Paxos Festival

Bright Phoebus

Bright Phoebus sees two of Ireland’s leading traditional musicians, fiddle player Dónal O’Connor and Folk singer of the year 2022 on Irish national radioMuireann Nic Amhlaoibh, join forces with the soulful Greek vocalist and percussionist ChrysoulaKechagioglouand the dynamic kanun player Effie Zaitidoupresenting brand new music inspired by Irish and Greek instrumental and song traditions. Exploring contemporary and traditional compositions and new approaches to musical accompaniment, this is a stunning cross-cultural collaboration, connecting the musical language of Ireland and Greece in fresh and innovative ways.

It is mentioned in the ancient Irish annals that an Irish druid called Abhras visited Greece on his travels. The Greeks described Abaris as a healer and prophet from the mystical island of Hyperborea, described as a fertile island to the north of France with oak trees, a circular temple (the 5000 – year-old passage tomb of Newgrange) and priests with harps. According to the Greeks, Hyperborea was governed by the boreades. In Irish, boreadach means noble chieftain. Over time Hyperborea became Hybernia or Hibernia, the Roman name for Ireland.

Dónal O’Connor’s mother, the noted traditional Irish singer Eithne Ní Uallacháin, performed and recorded many songs from the Irish tradition which mentioned Grecian Queens, Kings, Gods and Goddesses. Perhaps it was exotic to make such gallant names rhyme with Irish references, extolling the virtues of mostly female subjects. There were frequent mentions of golden tresses, stars, pearls, lilies and diamonds. The great Irish bards, the professional poets of mediaeval Ireland, all referred to Greece: hedge schoolmasters like Peadar Ó Doirnín, Brian Merriman and Eoghan Rua Ó Súilleabháin all taught Greek and Latin in their small secret illegal schools, to young children of proscribed faiths, and their liberal use of allusion and luxuriant Latin vocabulary permeates through Irish song and poetry of this time.