The Ravishing Genius Indeed

Ages ago, a friend of mine handed me a Celtic music compilation CD, claiming that I should explore and expand my musical horizons. Not willing to mistakenly being perceived uncooperative but quite certain I won’t stray from my old “rockier” ways, I took the CD, and later when I got home, inserted it to the CD Player, and went on doing some housework chores realizing I’m more in a “hearing state” than “listening mode”. A dozens of minutes and a few tracks later, I felt as if a lightening has struck me, an epiphany that filled me with a sense of revelation. Rushed back to the CD player to re-play the last track again – Stunning intertwining harmonies, masterful arrangements, amazing mutual musicianship, and over all of the above mentioned, rising like a star, the playing of a whistle – ferocious, technically superb, yet delicate and profound in a way that totally hammers you. Personally and retrospectively, that specific moment in the past has turned out to be a turning point in life, in terms of my music preferences; the band, as probably many have already guessed, was ‘Flook’, while the whistle player was their front man, Brian Finnegan, who practically drew me into the world of Irish music.

Many articles and reviews might have been and should be devoted to ‘Flook’, an astonishing and ground breaking Anglo-Irish band, but since our current edition merely deals with all that’s Irish, head to toes, the following review shall focus on a definitively Irish part of that group: Brian Finnegan.

Ironically enough, one can expect to be overwhelmed with tons of articles, reviews, informative web sites  and so on, when it comes to such a super artist, but in practice, it looks like someone is much more concerned with the process of music making (which is fabulous!) than dealing with PR.

SO, who is Brian Finnegan?

Finnegan, a tin whistle and flute player from Armagh, Northern Ireland, started playing the Tin Whistle when he was eight years old. Inspired by two teachers and musicians, Brian and Eithne Vallely (of the Armagh Pipers Club).  He took up the flute at the age of ten and won his first All-Ireland Fleadh Cheoil a year later, and around that same age started touring the world along with the Vallelys.

Formed his first band that gained public attention, ‘Upstairs in a Tent’, in 1992, and for the next three years toured Ireland, Britain and Europe with the group (Some amazing musicians that were part of the band: John McSherry and Eamonn McElholm). In 1993, Brian released his first solo album, ‘When The Party’s Over’, and starting from 1995 for over 13 years (until disbanded in late 2008), he played with Flook; Flook was actually formed on the grounds of a project called ‘Three Nations Flutes’ which brought together Sarah Allen, Mike McGoldrick , Brian who was at that time teaching in Hungary, a few weeks later guitar player Ed Boyd and finally John Joe Kelly on bodhran.

In 1999, Brian was invited to India for a tour of the country with two of its foremost flute players, and in 2000 he took part in another tour, this time of the Gulf, playing with The Kuwaiti National Folk Orchestra.
In 2008 he was commissioned by The Sage Centre in Newcastle Upon Tyne to compose a piece for the opening of ‘The Eighth Bridge', a major art installation across the river Tyne. In 2009 he toured in California and Ireland with guitarist William Coulter, and also played with the Russian group Aquarium. His second solo album, ‘The Ravishing Genius of Bones’, was released in 2010.

As of 2010, Brian plays with ‘KAN (band) along with fiddler Aidan O'Rourke, guitarist Ian Stephenson and drummer Jim Goodwin. Their album, ‘Sleeper’, was released in 2012.

Finnegan is a frequent tutor for Folkworks summer school and Burwell house, and has also tutored on the Post-Graduate Masters Degree course in Traditional Music at the University of Limerick.

Major influences at younger stages, According to Fennigan’s own testimonies, were Matt Molloy and Jean-Michel Veillon, as well as Indian flute music such as Deepak Ram, but following Brian’s work , his musical landscape and horizons are ever changing and expanding, manifested in his arrangements, variations and improvisations.

Brian Finnegan is currently touring with Kan and Flook, who got together a few months ago.

To sum things up, a true giant and pioneer in contemporary Irish music, equipped with technical skills beyond any imagination, a distinctive breathtaking style, blending traditional and with so many other music genres, driving the listeners constantly to known but yet, unfamiliar grounds.

Just before we part, Discography…

“When the Party's Over”, 1993
FLOOK “Live!”, 1997
FLOOK “The Four of Us” (America release only), 1999
FLOOK “Flatfish”, 1999
FLOOK “Rubai”, 2002
FLOOK “Haven”, 2005
“The Ravishing Genius of Bones”, 2010
KAN  “Sleeper”, 2012

Have a great St. Patrick’s Day, and please remember, In Heaven there is no beer that’s why we drink it here, Slainte !

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