Celtic Connections review: Gerry O’Connor & Manus Lunny

IN MUSICALLY analogous fashion to the artist Paul Klee, who famously summed up his painterly method as “taking a line for a walk”, Irish banjo genius Gerry O’Connor could be described as taking a tune for a walk – or a gallivant, or a frolic, en route visiting all manner of impromptu detours and unexpected byways – in extended, copiously improvised medleys.

Irish banjo genius Gerry OConnor
Irish banjo genius Gerry OConnor
Irish banjo genius Gerry OConnor

Gerry O’Connor & Manus Lunny - National Piping Centre, Glasgow

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As ever, though, his performance here with Capercaillie bouzouki ace Manus Lunny, was devoid of flashiness or showboating, instead replete with deeply seasoned virtuosity. Several transcendently transfigured versions of well-kent session standards particularly highlighted O’Connor’s extraordinary flights of inspiration, his blizzards of grace-notes and triplets consummately complemented by Lunny’s canny choice of chord colours, superbly fluent picking and mercurial rhythmic agility.

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A few sets featuring O’Connor on fiddle, together with Lunny’s lone vocal contribution, a gorgeously ethereal yet earthy Irish-Gaelic lament, completed a hugely rewarding set.

Opening the show with precocious skill and terrific flair were the teenage Orcadian duo of fiddler Graham Low and guitarist Jack Kirkpatrick, self-evidently deserving winners of a Danny Kyle Open Stage Award at Celtic Connections 2013, and making the most of this year’s main-programme slot which constitutes their prize.

Expect to hear plenty more from this pair.