Photo Credit: Donald McLeod
Award-winning Gaelic singer Julie Fowlis graced the Hugh Hodgson Concert Hall stage Wednesday night for a program of new and traditional Irish folk songs.
Fowlis, accompanied by her three-piece, entered the stage with confidence and poise. Starting most of her songs with a small background or history, the Scotland-born multi-instrumentalist made sure that even though most of her performance was in Gaelic, listeners had some idea of what the lyrics meant.
Originating in Scotland and Ireland, Gaelic music has been around for centuries, and Fowlis has spent much of her life studying it. Growing up in North Uist, Scotland, Fowlis learned and practiced music from a young age, and said during her performance that she still enjoys reading stories and songs from centuries ago in her spare time.
Arguably best known for her contributions to Disney Pixar’s Brave, Fowlis performed some music from that film, as well as traditional folk tunes. My favorite part of the shindig was when Fowlis and company tackled a Gaelic rendition of The Beatles’ “Blackbird," singing the chorus in English. The melody was not easily missed, and the song was heavily applauded by the audience.
Having released five studio albums as well as a countless number of contributing works, Fowlis continues to make music and put a different twist on already existing stories. Throughout her set, she bounced back and forth from upbeat, hand-clapping dance tunes to quiet, introspective ones that took the crowd through ancient stories that spanned generations.
A favorite slower tune of mine was a lullaby Fowlis said she used to sing to her daughters. The song brought tears to some attendees' eyes, even though they probably didn’t understand Gaelic.
Fowlis is known for her many musical talents, and they were brightly shown Wednesday, as she played flutes and whistles, as well as what I assume was a shruti box, which kind of looks like a small suitcase combined with an accordian. The musicians joining her onstage were also no exception, with two playing guitar and one on violin/fiddle.
Each song received high praise from attendees, especially the theme song of Brave, where Fowlis had everyone sing along the chorus with her in Gaelic—some doing better than others.
Seeing Fowlis perform is truly enchanting. Gaelic music doesn’t often come through Athens, so when it does, it makes for a special night of tradition, history and incredibly unique sounds.