February 13, 2017
CU Presents’ 80th-anniversary Artist Series continues with a rousing performance from Irish folk ensemble Danú. Back in Boulder by popular demand, the group performs an unforgettable evening of reels, ballads and other audience favorites from the Emerald Isle on Saturday, March 4 in Macky Auditorium.
Bringing together virtuosi players on flute, tin whistle, accordion, vocals and more for the ultimate display of Irish national pride, Danú’s performance is the perfect early St. Patrick’s Day celebration for music lovers. The group, founded in the early 1990s by a handful of talented musicians from four counties in Ireland, has since won multiple awards and has toured successfully throughout Europe and North America.
Benny McCarthy, an accordionist and founding member of Danú, says what sets the group apart from other Irish bands is that “we’re the real deal”—each member of the group was born speaking Irish and has been playing traditional Irish music since early childhood.
“You form your style of playing really young, and that stays with you your whole life,” he says. “And you can’t learn any of this music from a teacher at a conservatory. I was taught everything I know by my family, my neighbors, other people in my town. It’s in my veins.”
Most of Danú’s music, says McCarthy, is a nostalgic nod to the country’s mystical landscapes and storied past. The tunes the group is set to perform in Boulder tell tales of ancient and crumbling castles, Robin Hood-like folk heroes and the 1916 Easter Rebellion that launched Ireland’s years-long battle for independence from Britain.
“There’s a lovely expression about how the music doesn’t belong to us; we’re just carrying it to the next generation,” McCarthy says. “It gives me pride to think about how rich and true these songs have remained through the years.”
McCarthy believes that enduring tradition is just one reason so many foreigners find Celtic music fascinating. Another is that so many of the nearly 40 million Americans who claim to be of Irish descent want to learn more about their heritage.
And yet another reason is, simply, that the music is fun.
“We have a reputation for being a nation of people who like to party, who like to chat, and I think people want to be part of that,” he says. “We’re different than classical musicians because our concerts are very social. There’s an intimate connection between us and the audience.”
McCarthy encourages audience members to stomp, cheer, sing along or dance whenever they want. After all, Irish music as we know it now was originally created for dancing at weddings, community celebrations and local holidays, and today’s jigs and reels should be received in the same spirit.
“We’re living in a very strange time, and people are insecure and worried,” he says. “So, look, if we can give people a couple of hours of release where they can dance and sing along without feeling self-conscious … well, that’s why we do what we do.”