This concert at The Tron Theatre, just off the Trongate, Glasgow, proved that I should not make claims about my gig of the festival too early. Having attended ‘Far, Far from the Ypres’ on Celtic Connections second day, I have been telling everyone that nothing else would equalise it. Boy was I wrong!
On entering the Tron Theatre, the audience were given the opportunity to study the stage which was laid out as the kind of parlour reminiscent of those of yesteryear.
A carpet, occasional tables, old paintings, table cloths, candle, and, to play on important part, glasses and sherry.
When County Cork colleen, Michelle Burke, a very talented lady with a magnificent voice, appeared on stage, she picked up her knitting and got a member of the audience to continue it during the gig.
Already she had set the mood of music and Irish blarney which would be the ongoing style of the concert.
Having poured a wee glass of sherry, she introduced James Ross on the piano, and sang a song of potential courting and a jaunting car.
The idea for concert was inspired whe her sister had moved into her grandmother’s house and, while rifling through the attic, had found old documants and newspaper clippings collected by her great grandmother.
Next on stage was our own Anna Massie on guitar and mandolin and bodrhan player Martin O’Neil. Michelle’s grandfather had been a cobbler and ‘A kiss In The Morning Early’ followed before Michelle decided to give some of the old household tips which used to appear in an Irish Times supplement. Improving busts, treating ringworm and how to use a bar of soap to cure overnight jumpy legs were humourously covered.
Michelle’s sister’ Catherine joined on the accordion and Michelle’s beautiful voice sang again of cruel wars and husbands being imprisoned. John Kenny on trombone joined for ‘Bill O’. Soon the stage became even busier with a coulple of songs from John Spillane. Michelle gave the tale of her confirmation present, a calf, from her father before he himself appeared for some Tom Paxton and Hank Williams.
The interval passed with a real buzz in the audience about how great the gig was. Cathal McConnell was introduced, and, if anyone thought that the Irish gift o’ the gab had been flowing already, he was the grand master.
A song of lovely lassies was followed by the tale of Dan O’Hare, an Irishman who fled to America to die penniless. Flute and whistle tunes followed before John Spillane returned for a couple more numbers.
Then Michelle returned with a song of two potential lovers who whooped and died, the woman going to heaven and the man, the other place. Gypsy Lady followed with Cathal McConnell before the last number and a standing ovation, so richly deserved.
Michelle Burke and John Spillane came back on stage for a great song about The Lobby Bar before the entire ensemble for ‘The Parting Glass’, a different song from the one many of us will know.
This was a simple concept executed with sublime excellence.