Solas & The Hungry Monks

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May 10, 2013

Solas’ performance at the Charleston Music Hall last Friday, May 10th, was one of those nerve wracking let’s take a chance because we believe in this music shows, and it ended up being a smashing success. I had never heard of Solas when we started discussing hosting the band back in January, but I was quickly won over by their amazing musicianship and songwriting skills. However, the main reason I got behind Solas was because of the stories that were told through their music. The Music Hall is a listening room, a story telling room. It is a room where 900 + people can intimately gather and be brought together by story, song, and art. The fact that the Music Hall almost forces people to pay attention and really engage with what is happening on stage is one of the main reasons why I love this venue so dearly.

If you have not heard of Solas, they are described as “the quintessential Irish-American band recording and touring in the US today. Fifteen years ago, in a manner befitting their name (Gaelic for “light”), Solas burst onto the Irish music scene and instantly became a beacon – an incandescent ensemble that found contemporary relevance in timeless traditions without ever stooping to clichés. Anchored by founding members Seamus Egan (flute, tenor banjo, mandolin, whistles, guitars, bodhran) and Winifred Horan (violins, vocals), Solas is rounded out by Mick McAuley (accordians, low whistle, concertina, vocals), Eamon McElholm (guitars, keyboards, vocals), and newest member and lead singer, Niamh Varian-Barry. Through fresh and unexpected arrangements of age-old tunes, compelling and topical originals and covers, and unparalleled musicianship, Solas continues to define the path for the Celtic music world and drive the genre forward.”

The night was kicked off with a dynamic set from The Hungry Monks, a local group led by Hazel Ketchum and John Holenko and described as an eclectic, acoustic group performing traditional and original roots music featuring guitars, mandolin, fiddle, banjo, bass, and vocals. The band was so wonderful and easy to work with, and they brought out quite the crew. I was so happy to get them into the Music Hall, and you will more than likely see them on our stage again.

Solas stepped onto the stage around 8:30 and flew into their wonderful concept set, Shamrock City. “With ten albums under their belt, Solas’ band leader Seamus Egan was inspired by his family history to create Shamrock City – their most ambitious project to date. Shamrock City tells the story of Butte, MT, a mining town at the turn of the 20th century, as seen through the eyes of an Irish immigrant and Seamus’ great-great uncle, Michael Conway. In 1910 he sailed from Cobh, Co. Cork in Ireland to Philadelphia and then made his way to Butte to work in the copper mines. Six years later, at the young age of 25, he was dead from a blow to the head. With audio recorded in Philadelphia and film footage in Butte, Shamrock City seeks to not only uncover the life and young death of Conway, but to also illuminate life as an immigrant during the Industrial Revolution.”

Solas used beautiful visuals to compliment there playing and to help tell the story of Shamrock City, and it was exciting to see our new projector and screen put to good use. Above all else, the members of The Hungry Monks and Solas are just plain wonderful people. They are legends in my eyes, and I hope to host both bands again soon.

– Charles Carmody, CMH Director