Roz Crowley

Food, wine, travel, music

Interference – where have you been all my life?

The recent Interference gig at Cork Opera House was a revelation and best gig of the year so far.

I was on the trail of Maurice Seezer when Irish Examiner Arts Editor Des O’Driscoll told me he might be appearing, as he often does with Interference, in the Opera House the next day. I bought tickets and had no idea what was ahead.

A first time at a gig on the stage of the Opera House, 300 of us stood and sat with our backs to the curtain and in front of a raised stage when mezzo soprano Camilla Griehsel was first to appear. I had enjoyed her MA recital in Cork School of Music just a few weeks beforehand and been hugely impressed by the range of her voice and of her emotions – a strong, confident, lyrical performer. The Congolese rhythms (in a piece written by terrific guitar accompanist on the day Niwel Tsumbu) contrasted with the poetry and intensity of Brecht, Dillie Keane’s lyrical Look, Mommy No Hands and Italian composer and performer Barbara Strozzi’s 17th century Che Si Puó Fare. Poetry and music fused to perfection. Also accompanying her that day was Maurice Seezer, a low key, light touched, versatile pianist, with a pedigree of writing for film and theatre and collaborating with top musicians. Where has he been all my life?

As it so happened Seezer (aka Maurice Roycroft) was not playing with Interference that night, but that in no way diminished the experience. Ciara O’Driscoll joined Camilla Griehsel on stage. O’Driscoll’s smooth, soft tones counterbalanced Griehsel’s stronger delivery. Keyboard player and singer Maurice Culligan who was in the original Interference line-up, had a low key style until the last song (pictured) when he left the keyboard and let it rip front of stage. Guitarist and singer Paul Tiernan let it rip for most of the set, contributing all manner of vocal styles. Based in the south of France, when he gets home to West Cork he sometimes plays around Cork. Last Thursday’s gig in Coughlan’s pub, Douglas Street, Cork, was a showcase of mainly his own fulsome, often poetic, often ironic social commentaries. On stage with him that night and at the Interference gig was the hugely talented and versatile Finnish Marja Gaynor. While violin is her first instrument, she is a competent concertina player and can make the revived Melodica sing. And she can sing too, always rhythmical and sometimes mischievously adding her trills and cadences to an already full sound.

Back to the Opera House and Interference where guitarist James O’Leary added more rich vocals and guitar, while the Frames Joe Doyle on bass with a few days notice stepped in and played like a regular. On cello was Frenchman Bertrand Galen who added depth and more rhythm to proceedings.

The drummer was Corkman Cal McCarthy whose light and vibrant percussions were perfectly judged. Camilla Griehsel’s son Max Vearncombe contributed harmonious vocals on several songs, but the biggest vocal and general energy maker on the night was Glen Hansard. He has always dipped into Inference’s gigs and many think of him as a permanent feature. However, no-one seems to be a permanent feature, not even the band itself. They come together whenever a purpose or a notion arises, and when they do it’s as enjoyable for them as it is for those watching. Hansard’s talents have been well recognised with his Oscar win with Markéta Irglová for Falling Slowly for the movie Once. I was at the 2001 legendary gig in Connolly’s pub in Leap Co Cork when he played alongside Mic Christopher and Lisa Hannigan. I was at his solo gig in a fish processing warehouse in the village of Braedslan, Iceland, where he admitted to me at half time that they were a tough crowd. Vodka may have had something to do with it, but the acoustics of the tin structure served to amplify the noise of the enthusiastic audience as well as the music. This one in the Opera House was a far more civilised (and warm) gig.

Dyed in the wool cult followers wouldn’t miss an Interference gig. Formed in 1984 by a much missed singer and composer Fergus O’Farrell who died last year after a long tolerance of Muscular Dystrophy, which did not stop him performing and bringing together superb musicians like those on the Opera House stage. There is something about Glen Hansard’s presence that works with the other friends of O’Farrell and has kept his generous spirit alive, creating a familiar synergy. A running gag was Looking for Someone, a song written by Fergus O’Farrell and Malcolm Roderick McClancy which was sung a few times with a different beat, including reggae. Simple fun.

Low Mountain – Alan Tobin and Niall O’Driscoll – from Ardfield and Skibbereen played a few tunes and joined in in vocals later, as did the talented Roisin Little (a niece of O’Farrell) and Jack O’Rourke. All blended in so well, that despite their younger years, it was hard to believe they were not part of the original band.

My night was enhanced by meeting Jens and Crystal Uhl who live in West Cork and are staunch supporters of Interference, bringing them and other talent on tour to Central Europe. Jens has made videos worth watching on YouTube, including a short one of Glen Hansard and Mic Christopher singing outside Connolly’s in Leap after that great gig. If like me you want to read more about Interference I can recommend Ellie O’Byrne’s Irish Examiner and Jim Carroll’s Irish Times articles on line.

Next time there is an Interference gig, will someone please let me know? And where is the man Seezer?

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