Ireland’s Sharon Shannon to play Opera House July 6

‘Sacred Earth’ album encompasses multiple styles
Posted:  Tuesday, June 27, 2017 - 12:30pm

Sharon Shannon, Irish singer and button accordionist from County Clare, will play a single performance at the Opera House at Boothbay Harbor on July 6 at 7:30 p.m.

Shannon rarely tours outside Ireland and Europe, but this summer she will perform four concerts in the U.S., and Boothbay Harbor is lucky enough host one of them. Like many of her previous albums, her new one, “Sacred Earth,” encompasses a variety of styles.

“I was going for a ‘Graceland’ type of album,” she said, referring to Paul Simon’s seminal 1986 album, which featured zydeco music of the French Creole, and several musical styles unique to South Africa, including isicathamiya and mbaqanga. Zydeco is a combination of blues, rhythm and blues, and music indigenous to the people of southern Louisiana. Both isicathamiya and mbaqanga are native to the Zulu; Isicathamiya is marked by close harmonies among multiple voices and a spiritual feel, while mbaqanga is a South African version of jazz that arose in the ’50s and ’60s.

Shannon said “Sacred Earth” contains many of these elements, and she creates the unique sound among the reed instruments by adding or removing a reed, which gives the instrument a different sound and feel. Another element of the sound is the West African kora, a harp-like instrument made of a large gourd, typically, and covered with cow skin to add resonance.

Each one of her dozen albums has been different, Shannon said. “Once you have heard an Irish album, the music all sounds alike after a while. I wanted to branch out and try different sounds.” She mixed traditional Irish airs, reels and jigs with reggae, native American music, country, bluegrass, rap, African, French Canadian, and other world musical styles. She credits her co-producer, Justin Adams. “We invited Justin Adams who has huge expertise in world music and blues to co-produce. Justin brought in fantastic African musicians Abass Dodo on percussion and Sekou Keita on kora, and Justin played a huge range of instruments himself.”

“He has spent a lot of time researching the art form from Africa. Adding percussion and native instruments like the kora changed the sound of the Irish music to something deeper and richer.” She said the addition of a cellist also deepened the sound.

This is Shannon’s second trip to the U.S. Other stops include Pennsylvania, New York and Massachusetts, before she returns home.

Tickets to the July 6 show are now on sale, for $25 in advance and $30 the day of the show. Doors open at 7 p.m. The show begins at 7:30 p.m.  The box office is open Tuesday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Call 633-5159.