Music Hall Presents Traonach Nov. 17

Submitted ArticleOSWEGO, NY – The Ontario Center for Performing Arts continues its fall season by presenting the traditional Irish sounds of Traonach, to the Oswego Music Hall, live at 8 p.m. Nov. 17, in the McCrobie Civic Center, 41 Lake St.

Cancellation Notice: Due to some personal health reasons, the Glengarry Bhoys have cancelled their upcoming concerts, including their show scheduled at Oswego Music Hall for November 17. We will be welcoming Traonach in their stead.

TraonachHailing from Ithaca, Traonach has come to be recognized as one of the finest exemplars of Irish traditional dance music at its straight-ahead best.

Over the past decade, and for another decade before in the guise of other names, they have created a tight, driving sound that has audiences at festivals and concert halls quickly on their feet.

And while Traonach is deeply rooted in tradition, they are equally committed to honoring the wild energy and beautiful soul that is at the heart of this extraordinary music.

From large stages to small, Traonach has found itself in some memorable places these past 20 or so years.

It has been fun for them to share the stage at festivals with some of the international greats of not just Irish music, but of traditional and roots music in general – fun to follow Tommy Makem on stage at the Great American Irish Music Festival, or to race from a set at the Grassroots Festival of Music and Dance to hear a wonderful African or Cajun band.

Along the way, they have played a few beautiful concert halls, packed bars with stages too small and huge civic events with stages too large, a surreal Trumps Marina Casino in Atlantic City and, of course, the International Sheep Dog Trials.

“Traonach” is the Gaelic term for the corncrake, a reclusive formerly common throughout Europe, Central Asia, and Northern Africa.

In Ireland its gentle, evocative call (although it is quite raucous at night) was once as familiar as the cuckoo’s, but modern farming developments (particularly the increased use of machine harvesters) have brought the traonach to the brink of extinction; it is a very rare class of creature in most of Europe and even Ireland today.

The Traonach has been celebrated in Irish mythology.

It is shown intertwined with a heron in the sixth-century Book of Kells; in the stamps of numerous countries from the Ukraine to Ireland, and in print or song by the likes of Flann O’Brien, Archie Fisher, the Pogues, and Silly Wizard.

We all liked the name and the rural association (for this music is of a famously rural cast) but when we heard that Felix McGowan’s nickname for the youthful Ed was “The Corncrake,” the vote was unanimous.

Traonach features Mark Bickford, Harry Lawless, Matt Malone, Ed McGowan and Scott Whitham playing fiddle, whistle, concertina, accordion, banjo, bouzouki and bodhran.

Bickford first heard Irish music played by Martin and Christine Dowling in sessions in Madison, Wisconsin almost 25 years ago.

He joined in on mandolin and has been hooked ever since.

He took up button accordion after hearing Martin Connolly playing in Doolin, County Clare, and later added the concertina to his arsenal.

The band is anxious to point out that Mark is also a veritable walking encyclopedia of Irish ballads and is a mighty force on numerous other instruments including tenor and five-string banjo.

He’s also a poet and composer.

Lawless plays 10- and 8-string bouzoukis with Traonach.

He started out as a guitar player in Irish music but fell in love with the Celtic bouzouki for its range of possibilities in sound.

Harry visits Cork once or twice a year where he plays just about every night in pub sessions.

He is a regular attendee at Zoukfest where he has studied bouzouki with Alec Finn and Roger Landes.

Malone’s family has played Irish music in a direct line since at least the early 1800s.

His great-grandfather Peter, a Malone of Westmeath and veteran of the American Civil War, played fiddle, and his father and grandfather both played button accordion.

He formed his first working band with his brothers Mike and Dan, his sister Patricia, and Seattle fiddler Kelly Mulford in 1975.

After living for a time in London and the borders of Scotland, where he formed a life-long Musical Association with Heritage fiddler Alan MacDonald, he returned to America and spent the ’80s in various bands in Seattle and Vancouver, including The Culloden Relief League.

McGowan’s father was a button-accordion player, and also played tinwhistle, harmonica, and drums.

Ed’s granduncle “Red Jimmy” McGowan was a popular timber-flute player.

When Ed was 10, his father took him to study fiddle, but Ed gave up playing fiddle at age 15 when he entered Cathedral College Seminary.

He came back to the instrument 30 years later, and for five years played with the traditional Irish band The Midnight Court.

Another seven-year musical hiatus followed until Ed teamed up with piper and harper Mark and Kate Cushing to form Dalriata, and he performed with them for nearly three years.

He then joined the Ithaca Irish sessions and became part of The Pratie Boys, as the band formed from the core members of the session then styled themselves.

The same basic lineup eventually became Traonach.

Whitham began to play Irish fiddle in earnest after moving to Boston and playing at the great Midnight Court sessions on Milk Street with such players as Shay Walker and Roger Burridge.

Scott was lucky to end up in New York for most of the ’80s, where he studied fiddle with John Caulfield and began playing bodhran at sessions and house parties.

After moving to Ithaca in 1987, he joined Bickford at his session at the famous Rongovian Embassy in Trumansburg, and has played fiddle and bodhran in various Ithaca bands for the past 17 years.

Admission to this show is payable at the door – $10 for Music Hall members and $14 for non-members.

Children under age 12 are half-price and under five are free.

Call 315-342-1733 for reservations, which are recommended and held until 7:50 the night of the show.

Please note that reservations can only be made for this show at this time.

Reservations for future shows will be accepted beginning two weeks prior to the show date.

Upcoming Oswego Music Hall shows:

December 8 – Jody Kessler (spiritual troubadour) with opening act Closer Still.

January 5 – Susquehanna String Band (traditional folk)

January 19 – Jamie Notarthomas Trio (progressive folk blues)

The Music Hall is an all-volunteer, family-friendly venue, featuring primarily folk and acoustic music.

The atmosphere is intimate with candle-lit tables surrounding a small stage.

Homemade desserts, popcorn and beverages are available for purchase.

Call 315-342-1733 for more information or to be placed on the Music Hall mailing list.

OCPA events are made possible in part with public funding from the New York State Council on the Arts.