BY SEÁN P. FEENY
THIS week one of Donegal’s and arguably of the country’s most famous musical families begins its world tour with two concerts at the National Concert Hall in Dublin.
On Wednesday and Thursday, July 25 and 26, Gaoth Dobhair’s Clannad will perform at the Dublin venue as part of the third ESB Live Festival.
The Dublin dates will kick off a year-long world tour covering the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Japan, with an extensive European tour beginning in early 2013.
In January 2011 the five original members of the band sold out three dates at Christ Church Cathedral as part of the annual Temple Bar TradFest in Dublin.
It marked the band’s 40th anniversary and the official return of Pól Brennan, as he joined his brother and sister, Ciarán and Moya, and uncles Noel and Pádraig Duggan to complete the original line-up.
There was something special about those concerts as the band played one hit after another in their two-hour long show to fans who had come from all over the world.
It was clear that this would mark the beginning after a new era for the band. Their music has touched generations of music fans all over the world, fans who want to see Clannad live.
And so the wheels were slowly set in motion for their big return to the world stage, but they didn’t want to rush into anything too quickly.
Pól and Ciarán set about to rekindle a musical partnership which had been put on ice for the past two decades after Pól’s departure from the band in 1989.
Pól said: “The Christ Church concerts were very special and worked out really well with our guest singers, musicians and Anúna joining us.
“I think the 40th anniversary concerts gave us a good opportunity to dip our toes in the water and see what’s ahead of us and so we decided to take out time and focus on writing and recording a new album before we’d go on any major tours. We thought we’d have it ready for September, when we head to the States, but we’re not quite there yet.”
Pól said it felt like ‘unfinished business’ as he and his brother gently eased themselves back into writing together, not having done so in over two decades.
“We both have studios in our houses so we’d visit each other, chat about different things and maybe pick up an instrument and the music would come almost immediately. It’s over 20 year since we wrote together, but it just clicked right back in.”
Pól said the brothers were trying to unlock sound they were working on in the early days of the band.
“The experience has been very interesting, speaking to Ciarán we said we want to freshen things up, but also go back to go forward.
“I think we are trying to strip it back and see what’s there and look at our music from a new perspective,” he said.
Pól said the band is going back to their roots in their live performances, a stripped down acoustic sound created by the five musicians and a few additional musicians who will go on tour with them, including Liam Bradley (percussion) and Graham Henderson (keys).
“I think we’ve never practised more and the guys are all sounding great. We’re really going for that acoustic sound that we were known for in the early days and had such a huge appeal.”
Forty years on from the early beginnings of Clannad, Pól said things are completely different now as they get set to visit a lot of places they have never been to before.
He said: “We played a concert in Helsinki not too long ago which was a real indication of what lies ahead of us. Fans came up to us afterwards who said they never thought they would ever get to see us in Finland and it was very moving how genuine the people were.
“I was just blown away by the hundreds of people who wanted to come and speak to us after the concert. And now we are all set to return to the States and even there, we will be playing in places we have never been to, so it’s very exciting for us.”
It marks a very special time for the extended Brennan family – They returned from all over the globe to Donegal for Leo and Baba’s 60th wedding anniversary a few weeks ago and now they will witness the return of one of Ireland’s greatest ever musical exports to the world stage.