Laoise O’Brien: Crusader on behalf of her instrument, the recorder. (The Irish Times)
Recorder player, Laoise O'Brien, has been described in the press as a crusader with mesmerising skills and boundless imagination. Laoise has been championing the recorder since discovering the versatility and virtuosity of this historic instrument while a student of the Conservatorium van Amsterdam. She has promoted the recorder through concert performances, education, recording, and broadcasting, working with multiple ensembles and arts organisations in Ireland.
Laoise previously studied flute at the College of Music in Dublin graduating with a BMus (Perf), and holds a Masters in Performance and Musicology from the National University of Ireland, Maynooth.
As a performer, Laoise has appeared as a soloist and guest musician with numerous ensembles including the Irish Chamber Orchestra, Irish Baroque Orchestra, National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland, Opera Theatre Company, Resurgam, Sestina, The Gregory Walkers, The Irish Consort, and Camerata Kilkenny. Laoise also performs in the duo, Temenos, with clarinettist Paul Roe. This unusual pairing of instruments has resulted in many new compositions for the duo.
Laoise has been involved in the design and delivery of programmes for Kilkenny Arts Festival, Galway Early Music Festival, East Cork Early Music Festival, Sligo Baroque Festival, Ardee Baroque Festival, Killaloe Chamber Music Festival, MusicTown, The Ark Children's Cultural Centre, Culture Night, Music Network, Music Generation, TU Dublin, The Office of Public Works, The Heritage Council, and RTÉ.
Laoise has contributed to numerous radio broadcasts and has presented documentaries for RTÉ lyric fm including the award-winning, Sonnets for the Cradle, and Goedemorgen, Amsterdam a feature on the National Youth Orchestra of Ireland's tour to the Netherlands in 2018. More recently, she has presented and produced a radio feature, For the Record, which explores the history of the recorder alongside Laoise's own history as a musician.
Laoise is passionate about connection within the music community and regularly undertakes projects which reach music lovers of all ages. She is Chair of the Irish Association of Youth Orchestras, part of the programming committee of Music in Kilkenny, and sits on the Local Music Education Partnership of Music Generation Kilkenny.
The Child Ballads
The Child Ballads are a collection of traditional ballads, originally from England and Scotland, along with their American variants that were collected by Francis James Child during the second half of the nineteenth century. The Child Ballads have been performed and recorded by musicians from the classical, folk, jazz, and roots traditions, but never before have the genres amalgamated. It is specifically the connection to Irish collections and folklore that is the focus of this project and which gives the recording a distinctly Irish flavour.
FROM SUN'S FAR RISING
Castalia is a purpose-built hall which houses an impressive array of instruments, many of which can be heard on the album. I was curious to see what range of colours would be possible with just two instrumentalists and so invited my friend, the multi-instrumentalist, Francesco Turrisi, to join me on the adventure.
SONNETS FOR THE CRADLE
Beginning with 'One Charming Night' from Henry Purcell's 'The Fairy Queen' and ending with the Irish lullaby 'Dia do bheatha, 'Nai anocht', this charming recording weaves a tale of Kings and Queens, heroes and villains and the dangers that lurk in the deep dark woods. Featuring some of Ireland's leading musicians and recorded in the medieval city of Kilkenny.
A documentary feature on the project broadcast by RTÉ lyric fm received a bronze award at the New York Festivals Awards, 2013.
HOW HAPPY FOR THE LITTLE BIRDS
How Happy for the Little Birds is the title track of the album by Laoise O'Brien and is part of a multi-disciplinary project with the artist Lorna Donlon. An exhibition of collages inspired by the recording ran throughout the 2011 Kilkenny Arts Festival. The project received a tremendous response.
The recording brings the listener through a year of birdsong with tunes from Ireland, England and beyond. The birds featured on the CD are mostly common to Ireland and Britain.
The Irish Times
The gig at Kilkenny’s Left Bank was a late-night affair, too late for young recorder players to take inspiration from Laoise O’Brien’s mesmerising skill on this often abused instrument.
Irish Music Magazine
O'Brien's genius is writ large in the way she has selected her collaborators ... you could consider O'Brien the best of hands-on curators.
The Irish Times
This is a work of boundless imagination from Laoise O’Brien.
Producer and recorder player Laoise O’Brien, who was propelled by a curiosity to see how the Child Ballads had woven their way into the fabric of the Irish folk tradition. A new take on that old trope of bringing it all back home, she’s re-imagined a selection of 14 songs, in the company of musicians whose backgrounds straddle classical, jazz, bluegrass and Irish traditional music. The results are a joy to listen.
The Living Tradition
Laoise O’Brien has forged a career as a musician and producer working across genres. Now she’s gathered a collection of talented Irish musicians and singers, with backgrounds in classical, bluegrass and jazz as well as folk, to explore the Child Ballads, particularly those found in the Irish tradition. For lovers of the Child Ballads, this album is a treat.
Irish Music Magazine
The Irish Times
Recorder player and recording producer, Laoise O’Brien’s For the Record at Kilkenny Castle’s Parade Tower was a video presentation with spoken introduction and live music-making. It blended the history of the recorder as an instrument and the story of the career path of a versatile recorder player, who abandoned her instrument for an affair with the flute, before returning to the true way. O’Brien’s telling of her musical life story was informative, self-deprecating and witty.
Laoise has all the expertise to know that Thugamar féin an samhradh linn is a galliard and that is a key to Irish history.
Laoise O’Brien has spent the past twenty-five years championing an instrument often unfairly perceived as an instrument of torture.
The particular sonority of a mass of small plastic recorders has left an unfortunate legacy on an instrument once known as the ‘sweet flute’.
Join Laoise as she embarks on a journey to tell the story of the recorder and its development during the ages. Part historical account, part personal voyage, Laoise will introduce you to the various sizes and styles of recorder, the vast amount of repertoire spanning a millennium, and the many different uses for which the instrument was employed; from dances on the village green, to music composed by kings.
The Lyric Feature. Broadcast17th December, 2023.