Dublin-based indie singer songwriter Lisa Hannigan has been touring and recording as a solo artist since 2007. During that time, her sound has been continually expanding – from the quirky, stripped back and self-produced Sea Sew (2008) to the superb chamber-folk At Swim (2016) where the musician immersed her voice into sumptuous orchestral layers. Already in 2017, Lisa Hannigan revisited her repertoire through a series of live concerts with Belgian eight piece pop/chamber music ensemble The Colorist Orchestra – releasing a digital EP (2018) in the process.

The same year, the singer songwriter started rehearsing with classically-trained large ensemble s t a r g a z e for another series of orchestral performances. Recorded live over two nights at the National Concert Hall on October 6th and 7th 2018, Live in Dublin was released on 31 May 2019 last on PIAS Recordings as a CD and double LP.

Lisa Hannigan and s t a r g a z e - Live in Dublin (2019)
Lisa Hannigan and s t a r g a z e – Live in Dublin (2019)

Founded in 2013 by Berlin-based conductor André de Ridder, s t a r g a z e is a collective of classically-trained musicians who are “getting more excited [each day] by what’s going on in contemporary pop, electronica and other uncategorizable genres in and around these confines.” Since then, the network of like-minded musicians has collaborated with an impressive number of artists such as Nils Frahm, Owen Pallett, The Dodos, Poliça, Jherek Bischoff, Villagers or Julia Holter among many others.

They have also worked on new interpretations of works from contemporary musicians and composers including Terry Riley, Steve Reich, Micachu, Boards of Canada, the Grateful Dead, Bryce Dessner or Greg Saunier.

André de Ridder and Lisa Hannigan first met during the 2015 edition of Cork’s Sounds From a Safe Harbour festival and have performed together since on various occasions. De Ridder also played violin and arranged strings on six of the songs from her 2016 release At Swim.

The set list of 14 songs on the live record is mainly drawn from At Swim with eight songs. There are three songs from Passenger (2011) and “Lille” from her début solo Sea Sew (2008). “Bookmark” is a brand new composition while “Swan” – a musical collaboration between Aaron Dessner, playwright Enda Walsh and Lisa Hannigan – was already streaming on the 37d03d digital platform.

On Live in Dublin, the s t a r g a z e ensemble is comprised of 12 musicians. Lisa Hannigan on guitar and mandolin, Ross Turner on drums and a trio of backing vocalists (Sallay Garnett aka Loah, Karen Cowley (of Wyvern Lingo) and Rosie Carney) completed the line-up.

With Lisa Hannigan’s always impressive vocal range given plenty of space to breathe, all newly orchestrated songs get a majestic new lease of life. Where many songs in their studio versions are only introduced by a few bars on the guitar or piano, the orchestral versions allow for much longer overtures and expositions. A song like “Undertow” sounds a lot more serene too as it is performed live at a much slower tempo.

With arrangements by Bryce Dessner, Timo Andres, Josephine Stephenson, Cormac Curran, André de Ridder, Romain Bly, Aart Strootman and sublime vocal harmonies throughout, Live in Dublin is an enchanting performance.