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Press Reviews

A full bodied pipe and whistle extravaganza!

A full bodied pipe and whistle extravaganza is one way to describe the driving sound of Réalta on their new release Open the Door For Three.

The pipes and whistles of Conor Lamb and Aaron O’Hagan along with the strings of Deirdre Galway are served with a fresh, yet timeless quality that is sustained throughout the thirteen tracks of an array of tunes that include marches, jigs and reels.

The title track is the opener and the attractive slip jig is a sampler for the rest of the album as the strings subtly render the melody to pave way for breathy whistles and almost subdued piping that perfectly emulates the emotion of the tune. The fact that the group can squeeze so much variety from these instruments is testament to their playing as shown perfectly in the grouping of the Martin Wynn’s reel set where Brendan Mulholland and Mickey McCluskey add volume on flute and bouzouki. There’s power in them pipes and that’s emphatically portrayed in the final tune on the Jimmy’s Return set where the Phil Murphy composition Trip to Cullenstown is lifted out of the ground and performed superbly. Galway’s distinctive vocal belies youthfulness and vivacity that shines through on Siobhán Ní Duibhir and is brought through into the charming song An Trucailín Donn which is served with a sidebar of enhancing accompaniment. In fact Realta have produced an enticing twist of compelling music in Open the Door for Three.

The group have a clever way of arranging the flow of instrumental so that each one has a turn to shine, and whether it be in a solo capacity or together as a fluid unit; shine they do!

Reviewer: Eileen McCabe

Inspiring music!

Réalta are a new group from Belfast featuring Conor Lamb on uilleann pipes and whistles, Deirdre Galway on guitar, bouzouki and vocals and Aaron O’ Hagan on uilleann pipes, whistles and bodhrán. Now from the outset I will admit I have always had a thing for pipes and low whistle when they sound sweet with a touch of mysticism thrown in for good measure. When done well, it can be quite the relaxing chill out music needed at the end of a hard day. Réalta tick all these boxes with their debut album.

Deirdre’s mellow guitar strings open up the album. Low whistle joins in for a beautiful rendition of Open The Door For Three, a great slip jig from O’ Neill’s and the title given to the album. On into a set of jigs called Girl of the House/Tom Busby’s/The Bashful Maid/The Flitch of Bacon and our love affair with the album continues unabated. Solid confident pipe driven music, well modulated with pipes and low whistle in a beautiful interplay. Track three and we have a cool laid back low whistle reel called Patsy Touhy’s paired with some jigs. With the combination of D and C chanters Réalta have done something unusual. Two set of pipes. Not something that you would normally contemplate but somehow it works to magical effect. A couple of songs break up the tunes including Siobhán Ní Dhuibhir and Gathering Mushrooms, both well sung and delivered with good accompaniment. This is glorious, atmospheric music with quality in spade loads. It’s played at a leisurely pace when necessary with spaces and breaks in the sets, pipes soaring at times in perfect unison, low whistles often kicking in to break things up. The guitar of Deirdre Galway sounds great, sitting nicely under the arrangements and at times popping its head up to be right there in the mix. The sets shift and evolve, rise and fall and always enthrall. Réalta have most definitely arrived and have opened a door with music that is really engaging and entertaining.

If you like uilleann pipes and low whistle driven music arranged in some great evocative and meditative sets then this is for you. Réalta make a tantalising new contribution and have hit a creative patch with this album. It is mellow, laid back and natural in its presentation. There is a lovely echo from the music, no doubt from the recording or mixing process. Either way it gives a well balanced sound to the album. This is especially evident on Jimmy’s Return/John Brennan’s /Trip to Cullenstown. Réalta’s star has definitely risen and can now be seen in the northern sky somewhere over Belfast. With every track a delight it’s one for repeat plays. Inspiring music.

Reviewer: Tony Lawless

Realta – an exciting new name in Irish music – their approach is distinctive and invigorating and the results amazing!

Reviewer: John O’Regan

Réalta carry on the Bothy Band tradition of taking tunes by the scruff of the neck and firing excitement through them like hot flames!

