Naomi de Bruyn penned this review.
Beginish is a potent Irish traditional group which was born from four musicians who are successful in their own right, and have a long history of collaborating with one another. This history of collaboration is what brought about the birth of this talented group, and I can only hope that they’re here to stay.
Paul McGrattan (flutes), is from Dublin’s north side, and is regarded as one of the top traditional flute players in Ireland. He has released a duet album with Paul O’Shaughnessy, ‘Within a Mile of Dublin,’ and a solo album, ‘The Frost is All Over.’ When he is not performing with Beginish, Paul can usually be found teaching the flute to others.
Paul O’Shaughnessy (fiddle), also hails from Dublin’s north side. He developed his love and talent for fiddle playing partially from his mother, Pearl McBride. Paul met and played with musicians such as Frankie Kennedy and Mairead Ni Mhaonaigh in Donegal, where he spent much of his youth. He was a member of the group ‘Altan’ for a number of years.
Brendan Begley (accordion and vocals), comes from a family background filled with the rich Kerry traditions of music, dance, and storytelling. He is regarded for his skills as both an accordion and melodeon player, and as a singer. He has recently released his second solo album, and has also recorded with the ‘Chieftains’ and ‘ The Boys of the Lough.’
Noel O’Grady (bouzouki), finishes off the foursome. He comes from Co. Mayo on Ireland’s west coast, and is regarded as one of the top bouzouki players in the traditional Irish music circles. He is kept busy with live appearances and in the studio backing soloists, including the likes of Matt Molloy. He has also had an appearance with Liam O’Flynn’s Given Note Band.
Ten of the twelve songs on this CD are traditional arrangements, and only three tracks have vocal accompaniment. There are a number of styles brought together on this CD; slides, reels, jigs, polkas, barn dances, a slow air, a bit of a march, and a song from Kerry’s Gaeltacht (Irish speaking area).
Joining the members of Beginish are four of the greats of Irish music, with whom they’ve worked in the past. These four are: Arty McGlynn (guitars), Maighread Ni Dhomhnaill (vocals), Triona Ni Dhomhnaill (keyboards and vocals), and Colm Murphy (bodhran). Paul McGrattan composed the lively barn dances ‘The Taylors Barndance – Antsy’s Barndance,’ and named them after a famous West Cork Couple, The Taylor and Antsy. Beginish is joined by Triona Ni Dhomhniall for this track.
The other original composition on the CD is Brendan Begley’s ‘The Cuas Polkas.’ A toe-tapping track if ever there was one. The trilling of the flute is easily audible over the rest of the group, and the abrupt ending is definitely unexpected.
The magical voices of Maighread and Triona Ni Dhomhnaill twist and twine through a song they learned from their grandmother, Maggie Chonaill from Rann na Feirste in County Donegal. ‘I Courted a Wee Lass’ is a haunting tune of unrequited love, one which has the ability to stay with you for a time. I found myself humming it hours after I’d listened to it, and still it lingers.
According to the cover notes, Beginish means ‘Little Island,’ and is the name of one of the Blasket Islands off the Atlantic coast of West Kerry. All I can say is, they are well worth the listening and I hope to see more of them in the future.t