A musical treat as Scots and Irish meet Vikings in Beoga's heavenly Valhalla

Beoga with Caitriona McKay on the harp and Chris Stout on fiddle, playing to a packed MAC auditorium lst Friday evening.
Robert McMillen

There are many ways to beat the winter blues and one of the most effective is to go to a concert by County Antrim’s merchants of musical mirth, Beoga.

Anyone who has listened to the band’s albums, The Incident, How to Tuna Fish or Live at 10 will know of the band's energetic approach to jigs and reels. With time signatures that would confuse a number of mathematicians, they are the ultimate feel-good trad group.

At the MAC last Friday night, they welcomed Scottish duo Chris Stout on fiddle and Caitriona McKay on the harp, a match made in heaven and not just because Beoga guitarist and box player Seán Óg Graham is a member of Fiddler’s Bid with Chris and Caitriona but because the centrepiece of the evening was a piece entitled Valhalla, the Norse paradise.

(See what I just did there?)

The multi-layered, evocative and spirited Valhalla started off with a beautiful piece written by Chris called Tingaholm, after the place where the Norsemen gathered on Shetland to make laws and to hear cases. The island was ruled by Scandinavians up until Scots King James III married Margaret, the king of Denmark’s daughter, in 1468. In part payment of her dowry, Orkney and Shetland were transferred to Scotland.

Having spent some time on various Scottish islands, I found the music really evocative as I recalled the stunning beauty of Lewis and Harris and Skye and Ratharsaigh. 

The second part of Valhalla began with Niamh Dunne singing a beautifully haunting fisherman's prayer called Obadiah, sung in Non, the old Norse language that was spoken on the island until around 1850.

Add to that tunes that ebbed and flowed, that would bring a lump to the throat or have you banging your feet on the ground, the piece was a wonderfully uplifting celebration of our Celtic and Norse ancestors.

Beoga also played some new material due out in an album some time this year and despite the cold outside, everyone in the packed audience left the MAC with a warm feeling inside.


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