A Guildhall packed to capacity and a leading Irish group offered an early St Patrick’s Day celebration when Craobh Rua performed in Lichfield.
After years as a performing unit and six well-received albums into the their career, the four piece of violinist Conor Caldwell, banjo and mandolin player Brian Connolly, uileann pipe and tin whistle player Desy McCabe and lead singer and guitarist Jim Rainey played an action-packed set of reels, jigs, slide jigs, polkas, slow airs and songs for the appreciative audience.
As well as the music, the group also kept the audience entertained with tales from a storied career that has seen them playing in concert venues of all types around the world, from their native Belfast to the USA, UK, Canada, Australia, Poland and Denmark.
The first half of the concert included pieces such as the hornpipes The Sarotoga/The Washington and the song The Road to Clady, while the pace was lifted during the slip jigs Hunting the Hare/Give us a Drink of Water/Ellen O’Grady/Moll Rua.
The strong musicianship of all four players featured in a number of ensemble pieces, with solo sets ably matched by the spirited singing of Jim Rainey during such songs as Weddings and Funerals, The Belfast Mountains and Johnny Todd. Pieces such as the double jigs The Luck Penny/Jerry Beaver’s Hat/Miss Monroe’s and the set of polkas that formed the group’s encore, Seamus Cussen’s/Matt Hayes No 2/Captain Byng/Oh the Britches full of Stitched were fine illustrations of the band’s pedigree.