Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh, Ciarán Curran, Ciarán Tourish, Daithi Sproule, Máirtín Tourish
No Irish traditional band in the last dozen years has had a wider impact on audiences and music lovers throughout the world than Altan.
With their exquisitely produced award-winning recordings, ranging dynamically from the most sensitive and touching old Irish songs all the way to hard hitting reels and jigs, and with their heartwarming, dynamic live performances, Altan have moved audiences from Donegal to Tokyo to Seattle. Throughout, there has been the unwavering commitment of the band to bringing the beauty of traditional music, particularly that of the Donegal fiddlers and singers, to contemporary audiences in a way that brings out all its qualities and destroys none. In fact, Altan have always believed that Irish traditional music is a modern music in every sense and its growing influence and popularity have proved them right.
The seeds of the band and its very heart lie in the music and fun of gatherings and sessions in kitchens and pubs in Donegal where virtuoso music was played and heard in an atmosphere of respect and intimacy. Band founders, Belfast flute-player, Frankie Kennedy, and Gaoth Dobhair (Gweedore) singer and fiddler, Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh, early on and ever after delivered their music with a force and fullness that made it hard to believe there were only two people playing. Gradually the duo grew organically into a band convinced that no-compromise, traditional music played with heart and drive could win over any audience anywhere. Altan’s repertoire, with its totally unique stamp, carries with it inspiration from the great Irish bands such as the Bothy Band, Planxty, and De Danann.
Audiences the world over have reveled in the genuine camaraderie and mutual respect evident among the members of Altan, and over the years the band’s recorded albums have won numerous accolades and awards. Altan’s international status and success found a very practical recognition when they were signed in 1996 to Virgin Records, the first Irish band of their kind to be signed by a major label. The band gained gold and platinum albums in Ireland and toured larger venues in Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Europe, and the US. In spite of a hectic touring and recording schedule, Altan continues fresh in their vision of bringing the beauty and joy of traditional music to audiences everywhere.
In addition to Mairéad, Altan’s virtuoso band includes bouzouki-player, Ciarán Curran; guitarist, Daithi Sproule; fiddler, Ciaran Tourish; and accordion-player, Mairtin Tourish. Altan.ie/
Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh
Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh, a native of the Donegal Gaeltacht of Gaoth Dobhair, is internationally renowned as one of the leading exponents of Donegal fiddle music. She is a founding member of Cairdeas na bhFidléirí, which was set up 25 years ago to preserve and facilitate the development of the Donegal fiddling tradition for future generations.
Mairéad is a native speaker whose musical inspiration initially came from family and neighbors. Her most important early influence was her father, Francie Ó Maonaigh, one of the great fiddle teachers in Donegal, who was known for his wealth of unusual local tunes, many learned from his mother, Róise. Mairéad also received tuition and inspiration from Buncrana fiddle player, Dinny McLaughlin. Along with her late husband, Frankie Kennedy, Mairéad founded Altan and from humble beginnings, they brought their music to the world arena without compromising the deep musical tradition they loved.
Along with her work with Altan, Mairéad is always in demand for solo work or presenting traditional music programs on radio and television; past projects include the classic radio show The Long Note and the television series The Pure Drop and The Full Set on RTÉ1. Mairéad has recorded with Enya, the Chieftains, Dolly Parton, The String Sisters, T With the Maggies, and many more. Mairéad’s first solo project, Imeall, was released in 2009.
Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh
Although Ciarán Tourish started playing the tin whistle at an early age, he soon took up the fiddle under the guidance of local legendary fiddler and teacher, Dinny McLaughlin. Known for his mastery of the dance music tradition, Ciarán has a special love for weaving spontaneous harmony and counterpoint round the melodies of the other lead players. This talent is in demand as a valued collaborator on non-Altan and even non-Irish music projects with a wide range of musicians and singers including Paul Brady, Matt Molloy, Mary Black, Maura O’Connell, Máirtín O’Connor, Dolores Keane, Dé Danann, and American musicians, Jerry Douglas and Tim O’Brien.
Ciarán released his first solo recording, Down the Line, in 2005 featuring guest musicians Arty McGlynn, Paul Brady, Maura O’Connell, Tim O’Brien, Alison Krauss, and Jerry Douglas among others.
Session and festival veteran, Ciarán Curran, brings his strong family musical tradition to bear on an instrument relatively new to Irish traditional music – the bouzouki. He has developed a unique, personal, and subtle style on the bouzouki using counter harmonies and melodies that let the music breathe and show its most melodic strengths without conflicting with the essence of the melody.
