What has made Solas continually fresh and successful over the last 15 years is their unique balance of both instrumentals and male and female lead vocals. This is a group of leaders who are all exceptional individual voices on their instruments and who collaborate beautifully on each others’ choices of material – whether derived from the traditional Irish music canon or self-penned originals.
In the intimate Swyer Theater, the group’s jigs and reels, mournful ballads and danceable songs flew off the stage as the band’s founder Seamus Egan switched between flute, banjo, tin whistle and acoustic guitar – all instruments on which he had individually won All-Ireland junior championships before he was 16 years old!
Classically trained violinist Winifred Horan added the cornerstone sound that typifies the fiddle-led traditional Irish music. Though there are no bagpipes in this ensemble, singer Mick McAuley’s fingers more than made up the omission, as they graced the buttons and keys of the concertina and accordion while veteran guitarist Eamon McElholm’s passionate intensity burned through each song he played.
In a band that once had the magnificent Karan Casey in the main vocal chair, newcomer Ma’ire’ad Phelan made each song she fronted her very own, drawing on material from Solas’ two most recent recordings “For Love And Laughter” and “The Turning Tide.”
St. Patrick’s Day is looming on the horizon once again, and having Solas back in the area was a real treat, the perfect way to launch that unofficial American holiday, where for one day everyone becomes Irish in spirit.
Review and photographs by Andrzej Pilarczyk