March 1998 Harriet had a religious conversion to Irish music and was
soon asked to join the London-Irish band
Colman was already a member of the band and they gigged together until
late summer 1998 when Colman left the band temporarily to be replaced
by an accordion! During that time they can only remember saying about
six words to each other before a gig in Dorchester Arts Centre at
6.30pm on April 5th 1998!
In July 2001, Colman joined back with
the band after
being away for three years due to college commitments (or that's what
he says - who knows what he was actually doing in Reading for three
years!). Harriet hadn't bothered with college commitments, considering
Irish music far more important than her degree, so she was still with
Harriet had at
this point been planning to do some recording for her solo album
'Jumping Ahead' and asked Colman if he would be interested in playing
on the CD. He was delighted to take part (he has to say
this because Harriet will read it!) and all the
tracks were recorded around September
In early October 2001, the next step came from their love of playing in sessions and finding new tunes. They
both happened to be regular visitors to the fantastic 'Herschel Arms' Monday night sessions in Slough
(the mecca of the UK Irish music scene!) where
they were asked by landlord and demigod Tom King to play some tunes together, to which they looked
blankly at each other and said "what shall we play?" (as you
do). Of course, from Siansa gigs, they already had
a few sets. After a couple more sessions they each
found that they relished each other's tunes and shared a similar
approach to Irish music. Why they hadn't discovered this before beats
This led on to long discussions of
tune ideas and favourite bands after late-night Siansa rehearsals in
North London - standing around in rain on deserted London
streets, analysing tracks from CDs on the stereo in
Colman's orange mini and befriending neighbourhood cats. As it
turned out, the cats were slightly less musical than the humans, so
Harriet decided Colman would have to do instead!
A concert came up late in November near to where Harriet was
gate-crashing at her brother's flat in Wimbledon and she asked Colman if he would join her for a
couple of tunes to break up her solo booking (in a manner of speaking
that is! He didn't completely break it up!;-).
After this they shared a trip to the 'Celtic Connections'
festival in Glasgow in January 2002 along with fiddler Imogen Gunner
where ideas flew.
Next came a 'break' for them to show people what could be done when these
two archetypal Irish instruments were thrown together. They found
themselves entering the 'Herschel Arms Young Musician Competition' in
May 2002. This got
them the chance to perform as support for the excellent Irish band 'Danú'
in Hammersmith Irish Centre in
They started working out
tunes that they really got
a buzz out of playing and then began trying to add their
mark on them, which is where the fun really kicked in - with harp
intros, bass riffs, hard-hitting piping tunes, flute harmonies
and fast harp melodies.
After a trip to Donegal, a couple of Welsh weekends rehearsing, lots
of tube journeys and traffic jams round London and another trip to
'Celtic Connections' the following January, they were inspired to get
the duo rolling full-time.
At first the duo was called 'Chord' (just to confuse you!). That
about in the drive south from 'Celtic Connections' in the rain in
January 2003, where to
pass the time they looked for inspiration for duo names on
every passing lorry and road-sign. After much laughter and many miles
southwards, the word 'Chord' popped
up (maybe because it rhymed with 'bored'?!) and stuck for no other
reason than it sounded better than Carlisle or Crewe. Particularly when they
found that a harp, flute and pipes could be made out of the letters
(call them obsessed!)!
Then in January 2004 after coming back from the Frankie Kennedy
Winter School - that inspiring week where Donegal musicians go mad to
welcome the new year in - they finally stumbled on a
word which they had been using and saying for almost two years, which
suddenly seemed to fit the bill much better. That was 'LUASCA'
Harriet had heard the word first of all when set dancing
in Gleann Cholm Cille in 2000. Whenever the time came to grab your
ceili partner and swing, the instruction was always something like agus
Unfortunately the spelling 'Luasca' is, by the official pronouncement
of a Cambridge Irish language expert, a bit suspect to say the least.
This put a dampener on the name for a while, but in the end they decided they liked it too much to drop it and are
willing to brave the consequences of being called something no-one's heard
You won't find 'Luasca' in the modern Irish dictionary, but then again
Luasca's music itself is a new take on the Irish tradition and not
something previously classified! So as of 01.03.04 'LUASCA' it is!
If you look up the word on the internet you'll find this duo and
you'll also find a claim that 'luasca' means 'chants of swinging and
rhythmic oscillation; movement or swaying'. (Maybe that explains all
this swaying from one name to another!)
Everyone agrees there is definitely an Irish verbal root luasc meaning
'swing; oscillate'. The musical term 'swing' as in jazz music is
referred to as luasc-cheol in Irish and a child's 'swing' is a luascán.
A 'slip jig' is also sometimes referred to as port luasca. So the associations of swing, jazz, rhythm, movement, partnership,
jigging about, chucking ideas back and forth and wild ceilí dancing are all in the
word. And Colman's managed to make the letters of 'Luasca' look like a
set of pipes and the strings of a harp again, so it's just as good as
'Chord' in that respect! (Yes, they are obsessed!)
So, get dancing, forget all you thought you knew about
Irish music 'agus luasca'!