On May 10th Irish singer-songwriter Lisa Hannigan is set to release a live album with the contemporary-classical orchestra, s t a r g a z e. The collaboration – which sees Hannigan’s sparse, ethereal folk transformed into something cinematic and transfixing – has been taken to select festivals across Europe, and most recently graced the stages of London’s Barbican and Dublin’s National Concert Hall. Thankfully for those yet to experience the mesmeric live show, their recent performance at the NCH in October last year is set for release in the shape of Live In Dublin, a discography-spanning 14-track live album, which also includes new track, ‘Bookmark’. Hannigan is trailing the announcement with a new live video for ‘Swan’, a track born from a collaboration between Hannigan, playwright Enda Walsh and Aaron Dessner (producer of Lisa’s much-praised 2016 album At Swim) for the PEOPLE project
This live record follows Hannigan’s critically-acclaimed third full-length, 2016’s At Swim, and arrives in a fruitful musical career spanning 17 years and several award nominations: from the Mercury Prize to Ireland’s Choice Music Prize and Meteor Music Awards. Across it’s fourteen tracks - including the likes of ‘Ora’, ‘Lille’, ‘Fall’, ‘Little Bird’, ‘A Sail’ and ‘Undertow’ - Hannigan’s delicate vocals and soft-plucked guitars and mandolin are delivered against a hypnotic backdrop of sublime waltzing keys, affective string sections and minimalist percussion. The result is something majestic in scope and ambition, and truly beguiling in the best possible way.
This meeting of minds immortalised on the album was the product of a chance-encounter at Cork’s Sounds From A Safe Harbour Festival in 2015. Both performing at the festival, it was there where Hannigan met André de Ridder and the conductor would discuss his work with his European orchestral collective named s t a r g a z e, who had been busy working with everyone from Nils Frahm and Julia Holter, to Sonic Youth’s Lee Ranaldo, These New Puritans and Iceage. The following summer, at Berlin’s PEOPLE Festival, s t a r g a z e would invite Hannigan to perform a couple of her songs with them on stage and it was at that moment where creative sparks would be sent trailing into the winds.
“Walking in I felt vaguely trepidatious. Sometimes working with classically trained musicians can be slightly nerve-wracking as a singer songwriter because they speak a language so beautifully fluently that I can only fumble towards,” Hannigan recalls: “In a band, so much communication is done through the shoulders, the lift of an eyebrow, the feel of a small group breathing and dancing together. It’s hard to extrapolate that out into twenty, forty, even eighty people! It can feel like a glorious ocean liner tied to a creaking rowboat.”
Thankfully, Hannigan’s apprehensions would prove to be unfounded: “When we started to play though, it felt like all of s t a r g a z e had climbed aboard my rowboat. They approach a song very much as a band would, with an enthusiasm and musicality which immediately felt like home. I was overwhelmed to hear my songs in such a widescreen way, going from black and white to technicolour, and hoped we could do more.” And just like that, the idea of a live album was born: “The idea of eventually making a record and playing more together felt very natural and easy. Having made three records of my own I had a notion of making a live record but wanted to do it in a slightly more unusual way. We called on some wonderful arrangers over the following couple of years and built our setlist up one song and festival at a time.”
Live In Dublin by Lisa Hannigan and s t a r g a z e is due for release May 10th on digital platforms, vinyl and CD via PIay It Again Sam.