“Lúnasa is a very different Irish band in many ways,” piper Cillian Vallely explains on the group’s website.
Certainly, considering Trevor Hutchinson plays the double bass, which is not the most common instrument in traditional Irish music. Also, there are no vocals. And the band mixes in original compositions along with traditional tunes that hail not only from Ireland but also from Scotland; Brittany, France; and Galicia and Asturias, Spain.
“The melodies are played on the traditional instruments of pipes, fiddle and flute, but the rhythmic and harmonic style — the bass and guitar style — give the band a very contemporary sound,” Vallely says.
Hear for yourself at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 12, when Lúnasa plays the Lensic Performing Arts Center, 211 W. San Francisco Street.
This five-member band — the others are Kevin Crawford, flutes; Colin Farrell, fiddle; and Patrick Doocey, guitar — is also known for its instrumental prowess, its diverse arrangements, and its sense of daring. Their 1998 debut, Lúnasa, was a best-seller in Ireland. But 1999’s Otherworld made the big time internationally, and a major reason was the addition of Crawford.
The virtuoso flutist lives in Brooklyn now. “I got back from Ireland last night,” he said in an Aug. 20 interview, “and I hit the ground running: I went straight to a gig in Manhattan after getting off the flight. When I’m in New York, which is seldom, even though I call it my base now, I do a Tuesday night gig at Swift Hibernian Lounge. I run a session there.”
Crawford honed his chops in his years with the band Moving Cloud. “That was a brilliant foundation, but there was no room for harmony or counterpoint,” he said. “I never thought of it as a band where I had to know what the arrangement was. You’re just playing and you’re locked into this incredible metronome of a rhythm.”
One of Lúnasa’s differences from that realm is their inclusion of songs written by Crawford and other band members. “Yeah, but the heart and soul of it, if you chip away at the veneer, it’s traditional and there’s a respect,” Crawford said. “There’s definitely an understanding of musicians that have gone before us and the music that has gone before us.”