Review: Altan at Buxton Opera House

Altan at Buxton Opera House
Altan at Buxton Opera House

The concert at Buxton Opera House on Saturday night featured Altan, an Irish band, playing mostly traditional music from the fiddlers of Donegal.

Their set featured more recently composed tunes which included a set of jigs by the band`s guitarist Mark Kelly and “The Road Home” a beautiful tune by their accordion player Martin Tourish. Both these tunes are on the latest album, The Widening Gyre, which fuses the Donegal fiddle and Gaelic singing tradition with Appalachian bluegrass fiddle.

From the outset Altan set a fast and furious pace, treating an enthusiastic audience to sets of fast reels, jigs and slipjigs, interspersed with the odd slow air and songs featuring the beautiful voice of Maread Ni Mhanonaigh, one of the band’s founding members.

The second half started with a hauntingly, atmospheric and beautiful song from The Blue Stack Mountains of Donegal again featuring the voice of Maread. Then it was “fasten your safety belts” for some even faster reels and jigs, followed by an imaginative reworking of The GypsyRover/Black Davy.

Altan played with a drive and energy which, along with their gentle humour, delighted the audience. They clearly enjoy playing the music and the audience loved it.

For a couple of hours we were in Donegal listening to Irish music at its very best.

John and Ellie Wood