Ciarán’s uncle, fiddler Ned Curran, handed down to Altan many tunes from his unusual repertoire, and Ciarán credits close friend and the great Co. Leitrim fiddler, Ben Lennon, for helping him develop skill in backing rhythm and bounce. Ben and flute-player, Cathal McConnell (of the Boys of the Lough), introduced Ciarán in earnest to traditional music and to the musicians who taught him many of the tunes that comprise his repertoire.
With Ben Lennon, Derrygonnelly fiddler, Seamus Quinn, and Enniskillen singer, Gabriel McArdle, Ciarán recorded the classic Dog Big Dog Little album, named after two mountains on the borders of Co. Fermanagh and Co Leitrim. Ciarán has also produced the critically-acclaimed Slán le Loch Éirne, a duet album from Belfast flute player, Gary Hastings, and Seamus Quinn.
Dáithí Sproule is one of Irish music’s most respected guitar accompanists, and one of the first guitarists to develop DADGAD tuning for Irish music. He is also a fine singer in English and Irish.
Dáithí started out his career in the influential group, Skara Brae, with Mícheál Ó Domhnaill and his sisters, Tríona and Maighread. As well as playing and singing with Altan, he has performed and recorded with two highly influential traditional music trios: Bowhand (with James Kelly and Paddy O’Brien) and Trian (with Liz Carroll and Billy McComiskey) and has played on recordings of Tommy Peoples, Seamus and Manus McGuire, Peter Ostroushko, and many others. In recent years he has been playing with another great trio, Fingal, with Randal Bays and James Keane, and performing locally in Minnesota with friends such as Laura MacKenzie and Jode and Kate Dowling.
Dáithí released his first solo album in 1995, A Heart Made of Glass, with songs in English and Irish. In 2008 he released an instrumental guitar album, The Crow In the Sun, featuring 13 original compositions. Lost River, Vol. 1 followed in 2011, with songs in English and Irish, arranged and accompanied on guitar, with a stellar line-up of guests.
Dáithí’s original compositions have been recorded by Skara Brae, the Bothy Band, Altan, Trian, Liz Carroll, Aoife Clancy, Loreena McKennitt, the RTE Concert Orchestra, 10,000 Maniacs, and others. His song, “The Death of Queen Jane,” was featured in the 2013 Coen brothers film, Inside Llewyn Davis.
In addition to performing and recording, Dáithí is a sought-after teacher and lecturer on subjects ranging from guitar styles, song accompaniment, and Irish traditional music to Irish language, literature, and mythology. He has taught at University College Dublin, the University of Minnesota, and the University of St. Thomas, and is an instructor at the Center for Irish Music in St. Paul. He is a 2009 recipient of a Bush Artist Fellowship from the Minnesota-based Archibald Bush Foundation.
“A seminal figure in Irish music” – The Rough Guide to Irish Music
Máirtín Tourish is an accordionist, composer, producer, and musicologist now based in Dublin. His ancestors were collectors of dance music whose manuscripts date from 1896.
Martin’s debut album Clan Ranald with bouzouki player Luke Ward was released in 2005 and listed by music critic Earle Hitchner of the Irish Echo and Wall Street Journal, as being in the top 20 albums of 2005. From the success of the Clan Ranald album, Martin is listed in The Rough Guide to Ireland as a piano accordionist of note, while a track from the album appears in The Rough Guide to Irish Folk, Vol. 2. In 2008, he became the first piano accordionist to win TG4′s prestigious ‘Young Musician of the Year’ award which a subsequent article in The Irish Times regarded as “the Irish Music equivalent of an Oscar.”
Also in 2008, Martin was commissioned by TG4 to compose, produce, and perform the music for their brand television advertisement “The More You Look, The More You See” which won many national and international awards and earned the piece of music national recognition. In 2010 he composed the theme tune to a national marathon festival, Rith 2010, to promote the Irish language, and in 2011 composed the trad style variation on a theme for the nationwide Love Live Music festival.
His composition “An Gealóg” appears on Altan’s latest album, The Poison Glen, and harpist, Triona Marshall, is performing his virtuosic piece, “The Seventh Degree,” during The Chieftain’s 50th anniversary tour.
The Outside Track
Ailie Robertson, Fiona Black, Teresa Horgan, Emerald Rae, Eric McDonald
The Outside Track is one of the best-regarded, world-class, pan-Celtic acts having won the ‘Best Group’ category in both the Live Ireland and ‘Tradition In Review’ awards and having been nominated for 2013’s MG Alba Scots Traditional Music Award. They also won the German Radio Critics’ Prize for their last album Flash Company.
