UPDATE: Unfortunately, because of the shake in Tony’s right hand (a diagnosis of Parkinson’s Disease was recently confirmed), Tony will not be continuing the Kitchen Concerts series.
Tony MacMahon and Steve Cooney are back playing together, but not in the kinds of venues we have come to expect in this age of state-funded and corporate-sponsored art. In what they term ‘kitchen concerts’ MacMahon and Cooney are happy to be invited to play in people’s homes for a specially invited local audience.
They first create the right environment and atmosphere in which to present the music, and then proceedings start with a ‘spoken invitation to de-clutter the mind’. As MacMahon puts it: ‘The musicians play with eyes closed, meditating on their music, often repeating sections of a tune which induce a kind of soporific communal dreaming on the idea of the music being played as distinct from the personae of the players.’
Another element in these gatherings is the brief contributions from local artists, poets, story-tellers, singers and musicians: ‘From the people gathered, a line of poetry, a fragment of a song, a memory, an idea – these flow naturally into the performance, binding musicians, listeners, the actual space, in a mood of kindly excitement.’
MacMahon-Cooney kitchen concerts to date have taken place in variety of homes – a new extension to an old house in Blackrock, a farmhouse in north County Dublin, a refurbished shed in Belmullet, the kitchen of an early Georgian house outside Kilkenny, a Martello Terrace.
The piper Paul Leech has written about these gatherings: ‘The ancient tradition of scoraíocht has been reanimated by Tony MacMahon, a shamanic musician, Des Geraghty and Rosheen Callender … the sound of music, scéalaíocht, conviviality … Táimíd beo fós.’
To enquire about hosting a kitchen concert in your home or institution, click here.
In soft light…each bringing wine…a little finger-food
Starting with a spoken invitation to de-clutter the mind
In order to open up to the music.
In a communal contemplation of the music, the surroundings, the comfort of intimacy. The musicians play with eyes closed, meditating on their music, often repeating sections of a tune which induce a kind of soporific communal dreaming on the idea of the music being played, as distinct from the personae of the players. As the musicians dream themselves in the idea of the particular piece, listeners become as one with the music, the mood calms, a sharp intensity hovers. From the people gathered, a line of poetry, a fragment of a song, a memory, an idea – these flow naturally into the performance, binding musicians, listeners, the actual space, in a mood of kindly excitement.
Five of these ‘kitchen concerts’ have been given : the first in a glorious new extension to an old house in Blackrock, the second in a farmhouse in north Co Dublin,the 3rd in a refurbished shed in Belmullet, the 4th in the kitchen of an early Georgian house outside Kilkenny, the 5th at 1 Martello Terrace in Bray, one-time home of James Joyce.
Comments such as these were heard afterwards : There was a kind of sublime intensity…a communal meditation…it was quite unusual…I was day-dreaming myself into the music…a kind of spiritual communication with the music…a memory-print left on our house…bits of tunes I will remember…for a moment we sang together…a strange magic of occasion…she was 92 & she sang…I have never heard her do that before…a bonding in the room …a kind of excited meditation…I see my own house anew…I pondered on the moment…there was a sharing…cheese wine & song made magic…the gloom of Ireland vanished for a moment…the poems touched me…an old friendship was made new…our old house became animated & we felt it again as we had that first time…it was a going backwards in time to the harpers & the big houses …only this time we were the owners…but the music was the same…will the walls retain a memory of this gathering?
By way of a record of one such ‘kitchen concert’ that took place at the home of Tony MacMahon in the Liberties, Dublin 8 on 27 November 2011.
The alienating amplification of large venues, the jostling in standing-room-only gigs, the ambient distractions of commerce and conversation in pubs: where do you go to give yourself fully to music, to let your self be over-taken by it and be led by it? The home, perhaps? But recorded music is too easy and tends to disappear into the background of modern life, so house concerts seem to hold out the most hope for music’s magic.
Tony MacMahon and Steve Cooney are reviving such a tradition. Their ‘kitchen concerts’, reminiscent of Station Masses, involve visiting large houses in local communities throughout the country to play for small audiences of enthusiastic individuals (who make voluntary donations at the end of the evening). That’s all you need: enough space for your local guests, the rooms lit with candles, everyone seated either on chairs or on cushions on the floor, no one very from Steve’s strings and fingers and Tony’s buttons and bellows so that when their sound waves come forth and meet your receptive ears an acoustic intimacy results that opens up all kinds of meditative possiblities: artistic, physical, mental, communal.
Convened around the music, concertina’ed by common outlook and purpose, consenting through silence to let the music in – a confirmation of your faith in creators, the ice breakers, the world-foresakers (some, at least) – you may begin to take your turn disconnecting from the worn-out realities of your nerves for the mind-wanderings prompted by the musical tiltings on your senses; you may connect through it with something else, and afterwards, reconnecting with your life, with others and with the world, you may find yourself reconfigured.