There is an intimacy to Tríĺ‘s music that opens the door to the emotional landscape that is Cape Breton äóń a place that is by turns fierce and rough, harsh and lyrical, and often achingly beautiful. Its music reflects the history of what has long been a reality of island living, island displacement. Its music is firmly rooted in a sense of community as well, a community that now extends into the wider world. Tríĺäó»s music explores through pipes, fiddle and song a tradition rooted in Gaelic Scotland. While youäó»ll hear many influences in their music, they wonäó»t include the facile renderings of a tradition muddied by youthful enthusiasm. You wonäó»t hear African drums, or 70s style guitar arrangements, or tunes overshadowed by a rockäó»näó»roll beat. “This is music not frozen in time, but comfortable within its own tradition.” – The Inverness Oran
Doug Lamey and Cliff McGann are direct descendants of the Nova Scotia diaspora, with Dougäó»s grandfather, Bill, prominent in the immigrant scene in the 1950äó»s and 1960äó»s, fiddling for weekly Cape Breton dances as well as hosting a Scottish music hour on Bostonäó»s WVOM 1600AM. For Cliff McGann, summers were spent on his grandparentäó»s farm in Lanark, Nova Scotia listening to his cousins Kendra & Troy MacGillivray evolve into the world renowned fiddlers they have become today.
Cliff and Doug are part of the rich Canadian-American music scene found in the Boston area today and have studied with many fine musicians in Boston and Cape Breton, including Tommy Peoples, Dave MacIssaac, Tony Cuffe and Buddy MacMaster. Matt Phelps, originally from Connecticut, had the serendipitous good fortune of learning his craft from a remarkable Scottish immigrant, Tom Shearer, who set him off on what became a 20-year intensive immersion in the world of the Great Highland Bagpipe. He added a decade of summers tutelage from many piping luminaries at the Gaelic College of Celtic Arts in Cape Breton, where he and Lamey first met as kids. Joining Matt, Cliff and Doug on their debut album Among Friends is Kimberly Fraser. Though known primarily as a gifted Cape Breton fiddler, Kimberley, here in the role of piano accompanist, infuses a great lift and brightness to the CD.
Today the members of Tríĺ are known in the Boston Celtic music scene in various capacities: Doug has performed at venues including the ICONS Music and Arts Festival, the Boston Celtic Music Festival, the New Hampshire Highland Games, and in Washington DC at the Washington Irish Festival. McGann, who possesses degrees in Celtic studies and an MA in folklore from Memorial U. in Newfoundland performs regularly with Lamey and most recently toured with legendary uilleann piper, Paddy Keenan. Phelps continues in a busy career as performer, pipe major, and teacher in the Boston area. Tríĺ was recently featured on the WGBH Celtic Sojourn series, and has performed in recent months at Berklee College of Music‘s Cafí© 939 and Harvard Square‘s legendary folk music venue Club Passim; the group has also performed at the Longäó»s Peak Colorado Scottish-Irish Highland Festival and at Celtic Colours International Festival in Nova Scotia.
Their arrangement of sets is fresh and contemporary while still conversant with the interplay between pipes and strings, rhythm and emotion, that has been an important part of Celtic history. “There is a wonderful balance of feeling, intelligence, and scholarship, with individual instruments surfacing and receding, contributing in an organic way to the whole of the listening experience.” Tucked into their performances and debut album are toasts to departed friends and important mentors, depictions of the heartsick immigrants and brazen adventurers, and wonderfully spirited tunes by Irish, Scottish and Cape Breton musicians who continue to compose and respond to the world around them.
“They are an incredible group of musiciansäó_äóť -Brian Oäó»Donovan, WGBH Radio Boston