Young Belfast trio Réalta don’t so much open the door as kick it down and demand to be heard on this outstanding debut.

With a sound based on the magnificent twin uilleann piping talents of Conor Lamb and Aaron O’Hagan, propelled by Deirdre Galway’s inquiring rhythmic-harmonic accompaniments on guitar and bouzouki, Réalta carry on the Bothy Band tradition of taking tunes by the scruff of the neck and firing excitement through them like hot flames.

The Girl Of The House jigs set is particularly exhilarating but what also gives their music a distinctive edge is the way the two pipers dovetail and harmonise on slower-paced items.

With its very personal glissandi, dips and bent notes, the air Sliabh Geal gCua is a tour de force of raw Irish blues, and La Volta provides a stirring renaissance dance partner to a romping, ecstatic Drops Of Brandy.

Galway also contributes three songs, showing much promise in Irish Gaelic and on the charmingly youthful Gathering Mushrooms.

Reviewer: Rob Adams

… the results are brilliant!

Réalta’s CD has compelling take on trad

New York City has more than our fair share of class pipers, and it’s treat when you find yourself playing away between a pair of really great ones. And while a couple of pipers is a fairly common thing to see in a session, I’m hard pressed to think of any bands that feature pipes by the pair. That is, until now.

Réalta, a trio of young Belfast-based musicians, sport a two in its line up and they have recently released “Open the Door For Three,” their lovely debut. It’s an album of polished, smartly played traditional instrumental music and song. It’s got charm, and I think will have wide appeal.

Réalta comprises Conor Lamb on uilleann pipes and whistles, Aaron O’Hagan on uilleann pipes, whistles and bodhrán, and Deirdre Galway on vocals, guitar and bouzouki. Like all great pipers, Lamb and O’Hagan, got into the music early and shared a pedagogical upbringing (one of their shared teachers included flute player Brendan Mulholland who, like bouzouki player Micky McCluskey, appears on two of the album’s tracks). Galway, on the other hand, found her musical feet in classical music before growing into traditional music as a teen.

On the album, Réalta presents a very compelling take on modern traditional music. On the instrumental tracks, the tune selection is great – some are fairly well known, others less so – but the game is in their arrangements. Lamb and O’Hagan know each other’s music exceptionally well, and they come together wonderfully throughout. The dual pipes on a track like “The Galtee” come at you like a muscle car, while the pipes and whistle combination on one like “Patsy Touhey’s” show more finesse and balance. They throw in cool little touches here and there as well, like the odd bit of harmony on tunes like “The Rathcroghan” and “Tom Busby’s.”

Perhaps the most stunning instrumental track is the exquisite air “Sliabh Geal gCua.” It’s a composition of Pádraig Ó Miléadha, but Lamb and O’Hagan have done something really unusual in their treatment, with Lamb playing a chanter in the key of C as O’Hagan plays a D set. It’s a unique approach as far as I can tell, but the results are brilliant.

One of my favorite things about the album, however, is Deirdre Galway’s voice. The first thing I noticed about it is its youthful delicacy and sweetness. But as I listened more closely, I heard a power that not only draws the ear, but draws favorable comparison to other, more renown, singers. Listen, for example, to Galway’s approach on “Gathering Mushrooms” next to Clannad’s version. Both are great, but whereas Máire Ní Bhronáin’s voice imparts a sense of experienced depth, in Galway’s there’s a the feeling of hopeful discovery. It’s refreshing to hear. Galway’s other two songs, “Siobhán Ní Dhuibhir” and “An Trucailín Donn,” both in Irish, are similarly enchanting and top tracks as well.

Réalta is already an awardwinning group in Europe, but they’re still fairly unknown to American audiences. This weekend, however, they will be in NYC for APAP (See also the Sounds Around column on this page), the Global Performing Arts Marketplace and Conference. With any luck, they’ll get noticed and brought to U.S.-based audiences. Until then, though, we’ll all just have to make due with their delightful “Open the Door For Three,” a great debut if there ever was one.

Reviewer: Daniel Neely

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