Patricia Murray
at the Festival Club, St. Ann's, Cape Breton (2007)

Patricia Murray, a stunning Gaelic singer from Prince Edward Island, was a triple threat at Celtic Colours this year. Not only was she performing solo as a golden-throated ambassador of PEI's rich Scots-Gaelic tradition, she also was center stage as the charismatic singer, bodhranist and spokeswoman for the lively Halifax-based set band Tuig -- and she was one of 10 music composers tapped to join in the much-ballyhooed "New Tunemakers" project.

As a solo artist, Patricia is already a well-established treat. After one performance, I confessed to her backstage that she could sing the telephone directory and I'd probably enjoy it. OK, maybe it'd have to be a Gaelic phonebook, but you get the idea.

Tuig is one of those bands you instantly love. I was drawn into the main hall of the Festival Club Saturday by Patricia's voice singing a sprightly Gaelic song that, roughly translated, laid 1,000 curses against love. It was during her rendition of "Lovely Joan" that my wife first drew a comparison between Patricia's voice and Tori Amos, a comparison that later seemed to please Patricia no end.

But Tuig is not just a backing band for Patricia's singing. The rest of the band is Glenn Coolen (a founding member of MacCrimmon's Revenge), Nancy Gossert and Seph Peters, and each holds his or her own on stage with a mixture of whistles and pipes, fiddle, mandolin and more.

They haven't recorded anything yet, an oversight I hope they correct very soon.

As for the New Tunemakers, it was an ambitious plan to sequester 10 musicians in a Cape Breton homestead for four days to see what they could come up with by concert time. The result was stunning; Patricia had three songs in the final playlist and provided rhythmic support on bodhran.

"It really took us out of things and allowed us to focus on writing," she said later.

But by then, it was over. It was only Wednesday night, but Patricia was heading out the next morning, pointing her way home to Halifax and her family there. Let's just hope she's back next year.

review by
Tom Knapp

24 November 2007

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