Peggy Seeger will celebrate her 87th birthday on June 17, during her Irish tour. On…
The West Ocean String Quartet (WOSQ) marked its twentieth anniversary in 2020 with an innovative recording project which celebrated the traditional music of Ireland’s Atlantic coast, echoing the quartet’s title.The material was curated from the broad musical spectrum of this region, specially arranged for the recording by the quartet’s cellist Neil Martin. Since it took its first tentative steps in 1999, the quartet – with members, Séamus McGuire and Niamh Crowley on violin and Ken Rice on viola, along with Martin – has received international acclaim.
Traditional fiddle-player, Séamus McGuire from Sligo is a former winner of the Fiddler of Dooney. With his brother, Manus, Jackie Daly and Garry O’Briain, he formed the band, Buttons & Bows. Neil Martin from Belfast comfortably straddles the classical and traditional worlds as a classically trained cellist and an accomplished uilleann piper. Composing is another string to his metaphorical. Niamh Crowley from Sligo is a violinist who performs with Barry Douglas as a member of Camerata Ireland while Ken Rice from Tralee has broad musical experience in a variety of genres including classical, baroque, pop and jazz as well as traditional music. A violinist with the Irish Chamber Orchestra, he has participated in many diverse collaborative projects.
Over the course of the last twenty years, the members of the WOSQ have not only developed innovative and creative approaches to collaborating with each other: they have also engaged in many musical adventures with a roll-call of leading performers on stage and in the recording studio – including Liam O’Flynn, Matt Molloy, Christy Moore, Maighréad Ní Dhomhnaill, Stephen Rea, Iarla Ó Lionáird, Mark Redmond, Brian Kennedy, Cathal Ó Searcaigh and Eimear Quinn.
The quartet’s fifth album, Atlantic Edge, the emphasis returned firmly to traditional music – and specifically music based in the west of Ireland. “The seemingly endless store of inexplicably beautiful airs and robust dance music from along the Atlantic edge underlines how landscape shapes humans, and vice versa,” explains Neil Martin. “The two become inextricable, interdependent, and when artists seek to express themselves, it’s inevitable that something of that sense of place appears: airs and tunes of love and exile and home and longing and heartbreak.”
An extensive tour, planned to coincide with the album’s launch in April 2020, was cancelled due to the pandemic. “To say that we are thrilled to now be out performing again and revisiting that tour is an understatement of huge proportion,” adds Martin.
As they come towards the end of their delayed launch tour which has so far taken them to Letterkenny, Listowel, London, Ballyvourney, Kilkee and the Séamus Heaney HomePlace in Bellaghy, the quartet will complete the run with two more performances at:
- The Spirit Store in Dundalk on November 17; and
- The First Presbyterian in Belfast (hosted by An Droichead Arts Centre) on December 8.