The original band was formed in 2005 at the Irish World Academy Of Music and Dance in Limerick. Edinburgh harpist, Ailie Robertson, brought her impressive credentials as performer, composer, and arranger, with her creative synthesis of Scottish, Irish, and contemporary harp techniques, while accordionist Fiona Black was noted for her bold intertwining of the Scottish playing style with music from Irish, Swedish, and Cape Breton sources. Both Ailie and Fiona have stayed at the core of The Outside Track ever since, providing not only a keen continuity in its broad-minded and ever-enthusiastic approach to repertoire-building but also a rich ongoing link through the traditions by way of their outstanding complementary musicianship.
The band’s latest recruit is extraordinary Co. Cork-born singer and flute player Teresa Horgan, who’s blessed with a fantastically versatile, almost chameleon-like vocal personality. Fiddler, Emerald Rae, and guitarist, Eric McDonald, round out the lineup. www.theoutsidetrack.com
The Outside Track
Ailie Robertson is widely regarded as one of Scotland’s leading young traditional musicians as a composer, arranger, teacher, improviser, and harp virtuoso. Her accomplishments on the clarsach are such that leading Irish flautist Niall Keegan said, “Ailie’s synthesis of Irish, Scottish, and contemporary harping technique into an individual style represents the realisation of otherwise unimagined possibilities for the Celtic harp.”
Ailie was immersed in the harp world from an early age and began playing the clarsach when she was 11 years old. Through her piano and clarsach lessons, she developed a love for both classical and traditional music. In 2009, she was nominated for ‘Up and Coming Artist of the Year’ in the BBC Alba Scots Trad Music Awards. Ailie is in great demand as a teacher around the world, and has published six books of harp music.
Fiona Black developed a love of music and dance from a young age. The Feisean movement provided an opportunity to nurture her passion through learning to play the piano accordion. Fiona went on to attend the National Centre of Excellence in Traditional Music, where she honed her skills as an accordionist and gained valuable experience arranging, performing, composing, and recording. Fiona set off for Limerick in 2005, where she completed a BA with Honours in Irish Music and Dance. While taking this degree, Fiona further developed her skills as a performer, arranger, teacher, and composer, and in her third year of study, traveled to Cape Breton. Fiona’s accordion style incorporates many different influences, intertwining her native Scottish style with Irish, Swedish, and Cape Breton repertoire, always adding her distinctive rhythm and vibrancy.
Co. Cork, Ireland
Teresa Horgan is a highly accomplished singer and flute player from the small town of Buttevant in Co. Cork. Coming from a very musical family, she has been immersed in traditional Irish music all her life and has been singing and playing music for as long as she can remember. Teresa has performed and toured in countries across Europe including Belgium, France, Italy, and Denmark. Over the years she has performed in several well-known music productions including the Galway-based music and dance show, Music at the Crossroads. She has also shared the stage with such well-known groups as The Chieftains and The Dave Munnelly Band. Kate Rusby, Declan O’ Rourke, Jeff Buckley, and Paul Brady are but a few of the artists who have influenced Teresa in the development of her unique style of singing.
She has two albums with FullSet, an album with The Outside Track called Light up the Dark, and an album with guitarist, Matt Griffin, called Brightest Sky Blue.
“She has just enough world weariness in her vocals to interpret…songs and make them her own.” – Tony Lawless, TradConnect.
Emerald Rae is a singer, dancer, and multi-instrumentalist with a degree in Film Scoring from Berklee College of Music. Known for her powerhouse dance tunes and technical prowess, Emerald is an adept and masterfully soulful fiddler. Growing up in a musical family where performance was encouraged from a young age, Emerald fell in love with Scottish fiddle music. She studied with Barbara McOwen, Boston’s leading Scottish music historian and co-author of The Glengarry Collection, and traveled all over the US, Canada, and Scotland to study and soak up the culture. She has a particular affinity for the music and dance of Cape Breton, where she spent many summers. She won the New England Scottish Fiddle Championship at age 16 and the US National Championship at 18. After living in Glasgow for a year studying early 18th century fiddle manuscripts, she returned home to continue her journey in performing and teaching Scottish music and dance in America. She is deeply passionate, experienced, and knowledgeable about presenting the tradition in an engaging way. She is a judge for Scottish FIRE (Scottish Fiddling Revival).
