About to embark on a 45-day tour to 30 cities, including Halifax February 12, as part of its Wild Atlantic Ireland tour of North America, the award-winning traditional Irish music group Lúnasa is not only relieving a pent-up demand following the pandemic but is also using it to finally introduce audiences to their last album and in preparation for a new one.
“There’s going to be a lot of new material, but I’ll be honest with you, when you find the real, the genuine old article that maybe hasn’t been fully shaped in terms of a band arrangement, we do still love the traditional melodies.” – Kevin Crawford
“There’s definitely a little catching up,” says the Lúnasa’s flute player Kevin Crawford. “But we also brought out our album Cas just before the pandemic, so we’ve not really had the opportunity to play the material before everything got shut down, and there is a lot of from that album that still seems new even to us, so it doesn’t feel like we’re just playing back catalogue stuff.”
A planned trip to Japan in December will also allow the group to work on material for their next album. “So we’ll use the tour to play some new stuff, too,” says Crawford. “And if we can keep things fresh musically, the time on the road won’t feel quite so severe.”
While an Irish band travelling to Japan to record an album sounds a little discordant, Crawford says it makes perfect sense.
“The largest population of people playing Irish music currently is in Japan,” he says. “It used to be the UK and North America, but the biggest upsurge in people playing traditional Irish music has been and continues to be in Japan for the last 10 to 15 years, starting with Riverdance.”
Getting in on the Japanese obsession with Irish music, Crawford says Lúnasa began touring the country themselves 15 or more years ago. As a result, Lúnasa has developed a significant following of its own.
“There is a record company who brings us out there every couple of years, and this is a big anniversary year for them, so they wanted to do a recording with us,” he says.
Lúnasa is coming off its own big anniversary, having celebrated 25 years together last year. Now going into their 26th year as a group, Crawford says the music keeps them going.
“We’re very fortunate that we have a loyal fan base and can do what we do,” he says. “Putting tours together is never easy, but it’s a lot easier for us than it would be for some bands starting out on their journey now.”
It is also very much about their love for what they do. “You wouldn’t believe how serious and excited still about the music we make,” says Crawford.
Much of that excitement comes from an ongoing discovery of traditional Irish music.
“There’s going to be a lot of new material, but I’ll be honest with you, when you find the real, the genuine old article that maybe hasn’t been fully shaped in terms of a band arrangement, we do still love the traditional melodies,” he says. “And I love that there’s a history and a connection and that we are still reviving some of that [traditional music] and paying homage to it.”
And while it has been several years since the band last played in Halifax, Crawford maintains a personal connection to the region, having developed many friendships over the years performing at Celtic Colours and through shows with Halifax’s Capella Regalis and from attending the Boxwood Festival in Lunenburg with fellow flautist Chris Norman.
“Halifax is such a stronghold for traditional Irish music, and I think it’s very similar to Ireland in the way it is shared and passed down,” he says. “I’m excited about going back this time because it’s been so long.”
Lúnasa plays Halifax’s Light House Arts Centre on February 12. Visit lighthouseartscentre.ca for tickets and information.