Lorcán Mac Mathúna is a singer, writer, and arranger whose work confounds categorisation. Working extensively in the realm of improvised music, with many stylistic inspiration derived of sean-nós vocal techniques and philosophy, his music is tonally rich, nuanced, and dynamic.
His work and collaborations has included arrangements based on airs in the oral vocal tradition; contemporary composition; writing collaborations and performances; improvisational and electronic music: and compositional theory development.
Lorcán Mac Mathúna is an improvising singer and composer with a special interest in the nature of vocal music. His many projects investigate and elaborate on the improvising nature of the human voice in solo and collaborative settings. This includes A Cappella Sean-Nós singing, contemporary compositions of an improvised nature, music composition theory based on syllabic poetic forms, and much, much more.
Lorcán’s first release in 2007, Rógaire Dubh, was the first step in a career which focused on the performance of Sean-Nós conventions within diverse musical frameworks. Developing on the improvised nature of Sean-Nós, he collaborated with Irish composer Ian Wilson and improvising saxophonist Cathal Roche, in Common Tongue, in the release of Want and Longing in 2010. In 2011 he released the critically acclaimed Dubh agus Gheal: Darkness and Light –Loric Colloquies with his Hiberno-Norse project Northern Lights.In 2010 he also wrote a composition for the Old-Irish epic tale An Táin with the avant-garde improvisational collective Deep end of The Ford. An Táin was recorded in 2011 and released in 2012.
Other compositional works included the 2009 Tásc is Tuairisc, a tense and atmospheric depiction of the doomed Franklin voyage, which he co-wrote with Irish composers Simon O Connor and Daire Ó Bhreacáín.
In 2013 he was commissioned to write a special suite of music for Derry, based on the river Foyle and the story of exile from Derry, named Derry to The Sea which received its premiere at Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann 2013 on August 11 2013. Derry to the Sea included "I am the Foyle," a song for choir and orchestra which was written in collaboration with community groups in Derryand which was performed by a scratch orchestra made up of choirs and musicians from Derry. The composition of I am the Foyle was teh subject of a BBC program on the Fleadh in Derry (see videos).
Lorcán has undertaken studies in traditional music styles and extended techniques; of traditional music from select European and Asian cultures investigating their correlation with sean nós song style; of vocal dance music, which lead to the compositional project, Preab Meadar, with traditional fiddler, Daire Ó Breacáin; and the correlation between oral metre and improvisation in western Oral music. His latest project is a collaboration in composition and performance with Daire Bracken. Their album, Preabmeadar was released on November 9th 2014 to massive critical acclaim..
Commissioned compositions have included:
- The Arrows that murder sleep (2008); love songs of the Irish medieval period. Performed at the IMRAM Irish literature festival.
- Tásc is Tuairisc (2009); a tense and atmospheric depiction of the doomed Franklin voyage. Co-written with Simon O Connor amd Daire Ó Bhreacáín;
- “Derry to the Sea,” (2010) which opened Fleadh Ceol na hÉireann on August 11 in st. Columb’s Cathedral, Derry;
- The Battle of Clontarf (2013), premiered at the Temple bar Trad Fest, 24/01/2014 in St. Michan’s Church.
As well as a solo and group performer, with performances
from Germany to Vancouver, Lorcán regularly teaches singing
in schools programmes, music organisations and festival workshops.
I was born in Cork in 1976 into a family with a passion for traditional music and singing. My father, Séamus, is known in traditional music circles for his flute playing and singing, and a life time of work passing on the music to new generations.
The influences on my style have been diverse and most of them deeply personal. Sean-Nós is a soulful and emotionally expressive style of music and when it strikes a resonance with the listener it can have a dramatic and revelatory effect. My greatest inspirations have been what would look like pretty ordinary encounters. Unfussy, unadorned occasions, where the song reveals layers of beauty and meaning; such as one gorgeously fluid and uplifting rendition (or telling as they say in the Irish tradition) of an Clár Bog Déil in a tiny cramped bar in Mayo, at the Fleadh Cheoil in Ballina in 1997.
My take on Sean-Nós is that the melodic shape of a song is entirely based on the formation of the words and their power, that the spirit of sean-nós is to shape the melody to fit the power of the story. The music and the stories (the lyrics) of Sean-Nós are entwined inseparably. It is a deeply expressive form of music.