This is How we Fly

This is How we Fly

Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh, fiddle, hardanger fiddle
Seán Mac Erlaine, bass clarinet, clarinet, live electronics
Nic Gareiss, percussive dance
Petter Berndalen, drums, percussion


Formed in 2010, This is How we Fly is a Contemporary Folk band consisting of Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh on fiddle & hardanger fiddle, Seán Mac Erlaine on bass clarinet, saxophones & live electronics, Nic Gareiss on percussive dance, and Petter Berndalen on drums and percussion. Individually, each member has carved out a reputation for not just mastering their chosen fields, but rising above, redefining and renewing the musical world they come from. Initially brought together through a commission from the Dublin Fringe Festival (under the moniker Four on the Fringe of Folk) in September 2010 to play a one-off show, they received an unexpectedly rapturous response. Their music sees Swedish folk music rhythms meet the texture of traditional Irish fiddle, percussive dance from America & improvised jazz and electronics.

Best known for his work with traditional musicians including Mick O'Brien & Brendan Begley, Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh has deservedly gained an enviable profile as an innovative solo artist with his imaginative compositions and thrilling performance style. 

Seán Mac Erlaine's music draws on an education as a jazz musician, a track record as one of Ireland's most dynamic performers and a frequent cross-platform collaborator in theatre and dance projects. Recent work sees his versatility as an instrumentalist expanding to include live electronics in an ever evolving sonic exploration.

Nic Gareiss has performed as a featured soloist with The Chieftains, Solas, Darol Anger, Dervish and Martin Hayes. His work re-imagines movement as a musical activity, morphing dance into a medium that appeals to both the eyes and the ears. Nic draws from many percussive dance traditions to weave together a technique in service of his love of improvisation, traditional footwork vocabulary and musical collaboration. 

Petter Berndalen is a ground-breaking percussionist, turning the accepted conditions and past norms of drum playing upside down. Deeply rooted in the Swedish folk music tradition he is the first percussionist in the world with a degree in Swedish folk music. In 2008, after ten years of studies he graduated from the Royal College of Music in Stockholm with a Master of Fine Arts. He frequently appears both as a solo artist as well as with different bands and projects, both in Sweden and worldwide.


"Traditional music shot through with the adrenaline of contemporary influences: a lethal but irresistible cocktail."

Irish Times

"BORN OF a shared spirit of adventure, This Is How We Fly is a quartet soaked in tradition, but intent, just as TS Eliot sagely suggested, not to drag it around with them like a dead load, but to harvest fresh bounties from the seeds of their inheritance. In between almost hair-shirt renditions of tunes, Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh found a synchronicity between his playing and the dance steps of Michigan’s Nic Gareiss that was breathtaking. Ó Raghallaigh confided to the punters that Gareiss had been busily practising the dark art of levitating, but truth was, we had already figured that out for ourselves, such was the weightless quality of Gareiss’s steps. And a further truth didn’t elude the rapt audience either: for every step he took, and every note Ó Raghallaigh played, equal space was given to the notes and steps that remained in the ether, sublimely left to the punters’ imagination. Swedish percussionist Petter Berndalen brought a mischievousness to his percussive antics, relishing the challenge and the satisfaction of finding himself keeping company with a such a buoyant dancer, and jousting in between, with Nils Okland tunes. Bass clarinettist and alto saxophonist Seán Óg built fluid, sinuous patterns beneath the percussion and fiddle, all the better to unite the trio of musicians beneath the G forces of Gareiss’s dance steps. Throughout the evening it was as if the four were deconstructing their repertoire, only to reconstitute it in shapes entirely of their own making. Their shared joie de vivre was palpable, along with the pinprick non-verbal communications that passed between them, literally, in the blink of an eye. The human epitome of the unbearable lightness of being, Nic Gareiss was the undisputed star of the evening, with his sole prop being a handful of dust which he used for additional percussive impact as he shimmied his way across floorboards, sprinkling it as if it were stardust. Ó Raghallaigh’s own tunes were a celebration of circular motion. Ellipses and What What What delved deep into the heart of recurring chord sequences, as if they were the illicit offspring of Martin Hayes, whose love for unpicking well-worn traditional tunes to unveil their simple essence is almost a trademark by now. Berndalen was even moved to join Gareiss in (semi) flight as the night drew in. Traditional music shot through with the adrenaline of contemporary influences: a lethal but irresistible cocktail."

Siobhan Long, Irish Times, 21st March 2011

"In Ireland, the term traditional music is applied to many different kinds of music-making: a form of inherited sociability that lives on in certain communities; amateur players, whether inheriting or adopting the idiom, coming together in pubs or other venues; long-term professional groups on the international stage; and so on. It is true that traditions shift and change within lines that allow a sense of continuity, and while the happy sociability of these forms must be considered a good thing in itself, it is surprising – as more than one contributor to this magazine has remarked over the years – how little genuinely creative genetic engineering with the elements of traditional Irish music has been produced by those within or semi-resident in that community since the 1960s. Surprising, because what has changed most since the 1960s is the near-impossibility for all kinds of musician of remaining unaware of the multiplicity of musical idioms in the world. In this regard, the fiddle player Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh represents something genuinely interesting: he excels at traditional repertoire, he can share a stage with the free-spirited Martin Hayes and he seems to have developed a Hardanger-slinging Nordic alter ego, but, taking things further than Hayes, he manages to stay within the sonic and expressive world of his native tradition while obsessing over a motif like a jazz musician or treating rhythm as an ever-open instant-to-instant medium rather than a set shape. The unusual company he keeps in This is How we Fly means that the Ó Raghallaigh philosophy can be expressed in group form: saxophone and bass-clarinet player Sean Mac Erlaine (another shape-shifter across idioms), the Swedish percussionist Petter Berndalen (open to Asian as well as Nordic and Irish rhythms) and the American dancer Nic Gareiss, who steps lightly across traditions. It is not too difficult to leap from one western European fiddle tradition to another and, as both Ireland and Scandinavia fed into the folk idioms of regions from Nova Scotia down to the Appalachians, the group’s freedom is displayed within certain boundaries, however fluidly defined, thus avoiding incoherent eclecticism. The group’s coherence is affirmed by the intent listening underlaying each player’s creative contribution. Refreshingly, the almost mandatory post-Bothy Band rush to climax in dance tunes was often bypassed – opening the door to intricate, sometimes playful, deceleration and subtle fades. Whether in exactly this combination or in variations on it, This is How we Fly point to exciting possibilities. In concert, the group broadcast almost a surfeit of charm. It will be fascinating to see if, in the recording studio or in concert, they explore their language to the fullest. The results could be paradigm-shifting."

Barra Ó Séaghdha, Journal of Music


This is How we Fly


For further information on availability or artist fees, or to discuss a booking please contact the Performance Programmes Manager by emailing or telephone: 01 6719429.

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