Traditional: Martin Hayes, left, and Dennis Cahill perform on January 28 at City Hall. *Photo supplied
Traditional: Martin Hayes, left, and Dennis Cahill perform on January 28 at City Hall. *Photo supplied

Fiddle player extraordinaire Martin Hayes promises that no prior knowledge of Irish folk music is required to appreciate the programme he is bringing to City Hall next week. 

Hayes, who is one of the biggest talents to emerge through the genre in recent years, says that the music, performed with Dennis Cahill on guitar, is enjoyable and accessible to all. 

In a comforting Southern Irish burr, he explained: One of my main missions is to find a universal voice that is understandable anywhere on the planet. People don’t have to worry about that. I hope that it is accessible anyhow. We play this stuff in Japan and in South America and Italy and to loads of audiences who are not familiar with it.”

Drawing inspiration from the likes of Estonian composer Arvo Part, Spanish violin da gamba master, Jordi Savali and the jazz master John Coltrane, Hayes has brought traditional music to a modern ear. That’s not to say he has borrowed from any particular genre: “I listen to lots of music, its not like I just listen to Irish music. All kinds of music from every direction can really inform you — it can show you different ways and possibilities. It could be the way they approach music or think about music, the way they organize music or perform. All of these things I would think about and learn from. First and foremost we play Irish music but when I think about music we think about music first and its Irish music second. I think all music has universal qualities and we try to think from that point of view and play from that perspective.”

The native of County Clare, Hayes has certainly racked up some prestigious accolades in his field over the years. He was named Musician of the Year in 2008 by the Irish language TV station TG4, he has been Man of the Year by the American Irish Historical Society and received a National Entertainment Award (the Irish Grammy). As for Cahill, he is a master guitarist who has performed with the likes of renowned fiddlers including Liz Carroll, Eileen Ivers and Kevin Burke.

The set they perform in Bermuda will take the audience on a journey through the old melodies of East County Clare. 

“In the course of the evening we try to build an arc of experience and feeling,” said Hayes. “The key is getting all of those things to happen in the proper sequence in the proper measure. You transition from feeling to feeling. 

“You can have high energy and intensity which gives you a valuable contrast against the kind of more minimal quiet moment in the music. 

“You have to juxtapose and create parameters. It is fast music that makes slow music slow and it is slow music that makes fast music fast.”

“The main thing for us in performance is to get in to the heart of the music and be really present and to find that feeling in the music and to make that feeling a reality in the room and really connect with people. It all boils down to that.”n

Martin Hayes and Dennis Cahill perform at the Earl Cameron Theatre, City Hall on January 28. Tickets are $65 general or $25 for students and are available from