Martin Hayes & Brooklyn Rider

Martin Hayes & Brooklyn Rider


The great fiddler Martin Hayes speaks with the soul of a poet. A remarkable artist, the only one of his type.
— The Sunday Independent, Ireland

In a Circle Records & 251 Records is proud to present "The Butterfly", a new collaborative album from Martin Hayes and Brooklyn Rider. Recorded in 2016, the album celebrates a decade-long musical friendship between celebrated Irish fiddler and New York’s omnivorous string quartet.

This project, which dates back to 2009, was Martin Hayes’ first major collaboration outside the Irish tradition. He describes the beginning stages of the relationship with Brooklyn Rider as “ an act of faith and a journey into the unknown, because we had no idea what might emerge”.

Violinist and composer Colin Jacobsen notes that Martin was a musician Brooklyn Rider admired from afar for a long time: “ In many ways, he represented to us something essential about music that we sometimes felt was missing within the classical training we were receiving back in school. To me, it is the infinitely varied inflections, and the depth of expression within what could seem like a deceptively simple tune, which make Martin a master storyteller with his instrument. Luckily, Martin was intrigued by the idea of what a string quartet could bring to traditional Irish music. Through the help of a number of brilliant arrangers who are fluent with both string quartet writing and Irish traditional music, such as Ljova, Dana Lyn and Kyle Sanna, we found a framing for the tunes that feels true to some essential thing about both traditions.”

Having since established The Gloaming , and The Martin Hayes Quartet , Martin is no stranger to collaborating outside the Irish tradition. About the process, he states: “ Musicians inside a tradition can know a tremendous amount about repertoire, can identify all the influences a musician has, and be knowledgeable of the distinctive elements of each musician. Those who come from outside the tradition often hear something very different - they can hear what the sum total of these things amount to musically in a very objective way. Many of the major developments in Irish music have historically come through musical interaction with musicians from outside the tradition bringing with them new ideas and fresh energy. To collaborate it’s important not to compromise on what is fundamental and core, but it is also equally important to be flexible. One must surrender the desire to control the outcome and allow people you work with to make their choices with freedom.”

Brooklyn Rider is really like no other string quartet. Any previous notions you had of string quartet music will get shaken up and ultimately thrown out for good.
— Times Union, USA

In addition to featuring the premiere recording of “ Maghera Mountain”, ( written by Hayes as a teenager), "The Butterfly" sought to define a common ground through the inclusion of several of the most widely known tunes within the repertoire. About this choice, Martin says: “ Many people regard these as throwaway tunes that were overplayed and are no longer taken very seriously. In reality, these are simple, profound and very beautiful melodies. Shining a new light on them with these new arrangements gives them a new life, allows people to clearly see what’s beautiful about these tunes and what is unique about this collaboration.”

Colin adds: “ I was honored to contribute a couple of arrangements to this album. I was immediately attracted by the ancient, hypnotic feeling of “ O’Neill’s March”, which I thought could sound beautiful through the layering and textural options available to a string quartet.

With “ The Butterfly ”, I decided to take the tune further out in the direction of contemporary classical string writing. This was in part prompted by the experience of going to an Irish traditional session at a pub in NY in preparation for our work with Martin and being asked what tunes I’d like to do. Having learned several that Martin thought would be interesting for us to look at, I suggested a few like “Jenny’s Welcome Home to Charlie”, and all present were happy.

When I threw out “The Butterfly”, there was a collective sigh - how could I suggest something so remedial and elementary?! I embraced Martin's point of view and decided to try to take this butterfly to a place it might never have flown before.”

“The Butterfly” continues Brooklyn Rider’s dedication to expanding the boundaries of the string quartet form. Their deeply immersive approach to collaborations had resulted in a stunning array of luminary collaborators and an impressive discography. Some notable examples include Bela Fleck, ( The Imposter , Mercury Classics; Juno Concerto , Rounder), Magos Herrera ( Dreamers ,Sony), Gabriel Kahane ( The Fiction Issue , Magdeburg Music), Kayhan Kalhor ( Silent City , World Village); Anne Sofie von Otter ( So Many Things , Naive), and Joshua Redman ( Sun on Sand , Nonesuch)