PILGRIM CONCERTS

Old St. Patrick’s Church presented as part of its Siamsa Na nGael 2003 celebration
Shaun Davey's "The Pilgrim".
This unique performance included Oscar nominated John C. Reilly as narrator, leading Irish vocalist Rita Connolly and Riverdance vocalist Aiden Conway. The performance also included Galacia's Edelmiro Fernandez on Gaita and Chicago's own Dennis Cahill on guitar.
The concert will also featured the Metropolis Symphony Orchestra, Old St. Patrick’s 120-voice concert choir, a pipe and drum band and Celtic instrumentalists.
The concert took place on Monday, March 17, 2003 at Chicago’s Symphony Center.

Lorient Interceltique Festival - Lorient, France (2001)

Following the resounding success of the 2000 concert of The Pilgrim at the Festival Interceltique de Lorient, the concert on August 11th 2001 to a packed audience of about 5000 was again an outstanding sucess. With Liam O'Flynn (uilleann pipes), Rita Connolly (vocals), Liam O'Maonlai (vocals), Triona Marshall (solo harp), Edelmiro Fernandez (gaita), Josik Allot & Bernard Pichard (bombardes), Giles Servat (vocals & narration), Noel Eccles(percussion), Eoghan O'Neill (bass), Rod McVey (keyboards) and Johnny Scott (guitar). The festival orchestra, conducted by Guy Berrier, a 150 strong local choir, and the Bagad de Lorient Pipeband. A short video clip from this concert is now available on our Video Page.

The concert received rave reviews in the French press and was widely regarded as the highlight of a star-studded festival bill.
"The 5000 spectators rise as one in an ovation that is spontaneous, enthusiastic, poignant: "The Pilgrim ", on Saturday evening in Kergroise, was a triumph that one sees very little of."
Jean-Jacques - Le Telegramme
"For the finale the audience are on their feet, clapping hands while singing. No less than four encores are required, without counting the choral society, taking a refrain once again. Public as musicians, each one finally having to leave, with their heads full of images to dream all in music."
Aurélie Notar - Ouest France

Festival of St. Columbia - Isle of Skye, Scotland

This unique performance of The Pilgrim took place, at the festival of Columba, on September 5th at the Sabal Mor Ostaig on the Isle of Skye, in Scotland.

This performance was special in that it was specially tailored to fit a very much smaller venue (for those familiar with the sport of badminton, the entire venue including stage area was the size of 1 badminton court). With a cast in the region of 40 artists, including Liam O'Flynn (uilleann pipes), Rita Connolly (vocals), Liam O'Maonlai (vocals), Helen Davies (harp), Edelmiro Fernandez (gaita), Phillipe Janiver (bombard), Yann Bonnec (bombard), Simon MacKenzie (narrator), Noel Eccles(percussion), Eoghan O'Neill (bass), Rod McVey (keyboards), Johnny Scott (guitar), the BT Scottish Ensemble conducted by Fiachra Trench, members of the City of Glasgow choir. The concert was be recorded by BBC Radio Scotland for transmission on Christmas Day.

All the artists and crew who travelled to the Isle of Skye were delighted with the concert and are indebted to the organisers and the people of Skye for the hospitality they received during their stay in Skye.

The Pilgrim finds a welcome at Arrain Chalium Chille; On Tuesday the Irish Composer Shaun Davey presented a performance of his highly-acclaimed musical epic 'The Pilgrim' at Arainn Chaluim Chille, the Columba Campus at Sabhal Mor Ostaig in Skye. The Musician and author JOHN PURSES was there....
There can be no more appropriate setting for a performance of Shaun Davey's 'The Pilgrim' than the Isle of Skye, in a building perched above the seas on which the first Celtic monks sailed and rowed northwards to spread Christianity. Moreover, Arrain Chaluim chille - part of the Gaelic College on the island - is named after St. Columba and is itself active in bringing together the different cultures of the Celtic-speaking nations, just as 'The Pilgrim' brings together their different musics.
Seventeen years on this is still a ground-breaking piece of music, refining itself as it meets the challenge of different performers and different venues. Originally scored for massive forces, this scaled-down version built up an atmosphere in the hall which led to a real sense of contact between performers and audience, who gave it a standing ovation. Arrain Chaluim Chille was the proper place, for here was an audience many of whom speak or are learning the languages and the stories, and who are finding that the sense of community between Celtic speaking peoples is not a dream but a growing reality, a modern cultural pilgrimage.
Among some outstanding performances, Liam O'Flynn's uilleann piping, plaintiff and dignified, and Yann Bonnec's solo on bombarde were wonderfully expressive - the latter accompanied by a rich and intriguing texture of sound. And (before his voice tired) Liam O'Maonlai bought a commanding edge of intensity to a work which occasionally errs on the side of sentiment. Rita Connolly sang with purity and sincerity, and Sim MacChoinnich did well as the narrator: but the script is not the strong point of the work, using mediocre translations of early Irish texts with insufficient sense of direction.
The piece itself is still on a pilgrimage, passing waypoints for which it makes little preparation, and leaving them by simply turning its back. It is a picturesque way of traveling, and perhaps that is as it should be, and it says much for Shaun Davey that he has been prepared to rework 'The Pilgrim', that it might bring its strengths to the proper places, not just to those which can seat hundreds or employ full orchestras.
And who needs a full orchestra when we had the MacDonald brothers in full cry on the Highland pipes, getting it right in the encore; and who will forget Edelmiro Fernandez entering the hall on a glow of Galician light, his Gaita (Galician bagpipes) sweet but powerful? At such moments the whole audience breathed a sense of connection down the western rim of Europe, as the reed pipes of Ireland, Scotland, Brittany and Spain, gathered and shrilled in the tightly-packed hall.
Holding it together with remarkable sand froid was Fiachra Trench. What a pleasure to see a conductor whose prime interest is to make things work, rather than indulge himself at the expense of the orchestra - in this case the BT Ensemble, outgunned but still effective.
The City of Glasgow Chorus provided the choir, heard at their best in the 'Samson peccator episcopus' section which produced a sense of real grandeur. Amidst ear-drenching climaxes and moments of beauty and intimacy, there were accidents and weak transitions; but on such a journey one must take risks, and there is no doubt that the people who listened went home holding to their ears the pilgrim's shell of memory that its sound might never be lost. In coming at last to the only Gaelic college in the world, perhaps 'The Pilgrim' has found a 'scallop shell of quiet' and 'a staff of faith to walk upon'.