Growing up spending summers in Cape Breton gave Emerald the bug for percussive dance. As a Scottish & Cape Breton stepdance performer and teacher, her style is joyous and extremely musical. She taught performance-based Irish dance classes at Dance New England for nearly a decade, and performed Sean-nós stepdance with Atlantic Steps – a full stage show in celebration of old style Irish dance, music and art. She is a creative choreographer and loves to mix the genres of Scottish, Cape Breton, Irish, Sean-nós, and Appalachian Clogging. www.emeraldrae.com
“Her fiddling is technically spot-on, yet elegantly earthy, her bow merrily bouncing along the strings, as though unable to resist joining the dance.” Boston Globe
Eric McDonald, one of New England’s premier acoustic performers and instructors, is known for his versatility in many styles and as a proponent of Scottish music. Born and raised in the Boston area, he grew up steeped in Beantown’s vibrant music scene. He studied at Berklee College of Music under world-renowned musicians John McGann and Eugene Friesen. While studying he toured with full-time folk acts like The Dave Rowe Trio and Matching Orange, and acted as music director for productions by companies such as Actor’s Shakespeare Project. His accompaniment on DADGAD guitar features on albums by Katie McNally and Brendan Carey Block.
Eric has performed across the US and overseas alongside major artists such as Archie Fisher, Malinky, Rodney Miller, Hamish Napier, and Ian Robb of Finest Kind. He is a member of the Scottish power trio, Cantrip, and the contemporary old time group, The Knockbox Stringband. He has performed on stage at the New World Festival, the Champlain Valley Folk Festival, the Falcon Ridge Folk Festival and countless others.
The High Kings
Finbarr Clancy, Brian Dunphy, Martin Furey, Darren Holden
Clancy, Brian Dunphy, Martin Furey and Darren Holden – each with a wealth of history in the music business behind them – knew that in order to maintain any level of creative interest they would have to boldly go where no other Irish ballad group had gone before.
With the heyday of ballad groups such as The Clancy Brothers and The Dubliners a distant memory for generations of music fans, the advent of another bunch of Irish lads taking up the baton and continuing the tradition was great news to thousands of fans worldwide. The four members immediately knew that something special was taking place and within months had clicked as a creative unit as well as friends. The self-titled debut album, released in 2008, reached number two on Billboard Magazine’s World Music chart. It was during The High Kings second tour of the US in 2011, however – promoting their follow-up album, Memory Lane, which also crashed into Billboard’s World Music chart – that everyone involved realized the fan base was growing into something no one had predicted.
The High Kings achieved what many had thought improbable, if not impossible: they were moving the Irish ballad tradition into the here and now, carrying along with them the steadfast older fans while simultaneously bringing it to a new audience. More was to come in 2013 with the group’s third studio album, Friends For Life, which featured original songs among the traditional fare, further establishing their credentials and bringing to light their own songwriting talents.
The group’s fourth studio album, Grace & Glory, just released this May and the focus of their current tour, takes them back to the essentials that kick-started their career in the first place.
To say that The High Kings are charting a new course for Irish ballad music – equal parts rousing and reflective, energetic and insightful – is an understatement. They are marking out a new and bright era for Irish folk music, and aiming to bring a broad demographic along for the journey. “With Grace & Glory we’re going to achieve that,” affirms Martin. “There is something for everybody on the album, and any doubters out there might just discover there’s a whole lot more to us than perceptions would have them believe. Previous High Kings albums have been stepping-stones, but this one sees us on top of things.” www.thehighkings.com
“Since the passing of The Clancy Brothers and The Dubliners, we have become the bearers of the torch, bringing the songs and traditions of Ireland to a new global audience. We relish this challenge and are truly honoured to be representing our generation. The High Kings will strive to deliver perfection wherever we go, and we are very much looking forward to seeing our fans, old and new, in our forthcoming tour in 2016.” – Finbarr Clancy
The High Kings
Finbarr Clancy was born to Moira and to Bobby, who was brother to Liam, Paddy, and Tom Clancy. Growing up in the Clancy dynasty, Finbarr was plucking the banjo and playing the bodhran from the age of five.
His first professional performance was on stage at the tender age of 10 singing and playing the banjo with his cousin Eban Clancy (Liam’s son). Finbarr went on to learn the guitar and flute and began writing songs at the age of 17.
