Is Hup the best music show on Irish TV? TG4's innovative trad showcase captures the very best of Irish traditional music in many of the musical hotbeds around the country, capturing intimate performances by masters young and old. Here, Hup team members Sarah Lennon Galavan and Cormac de Barra reveal all.
Travelling to villages and towns across the country, you can’t help but marvel at the diversity and distinctiveness of traditional music across one small island. From the rousing fiddle tunes of Ed Reevy in Co. Cavan to the melodic pipes of Antrim, the schools and festivals of Ireland represent an unbroken musical tradition that spans the generations, passed on from the old masters to the today’s young performers.
It’s easy to dismiss traditional music as a vestige of Ireland’s past, an impression that is reinforced by its conventional presentation on TV. The image of a group of solemn old men in flat caps, sitting around the table in a pub with their instruments poised, is what comes to mind for many people when they think of trad. Yet, like any living and vibrant genre, traditional music is changing and adapting as young musicians from diverse backgrounds become more involved.
This is certainly the case with Strung, a Cork-based quartet who are featured in Hup’s upcoming Christmas Special. Composed of four young musicians from around the country, the group combines their classical training with traditional rhythms to create a compelling and risk-taking generic fusion. Also on the bill are Danú, renowned for the past two decades for their intricate compositions, who will be premiering a fresh and exciting new line up with the addition of a sean nós vocalist. Trad, like pop, rock or hip-hop, is constantly in flux.
Precocious talent is certainly the norm within the world of traditional music. Take 11-year old piper Cian Smith, who performed at the John Dwyer Trad Weekend in Waterford, sharing the bill with the festival’s namesake, the legendary fiddler John Dwyer. In Ardmore, we met young Joseph Mannion, who at only 12 years old, leads off his family band and has a side business making customized bodhrán sticks! Of course, the old guard is still there. Acts like celebrated flautist Mike McGoldrick, who plays a rousing duet with Danú’s Donnchadh Gough as part of the festive showcase, represent Ireland’s unique musical achievements on an international stage. What makes traditional music so singular is its openness to collaboration between young and old, keeping the genre’s community spirit alive.
In making a programme that centers around such a colourful musical scene, we try to keep the visual aspects of Hup as innovative as the musicians we feature. Why show the same old pub setting for a storming session when you can choose a lighting shop, a cave or even a strawberry farm? Many of our crew and production team are traditional musicians themselves, so every shoot involves huge enthusiasm for acts, both big and small. With the sheer number of emerging talents, anyone of the young pipers, fiddlers and bodhrán players we feature could be a future giant of the genre!
Hup airs on TG4, 10pm Sundays, repeated on Thursdays at 8pm. Or catch it on player at www.tg4.ie