We asked some of our favourite artists/ musicians about their year. You can see the thoughts of Varo below…
Varo are Lucie Azconaga (vocals, fiddle, harmonium, ukulele) and Consuelo Nerea Breschi (vocals, fiddle, bodhrán)
An extraordinary year in many ways. How did it affect you specifically?
Well, it’s been quite tough. First as everybody else with the lack of socialising of course and the fact that our families live in other countries, but also as musicians as we lost all our gigs, sessions and the musical social interactions that come with them. We couldn’t work at all anymore, apart from practising our instruments on our own at first.
But after the first month or so, it pushed us to try to find ideas of new projects that would allow us to interact with people again and look towards what we could do straight away once the first lockdown would be eased. We felt the urge to find ways of keeping our minds busy while taking care of our mental health at the same time because apart from the virus, the psychological and emotional side of this whole situation could easily become a proper struggle.
Where did music fit in during 2020? Does it seem important?
We can definitely say that without music, it would have been very hard to cope with the isolation. It surely is true for so many musicians and bands. Working on new material, creating and composing have helped us during the lockdown, and then working on new projects gave us the possibility to look forward in a moment of total uncertainty, and to try to keep a connection with the friends we used to play with.
Also, seeing online gigs starting to gradually appear, seeing people playing from their homes, whether they were friends of ours or not, was a moment of this virtual musical connection that was very needed.
We remember watching the Mary Wallopers gigs, all isolated but all together at the same time. The Wallopers built a pub in their house in the countryside, and this became a moment not to miss. We were delighted when they asked us to be part of one of their shows. Things like that were very helpful and important.
The Duncairn asked us to be part of a show where lots of artists would perform from their homes and the videos would be put together as a show divided into a few episodes. These kinds of ideas were amazing and I’m sure helped a lot of people to feel connected.
Music is essential for us, it’s been part of our lives as a job, but so much more. This year without it would have been impossible…
What albums resonated this year? Can be old or new.
Santiago de Murcia – Codex 4 by Ensemble Kapsberger, Lislevand, ‘Idle Mind’ by Anna Mieke, ‘Rosemary Lane’ by Bert Jansch, ‘The Live long day’ by Lankum, ‘Broken Hearted I’ll wonder’ by John Faulkner & Dolores Keane, ‘Roithleán’ by Saileog Ní Cheannabháin, ‘The invisible comes to us’ by Anna and Elisabeth and of course, the irreplaceable Ella Fitzgerald to brighten the morning coffee!
If you had to pick one album to sum up this year, what would it be?
Hard to pick only one… We’ll go with Consuelo’s choice here which is ‘Santiago de Murcia – Codex 4 by Ensemble Kapsberger, Lislevand’.
How have you got through the last 7 or 8 months?
We went through different phases.
The first month was fine.. When the lockdown started, we had just finished a tour of 10 gigs in February all over Ireland which was the launch of our debut album, released in January. The few months until the lockdown were so madly busy that when we were forced to stay at home, it was almost welcome!
After that first month, things started to get hard, the isolation and the lack of sharing music with people started to be really tough to deal with. So we decided to start working on a new project, get everything ready between April and June, so we could literally jump back in the pool of music as soon as the lockdown would be eased. So we came up with the idea of a collaboration project.
In a way, this pause from the frenetic life we were living until March and then this struggling phase of nothingness brought a new headspace that we weren’t used to having. So it turned out to create some positive developments in our lives and creativity.
We spent the whole summer working insanely every single day on that collaboration project, literally until the second lockdown happened. We were hoping to have it finished before then, but unfortunately, that lockdown n°2 happened sooner than we thought, so we’ve had to postpone some of it for when freedom would be possible again… Probably for early 2021.
Are you working on any interesting projects?
So yes, very much. This collaboration project involves ourselves and 13 other Irish Folk acts who we used to meet in sessions and gigs before the lockdown. Together, we are going to record an album and make a series of 12 live video performances, filmed in unique locations around Dublin.
The bands that are part of this project are: Ian Lynch (Lankum), Anna Mieke, Lemoncello, Junior Brother, Landless, John Francis Flynn, Slow Moving Clouds & Branwen, Inni K, Alfi, Alannah Thornburg, Niamh Bury, Cormac Mac Diarmada (Lankum) & Ruth Clinton.
With each act we are working on a different traditional song, mixing our styles, our influences, our sensitivities, and each song has a topic related to the experience of the lockdown, whether it is about being alone, the importance of friends and social interactions, freedom, racism, dealing with a break-up and many other topics.
So we met with the acts over the summer and working with people, composing arrangements together, practising again was so so amazing… Not only these people are amazingly talented musicians, but they are also brilliant people and friends, and it felt incredibly good to be able to work like this again.
The thing is, as we lost all our incomes, we don’t have the funds to cover the technical expenses of such a project, so we are currently running a fundraising campaign which will end on Christmas eve, and all the info on how to donate and get rewards is here on our website.
Any hopes for next year?
GIGS! PEOPLE! HEALTH! LIFE!
Going back to a life where you don’t need to plan every move you make, where you don’t have to pay 9€ of food you don’t want just to sit in a public place with someone, where you’re not scared of holding your mates in your arms, being able to go see our families whenever we want, simple things like that.. And of course for us as musicians, being able to perform for a room full of real people, going to listen to our friends’ sessions in the corner of a pub…
Soon, hopefully.. x