Finbarr began touring North America with his father and uncles, The Clancy Brothers, in 1995. Following the passing of his Uncle Paddy and later his Father, Bobby, in 2002, Finbarr continued the family tradition by touring with Eddie Dillon and Mark Fitzpatrick along the festival route, which included playing at America’s biggest Irish Festival in Milwaukee. As part of The Clancy Brothers, Finbarr played all over the world and made numerous TV appearances. Along the way, he racked up recording credits on Clancy Sing Along Songs, The Quiet Land, and Make Me a Cup.
Within a few months after moving back to Ireland after the US tours, Finbarr joined The High Kings and spent every moment rehearsing and recording a new album and DVD. In short order, he found himself back in New York, appearing on The View and This Morning and performing with The High Kings. After touring with Billboard chart toppers, Celtic Woman, The High Kings made a triumphal return to Ireland to do two sold-out tours in quick succession.
Brian Dunphy realized early on that he would follow a musical path. Brian’s biggest break came when he won the lead singing role in Riverdance – The Show, traveling extensively throughout America, Canada, China, Australia, and Europe. He spent two years singing at The Gershwin Theatre on Broadway in New York and as lead vocalist in Radio City Music Hall. While there, he had the honor of performing the American National Anthem at Madison Square Gardens and appearing on The Today Show.
Following Riverdance, he joined The Three Irish Tenors and enjoyed huge success stateside. Europe beckoned next as he took on a role performing as his father in a tribute to the Irish Show-Band stars of yesteryear, Dance Hall Qs and Hucklebuck Shoes.
Throughout his very successful career, Brian has had the honor of recording with many artists including world-renowned violinist, Vanessa Mae, Celtic Woman, Bill Whelan’s Riverdance – On Broadway, and Riverdance – The 10th Anniversary.
Brian is never fazed by wisecracking comments thrown at him by a sometimes raucous audience member – indeed, he enjoys the exchange. Gregarious by nature, Brian relishes meeting with fans after a show and lending an ear to their stories.
Although Brian loves touring, he loves his family life as well and sees no conflict between selling out to a 1000-strong crowd one night and serving up Weetabix to his five year old son, Sam, the next morning, as he feels both roles, Performer and Father, are a good fit for him.
Martin Furey is a well-established folk singer and songwriter, who has spent many years touring and performing in his own right. As a child of his Irish father, Finbar (The Fureys), and his Scottish mother, Sheila, he has lived and breathed the Irish music taught to him by his father and uncles. Finbar was a key innovator in the Irish folk and ballad scene of the 1960s. Keen to make his own mark, Martin excels in playing multiple instruments, including banjo, bouzouki, guitar, and whistles – all of which feature in The High Kings live shows.
Martin began his studies at Dublin’s historical Trinity College and later moved to Prince’s University, Edinburgh, to study Scottish literature and history. It was in Scotland that his band Sam Harlet was formed. The band was massively innovative and immediately welcomed by the vibrant Edinburgh scene of the time. With a huge following, the band played nearly every venue to be had in the Scottish Highlands and Lowlands.
In 1992, Martin and his sister, Aine Furey, joined together to form their acclaimed band, Bohinta, touring the UK and Europe and playing every major folk festival, including world-renowned Glastonbury. Martin and Aine were an immediate hit with audiences throughout Europe and their album, Excalibur, went straight to number one in the French Album charts.
Since joining The High Kings, Martin and other members of The High Kings have been invited to appear on RTE’S Podge and Rodge as well as Pat Kenny’s last ever Late Late Show.
On The High Kings newly recorded album, Memory Lane, Martin flexes his musical muscle as a contributor on arrangements of some of the classical Irish ballad tracks, including “Green Fields of France” made famous by his father – an experience Martin described as, “Amazing, as well as nerve-wracking.” Having grown up with classic ballads at home, Martin is pleased to be bringing songs from the album to his live repertoire.
Darren Holden is not only a prolific songwriter and musician but a master interpreter of lyrics as well. Audiences around the world continue to praise his exceptional vocal talents. He is comfortable performing all genres of music from Pop and Jazz to Country and Celtic.
Darren starred as ‘The Piano Man’ (Billy Joel) in the Billy Joel/Twyla Tharp Tony Award-winning hit musical, Movin’ Out, both on Broadway and on tour for four years. He received unanimous critical acclaim throughout the US, Canada, and Japan. Darren was also lead singer with Riverdance on Broadway and on tour for more than three years.
A top ten recording artist in Ireland, Darren toured with Boyzone on their first major tour of Ireland and the UK. He had several chart hits with such songs as “After Tonight” and “More Than I Can Say.” His debut solo album, Suddenly, produced three top 20 hits. His CD of original traditional/contemporary Country songs, Live & Learn, released in 2002 in the US, produced three top 40 airplay hits, and Darren was nominated for a 2004 New Music Weekly Award (‘Best Male Country Artist’).
