(Gregory Harrington photo from Daniel D'Ottavio)
By Áine Ní Shionnaigh
Despite being tightly huddled inside a grey hoodie, Gregory Harrington still retains an air of elegance on a damp and dreary pre-Thanksgiving morning when we meet for coffee on the Upper West Side. As he displays apprehension about the impending snow, I chastise him for becoming like a native New Yorker. What he is actually becoming, is Ireland’s most recognized concert violin soloist; one who sweeps listeners away with the emotion of his music, emotion and connection, two words that consistently come up throughout our conversation.
The single most emotive connection that I have experienced in my lifetime was the first time I heard Gregory perform. It was in the opulent Beaux Arts Grand Salon of the JW Marriott Essex House Hotel, he took center stage and eloquently explained the background to the music he was about to play. The piece he appropriately chose for the Guest of Honor, Vice President Joe Biden was from Turlough O’Carolan, a renowned blind Irish fiddler. Joe Biden’s great-great grandfather was also a blind fiddler who immigrated to America. Sitting in the stunned silence as the haunting notes of gypsy and classical harmoniously fused, it was as if the spirit of the previous three generations of Biden’s were reincarnated with each note. Sitting near the Vice President, observing the emotions etched onto his face, I was never as proud to be Irish.
Gregory is as his music: articulate, eloquent, charming, with an underlying intensity. With his intense expression and innate sense of style, he is a modern day fusion of Clarke Gable and Laurence Oliver. He would look as equally at home on the Ralph Lauren runway as he does on stage at Carnegie Hall.
How early did it start for Gregory? At the tender age of 4, he was attending the Dublin Horseshow at the RDS with his mother, a bandstand with a string quartet caught his attention and changed the whole focus of Gregory’s future life. On hearing the violin, Gregory grabbed his mother’s coat sleeve with an intensity that required an immediate response, pointed to the violin and said ‘I want to play that’. Perhaps his mother had an innate intuition that this was not just a young boys passing whim, the very next morning she brought him to McCullough Pigotts on Suffolk Street and bought him a violin, he started lessons a month later. Tragically Gregory lost his very special supportive mother way too soon and way too early in life. She influences him and his music daily. There is an intensity that comes with the struggle to accept the loss of a loved one that never fully recedes and perhaps some of the poignancy of Gregory’s music comes from this. Listening to Gregory’s music, there are many emotions hidden under the surface, and we too are allowed a rare glimpse into our own deepest hidden emotions.
Gregory’s music is a combination of classical and crossover, his first three albums have all had varied focus. His most recent album launched last week is Bach: Transcriptions and Variations. Gregory has taken some of Bach’s most famous violin pieces and created his own arrangements. Gregory’s music can have a hint of edginess that is probably due to the unprecedented creativity that I have only found in Irish souls. He doesn't feel that things should be categorized. Just because one is a violinist doesn't mean that one can only play classical music, although Gregory wants to be known as Ireland’s greatest concert violin soloist, which he is already well on the way to becoming, he also wants to live his music life without total boundaries which is why he is also known as Ireland’s leading crossover artist. Thanks to Gregory Harrington I and countless more listeners have become aware that the violin is an instrument of enormous versatility and striking beauty with a nuance of expression that could possibly only be surpassed by the human voice. Gregory’s amazing Dad, James Harrington, who is a great support to Gregory, summed it up perfectly when we chatted at the interval of Gregory’s concert album launch in the IAC, “Aine, I have never heard anyone play a violin like that.”
Bach: Transcriptions and Variations by Gregory Harrington
A great holiday gift, gift with an experience. http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/gregoryharrington1
D’ainneoin a bheith cuachta go docht i gheansai liath, coinníonn Gregory Harrington aer ‘elegant’ fós ar maidin liath agus dur roimh an ‘Thanksgiving’ nuair a bhualamar ar an Taobh Thiar Uachtarach le haghaidh caife. Nuair a thaispeánann sé imní mar gheall ar an sneachta, tosaim ag magadh faoi go bfhuil se cosúil le duine dúchasach as Nua Eabhraic. Ach cad a bhfuil sé ag éirí i ndáiríre é no cheann de na veidhleadóirí clasaiceacha is aitheanta in Éirinn, ceann a scuabadh do dhaoine ar shiúl leis an mothuchain ata ina chuid ceoil, mothuchain agus ceangail, dhá focail a thagann suas go minic i rith ár gcomhrá.
B’é an nasc is chorraitheach amháin a bhfuil taithí agam i mo shaol na an chéad uair a chuala mé Gregory ag seinm a cheol. Bhí sé i Grand Beaux Arts Salon an JW Marriott House Essex Hotel House, Éireannach anaithnid roimhe seo dom, ghlac se lár an aonaigh agus mhínigh sé an cúlra leis an gceol a bhí sé ar tí é a imirt. An dara píosa a bhí le aoi speisialta, ar Leas-Uachtarán Joe Biden a raibh a seanathair mor ina fidléir dall Éireannach a thainig go Meiriceá. Roghnaigh Gregory piosa ceol ó Uí Chearbhalláin, fidléir dall clúiteach ó Céideadh, Co. Ros Comáin. Suí le linn an tost stunned mar a bhí a bhí na nótaí haunting, bhí sé mar má beochta spiorad an trí ghlúin roimhe sin de Biden le gach faoi deara. Ina shuí in aice leis an Leas-Uachtarán, breathnú ar an emotion eitseáilte ar Tá Gregory mar a chuid ceoil: a chur in iúl, eloquent, a fheictear, le déine bhunúsach. Lena léiriú dian agus tuiscint inbheirthe stíl, tá sé ar chomhleá lá nua-aimseartha de Clarke Gable agus Laurence Oliver. Bheadh sé breathnú go cothrom ar an rúidbhealach ‘Ralph Lauren no ar an stad i Halla Carnegie.
Cé chomh luath agus a thosaigh se ? Ag freastal an ‘Dublin Horseshow’ I mhaile Átha Cliath lena mháthair, thug se faoi deara ceathairéad teaghrán ag an Bandstand, agus a d'astraigh an fócas ar fad de shaol Gregory sa todhchaí. Ag éisteacht leis an veidhlín, rug Gregory a mháthar chum cóta le déine a mbeadh gá le freagra láithreach, aird ar an veidhlín agus dúirt 'Ba mhaith liom e sin a imirt”. B'fhéidir go raibh an intuition inbheirthe nach raibh sé seo ach whim buachaillí óga, an maidin ina dhiadh sin thug sí air Lestor Piggots ar Shráid Parnell agus cheannaigh dó veidhlín agus ceachtanna. Go tragóideach chaill Gregory a mháthair iomasach an-speisialta ar bhealach ró-luath sa saol. Bíonn tionchar í féin ar Gregory agus a cheol gach lá. An duine a bfhuil streachailt acu chun glacadh leis an caillteanas de grá amháin riamh go hiomlán, b'fhéidir roinnt de na cheol Gregory ar a thagann as seo. Éisteacht le ceol Gregory s, tá go leor mothúcháin i bhfolach faoi dhromchla, agus táimid cheadaítear freisin le léargas annamh i ár mothúcháin is doimhne féin i bhfolach.