Liz Kane and her sister Yvonne grew up in the Connemara region of County Galway. Renowned for their exquisite mirror-image playing, the sisters learned to play fiddle from their grandfather and several East Galway musicians steeped in the special flowing style of the region. During the school year they teach and perform throughout the west of Ireland, and in summers travel to North America to tour and give workshops.
One hallmark of Irish traditional music is the emphasis on melody played in unison with varying degrees of ornamentation. With The Kane Sisters, melody and ornamentation line up so perfectly that the tunes take on a special magic.
"When you grow up together, you end up thinking quite similar, musically anyway," says Kane. "We enjoy and listen to the same musicians. And we have a grá, huge grá, a love for east Galway music. And I suppose that's where it started, our little thing. We had this excitement of getting loads of recordings from east Galway. And on those recordings were the likes of Paddy Fahy, Conor Tully, Lucy Farr, Paddy Carty -- all these amazing musicians. And we just naturally fell in love with that music, and any tunes we learned would have focused on their recordings. And then we just took it from there, we kind of like learned a lot of stuff outside of that and kind of just made it into our own. That's about it really. Our grandfather played the fiddle as well. Jimmy Mullen, he was from Clifden.”
Cara Lieurance: "You know, it's really extraordinary to me to hear the unison that you achieve on the slow airs, like "Sean O'Dwyer of the Glen", this beautiful free melody with no steady pulse to keep you together."
Liz Kane: "Yes, I don't know, it's funny. It's just from playing and playing it together and... I find when we have to play it in a concert, you really have to focus in, you have to feel off each other for every phrase or for every note. Your mind wouldn't want to be rambling. If it might have been for a jig or a reel, it wouldn't be for this, that's for sure."
Cara Lieurance: "Throughout all your albums the tunes of Paddy Fahy come up a lot - his reels and his jigs - and was I just wondering, have you spent any time with Paddy Fahy? He must be well into his 80s by now."
Liz Kane: "We have met Paddy, yeah, we've met him numerous times. I suppose the first real intimate time was sitting in a pub in Oranmore, maybe about 2002, with him and his son, just having a session, the four of us in a back room of the pub. That was very special.”
Cara Lieurance: "Is he glad to know that his music is being spread around the world by musicians like yourself?"
Liz Kane: "Oh I'd say he is, yeah. Absolutely. We were really, really honored to play with him on television for the TG4 music awards. He won composer of the year maybe in 2004. It was taking place in the Cork Opera House, so they managed to get Paddy down to Cork, it would have been a big deal, and we played with him. He's an amazing guy. Eccentric."
The Kane Sisters present the fiddle music of east Galway at the Kalamazoo Nature Center in the Cooper's Glen Auditorium this Sunday at 2 pm. Naturalist Dan Keto will lead a short nature walk 30 minutes prior to the music.