In 2006 John McSherry (Uileann pipes, whistles) and Donal O’Connor (fiddle) released their collaborative work, Tripswitch, an invigorating and energetic collection of tunes that was very well received. In 2011 the duo were joined by Tony Byrne (guitar), Michael McCague (bouzouki), Francis MacIlduff (pipes, bodhran), and Ciara MacCrickard (fiddle, vocals) to form At First Light. Their album, Idir (reviewed by Folk Radio UK in December), was hailed just as enthusiastically and proved them to be at the forefront of contemporary Irish roots music.
At First Light took to the stage at the splendid City Halls in Glasgow, in support of Jaadu, as part of Celtic Connections with a set that delighted the audience from start to finish.
The first set, Rose In The Gap, started with Byrne, McSherry and O’Connor in a steady hornpipe which exploded into life as McCague, MacIlduff and MacCrickard joined in for two scintillating reels. John McSheery’s Tripswitch is a reel in two parts – sedate and soothing before picking up to a pace that gained tapping feet and whoops of approval from the audience.
These changes in pace were one of the hallmarks of the evening, calming and invigorating the audience in turns. Throughout the set McSherry and MacIlduff combine their talents on the pipes and low whistle to perform duets such as The Pipers of Roguery, Bethan’s Dance and The Magnificent Six. All the while with Tony Byrne’s guitar, Michael McCague’s bouzouki and Francis MacIlduff’s bodhran providing dynamic, driving rhythms.
In addition to providing supporting fiddle, Ciara MacCrickard enchanted the audience with two songs: Aird Uí Chuain (The Quiet Land of Erin), and Courting Is a Pleasure, sung in her own husky style that seems to carry even more clearly in a live setting than in the studio. The Asturian El Garrotín brought the show to a joyous conclusion, leaving the audience in no doubt that At First Light have already established an enthralling repertoire that clearly produces a memorable performance, both live and in the studio.