Stone Soup

We didn’t plan anything, we just started to play…

It was a simple idea, born out of an engaging conversation one night. This album is the result of an experiment, our goal was to create something from that very sacred space that lies between composition and improvisation. Fascinated by the unique energy generated live where performer and audience are locked in a moment of unplanned creativity, a moment where anything and everything can happen, we vowed to delve into this pool of creativity and unleash its energy onto record.

Our intention was to create an album of bodhran and fiddle music. As the recording session grew ever closer. It became clear that making an album of solely bodhran and fiddle music would somehow not tell the full story. Why impose those limitations anyway? Artistically we had more to offer and could enrich this music with diverse flavours. Inspired by the folk tale of the 'Stone Soup', we began to assemble raw ingredients. I scanned my rehearsal space for the appropriate additional sounds. Seeking to include instruments that I had yet to experiment with in recording.

Each track, one by one, found its feet and fell into form. Often a track flowed from beginning to end in a single take. Other times we'd record a segment, listen back and feel where to go from there. The order in which the album appears is almost identical to that in which it was recorded. The result is strangely coherent: linked improvisations that appear almost as a pre-meditated. It forms an album in the traditional sense: a work that is intended to be listened to as a whole. We truly hope you enjoy this album as much as we enjoyed making it.

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“A truly original and magical piece of work that will thrill, delight and haunt the listener…stunning…It is fantastic playing and great to hear a pair of musicians so comfortable in each other’s pockets…a fascinating and elegant piece of music…joyous upbeat playing…something quite magical… traditional Irish feel, with hints of Martin Hayes’ playing…a song of multiple depths and emotions and one to lose yourself in…the whole thing is so impeccably thought out and executed and so finely nuanced that you want to put it on again straight away…I love the innocence and mystery of improvised music and Stone Soup is one of the finest examples of it I can think of. A beautiful album.”

- Glen Kimpton, Folk Radio

THE spell cast by the Derbyshire Dales inspired Cormac Byrne and Adam Summerhayes to abscond there and improbably create this album of bodhran and fiddle music. Byrne is to the bodhran what Paganini was to the violin, while Adam Summerhayes is, on this evidence, quite possibly the reincarnation of the master himself. This is no idle exaggeration and these variations on Arising, Moving and Awakening will beguile from the first phrase to the last chord. Marimbula, bodhran and assorted fiddles are employed to explore the hallowed space between composition and improvisation and the intricate dialogue between two instruments enthrals with the singular virtuosity of each rhythm, phrase and mode. The coherence of the soundscape exhilarates and soothes in turn as it oscillates between the rhapsodic and the soft and meditative. Highly recommended.★★★★★

- MorningStar

The joke about Stone Soup is that it’s the art of making something from nothing or, alternatively, throwing everything you can scrounge into the pot. Cormac Byrne and Adam Summerhayes take the latter course listing junk shop fiddle and a metal bucket amongst the instruments employed. Cormac, is of course, the go-to percussionist about the folk scene while Adam is a violinist equally at home in an orchestra or chamber group as with a rocking folk band. Both are members of the recently formed Dodo Street. As Cormac explains in his notes they could have made an album of fiddle and bodhran but where would be the excitement in that? The only track that fits that bill is ‘Moving: Part 1’ and perhaps ‘Awakening: Part 2’ but that adds birdsong. I should explain that the nine tracks share just three titles: ‘Arising’, ‘Moving’ and ‘Awakening’.  Other exotics include marimbula (a bass instrument that looks like a big thumb piano), berimbau (a single string bow that is more percussive that melodic), foot pandeiro (a South American tambourine) and varieties of shakers and other things to bang together. Quite how Cormac plays slide bodhran I don’t know but play it he does. They describe their music as falling between composition and improvisation. It was recorded live and very quickly with little time for reflection and consideration. That immediacy leaps out at you from the off and you can feel the excitement of two musicians playing together without quite knowing what the result will be. In fact, the result is pretty awesome. I won’t detail the tracks except to say that ‘Awakening: Part 1’ is a fifteen minute epic and ‘Awakening: Part 2’ is one of the most sublime and soothing pieces of music you’ll hear this year. Buy, beg or borrow a copy but hear it you must.


The title for the Cd comes from the old clever man folk tale of the hungry strangers, or in some versions a tramp, coming to a village with a cooking pot and a magical stone which with a convincing story telling entices villagers to throw small amounts of their own food into the boiling pot to produce a wholesome soup. This being a moral tale on the value of shareing.

The music however came from an engaging conversation around a kitchen table in a farmhouse in the Derbyshire Dales when two virtuoso instrumentalists decided to throw convention to the wind and book studio time to record a CD with no idea or plan as to what would result. The magic stone in the musical soup is their combined depth of past experiences of music from many cultures and from experiences of music from many cultures and from playing with a huge range of musicians and more styles than you can count on your hands and feet.

Cormac is a leading folk percussionist and percussion composer and teaches folk percussion at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire and Adam has garnered glowing reviews for his fiddle playing both in early music consorts, in solo guise and in bands such as 5 piece Dodo Street which Cormac also plays in.

Unsuprisingly this debut album is entirely instrumental and bears the instant creative feel of an improvised series of pieces which range from the sounds of North Africa to Celtic with a touch from Asia too. The recording took place over just two days and indeed for the last track includes a dawn chorus of birdsong captured live through the opened window of the studio. The three cycles arising, moving and awakening are lengthy pieces divided into parts, in one case 15 minutes long, and the sleeve notes rightly refer to this as an album that needs to be listened to as a whole. It certainly reflects the ability of two musicians at the top of their game to share their talents and produce something fresh and magical worthy of a considered listen.

It may have started out as an experiment but comes together as bridging the gap between composition and improvisation.

- Joe Whittaker

A suit that should never be put on shuffle, the nine tracks on this album actually make up three lengthy multi-movement and very moving meditations. A stunning and excavating dialogue between Irish percussionist Cormac Byrne and UK fiddle player Adam Summerhayes, the project was apparently born of an all-night brainstorming session in the Yorkshire Dales. The dawn chorus that the conversation encountered is revisited in this recording. It is clearly good to talk.

The elemental journey is played throughout with both full-blooded intensity and a fully realised emotional subtlety. From the outset, the duo identified the inefffable 'sacred space' that can be found somewhere between composition and improvisation. However, where similar projects all too easily result in over-studied, sullen and staid recordings, the embrace of abandon - as a virtue - here makes for an elegant but energetic new liminal sacred music.

Summerhayes has been descried as a Paganini of the traditional violin, but here he is as in thrall to Byrne's inventive percussion as he is intent on his own pyrotechnics. Conventions are jettisoned, and so we can hear hand scrapes across the bodhran, a range of tunings, fiddle as percussion, as well as unusual sounds gleaned from, for example, placing a microphone inside a berimbau gourd. In what the duo call a 'live reactive composition', this is indeed an exciting and beguiling listen, as skittering fiddle happily dances above deep, grounding, percussive effects, timelessness artfully created in modernist virtuosity.

- John Pheby

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