Lumiere is two distinct voices cut from the same geographic cloth.
One is Éilís Kennedy, whose sound has ready access to the soul without need for scaffolding or spotlights. For over a decade, hers has been one of the most underrated voices in Irish music. Her natural and genuine interpretations of songs, both old and new, sung in her native Gaelic and in English, were previously heard in her multiple collaborations and solo offerings as a recording artist.
The other half of the musical whole is Pauline Scanlon, an award-winning singer from the same Kerry town of Dingle. She is part of a tradition of Irish female voices from Sinead O’Connor to Enya, all personal interpreters of their physical and spiritual landscape. Scanlon has two critically received albums to her credit as well as extensive touring experience all over the globe.
Together, they offer a distinctly feminine sound and feel, where voice is the primary instrument and Ireland as motherland is re-imagined. With Lumiere, the song and its delivery are the primary focus, technical concerns gives way to feeling as song and singer effortlessly merge.
Pauline and Éilís have been familiar with each other’s singing for many years. Yet until now, Pauline’s touring commitments meant a musical coming together wasn’t possible. Now Lumiere has put that right. Spending many a winter’s night looking over old songbooks and comparing music handed down by their respective families, the pair realised they had much in common in outlook and intonation.
As Pauline notes, “We realised that we preferred singing together to singing alone which was a revelation to both of us and a beautiful thing. It worked so quickly we knew we were on to a good thing. We slotted into each other’s singing like we’d always done it.”
Of their musical pairing, Éilís says: “We are extremely passionate about the place we come from. Part of the attraction is that we see that in each other. We hear it in each other’s singing and it takes us to a place that’s beautiful, safe, secure and home, no matter where we are.”
Pauline adds: “We’re singing songs that our families have passed on to us, that we ourselves have picked up along the way. The only other pre-requisite is that the songs speak to us emotionally.”
In the current global economy, songs of excess and materialism ring hollow. Lumiere offers something more holistic and true. In the midst of the economic crisis, in an age where the old pillars of trusts – financial institutions, clergy, political bodies – no longer hold automatic bona fide, this is real music by real singers communicating real emotions. Lumiere takes something that is sacred and age old and re-imagines it simply and beautifully, reclaiming beauty, truth and trust, for the modern age.
Lumiere though is not about big statements. It is about the intimate act of singing, the emotional core of that act and how that relates to the familiar echoes in our lives. It takes its cue from the west Kerry tradition, which in itself prompts the freedom to sing without over embellishment. The songs concern themselves with themes of love and loss, of place and people. They are mainly drawn from the Irish tradition but also touch on the great American songbook. The Poor Wayfaring Stranger then sits easily alongside The West’s Awake while the Gaelic song Óró mo Bháidín compliments Spencer the Rover.
Legendary record producer John Reynolds (Sinead O’Connor, Andrea Corr, U2, Damien Dempsey etc) had met Pauline through Sharon Shannon, and when he heard what Lumiere was doing, he offered to produce their album. John manages Damien Dempsey, alongside David Jaymes of London management company Spirit Music and Media, whose past and present clients include Mike Scott, Republica, The Wonder Stuff, Beth Orton and Sinead O’Connor, the successful team signed Lumiere to their management roster in early 2009.
John Reynolds says of Lumiere: “Pauline and Éilís have a rare and unique singing style I had never heard before. From the moment I heard their voices I knew we had to make an album. Discovering these songs through their voices lifted them into a place of real soulful tradition, ethereal but at same time modern. A pure joy.”
Emerging from that rich traditional vein of Kerry singers, Lumiere is something wholly rare and reaffirming in these troubled times. Their voices are at once relaxed and rugged, coming across as soothing and familiar vocal balms. Drawn from a longstanding oral history, their songbook looks to past generations for present guidance, to resurrecting a deeper understanding and experience of life. Theirs is a musical beacon of hope, a shot across the bows of mistrust and misguidance, a pairing of authentic voices in an age of inauthenticity.
What is Lumiere? It is light and longstanding. It is looking afresh with a clear lens on an age-old tradition, and presenting it unadorned, free from affection and interference. Needless ornamentation or fussy musical scores need not apply, what concerns Lumiere is paired back and emotionally bare musical offerings.
Lumiere is drawing from a well of songs and spirituality, of being true to the past yet offering something entirely relevant to the present. Anyone with a passing interest in beautiful music, in songs that mean something, in songs that illuminate our living and speak to our souls, will find solace in Lumiere.
Lumiere is dawn breaking or sun setting; it is a long bath after a weary toil, a walk in scenic countryside, a fresh breeze, or a silent bus journey in a sprawling metropolis. It is time out. More than that though, Lumiere is what the times call for – something that is real, tangible and evocative.
Lumiere isn’t part of a particular folk tradition – rather it relates to musical folk everywhere. It is a sound at once local and universal, particular and pan-geographic.
Where did Lumiere come from? As a sound, Lumiere has always been there is the simple answer. These songs, this tradition, stretches back the generations. It is distinctly local yet universal, belonging to a greater worldwide tradition of songs and singers, darkness and light, hope and renewal.