Tag Archives: percussion

For Your Ears, Heart and Soul: Leaca Bán – Na Tonnta

Posting and sharing with you, my most recent music production project, the beautiful Leaca Bán by 5-piece, traditional Irish crossover group, Na Tonnta.

Na Tonnta
Na Tonnta

Introducing Na Tonnta (L-R as above): Daniel ‘Hearthrob’ Whelan, Ellie ‘Ellington’ J McGinley, Sinéad ‘Brings her own teabags’ O’Malley, Ciara ‘I♥ Beoga’ Moley and Fiachra ‘Figgy’ Meek. The group met while studying Music in DkIT together and bonded through their love of traditional Irish music, popular music, tea, biscuits and cakes!

My journey with Na Tonnta began in September 2014. I was searching for a musically-new band to introduce to the recording studio and collaborate with for my final music production project at DkIT, resulting in three songs- one being the core and most-polished production.

Approaching Na Tonnta was an easy task. It was actually perfect timing! I already knew Sinéad, their flute and whistle player from the Norway erasmus trip in 2013 and I worked with Ellie, their vocalist and fiddle player on my previous production project, “Crystal Hearts” feat. Fiona McErlane by Audio_Girl | Free Listening on SoundCloud.

I knew I wanted to carry forward my love for traditional Irish music while bringing it into a contemporary production and I also knew Na Tonnta were a hard-working, creative and driven group from my Facebook stalking since they formed in October 2013!

Na Tonnta warming up for the Spirit of Folk Festival, 2014
Na Tonnta warming up for the Spirit of Folk Festival, 2014

Leaca Bán began in the rehearsal room. Sinéad introduced the idea to the group with the beautiful, haunting traditional tune, 250 To Vigo, accompanied by accordion player, Ciara. I sat, mesmerised by the performance- the beautiful tone of the B flat whistle, the rhythm of the tune, the sombre accordion, gently accompanying the haunting tune. The hairs on my arms stood and I knew instantly that this was a tune I wanted to be a part of. I could already hear our studio recording in my mind’s ear!

What happened next lifted my spirits even further. There was a lyrical idea. In fact, there was more than just an idea- there was a theme, a mood, an atmosphere and a poem! A vintage book was produced- a little blue book with yellow pages, about to be tossed out from a local school library where Sinéad worked. For some reason unknown to me, Sinéad opened the book and there was a beautiful poem at the beginning. The Lights of Leaca Bán by Alice Cashel is an old book intended for secondary school children but the poem simply titled Leaca Bán, found at the begnning of the book, is a literary work of beauty.  It was suggested that Ellie fit the tune to the words- amazingly, it worked like a dream. Ellie suddenly started singing the poem and it was just right.

Ellie and Fiachra in the rehearsal room
Ellie and Fiachra in the rehearsal room

By Christmas a humble demo which consisted of a vocal, fiddle, tin whistle and accordion was recorded and then my audio fun began. What I already had was a beautiful tune which was deeply Irish and could hold up on its own with such a small ensemble- how about adding drums? Synthesisers? Guitars? More vocals? How big could we go?! How big did I dare?!

Well, here’s the final production.  Listen for yourself.

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Exquisite Performance Of Original Music by El Grey at the Spirit Store, 09-08-14

Last night I finally got to see El Grey live! I have been waiting for an ideal opportunity to hear the voice of El Grey herself live for a long time and last nights performance at the Lockup Big Day Out gig in the Spirit Store, Dundalk, did not disappoint.

It was one of those gigs where you felt like the singer was singing only to you. One of those gigs where the hairs on your arms stand on end. One of those gigs that literally takes your breath away. And such gigs are rare.

I was in awe of El Greys voice- her vocal is powerful, expressive, delicate, haunting and strong- all at the same time. Her range is astounding and her style is unique. A voice you will never forget once you’ve heard it.

