affiniti imageAffinití At The Cobalt Cafe 21st August 2013

Affintí is a group comprised of opera singer Emer Barry, harpist Aisling Ennis and violin player Mary McCague, coming together to combine years of classical training with an obvious appreciation of popular musical and a Celtic heritage into a new ‘classical-crossover’ sound. An unexpected venue hidden on North Great George’s Street, Cobalt Café has a warm, relaxed atmosphere with contemporary furnishings set against the older Georgian architecture.

Following a mix of classical, trad and pop covers, the group performed particularly impressive, powerful Titanium (originally from David Guetta, featuring Sia). At times reminiscent of Evanescence’s Amy Lee, Barry’s voice managed the transition from simple pop delivery to a dazzling, full belt with total control and strength. Somehow McCague and Ennis transformed Guetta’s house style into a complex, effective accompaniment where the violin uses rapid bowing and the sharp uncharacteristically dark tones to recreate the pounding rhythmic elements.

An unusual cover of Eternal Flame was a strong point of the night, as the group captured the mood of the song brilliantly through both their use of instrumentation and the live performance. An Italian translation (by a past suitor of Barry’s, though she explained the translation proved to have more longevity than the romance) gives the song a more highly classical feel; together with Barry’s trained voice it could easily be mistaken for an aria, while the clever use of the violin and harp helped to bridge the gap with the pop genre. Even with such a mix of influences, their arrangement still manages to keep the heart and impassioned soul of the original love song.

The gig closed with a beautiful rendering of Leonard Cohen ’s Hallelujah, with Ennis and McCague joining Barry for some beautiful harmonies while their playing at each moment reflected the depth of emotion in the lyrics. The only slight drawback in what was otherwise the highlight of the concert was the prevalence of vibrato in the melody at all times: although it impacted negatively very slightly a number of times during the concert, here the melody line was consistent and passed between singer and violist, who both used the technique as standard throughout the concert.

It was a superb cover nonetheless, and followed by another Adele adaptation; Reeling in the Deep is another example of pop, classical and trad unified into a new sound that brings out the best features of each. The addition of pedal grinds by Ennis added an unusual colour. It would be nice to see the group push their boundaries more in this way—while the intention of musical crossover is inherent in the arrangements, much of the instrumental playing to this point used only standard classical techniques, so the harp effect was a welcome addition to the soundscape.

Throughout the concert the audience loved the sprinklings of banter and comic antics from the group. Their friendship infected the room; it brought the audience together to make the atmosphere warmer again, and the music even more enjoyable.