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Success no ‘Flook’ for inventive Irish folk band

Sean Sweany | Monday, March 27, 2006

The internationally acclaimed Anglo-Irish band “Flook” captivated the audience at the Leighton Concert Hall in the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center (DPAC) Saturday night with their energetic tunes and melodies. The recipient of numerous international awards for Celtic folk music, “Flook” played at Notre Dame as one of the final stops on its American tour.

Since it was founded in 1995, “Flook” has delighted audiences with its innovative style of Celtic, Scottish and English folk music. The music revolves around two flute and whistle players, Sarah Allen and four-time All-Ireland champion Brian Finnegan. They are joined by guitarist Ed Boyd and bodhran player John Joe Kelly. A bodhran is a traditional Irish drum. The foursome’s imaginative use of instruments allows them to create a wide range of unique toe-tapping songs.

“Flook” plays in the style of traditional Irish music where one song is actually a set of several songs that flow from one to another. Saturday’s concert began with an energetic set of Irish reels entitled “Wrong Foot Forward.” The piece was driven by the talented flautists and set the tempo for the evening.

As the band performed more tunes, it became clear that the praise and acclai the Irish music community has heaped on “Flook” is well merited. The band creates a full, rich sound using only four performers that some bands cannot create with dozens of musicians. Perhaps the only fault with the band is the lack of a vocalist, but the sound that they create in their music, especially in self-written songs, more than makes up for the absence of lyrics.

In addition to playing excellent music, “Flook” knows how to win over an audience. For a song called “Gone Fishing,” the audience had the chance to try and name the tune being mimicked in the opening to the song. When one audience member figured out the song, she got to join “Flook” onstage and was rewarded with a “Flook” CD for singing the intro to “Hotel California.” For another song called “Granny,” the entire audience joined the band by sounding like trumpets to provide musical accompaniment to the band.

“Flook” also had a humorous stage presence, led mostly by guitar player Ed Boyd. Boyd kept things lively between sets with his jokes and commentary about everything from being in Indiana to his grandmother. The other band members seemed to warm to the audience as the concert progressed, especially after intermission.

Not surprisingly, as the band became more at ease, it took its music to a higher level. The first song after intermission, called “Flutopia,” featured Allen and Finnegan using their flutes in unconventional ways to produce catchy, staccato sounds. In a later song, “Flook” was joined by two Irish dancers, both of whom are Notre Dame students. The talented dancers mesmerized not only the audience but also the band members, who said they do not perform with dancers often.

Not wanting to be left out of the action, the bodhran player Kelly, who seemingly always had a full beer in front of him, played an amazing drum solo. Kelly is regarded as one of – if not the best – bodhran players in the world and demonstrated his incredible talent in his lengthy solo. As the band rejoined him, it ramped up the tempo once again in its final songs to bring the concert to an energetic close. A thunderous standing ovation from the audience brought “Flook,” along with the Irish dancers, back to the stage for an exciting encore that left audience members tapping their toes all the way home.