Kay McCarthy at the Celtic Cafe


Interview by Alfredo De Pietra

The Celtic Cafe is grateful to Keltika Magazine of Italy for sharing some of the work of Alfredo De Pietra, its Music Column Editor, translated into English. Click here for Alfredo's bio page at the Celtic Cafe, with links to his other features available here at CelticCafe.com.

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Kay McCarthy's RIANTA

Kay McCarthy's new album is called Rianta. In Irish Gaelic this word is charged with connotations; the plural of Rian, it means tracks, traces, marks, signs, ciphers, pathways, routes, footsteps. . .

This record assumes particular significance within the 25-year-long career of this Dublin-born artist, Italian by adoption. Here Kay retraces her artistic footsteps, revealing the traces traditional Irish music has indelibly left in her soul, while clearly indicating the signposts leading to pathways as yet to be explored. . . Rianta, in fact!

Kay McCarthy is a musician of absolute value, a powerful communicator, as those of us who attend her band's performances can easily testify, but she is also - and above all - an artist endowed with an immense creative talent. Rather than build upon the reassuringly tranquil bases of a traditional Irish musical repertoire (in which - obviously - Kay also excels) this record features almost exclusively new compositions. Its spirit remains strongly anchored in the Irish tradition, but it also shows that Kay wishes to reach beyond it. The Dublin-born singer has long assimilated the "signs" of the traditional culture of her native island, shaping them to meet her ends and vehicle her particular view of music and reality.

Kay's most recent album was officially presented to the press at the Irish Ambassador's residence in Rome on the 20th November 2003, to the public at the MEI (Meeting of the Independent Labels) at Faenza, Italy, on Saturday 29th and Sunday 30th November 2003 and at the Midem Record Fair at Cannes, February 2004.

Beginning 11th April next, Easter Sunday, Kay will begin hosting a 90-minute radio programme on behalf Rome's Radio Città Futura, Fm 97.7. The emphasis will be on World Music, including of course, many Celtic CDs.

How has your music changed over the years?

"I hope it has developed. They tell me my voice is like wine, it improves as time goes by! Furthermore, besides the traditional repertoire we write an increasing number of our own songs. They tell us we've become more "sophisticated" as far as arrangements and performance are concerned. It's not easy to judge oneself. Besides representing the Ireland of the past, of my past, we also wish to talk about today's world -- in the lyrics, in particular. The important thing is to "make music" and try to do so in the best possible way: for the sake of music, for the pleasure of performing it, for the need to communicate. We try to make contact with the listener and leave him/her with something to take home when the concert's over."

Who are the singers and musicians who have influenced your work most?

"My grandmother, my Irish music teachers, and, as I said before, my Italian musicians . . . those who work with me today and those who have worked with me over the years. The traditional Irish music I "breathed" as a child , the sacred music (especially Gregorian chant) we used to sing in the church choir, the mediaeval and Baroque music I got hooked on in my teens. In any case, I like music, all music although I suppose my soul is biased in favour of modal music!"

And if you were to choose the most important phases in your career?

"I've no idea. My life and my career are practically inseparable. The stages of my life and of my career mix and mingle in that private and public "film" stored in my memory; it's made of the songs my mother's mother used to sing to me, the songs we sang at school, my music lessons with the Irish nuns, my meeting with the Sardinians Antonio G. Sanna and Rosalba Mereu who encouraged me to "go professional" here in Italy; my encounter with Giancarlo Cesaroni who invited me to sing at his Folkstudio and who produced the first album, Roisin Dubh; being managed by Pino Tuccimei who directed the production of Stormy Lullaby for RCA International, the CD's produced by Helikonia the small independent Roman label from Arís to Am."

Why Rianta? why at this point in your career?

"As a title or as an album? As a title I was looking for a simple word full of meaning that non-Irish speakers could get their tongues around, a title that nobody else had used so far. Having "googled" on the net, I was relieved to find that I came up with thousands of pages about "Aer Rianta", no more. Rianta, plural of Rian, has many meanings, tracks, traces, signs, marks, pathways .... all perfect!! You could write a thesis on the philosphical and artistic implications. We simply chose a dozen original, semi-original and traditional songs we felt represent some of the more salient fragments of our lives and musical careers. To underline the idea of traces, marks, in a tangible way, we left the traces and signs of fingers sliding along the strings of a guitar and the sound of lips opening close to a sensitive microphone on the CD. Why in this point in my career? Because now and then people stop and take stock of where they think they are and where they think they're going. For me Rianta is that kind of watershed."

How does Rianta differ from your previous albums?

"We hope this one is better than the last one, though not as good as the next. It differs, I suppose, in that we worked more on original than on traditional tunes, that we spoke more about the present and the future than the historical past, that the lyrics regard global rather than local issues, that half of the original lyrics are in Irish. It also differs in that we invited a number of composer friends to co-write and orchestrate several of the pieces. It's also the first time that someone else besides myself sings on a CD of mine. Another first is the graphic work -- a work of art in its own right. It's the first time that we have a distributor for parts of the world outside of Italy (continental Europe)… By the way, the production is looking for a distribution for Insular Europe and the rest of the world.
Naturally, the texts in the booklet would have to be adapted to suit an international audience. The present versions are tailored for Italy and German-speaking Europe."

Contacts: Kay McCarthy's official site: www.kaymccarthy.it

For concert bookings, contact Piero Ricciardi at +39 06 7004756 or +39 335 6863514.

For Am and Rianta Storie Di Note: www.storiedinote.com, and for the previous albums, please visit the Helikonia site: www.helikonia.com

Distributer of Rianta for Germany, Austria and Switzerland : Mint www.zyx.de and www.zyxmusic.de

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Interview: Alfredo De Pietra
Feature: Bernadette Price
Original Web Design: Alexander Servas

Kay McCarthy
Piero Ricciardi and Kay
Susanna Valloni
Piero Ricciardi
Group at the Imperial Fora
Alfredo De Pietra and Kay McCarthy



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