Martin Hayes hopes friends of Irish music heard “Whiskey in the Jar,” “A Nation Once Again” and “Finnegan’s Wake” last week.
They’ll hear nothing like those St. Patrick’s Day standards when the “Masters of Tradition” play the Center for the Performing Arts at the Empire State Plaza — The Egg — on Tuesday.
Master fiddler Hayes and six other accomplished Irish musicians will present songs in a chamber music setting that are generally not played on parade routes or in Irish pubs.
“It’s a chance to maybe hear versions of varieties of music that might not be that commonly heard,” Hayes said in a telephone interview from his home in County Clare in Ireland’s South-West region. “It’s not an educational show, either. It’s meant to be enjoyed.”
Hayes’ team includes vocalist Iarla Ó Lionáird; guitarist Dennis Cahill; accordionist Máirtín O’Connor; fiddler Cathal Hayden; guitarist Seamie O’Dowd; and uilleann piper David Power.
Hayes can explain why so many people seem to appreciate Irish music — and not just in March.
“The melodies themselves are quite beautiful, a huge amount of them, I think,” he said. “Playing them is non-stuffy, it’s fairly open and relaxed. I think there’s a feeling in the music, there’s a feeling at its core that I think has universal appeal.”
Masters of Tradition
WHERE: Center for the Performing Arts at Empire State Plaza, The Egg
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday
HOW MUCH: $28
MORE INFO: www.theegg.org/event/masters-tradition
Hayes, who is also artistic director for the “Masters” show, understands that some people believe Irish music is full of sadness and lament. But other emotions are represented as well.
“We certainly have sad music but we have a lot of joyful music, a lot of highly energetic and exciting music,” he said. “I think that’s what the evening is all about, combining all those elements in a meaningful way and not over-dwelling on any one of those elements.”
That’s where balance comes in.
“Excitement and energy doesn’t have much impact,” he said, “unless one is able to experience a kind of gentler, reflective feeling also. The thing I discovered about Irish music many years ago is it’s not just one thing. It’s many things. It’s not just one element of expression like melancholy, it’s a full language. It should be able to take people on a fairly comprehensible journey, I hope.”
Hayes has been on a musical journey for much of his adult life. He won six all-Ireland fiddle championships — all before the age of 19 — and has been honored by the Irish Sunday Tribune as one of 100 most influential Irish men and women in the fields of entertainment, politics and sports, as well as one of the most important musicians to come out of Ireland in the last 50 years. He has recorded two acclaimed solo albums, “Martin Hayes” in 1993 and “Under the Moon” in 1995.
There will plenty of company on stage. Hayes said the “Masters” are never in competition with one another during performances.
“I think there’s a fairly strong level of maturity at this point among the musicians,” he said. “We’re all of a certain age and a certain point at our careers where we don’t really feel that way. The way I’ve kind of structured the show is everybody gets to show who they are to their fullest. You get to experience the musicians individually and you get to experience them in different groups and in combinations throughout the night. Ultimately, at the end, you will get to experience the entire ensemble together.”
Hayes’ fiddle will play with Power’s pipes, O’Connor’s accordion and Hayden’s fiddle. There will be other configurations and collaborations during the show.
Classics and showstoppers
Hayes promises pieces such as Handel’s “Queen of Sheba” and notes from “O’Carolan.”
There will also be some showstoppers.
“Look out for them,” he said. “They’ll happen. I won’t tell you when they’re going to come or who’s going to play them . . . I hope the show will be full of them. You won’t even have to know. You’ll know when it happens.”
Reach Gazette reporter Jeff Wilkin at 395-3124 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.