By Cillea Houghton
The sound of flutes, pipes, and fiddles will fill the seats of Weston Auditorium when the Irish band Lunasa comes to Fitchburg State University on Saturday, Feb. 23 at 8 p.m., as one of the many stops on their national tour.
Lunasa is an all-instrumental, no-vocals band consisting of Kevin Crawford (flutes and whistles), Sean Smyth (fiddle and whistles), Trevor Hutchinson (bass), Ed Boyd (guitar), and Cillian Vallely (uilleann pipes and low whistles). Vallely originally comes from Armagh, Ireland but now lives in the US. He has been passionate about Irish music for his entire life. As a child, his father was a piper and his mother played the fiddle. “I grew up surrounded by the music,” Valley said, adding that his first set of pipes was a gift from his father.
At the age of 7, Vallely learned to play the whistle and pipes, but it was the latter instrument he felt the most connected to: “It was the pipes that I liked the most, so I stuck with it. I really like the instrument.”
Though Lunasa started in 1997, Vallely became of member of the band in 1999. He describes Lunasa as a mix of contemporary and traditional Irish music. It combines modern instruments like the guitar and bass with traditional Irish instruments such as the flute and fiddle, creating a sound that is “very upbeat, rhythmic, and fast.”
Vallely describes Lunasa’s sound, a combination of old and new Irish music, as “a big part of who we are.” The pipe player also explained what he enjoys most about playing the music professionally; “I enjoy the fact that I play music for a living. It gives me a chance to see the world.” Vallely has performed in America and Europe, as well as numerous other countries around the world such as Japan, New Zealand, and Australia.
Over the course of his career, Vallely has played in many bands. But of all the ones he’s been involved with, he believes Lunasa is his favorite. “It’s exactly the style of music I want to play,” Valley stated. “Lunasa is the band I’ve enjoyed the most. I’m happy to play in such a group.”
Each time Lunasa tours in America, New England is always a popular stop. The band has played all over the region including Rhode Island, New Hampshire, and Vermont. However, Massachusetts in particular is a place they look forward coming to. They’ve performed all across the state, from Worcester to Cape Cod. “Every single tour, we’re somewhere in Massachusetts,” Valley stated. “We always enjoy playing in Boston.”
Vallely also revealed that, surprisingly, New England has a strong passion for Irish music and embodies a large fan base compared to other parts of the country.
“The area definitely has the strongest following of Irish music in the county. It’s an area we love playing,” he said.
As they make their way to Fitchburg for the first time, Vallely informed attendees of what they can expect when coming to see Lunasa perform: “It’s a lively show. It’s a mix of lively music and laid-back, slower music. It’s always a good time.”
Vallely also acknowledged what he wants the audience to take away from the performance: “We hope that they appreciate the moment of the music and its style.”
Valley also hopes students will attend and become fans of Irish music:
“I hope there are many students there; we would like to see a lot of young people turn out for the show.”
Tickets for Lunasa’s performance are on sale now and can be purchased at the Weston Box Office, open Thursdays and Fridays from 12:30-3:30 p.m. You can also call 978-665-3347. Tickets are $7 for students, $28 for adults, and $25 for seniors. The band will host a spotlight talk before the show at 7:15 p.m. Step dance performances from the Fitchburg State dance club and the Flying Irish Dance Studio of Ashby will also be featured. For more information about the band, visit Lunasa’s official website at www.lunasa.ie/.