Highland Gazette

Lorient Interceltique Festival - Lorient, France (2000)

On August 12th The Pilgrim returned to the Lorient Interceltique Festival where it premiered back in 1983. The concert again featured, Liam O'Flynn (uilleann pipes), Rita Connolly (vocals), Liam O'Maonlai (vocals), Helen Davies (harp), Giles Servat (vocals & narration), Noel Eccles(percussion), Eoghan O'Neill (bass), Rod McVey (keyboards) and Arty McGlynn (guitar). The concert also included a bright new star of Galician piping Edelmiro Fernandez (gaita), Josik Allot (bombard) who played at the concert in 1983 and Andre Le Ment (bombard), The festival orchestra, conducted by Guy Berrier, a 150 strong local choir, and the St. Kermabon Pipeband.

The concert received rave reviews in the French press and was widely regarded as the highlight of a star-studded festival bill.
"A standing ovation for at least five minutes from 3000 spectators. Rarely in 30 years has a festival show evoked such enthusiasm..."

"The Pilgrim fascinated 3700 people and pinned them to their seats. They in turn demanded two encores and gave the musicians a standing ovation. Shaun Davey can be proud of the updating of his work, it is simply superb..."

The Full reviews can be found on the Pilgrim page.

The Blanchardstown Centre - Dublin

March 21st saw a special millennium performance of the newly-revised PILGRIM, narrated by Oscar-winning actor Ben Kingsley, at the Blanchardstown Centre (in the process winning for the shopping mall the prestigious 'Purple Apple Marketing Award' from the British Council of Shopping Centres (BCSC) for their initiative, imagination and inspiration in community participation and Shopping Centre marketing). In addition to Ben Kingsley the performance featured, Liam O'Flynn (uilleann pipes), Rita Connolly (vocals), Liam O'Maonlai (vocals), Helen Davies (harp), Carlos Nunez (gaita), The RTE Concert Orchestra conducted by Prionsios O'Duinn, The St. Lawrence O'Toole pipeband led by Terry Tully, a 200 strong choir drawn from local schools and choral societies. For the first time a performance of The Pilgrim included what has now become known as 'The Pilgrim Band' with such well known session musicians as, Noel Eccles(percussion), Eoghan O'Neill (bass), Rod McVey (keyboards) and Arty McGlynn (guitar).

Ben Kingsley Narrates

Journey to the outskirts
The Pilgrim | Blanchardstown Shopping Centre, Dublin
By Colin Harper - London Independent - 29 March 2000

"It is rare for major cultural events to take place in suburban shopping centres, but the retailers of this leafy outpost of Dublin, with various benefactors, have resoundingly bucked the trend. Shaun Davey's magnum opus The Pilgrim, premièred in 1983 as a Celtic suite for choir, orchestra, pipe band, rhythm section and various exotic soloists, has rarely been staged - with 250-plus people on the stage and with highly specialised solo instrumentation, the costs and logistics are daunting.

Originally conceived as a sequel to Davey's ground-breaking suite for uilleann pipes and orchestra, The Brendan Voyage, The Pilgrim multiplied its predecessor's concept of a single journey into a sprawling evocation of medieval religious pilgrimage through Europe, inspired by various ancient sources and personalities. With this idea as his vehicle, Davey incorporated the languages and musical traditions of Europe's seven Celtic nations into a piece that expanded the parameters of the orchestral form. Davey took the opportunity of a Glasgow performance in 1990 to rewrite the piece, honing a rough patchwork into a richly impressionistic tapestry of music and narration. Recorded for CD, that was its last public outing till now, bar one "unofficial" American performance, and, once again, Davey has used the opportunity for another overhaul.

The result was a joy. Featuring 10 new sections - four narrative, six musical - the work has now doubled in length to 110 minutes. Yet far from flagging in obesity, the whole has become tighter as a result. Much of its success came from the focus provided by a sharper, richer thread of spoken-word passages, narrated commandingly by Ben Kingsley. His breathtaking evocation of Davey's text, now drawn largely from the writings of St Colmcille, ached with the hopes and fears of journeying into the unknown, and mirrored Davey's work as a whole in breathing life into the very footnotes of recorded history.

Liam O'Maonlai of the Hothouse Flowers was a perfect choice for the windswept Irish-language vocal passages, with "Nessun Dorma" moments aplenty in the cart-wheeling melodies, while the Galician piper Carlos Nunez - reputedly the Jimi Hendrix of his instrument - brought everything into fifth gear towards a soaring finale.

One new movement, pitting a frenetic, cyclical motif from the highland pipes against an ominously ascending pattern from the string section, recalled the more ambitious moments of the Seventies fusioneers the Mahavishnu Orchestra. Davey's work certainly divides opinion, just as jazz-rock, or any fusion, has before - one man's brave voyager is another's crass populist - but he has created his own genre which has, itself, begotten the bastard offspring of Riverdance and its many derivatives. The maestro may not have reaped those rewards, but his work maintains a unique depth and dignity that others can only crave."

 

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