I watched her performance in absolute delight, superbly skilled in acoustic guitar- flawlessly, effortlessly fingerpicking- a natural player. During her performance she seems to enter another state of consciousness- a higher state of mind- her voice expressing her deepest emotions through soaring notes, beautiful on-sets and releases- a very dreamy sound world. A talented musician, she also plays the ukulele with a grace I’ve never seen before- no tacky jokey jingle-jangle here- her unique guitar fingerpicking style translates beautifully onto her charming little instrument.

Accompanied by Chris Topher on percussion and live electronic MIDI sequencing, her music takes on another dimension. Chris programs percussive loops using a MIDI interface and laptop. He also plays a large djembe while playing basslines with his toes! He trades El Greys acoustic guitar and ukulele throughout the set.

A duet clearly in control of their sound and production, El Grey uses the Boss vocal processor for hands-on control of her reverb and delay effects. Her long reverb tails and massive echoes are her trademark and her vocal processor is used to great effect. She clearly understands what she’s doing and doesn’t cloud her sound in a foggy, confusing mist of unnecessary decay. The overall sound is minimal and focussed- and believe me, anything but boring. The 45-minute set included all original songs except one Nirvana cover which was played in absolute El Grey style- she really made it her own.

It’s very clear there’s a super talent here. No wonder she has being going from strength to strength in the last year- winning an EP recorded with United Records and mastered in the world-famous Abbey Road Studios in London in 2013. Her 3-track self-titled debut EP was released 2014. The EP has been given airplay on a number of radio shows in Ireland and beyond, including Dan Hegarty’s The Alternative (2FM), Near FM Sessions (Near FM), and CSM – leading alternative show by Aleksandra Kaczkowska on Polish National Radio ‘3’ (Trojka Polskie Radio). Also El Grey’s recently become the Finalist of the Big Break All Ireland Music Competition organised by Hot Press Magazine (Top Five 2014).

It was very exciting for me personally to get to meet the duet after the gig, I couldn’t help but feel a tiny bit starstruck- when you follow an artists music online for some time that you really admire, you just can’t help but feel in awe, especially after such an amazing gig! I have to say, both Chris and El Grey are absolutely stunning people- they have such a genuinely beautiful energy and spirit, I couldn’t help but feel as if I had met them before! El Grey is very giggly and light-hearted, taking my camera and posing for hilarious selfies, I genuinely laughed this morning looking back on my photos!

Before I share some of my photos of the gig, get yourself a copy of the beautifully recorded EP on their Bandcamp here: El Grey.

Watch her official music videos and special behind the scenes footage of her EP here: el grey – YouTube.

Like the official band page on Facebook for regular updates and further information: el grey.

I hope you enjoy her music as much as I do.

El Grey- Spirit Store- 9/8/14
El Grey- Spirit Store- 9/8/14
El Grey- Spirit Store- 9/8/14
El Grey- Spirit Store- 9/8/14
El Grey- Spirit Store- 9/8/14
El Grey- Spirit Store- 9/8/14
El Grey- Spirit Store- 9/8/14
El Grey- Spirit Store- 9/8/14
El Grey- Spirit Store- 9/8/14
El Grey- Spirit Store- 9/8/14
El Grey- Spirit Store- 9/8/14
El Grey- Spirit Store- 9/8/14
El Grey- Spirit Store- 9/8/14
El Grey- Spirit Store- 9/8/14
El Grey- Spirit Store- 9/8/14
El Grey- Spirit Store- 9/8/14
El Grey- Spirit Store- 9/8/14
El Grey- Spirit Store- 9/8/14
El Grey- Spirit Store- 9/8/14
El Grey- Spirit Store- 9/8/14
El Grey- Spirit Store- 9/8/14
El Grey- Spirit Store- 9/8/14
El Grey- Spirit Store- 9/8/14
El Grey- Spirit Store- 9/8/14
El Grey- Spirit Store- 9/8/14
El Grey- Spirit Store- 9/8/14
El Grey- Spirit Store- 9/8/14
El Grey- Spirit Store- 9/8/14

Love and light.