By Daniel Neely
A year ago, I wrote about the “Trad Youth Exchange Program,” a fascinating idea flute player Lisa Coyne of Melrose, Mass., hatched through the CCÉ Boston School for Irish Traditional Music with concertina player Mary MacNamara, of Tulla, Co. Clare. Coyne and MacNamara's goal was to pair a group of young musicians in America with a group from County Clare to promote musical and cultural exchange, and foster international goodwill.
After much hard work and planning, the Trad Youth Exchange Program came together: in November of last year, Tulla’s “Tulóg” group visited Boston, while the U.S.’s Realta Geala group visited Clare this past February. And from all angles, Coyne and MacNamara’s hard work has paid off well, as Trad Youth Exchange has been a spectacular success, encapsulating the common musical bonds and camaraderie found in the best of traditional Irish music.
The fruits of this program’s efforts can be heard on “From Tulla To Boston,” a lovely CD of great traditional music that showcases this great group of young people. Recorded last year at the great Burren pub in Somerville, Mass., (www.burren.com), it’s a live album that captures the excitement and vibrance of this great project.
Between Realta Geala and Tulóg, 32 young musicians (some of whom also dance) appear on the album. Three of the CD’s tracks feature both groups playing together, while the balance are small group or solo showcases and there are some well executed, poignant tracks that really showcase some budding young players. “The Winemaker / …” reels, a “round robin” of Tulóg concertina players featuring Conal Egan, Lily O’Connor & Aisling McMahon, is lovely; Mary & Lizzy Kozachek (Realta Geala) take on “The Banshee / …” is very nice as well. I find Donagh O’Sullivan’s (Tulóg) playing on “Whistler of Rosslea” quite attractive as well.
One of the album’s most interesting tracks features fiddle player Naoise O’Sullivan (Tulóg) telling a story called “The Restaurant.” She has a very confident approach and is hilarious in her delivery. The Coyne family’s track playing “The Man in the Bog / …” is also a favorite. John (bouzouki) and Lisa (flute) play well, but it’s Josie (fiddle) and Rory’s (accordion) playing, put well forward in the mix, that distinguishes the track.
There are also a few tracks that showcase the a who’s who of the more senior players from the greater Boston area (including Sean Clohessy, Kathleen Conneely, John and Lisa Coyne, Jon Gannon, Tina Lech, Tommy McCarthy, and Jimmy Noonan) and Ireland (Mary McNamara and Eileen O’Brien) who supported the project. Gannon, Lech, Conneely and Clohessy sound great together on Junior Crehan’s “The Luachrachan’s Jig / …,“ while Noonan, Clohessy, McCarthy and Coyne feature well on “Austin Tierney’s / … .”
“From Tulla To Boston” is a refreshing and decidedly un-gimmicky album that celebrates the community and the musical bonds it presents at its best. It is a lovely document that shows a positive approach to musical exchange as well as how friendship can grow between young people who share something great in traditional music. To learn more about “From Tulla To Boston,” visit boston2ireland.com. To purchase the CD, reach out to John Coyne directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.