We recently saw The Quiet Tree, a theatrical introduction to Traditional Irish music at The Ark, as part of Trad Fest. The creator, Thomas Johnston, has been developing the show for the last few years, and this incubation process has really paid off.
The interactive performance is structured as a journey, with Thomas inviting the audience to travel across a vast landscape of rivers and mountains and trees to Whistleberry Forest, where a few of his animal friends are waiting to meet us. There is Sorlaigh the Snail, who spins a silver web to catch us; Faoilan the Frog, who has a funky dance to share with us; and Orna the Owl, who we have to coax down from her treetop hideaway.
The music harnesses harp, whistle, piano and a small amount of percussion to create the forest’s magical atmosphere . Children are given the opportunity to play along and interact with a few sensory objects from the set, which is colourful and visually engaging. Johnston has a gentle but affirmative manner and he managed to keep the audience, which ranged from 0-5, engaged throughout.
Music from The Quiet Tree has been released as a CD too, and my kids have been enjoying reliving the show in the back of the car. They were especially tickled by the bonus track, which Johnston cut on the morning of the first performance in response to restlessness among the debut audience; just the sort of care and attention he pays to his young audience, who always need you to be flexible.
If The Quiet Tree plays locally again, we will definitely return to Whistleberry Forest. In the meantime, if you are not Dublin-based, it is touring regionally throughout February and March. Altrenatively you can get a taster for the music and buy the CD at https://whistleberryforest.bandcamp.com/album/the-quiet-tree-and-the-creatures-of-whistleberry-forest