MUSIC REVIEW: Moya Brennan at The Atkinson Theatre, Southport

Moya Brennan

Moya Brennan

The Atkinson Theatre, Southport 

March 16, 2018

RATING: ****

REVIEWER: Jeanette Smith

Moya Brennan, the voice of Clannad, brought a varied show to Southport’s Atkinson Theatre last night. Sister of Enya, and known as the First Lady of Celtic Music, she is touring with her own band that includes her son Paul and daughter Aisling, who have collaborated on her latest album, Canvas.

Moya, with her breathy soprano voice, who has toured all over the world, and written music for film and tv, gave the audience an eclectic mix from her own albums and those with Clannad – ‘to please everyone’ she said.

Wearing a long grey and black dress with a floaty long black cardigan, her auburn hair tumbling round her shoulders, she kicked off with a haunting rendition of Change My World from Two Horizons (2003), her ethereal voice echoing round the auditorium.

She soon switched to tracks from her studio album Canvas, into which she has poured her heart and soul after losing both her father, Leo and her ‘brother’ Padraig Duggan, a cousin with whom she had played for 46 years with Clannad. Now I know You Never Left At All was a tribute to her late father Leo who ran a bar in her hometown in Donegal, where she and her siblings learnt to sing and dance.

She followed this up with River of Songs a tribute to Padraig, sung in Gaelic, remembering their times as youngsters, ‘running up mountains, jumping in rock pools’, complete with a backtrack of Donegal birdsong.

Accompanied by acclaimed harpist Cormac De Barra, and vocalist and violinist Lia Wright, the show also included solos from Aisling, Lia and Cormac. Cormac played a beautiful rendition of Mr O’Connor, to a hushed audience, and, with Moya on harp, Captain O’Kane from their Affinity album for voices and harps (2013).

A show by Moya could not be complete without favourites such as the theme from Clannad’s Harry’s Game nor a medley from Robin of Sherwood, the superb haunting love theme from last of the Mohicans, and of course the wonderful I Will Find You.
But it was the new songs that Moya wished to foreground many containing angst and hurt that she sung with great feeling, her evocative voice washing round the theatre.

One such was the heartfelt Children of War, written by Moya after witnessing much bloodshed in wars around the world, Where We Once Met, and Where You Belong. The latter to inspire those who feel lost. She revealed she wrote these after a ‘grey’ time in her life, and the song looked forward to hope.

The band finished with an Irish folk song with the audience coached into singing the Gaelic chorus. The show highlighted a group of immensely talented musicians – the melding of harps, violin and voices like a fine cut jewel, immensely pleasing and polished to perfection.

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