You start to describe Sean Keane as ‘laidback’…and you find yourself scrambling for a more…laidback word. He is the most relaxed of performers. First on stage were his trusty (and very talented) musicians, Fergus Feely and Pat Coyne.
Then came Sean. The venue was Roscommon Arts Centre, last Saturday night. He moved into our midst in a gear somewhere below ‘sauntering.’ Cup of tea in hand, box of tricks under his arm (it actually contained his various instruments). The lightest of figures, he is dressed in a t-shirt and dark suit. What really catches the eye is the ever-present smile.
From 8 pm kick-off, it was a lovely, informal, intimate concert. The instrumentals and songs were memorable; adding to the enjoyment was Sean’s brief introduction to each song/piece of music.
It struck me on the night that we really do owe a debt of gratitude to people like Sean for the way in which such gifted artists have lovingly cared for (in some cases resurrected) old songs, all with a view to passing them on to future generations.
Time and time again Sean introduced songs from a century or more ago. One dated back several centuries! Many of the songs related to Ireland’s relationship with America. Many related to emigration from Ireland to the States. Others were about the first settlers in America. The music and songs were underpinned by a pride in Irishness, by an appreciation of those who have gone before us. Many of the songs were sad but beautiful. And of course Keane’s voice is something special; almost hypnotic, certainly unique.
On Saturday night in Roscommon’s fabulous Arts Centre, Keane was accompanied by Fergus Feely and Pat Coyne. The mood was light, with lots of laughter. Coyne sang a lovely version of ‘Peggy Gordon’; Feely went down a treat with his version of a Merle Haggard song.
Of course all eyes – and ears – were primarily on Keane. Feely and Coyne work a treat with the sean-nós star, the night’s understated main attraction. He hardly ever stopped smiling and it was hard to take your eyes off him…switching instruments, tapping his toe, occasionally closing his eyes, captivating the audience with his voice, his songs of loss, love and such things.
Long may the man from the great, gifted family in Caherlistrane in Co. Galway do his thing.
When they signed off, just after 10.30 pm, it was after two or three encores and a standing ovation. We met Sean briefly in the foyer and I found myself not congratulating him, but thanking him.
A while later, they were off into the night, three wandering wise-cracking musicians continuing their journey of life into the future, keeping the past alive.