles she has won on her instrument yet. Some beautiful music.
The third drop is Michelle O'Brien, and this pretty girl amazes the audience with her stunning fiddle style. Taught by the fiddle master Tommy Peoples, you can hear a clear influence from that side. Playing with full passion, mostly with her eyes closed, her music opens any heart.

Seeing these three musicians one after the other, it is an exciting experience to see the differences in the female and male approach to playing traditional music. While Benny presents his music in a coolish way, the girls have a more modest and charming, maybe more intimate approach to the music. These are just the kind of observations that a Pure Irish Drops tour can offer...

Aine Fitzpatrick; photo by The Mollis

After their solo sets, all three youngsters play together on stage, going over to a lively session that still gives enough room to any of the musicians. The music blends perfectly, the performance has a very fresh and natural feeling. Before the tour started, the three had never played an official gig - just in sessions. It sounds like in these few weeks touring together, they have not only built up a close relationship, but also a band's sound.

This evolution was observed by the Pure Irish Drops agent Florian Fürst, who joined the three on the tour as roadie and soundman. He summons the tour, "I had this year the experience to see the development of these musicians. In difference to former Pure Irish Drops tours, when the masters thought - and also showed - that they simply know their business and skills, here we have young people who have improved totally during this tour; they have improved their stage presence, they have improved their playing together. And I think all have given an idea of their future. I am sure that Michelle O'Brian will become a magnificent and famous fiddler, although her wish to teach and hand over the music to younger people is bigger than to go on stage. And Brendan will surely sooner or later be named among the best accordeonists from Ireland."

Michelle O'Brien; photo by The Mollis Indeed all three were a treat. They have proved very well to Continental audiences that Irish Music is alive and kicking also among normal youths in Ireland, that young people have once again a very natural approach to their traditions. Meanwhile they have also same interests as "average youths", going some times after the concerts to discos and having in general a great time - and that is just what can make this trio attractive to a possible new young generation of audiences!

The three have enjoyed themselves a lot during the tour. All think that it has been a brilliant and very well organised tour, with good craic, mighty music and great audiences. Áine mentions the "lovely instrument concept", while Benny summons the tour as "very interesting and very unusual, but brillant. - And we have done lots of shopping..."
Tour agent Florian Fürst was impressed by the concert in Prague, the first time ever that the Pure Irish Drops tour played in the Czech Republic. "It was an unforgettable experience because seeing the Czech people there dancing Irish dances in rows of six - I would have never expected that! There is a huge Irish fan circle there, and without doubt the Pure Irish Drops will come back there!"

The three Áine, Benny and Michelle are now thinking about working together on a more regular base; it might also be that a live recording of the tour will be published on disc. It would be a pleasure to see the Pure Irish Drops 99 remain on the international Irish music scene. Their music (and characters) just blend too perfectly, the appeal of their stage presence is too positive, and the reactions in the audience have been too enthusiastic to call that project after the tour a day!

Aine Fitzpatrick & Michelle O'Brien; photo by The Mollis For the future of the Pure Irish Drops, Florian has some very nice ideas already: "With the new generation, I thought why not bringing together now somebody of the old generation when Irish Music was still natural house music, with somebody who is just starting to get known, who is of the new generation where Irish Music is also - once again - house music played naturally. And then add somebody who was partly responsible for that the music has become once again naturally played, somebody from the generation when the revival in Ireland had started."
Any first names for this tour in 2000? "I think the old generation will be represented by Joe Derrane, who has played his accordeon in Boston's dancehalls as a young man of 18. For the young generation I have a fiddler in mind, a 21 year old pupil of Frankie Gavin who is just about to record a solo CD."

And the third one remains a surpirse until next year. Without doubt, the Pure Irish Drops Tour 2000 will be another highlight of Irish Music tour on the European continent.

Photo Credit: All Photos by The Mollis
(1) & (5): Aine Fitzpatrick & Michelle O'Brien; (2) Benny McCarthy & Michelle O'Brien; (3) Aine Fitzpatrick; (4) Michelle O'Brien

You can visit the homepage of the Pure Irish Drops project to get the latest news on next year's tour.

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