LMN South East ensemble Tir Eolas are an eclectic alternative-folk group who draw on their Celtic and English folk roots to create their unique combination of traditional folk and original material.
The group first took form busking on the streets of London and have since gone on to perform together at Bestival, Cecil Sharp House, Royal Albert Hall, Sage Gateshead, Kings Place, City of London Festival, Milton Court Concert Hall, Ronnie Scotts and the BBC Proms (broadcast on BBC Radio 3). The group joined Live Music Now in 2013 when they were also selected for the inaugural City Music Foundation Award. They recently released their debut album, Stories Sun, Truths Told.
Drawing on their unique combination of traditional folk and original material they recently led an LMN ‘All Together Now’ interactive music event for families with children with special needs and their siblings at the Horniman Museum and Gardens Pavilion – one of the many projects and performances they have led for Live Music Now since joining the scheme. After the session, they sat down and talked with LMN volunteer Rebecca Williams about their work.
Rebecca Williams: How did you all meet?
Tir Eolas: We came together nearly 5 years ago when we were all studying at the Royal College of Music together. Initially it was just three of us: Ruairi, Laura and Philippa. Then Georgie joined and then Hedi most recently.
RW: How did you come up with the name for the ensemble?
Tir Eolas- Ruairi: I was sitting in an airport quite early on in the group’s formation and I saw the translation for ‘Information Point’ was Tir Eolas. The exact translation is ‘knowledge of the land.’ I liked it and it stuck! The name’s meaning resonated with all of the group and the different cultures that form the group.
RW: How did you first hear about LMN and what made you want to join the scheme?
Tir Eolas- Laura: I actually heard about if from the school that I was at before. Someone came from LMN to do a talk about the organisation and I thought I would really like to be involved when I leave college.
Tir Eolas – Philippa: I heard about it through some friends at college who had been with the organisation and spoke of how great, enjoyable and rewarding it was, so we looked into it. We all had heard about LMN and talked about whether it was something we all wanted to peruse and we all agreed yes.
Tir Eolas – Ruairi: And we had done quite a lot of work with the RCM out in the community, working with older adults with dementia which is central a lot of the work that we’re doing and a lot of work with schools as well so joining LMN was a really organic development.
RW: What is your approach to composition?
Tir Eolas- Laura: A lot of our tracks are based around the idea of storytelling. I think a lot of it comes from having a story to tell in the first place.
Tir Eolas – Ruairi: When I’m writing music it’s about the characters behind the music.
Tir Eolas – Philippa- I might get a particular melody or tune and that will stick with me. I will play around with it until I’m happy.
RW: How do you communicate your composition to the fellow members of the group? Is it notated?
Tir Eolas: It varies. Sometimes there is a clear vision from the composer and other times it’s less fixed which is characteristic of folk music as well. Sometimes things organically happen and sometimes it’s orchestrated and fixed. We often come up with our own parts to fit to arrange the song together even though one person had written it depending on our ideas and things.
RW: Have any of your experiences with LMN inspired any of your compositions?
Tir Eolas: We are inspired by participants’ experiences and their responses to the music we’ve played for them and different stimuli. Sometimes we take in pictures, themes or instruments, take their ideas and put them together in a song in the session which is really cool. They often have specific ideas about what they want so we go with that and there is a real sense of pride when they realise what they have managed to achieve without consciously thinking, ‘I can write a song’. Building on that collaborative composition work we are embarking a big music and dementia programme where we will write music which will be performed on the concert stage with the community groups. That will be the next step in our journey.
RW: Is your approach different for LMN performances and that for your concerts?
Tir Eolas- Georgie: I think definitely in terms of making it more interactive. We would do quite similar repertoire but in a different way. Today we performed songs from our new album but we got people playing percussion, taking elements of the song and making them interactive and participant friendly. We might suddenly decide to do something else completely because of the energy in the room, where in a gig we would probably stick to the set list.
RW: What do you prefer? Do you prefer that flexibility or a standard set?
Tir Eolas: Everything that we do we choose really carefully whether it be a concert like the album launch or a session like today every performance is bespoke according to the needs of the audience, so tailoured for the event. But we wouldn’t say that we prefer one to the other – they are just different.
RW: It must be quite good being able to do both. If you have to do things over again would you still choose this career? Would you do anything differently?
Tir Eolas: Oooo, Definitely still choose it! I would probably try to organise my diary better, maybe try a different instrument.
Tir Eolas – Philippa: I wished I practiced the piano more, that’s something I would have done differently.
Tir Eolas: But if you did that you wouldn’t be you
Tir Eolas – Philippa: True.
RW: Well it’s good to hear that none of you would have chosen a different career!
Tir Eolas: #NO REGRETS!
For more information and to buy Stories Sung, Truths Told visit www.tireolas.co.uk/