The Forge
at Port City Blue,
Portland, Maine (2 May 2012)

To me, the best Irish music evokes the essence of the land, roots to the center of the earth, the wind across the moor, waves crashing on cliffs; by it, I am transported. This night was an epic journey. Solidly rooted in tradition but pulling from modern powerhouses of Irish traditional music, The Forge brings beauty and freshness to tunes old and new. Making their debut at Port City Blue in what they claimed was their fourth gig ever, the ladies delighted the packed room, at times eliciting whoops and cheers while commanding total silence during more poignant numbers.

Maeve Gilchrist, feminine, fierce and beguiling, told stories and sang story-songs, alternately playing or punctuating melody with her harp. There is transcendant beauty in her playing, a certain daintiness, a compelling voice. Local stalwart, flautist Nicole Rabata, and fiddler extraordinaire Cara Frankowicz carried the melodies with haunting precision and tremendous energy. Underpinning and occasionally soaring above all the rest was the intricate tonal bodhran of Anna Colliton. Subtle, bold and wild by turn, Anna not only kept the beat but drove the frenzy.

The tunes themselves ranged from well-known session tunes, "only 29 verses" of "Sweet Rosemary," a waltz or two, a Richard Thompson cover, and barn dances such as "The Blackbird."

It was a charged night indeed, leading to the first sexual innuendo I've heard uttered during Irish Night's five-plus-year history, night visiting songs with feminist rants, and "squirrely wild versions" of a few dance tunes. The evening ended with the crowd affirming band and audience alike's need for a "greedy, selfish encore." I hope a full encore performance comes soon!

by Michelle Doyle
2 June 2012

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