THE IRISH TIMES Friday, May 11, 2012


Dermot Byrne and Floriane Blancke indie release ****

Bare-boned, spare arrangements that leave nowhere to hide: a brave choice for Altan accordionist Dermot Byrne and Parisian harpist and vocalist, Floriane Blancke, on their duo debut. There’s a natural yin and yang to the pairing of box and harp: the muscular core of the former finding a natural foil in the latter. Musettes, waltzes and slow airs are balanced alongside select hornpipes and jigs, with Blancke contributing fine-boned, pristine vocals on the sole French song, La Clairière. This fresh collection embraces the baroque in Chris Newman’s Sore Point and the panoply of suantraí, geantraí and goltraí (lullabies, happy and sad songs) that form the backbone of traditional music.
Byrne and Blancke manage to cleanse palates long jaded by the overdrive of ensembles on full throttle.


While it’s Scotland that’s known for its Auld Alliance with France, Altan’s accordionist Dermot Byrne has forged a new Irish variant in his dynamic duo partnership with the young Parisian harpist and singer Floriane Blancke. As the conservatoire-trained granddaughter of both a Hungarian gypsy jazz musician and a classical violinist, Blancke – who’s also studied jazz and world music – draws on influences from well beyond her native soil, elegantly parrying Byrne’s brilliantly fluent, Donegal-rooted mastery in a scintillating mix of jigs, reels, musettes, waltzes, hornpipes and slow airs, which earned glowing reviews for their self-titled debut album in 2012.

Oct 2012

Dermot Byrne the Inishowen musician is known as the box player with Altan. With this CD, he pairs with French harper Floriane Blancke, whom he met in sessions in Galway. Floriane (known as Flo) began her career as a classical and jazz player and has become a trad player who has performed with Seamus Begley, Sharon Shannon and others.
At their concerts in the Catskills Irish Arts Week, 2012 and the week following at Rocky Sullivan’s in Brooklyn there was an unusual hush, and you can hear why. The tracks are split between traditional Irish reels and jigs and French waltz and tunes.
La Valse des Jouets, or The Waltz of the Toys, composed by Michel Faubert of Quebec, has a lovely simplicity to it. Here Dermot’s box sounds as French as possible and with mandolin by Mary Shannon and guitar by Tim Edey, it evokes cobblestones and sunshine. Flo takes the lead on the air Amhrán na Leabhar, Song of the Books, and pulls emotion into it, before Dermot comes in gently underneath. Simply gorgeous. La Bourrasque is a sprightly 20;s waltz from the French Musette tradition. It’s exquisitely done, though I prefer the more trad tracks, of which there are many, including Mister O’Connor and Flo’s original air, composed for her late gradmother Marthe Blancke, a violin player, Farewell, as well as The Monaghan Jig/The Templehouse Reel.
The joy in Chris Newman’s Sore Point is completely irresistible as they dash through the lively melody. French accordion player, Marc Perrone’s original Vas–y Mimile demonstrates a perfect pairing of that modern European and old Celtic sound.
Flo sings on La Clariére and shows off a striking, pure voice perfectly suited to jazz. She’s so good one only wonders why there isn’t more, perhaps in future? The album concludes with a Breton melody Kishor’s tune, by Soig Siberil, which has a lovely delicacy and interesting keys. The song fades rather than ends, leaving the ghost of its melody in the air. Like the CD itself, it leaves a beautiful lingering shadow.
Gwen Orel


Displaying a delicate and sensitive touch Dermot Byrne has brought his accordion into new territory with a definite French twist on this duet album with Floriane Blancke. Every note has a sweetness to it and every track glistens as they dance and weave their instruments in a harmony of traditional Irish and French music.  The opener Monaghan Jig/The Templehouse is delivered in as beautiful a set as you could imagine. La Valse des Jouets follows quickly. Better known as The Waltz of the Toys it is an enchanting piece of music composed by singer, storyteller and composer Michel Faubert of Quebec.  The meeting of musicians from different backgrounds can create something special and so it is on this tune and on the album in general.
From his Donegal roots and long career with Altan, Dermot embodies the truth of the tradition that has brought him to this point. However there can be a seismic shift in tone and texture when external influence comes a knocking. This partnership developed from sessions in Galway with Floriane Blancke who is the grand-daughter of jazz musician Stanislas Suranyi and also of Marthe Blancke a classical French singer and violinist. Dermot describes what they do as a weaving of music. It is in fact a weaving of magic. All the tracks are outstanding in their finesse, mood and ever so elegant arrangement. They take us on a journey through reels, waltzes and hornpipes. Mister O\’ Connor, a Turlough Carolan tune and a French vocal track by Floriane called La Clairiere are outstanding.
Contributions are also given on guitar by Tim Edey, cellist Eimear O’Grady, percussion by Tommy Hayes, Mary Shannon on mandolin, swing guitarist Frank Kilkelly, and mandolin, guitar, keyboards and bass by Brendan O’Regan. This is music that was destined to be recorded and what you get is a magnificent collaboration of Irish and French styles that deserves to be heard and built upon.Â
It makes for an album that is refreshingly different in the moods it creates and the afterglow it leaves once heard.