Live streamed concert with an Irish twist puts minds at ease during pandemic

Toby Bresnahan

Mary Dupuis, Staff Reporter

A local Grand Rapids acoustic musician decided to become a light in the darkness of peoples’ homes recently during Michigan’s “Stay Home, Stay Safe” Executive Order by live streaming concerts on his Facebook page. 

Toby Bresnahan, a founder of the Grand Rapids traditional Irish music group Peat in the Creel, has been playing guitar for 45 years and creating music for 20 of them. 

Bresnahan, being a third generation Irish, took a trip with his wife to visit Ireland in 2008. When they returned home, he met a few other Irish musicians who shared his passion for traditional Irish music. Soon enough, in late 2009, they decided to get together and form Peat in the Creel. 

Being a musician for so long, Bresnahan not only performs with his group Peat in the Creel, but also does his own solo work and shows. 

“Regarding performances, Peat in the Creel does traditional Irish music. My solo gigs consist mainly of cover tunes, Irish and Celtic music, and some original songs,” Bresnahan said. 

Combining both his love for music and his heritage, Bresnahan creates his very own acoustic tunes with an Irish twist. 

“My musical preference has always been acoustic music. I tend to compose on acoustic instruments and embellish with digital keyboards,” Bresnahan said. “My main interest in composing is acoustic music with an Irish flair.”

He said he would describe his solo work as being “mellow, acoustic headphone music.” He currently has two CD’s, Far From Home released in 2010 and Americay released in 2017

Bresnahan began his live streamed concert on Facebook Live at 7:00p.m. on March 29 in his home studio just north of Greenville, MI. He said he was inspired by other musicians and friends who were doing the same, and loves to play live music for people. 

I would like it to be a diversion, especially for the healthcare workers such as doctors, nurses, housekeeping, and all the folks on the front line,” Bresnahan said. “I would like them, family and friends to be able to escape from the pandemic world.”

Bresnahan’s viewers seemed to love watching the concert as much as he loved performing it. He said there was a great deal of positive interaction with the livestream and an uptick in interaction with his Facebook page following the performance. 

“My favorite part was the attendance and wonderful comments. They seemed to genuinely enjoy it,” Bresnahan said. 

However, as well as his first performance went, Bresnahan plans to implement many improvements for concerts to come. 

Bresnahan said that he used a good deal of technology from his studio because he wanted the music to sound as good as possible from home. But, he felt that in the end it ended up taking away too much of the focus from the music. 

“I sincerely believe it could have been much better had I focused more on the music,” Bresnahan said. “I will definitely experiment with a more simplistic setup with less focus on equipment. I’ll probably use a smartphone on a tripod and utilize the internal microphone.” 

With the plans for a new and improved concert being set into motion, Bresnahan is hoping to take his stage outdoors. Not only this, but he plans to begin to promote his CD’s throughout the concert to get some extra audience support. 

“I am anxiously awaiting warm weather so I can broadcast the next event outdoors. A lot of my musician friends incorporated a virtual tip jar in their broadcast. I did not during my first Facebook live event,” Bresnahan said. “My intention for the next event is to direct viewers to purchase my music CD’s online. Therefore, we would both receive.”

Bresnahan has set the bar high for his future performances, and hopes that as many people as possible are able to use his concerts as an escape from the reality of the pandemic. 

“I just want to show my appreciation to all healthcare workers on the front line. Their dedication does not go unnoticed and very much appreciated,” Bresnahan said. 

Throughout and following the pandemic, Bresnahan plans to continue these live streamed performances on his Facebook