Speech turned to music at the Riverbank

Legends of Irish music, past and present, will be brought together in Newbridge this Friday as Gerry Diver performs his Speech Project at the Riverbank Arts Centre.

Legends of Irish music, past and present, will be brought together in Newbridge this Friday as Gerry Diver performs his Speech Project at the Riverbank Arts Centre.

Described by Diver as a “multi-media extravaganza”, the show features extracts of interviews with Shane MacGowan, Christy Moore, Damien Dempsey, Joe Cooley and Danny Meehan, among others, framed by live performances from six musicians on stage.

After four years in the making, Manchester-born Diver released his album The Speech Project in February 2012. He has since toured the live show around the UK and has just started his Irish tour.

Speaking to the Leader, the former Sin e and The Popes member said the project was a “happy accident”.

“I was listening to an interview with a guy called Joe Cooley, Galway box player, and noticed in his voice that there was a lot of emotion and a lot of melodies and natural rhythm.”

Diver took that interview and created music from it. “I made two pieces of music out of it which Christy Moore heard through a mutual friend. Christy immediately and very kindly jumped on board. And then other people agreed to be interviewed. So that’s how it started off: the accident which progressed into an album and a live show.”

Hours upon hours of recordings were reduced to mere snippets taken from the interviews and set to music, based on the natural tones of the voices.

“Like when Christy Moore was talking about things which were very close to himself he would tend to go to D minor – not that he was aware of that but that’s the way he tended to go. Martin Hayes would go into G minor, which is interesting because a lot of his tunes are in G minor, which is part of his whole East Clare lonesome sound.”

The result is a series of incredibly powerful and emotional pieces, set to a theme of the Irish diaspora.

Diver says he has been “bowled over” by the reaction to the album and the show, which has been part funded by the Irish Art Council’s Deis fund and which features special guest Lisa Knapp.

“[There’s] uilleann pipes, cello, violins, hammered dulcimers... And there’s going to be a 20 foot video screen on stage, with talking heads of people like Damien Dempsey, Shane MacGowan, talking while the soundtrack is being played against their speech. And then there’ll be live improvisations with speech. The feedback seems to be that it’s a moving experience.”

While Diver can play a huge range of instruments (including fiddle, mandolin, accordion, bodhran, flutes, drums and keyboards/piano), he says he is “not an octopus” and therefore lets other people take over some of the parts for the show.

The Speech Project will be performed at the Riverbank Arts Centre, Newbridge this Friday, 19 October at 8pm. Tickets: E15

- Liam Godinho