BRATTLEBORO -- Saturday’s concert by Nuala Kennedy, in addition to being the first-ever Vermont appearance by this innovative Irish singer and flute/whistle player, comes with an intriguing guarantee.
"We’re goin’ to be full of beans," said Kennedy in a telephone interview last week from Scotland.
For the record, "full of beans" is a good thing for audiences, who can hear Kennedy and her band on Saturday at 7:30 p.m., at the New England Youth Theatre. They will come armed with copies of Kennedy’s hot-off-the-presses recording, "Noble Stranger," a CD which cements her reputation as a unique, and uniquely gifted, interpreter of traditional Irish and Scottish music.
Kennedy’s skillful playing on wooden flute and whistle and her sweetly earthy singing are enough to draw any listener in. But it’s what she does with her Irish and Scottish-inspired material that has prompted so many reviewers to go ga-ga. Kennedy has found a way to innovate imaginitively without compromising respect for the traditions she grew up in.
With surprising harmonic changes, wildly inventive intros, unusual effects, including electronic ones, a different palette of sounds that includes keyboards and heavier drumming than you might expect, Kennedy has taken traditional music to some fresh new places. Trouble is, she doesn’t know how to answer the question: "What do you call it?"
"That’s a tricky question. It’s
Yet not so different that it turns its back on the traditions it arises from.
"No way, I don’t think it’s actually possible to do that," said Kennedy, who grew up steeped in traditional music and still plays in a traditional Irish group Oirialla. "For me, those songs still mean a lot today, and they speak to me very clearly."
Kennedy was raised in Dundalk, County Louth on the east coast of Ireland and discovered traditional music at an early age when she began studying whistle. A quick study, she fell in love with the traditional Irish tunes. At 12, she picked up the wooden flute, joined a local ceilidh band and began winning awards. By 18, she moved to Scotland to study at Edinburgh College of Art, and her musical horizons widened to embrace both Scottish and Irish tunes. Eventually, she began touring Europe, Canada and Australia with her first band, Fine Friday.
A year spent in Inverness in the Highlands of Scotland studying the Scots Gaelic musical traditions expanded her repertoire and knowledge and further shaped her instrumental playing and vocals. During this time, she produced her first solo CD, "The New Shoes."
Kennedy’s fame has grown ever since, thanks to a series of projects, artistic residencies, collaborations, CDs and tours which have brought her to the attention of audiences throughout Europe, the UK, Canada and the U.S. Along the way, she honed her innovative approach.
"I just started messin’ about. ... The songs have been part of my life for so long, it just became natural for me to start thinking about (how I play them)," said Kennedy. "I’m just trying to synthesize things."
For Saturday’s show, Kennedy will be joined by fiddler Dana Lyn and guitarist Kyle Sanna, two old musical mates who apparently have a flair for beans.
Tickets are $18 in advance and for seniors and $21 at the door. They are available at BrattleboroTix.com and in person at Everyone’s Books, 23 Elliot St. Call 802-257-1571 for more information.