Lawrence O’Hearn is an exemplary tin whistle player who played around Galway and Cork during the 1990s and now currently resides near Quebec city in Canada. He released his first album Si l’hiver peut prendre this year playing on it, tin whistle and baroque oboe and joined by André Marchand on guitar and podorythmie (A form of rhythmic tapping with the feet) and his wife, Judith Laforest on recorder.

Rather than go through the seventeen tracks in order I will do it in sections, the Irish section (reels, jigs, slip jigs and slow airs), Quebecois section (Quebec reels and other types of tunes) and classical stately pieces.

Quebec Music

Lawrence plays a lot of the Quebecois reels on the whistle with Marchand providing lovely simple beat kept by his feet to the music giving it a nice perky feel.

Track 1 – Si l’hiver peut prendre (trad. Québec) / Major Molly (Andrew Gow 1760-1803)

Has a nice timely feel with gorgeous whistling from Lawrence, track two Major Molly is a Scottish tune by the famous fiddler Andrew Gow.

Track 4 – Nephtali Billette / Gigue du père Richard / Reel de Lévis (trad. Québec)

This track has beautiful clear whistle playing and lovely elegant understated guitar backing as well as Marchand’s amazing rhythmic feet.

Track 7 – Un reel d’Isidore Soucy / Un reel d’après Edmond Laliberté (trad. Québec)

I wrote about this track that the whistle playing reminded me of bumble bees darting about a summer garden. There is something just lovely and simple about a sole tin whistle and a pair of stamping feet, what Lawrence refers to as the ‘crooked tunes’ where the beats are in three rather than the 4/4 rhythm. Lawrence lands a nice surprise at the end of the track with a lovely turn of triplets.

Track 9 – Bonnie Anne (trad. Ireland) / Reel Adrien St-Hilaire (trad. Québec)

This track sounds familiar, that’s right I remember it from Altan’s Harvest Storm, the placement of it would be correct, a reel from County Fermanagh called Bonnie Anne which Lawrence makes his own and plays out with another reel from Quebec.

Track 14 – Jack Delad / Popcorn / Reel de Chicoutimi (trad. Québec)

This is a bunch of traditional reels from Quebec that Lawrence must have kept a keen ear on as they remind me a some well-known Irish reels, the first one being Jack Delad which reminds me of the Five Mile Chase reel and a few other familiar tunes, it seems Lawrence has found the Quebecois equivalents of these tunes and backed by the beautiful sympathetic guitar of Marchand.

Still on the Quebec/French influence of the CD, there are a few other tracks with similar influences.

Track 6 – Reel à Gastonguay. This track has Lawrence playing baroque oboe as well as the whistle and beautiful soft guitar from Marchand. This is slower and more stately than the usual Quebec reel selections. I would almost put this as classical courtyard music with a lovely jollity to it.

Track 15 – Turlutte de la Beauce, Old Mocassin Shuffle. Judith Laforest, Lawrence’s wife, guests on this track with the recorder; a lovely soft bouncy number similar to Reel á Gastonguay with the tapping feet and Lawrence joining the recorder with what sounds like a low whistle, another nice stately piece.

Track 17 – Bei Männern welche Liebe fühlen. This track is in a tribute to Mozart and is probably this most classical of all the tracks on the album. The use of the baroque oboe lends this piece to sound like the time of Mozart’s era. Classical music wouldn’t be my forte but there is no denying that this is a well-crafted piece of music.

Irish Section

Track 3 – Slip Jigs: Hardiman the Fiddler / Will You Come Down to Limerick

A nice rollicking number of slip jigs with graceful guitar backing and steady clear tin whistling from Lawrence.

Track 10 – Reels: Hare Island / Brandy ’s / Buttermilk Lane (All Lawrence O’Hearn)

These tunes go back to the time I was playing sessions with Lawrence, Tak Tamura and Anders Trabjerg under the various guises of Pangaea and other projects, such as the first demo project myself and Lawrence did in 1995, or thereabouts. All these tunes are wrote by Lawrence, Hare Island is a nice spirited number that has a lovely urgency to it, Brandy’s is dedicated to one of Lawrence’s dogs, Brandy and Buttermilk Lane wrote in ode to the famous lane frequented by buskers in the city of Galway, each as graceful as the first tune and given a solid backing by Marchand.

Track 12 – Jigs: Snorkel Jacket Jig (Lawrence O’Hearn) / L’Echelle (André Marchand)

I have the credit in the sleeve notes for naming this first jig, Snorkel Jacket Jig, I think that Lawrence thought it was so off-the-wall naming a tune like that, that it stuck with him. The following tune L’Echelle was composed by André Marchand. The first tune has a jolly feeling to it; an uplifting jig played with exuberance. The following tune has a Galician type of feel to it or could that be Breton, O’Hearn and Marchand making a solid team.

Track 16 – Jigs: Wheels of the World / The Brides Favourite

Lawrence plays a set of classic jigs, wheels of the World and The Brides Favourite on the solo tin whistle and it’s a lovely set of tunes with clear whistle playing and a sure rhythm.

Irish Slow Airs

Track 2 – Liam O’Raghallaigh

Lawrence plays the baroque oboe for this slow air, which gives a beautiful different feeling to the tune, the tone and ambience is absolutely perfect, somewhere between the tin whistle timbre and that of the wooden flute or even the low whistle.

Track 5 – An raibh tú ag an gCarraig

Lawrence plays a lovely strong whistle for this air, you just know that part of his soul is still in Ireland, be it in Galway or Cork, he just puts his heart into the music, you get the sense of sadness and the windswept rainy landscape from that simple whistle sound.

Track 8 – Bean dubh an ghleanna

There is a wonderful job done of this track, it sounds like a harmonium was used for the drone, coupled with the sound of the oboe this actually sounds like a set of unusual pipes lending a lovely contemplative soundtrack to this Irish slow air.

Track 11 – Ni ar chnoc nó ar Ísleacht

Lawrence pays tribute here to the late Donncha O’Brain by doing a lovely pure version of this slow air, he lists Donncha O’Brain has having done one of the most influential tin whistle albums in Irish traditional music of all time and he certainly does this track justice.

Track 13 – An raibh tú ag an gCarraig.

Lawrence plays the same track again but this time on baroque oboe giving it a deeper more resonating feeling, it’s nice to hear Irish music on more unusual instruments.

You can visit Lawrence’s website here to buy his CD and find out a bit more about him and where he draws his inspirations from, long may he continue to make good music.

-Niall McQuaid, Galway Ireland