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Refugees and migrants – among others whose lives are in flux – are at the heart of the latest album from Newry regulars Noctambule.

San Francisco multi-instrumentalists Bruce Victor and Marla Fibish – who’ve played at Iúr Cinn Fleadh and Culture Night – have filled their new release Every Migrant Is My Fellow WWW.NOCTAMBULEMUSIC.COM with musical portraits of exiles forced to leave their ancestral homes. These include wanderers, outcasts, dreamers – and others in life-altering transitions – all set amid nature’s migrating creatures. 

The couple’s compositions, together with a few covers in Noctambule’s engaging style, tell the stories of a variety of ‘vagabonds’ – from a newborn baby to the death of legendary hero Robin Hood – and from Irish exiles to migratory birds. 

Stories are shared in song, against the backdrop of Noctambule’s lush trademark sound of interwoven strings and harmonious vocals that have endeared them to Newry music fans from the city’s coffee houses to the banqueting room of Bagenal's Castle and the lofty heights of the Buttercrane car park! Tracks include a new treatment of the traditional ballad Thousands Are Sailing.

The album is the result of the past two years of journeying through the landscape of lockdown. Bruce and Marla tested many of the songs during 40 Facebook Live concerts called ‘Serenade in Place’ – a play on the words of America’s ‘Shelter-in-Place’ policy earlier in the pandemic. ‘People seemed to find solace in this music,’ said Marla. 

More recently, the couple performed three online pre-launch concerts reflecting the album’s theme. The gigs raised funds for the International Rescue Committee, who help lives shattered by conflict and disaster. Bruce and Marla have also donated half the proceeds of pre-orders of Every Migrant Is My Fellow to the IRC. 

But it was a magical little book of obscure 19th century poetry that initially provided the catalyst for Every Migrant Is My Fellow. About 30 years ago, Marla stumbled on Songs From Vagabondia by Bliss Carman and Richard Hovey in a secondhand bookshop. 

Loving the joyous poetic portrayals of a spirited life lived to the fullest in the natural world, she shared the book with Bruce years later. It made such an impact on the couple, they set many of the poems to music – some are included in this release. Events of recent years – with increases in displaced individuals and cultures – inspired the couple to embark on this musical exploration of ‘Vagabondia’.

Marla explained how the album’s theme breaks into two parts: ‘One is the Vagabondia poetry, and the other is the idea of separation – people separated in various ways from something, someone or somewhere they love.’ Said Bruce, ‘Vagabondia is a metaphor for the human condition. We’re all travelling through literal and metaphorical lands without a reliable map’.

Marla is a leading teacher of the mandolin in the context of Irish traditional music – her 2020 solo album The Bright Hollow Fog was greeted with rave reviews across Ireland and America. Bruce is a former Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at the University of California at San Francisco Medical School, writes a blog entitled Call The Musician CALLTHEMUSICIAN.LIVE and is a visiting scholar at Cambridge University this autumn, in the area of music and social healing.

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