Goitse to bring contagious energy, music from Limerick to ETSU

Published 9:08 am Monday, March 2, 2020

JOHNSON CITY — Friends often stay in touch after college, while others travel disparate paths that do not intersect again. The award-winning quintet Goitse was forged in the creative crucible of the University of Limerick’s Irish World Academy of Music and Dance, and since their academy days, has continued collaborating musically, becoming what Roots Magazine calls “a powerful force” in Irish music worldwide.

“One day in our first year, Áine McGeeney was asked by a member of faculty to put together a group of musicians for a charity event, and we felt there was a nice vibe to the music that night,” says Tadhg O’Meachair, piano and accordion player for Goitse. “So we decided, after that, to form a band, and it just went from there.”

Since they finished their studies in 2011, Goitse has toured full time, including several months a year in the U.S., and has won Group of the Year awards from Live Ireland and Chicago Irish American News and the Freiburger International Leiter Music award. The ensemble has released five albums, and the latest, “Úr,” was dubbed Irish Album of the Year in the U.S.

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On Tuesday, March 3, Goitse — pronounced “Go-witcha” which means “Come here” in Gaelic — will bring to East Tennessee State University “the roots of tradition with the freedom of creativity,” as described by Folkwords. Tickets for the 7:30 p.m. performance in the D.P. Culp Student Center’s Martha Street Culp Auditorium are $5 for all students with an ID, $20 general admission and $15 for seniors.

Under the vocal leadership and fiddle playing of McGeeney, named Best Female Vocalist of 2016 by the Irish American News, the quintet has earned critical acclaim for its music, energy and creativity.

Goitse’s contagious vitality caught the attention of Anita DeAngelis, director of ETSU’s Mary B. Martin School of the Arts, which is sponsoring the concert. “I saw them at a conference a couple of years ago and we loved their energy and spirit, as well as their unique blend of Irish music,” DeAngelis says.

In addition to McGeeney and O’Meachair, the band also features Colm Phelan on bodhrán, James Harvey on banjo and Conal Ó Kane on guitar. Phelan was the first World Bodhrán Champion in 2006, and won All-Ireland honors two consecutive years.

Goitse channels its energies not only into vigorous performances, but also into creating new arrangements of older tunes and writing their own music with a 21st century, but always Irish, flair.

“It is definitely important that our music evolves and remains relevant, not just to fall into a safe zone for us,” O’Meachair says. “Composition of new music is a central aspect of our sound. Whilst we love to play older Irish melodies, we also love to weave in our own compositions alongside them. This definitely is a huge part of our identity as a traditional Irish band.

“Everyone throws out ideas for both new and existing music. It could be a tune we’ve heard in a session or it could be a tune we’ve stumbled across in an old collection. But if we like it, we’ll suggest it as an idea. Then, if the melody clicks with the rest of the members, or someone has an idea of how we might arrange it in an interesting way, we go with it.”

Their program includes traditional jigs and classic tunes like “Henry Joy,” sung from the viewpoint of the 18th century Irish revolutionary, and “The Providence Fling” in counterpoint with fresh, rhythmic tunes such as “Transformed,” co-written by McGeeney and Phelan and loosely inspired by the film “Transformers 2.”

“The Dog Reels” are another example of Goitse’s unique blend of contemporary and traditional Irish music, O’Meachair says. “We’ve recently made a music video of a selection of tunes called ‘The Dog Reels.’ It’s a mix of both traditional melodies and new compositions. It starts with two traditional tunes and then jumps into a third which is a joint composition from the band. Hopefully the listener will hear this coming together of old and new in this piece.” 

Whether American or European, their own composition or a tune that has stood the test of time, Goitse’s main focus is its audience. “Our ultimate aim with our music is to connect with audiences and to create a vibrant, fun, energetic vibe,” O’Meachair says. “At its core, our music is a dance music, and I believe that makes a connection with people on some level, no matter where they’re from.”

For more information on Goitse, visit www.goitse.ie. For more information about the Martin School of the Arts events or tickets, visit www.etsu.edu/martin or call 423-439-TKTS (8587). For disability accommodations, call the ETSU Office of Disability Services at 423-439-8346.