Oisín and Conal Hernon, from the Aran Island of Inis Mór, are extremely able musicians, who are themselves descended from various generations of musicians. They have nine All-Ireland Champion titles between them.
The brothers previously recorded the album Up and Coming / Ó Ghlúin go Glúin in 2008 featuring three generations of musicians including their grandfather Michael Craven and their mother Marion. They have performed at Áras an Uachtaráin and for a European Leaders’ Summit in Galway, 2004, and they toured Ireland and the UK with Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann in 2009 and 2010.
Rooted in pure Irish traditional music, their interests and influences are diverse and this is reflected in their composing. With this album, Oisín and Conal are proud to showcase their ongoing musical journey and their own original tunes.
Across the Sound is dedicated with fond memories to their late grandfather, Michael “Inky” Craven, musician, mentor and the wellspring of their talents.
NEW TUNES FROM AN ANCIENT PLACE
Anne Marie Kennedy finds out about Across the Sound – Oisín and Conal Hernon’s new album of original compositions.
Irish Music Magazine, September 2015
Across the Sound recorded and mixed in The Sound Room, Galway and featuring the Hernon brothers with Tara Breen, Tommy Keane, Jim Higgins, Locko Cullen and Eugene Killeen is a groundbreaking, delightful package of newness, full of youthful enthusiasm and innovation. It is also a debut showcase for the hernon’s unique compositional skills and their tecnically and musically accomplished arrangements.
Oisín and Conal Hernon pay tribute to their parents, grandparents, a godfather, a dog, seafaring men, the landscape and the people they have met along their musical pathways. These new tunes celebrate their childhood ramblings from Ballymacward to Renmore, out the Connemara coast, across the wild Atlantic; they sweep back across the bay and down the west coast of Clare to Miltown Malbay, connecting with beloved ancestors. Across the Sound is a richly decorated musical family album. I asked Oisín about their earlier years and influences.
OH: “Our mother, Marion, would have been the driving force. She came from a musical family, and plays fiddle. She was our first teacher. We started learning around age 8 or 9. She taught us the traditional jigs and reels and was seriously dedicated to passing along her gift for the music. There were times when we’d want to be out playing football with the friends but there would be no out until the homework was done and the tunes practised to her liking.
AMK: You started on the whistle and then changed to the accordion. How did that happen?
OH: It was the day President Mary McAleese came to Inis Mór. I found an accordion in my lap and started to play.”
AMK: You toured with Comhaltas Ceoltóirí ireann in 2009 and 2010. The new tunes came about sometime after that?
OH: Yes. We were immersed in the tunes and performing for a couple of years and we met some influential people. One of them was David Neylon. He taught us a lot about arrangements. I’d say I got a hunger for making my own tunes around that time, but Conal was at it long before that. He composed the Renmore Jig and Philomena’s fancy, which are both on this recording in 5th and 6th class in National School.”
AMK: Tell me about the composition process: the practical and creative, how you both approach the blank page.
OH: We have very different methods for composing and that process in itself is interesting, watching a tune take shape from nothing. I tend to play around with notes on the accordion and keep playing until a nice combination happens, then a few bars come, and that’s when Iwrite them down and build from there.
I suppose that’s my structure, the scaffold and I build from the ground up. Conal has a different approach.
He sits with a banjo and he’ll come out with a load of bars together, doesn’t use any pen or paper, plays til he’s happy with the sound of it and then he writes the next one.”
AMK: How do you know when a tune is done, when it’s perfect?
OH: You don’t. You just hope for the best. We are getting very positive feedback, people we respect admiring the work. That’s a great confidence builder. “
AMK: Your arrangements are unusual; lots of surprises, musican nuances, the solo bodhrán, the Scottish sounding marches, the fiddle harmonies, and the intricate layering. Was that a significant part of the making of this CD.?
OH: Definitely. We enjoyed the creativity and because they are our own tunes, our own property, to do with what we like, we have more freedom to express them as we want. When we played other poeple’s tunes we might have been constricuted out of respect whereas with our own we have the liberty to treat them whatever way we want.”
AMK: You have unusual tempo changes within the tunes.
OH: We like how it works, switching from march to polka in the one track, a slow reel into a fast one and by altering the pace, the dynamics change, curiosity is aroused, people ask us where we got. ‘Ditched in Doonbeg’ for example, because they say it sounds ‘foreign’. It’s a great feeling to be able to say we made it from scratch, nothing like it.”
Across the Sound is dedicated to the Hernon’s maternal grandfather, Michael ‘Inky’ Creaven. It is available on the Cló Iar-Chonnacht label.