Darren relished the opportunity of joining The High Kings and reaching a new audience, singing the songs he had learned as a child. A key High Kings moment for Darren was performing at half time at the All-Ireland Hurling final, which his beloved Kilkenny won. As Darren said, it was the biggest hometown crowd he had ever played for. The High Kings flew home especially for the event from their headline US tour, one of three hugely successful tours completed in 2008.
Although his schedule is hectic, Darren manages to balance his work and home life, as he has had not one, but two new arrivals to his family since joining The High Kings. Along with his wife Michelle, Darren revels in home life with daughters Ava and Sophie and son Josh.
Chris Newman and Máire Ní Chathasaigh
This celebrated virtuoso partnership made its brilliant debut at the 1987 Cambridge Folk Festival. Since then Maire and Chris have toured over 20 countries on five continents. Of their six albums together, The Living Wood was the Daily Telegraph’s First Album choice of the Year; Out of Court: “stunning… one of the most refreshing innovative releases in recent years” – Folk Roots; The Carolan Albums: “a masterpiece of virtuosity” – The Daily Telegraph; Live in the Highlands: “Music of fire and brilliance from the high-wire act in traditional music” – The Irish Times; Dialogues: “terrific, brilliant, beautiful, rich, virtuosic, delightful, classic, perfect!” – The Sunday Tribune, Ireland; and finally, Firewire: “Dazzling…. to be marveled at” – The Daily Telegraph and “Album of the Year” – Live Ireland.
Of their long list of concert reviews, the following are typical: “A truly electrifying combination…the audience were charmed and dazzled by the speed, deftness, the emotional range of their playing”…. “Maire chomps on the bit of the harp’s respectability, playing storming jigs and reels”…”Newman led us on death-defying sprints, while Maire confirmed her status as one of the world’s greatest harpists.”
Chris Newman is recognized as “one of the UK’s staggering and influential acoustic guitarists” – Folk Roots. Chris’ two biggest influences when learning the guitar were the great swing guitarist and humorist Diz Dizley with whom he toured in his late teens and Denny Wright who helped to inspire his own distinctive and melodic style of improvisation. Moving to Bristol in 1973, Chris was a session player for the BBC and became involved in a number of commercial musical ventures including the comedy band, Pigsty Hill Light Orchestra. Working for folk-comedian Fred Wedlock, he spotted the commercial potential of Fred’s material and applied his compositional talents to it, receiving a Silver Disc for producing Fred’s 1981 hit “The Oldest Swinger in Town.” That same year Chris came out with his first solo album with a second one in 1983. Then in 1985 he decided to return to his acoustic folk roots. For several years he performed with The Boys of the Lough. He also recorded his third solo album Fretwork, that firmly established his eclectic style. The album reviews were ecstatic. “A stunning and stylistically-varied album, heaving with good tunes, from one of the UK’s most staggering and influential acoustic guitarists’ – Folk Roots; “Nothing short of brilliant” – Dirty Linen (USA); “Guitar players don’t come any better…I’d blithely cross snow-capped mountains and ford raging rivers to see him play” – The Living Tradition. Reviews of his live performances were equally impressive summed up well by the Belfast Telegraph: “(Chris) took the place by storm…guitar players applauded and went sadly home to burn their instruments!”
MAIRE NI CHATHASAIGH
Máire Ní Chathasaigh, Irish virtuoso, is unmatched in skill, passion and dramatic surprises, and is truly an original in the harp world. Maire began the harp at age 11. In the late 1960s and early ‘70s, before the Celtic harp became the popular instrument it is today, there were no traditional teachers to guide Maire’s training. Through trial and error, she created her own techniques and ornamentations and has continued to perfect them over her playing career with the aim of establishing an authentic traditional style of harping. Truly her approach is a single-handed reinvention of the harp. Her originality was quickly recognized even while still a teenager, having won the All-Ireland and Pan-Celtic Harp competitions on several occasions. Always a leader, in 1985, Maire became the first harper to produce an album concentrating on Irish dance music, The New Strung Harp, described by The Irish Examiner as “…intensely passionate and intelligent, a milestone in Irish harp music.” Her approach has had a profound influence on the new generation of Irish harpers, and she was awarded Gradam Ceoil TGA (Irish Traditional Musician of the Year) in 2001 – the highest possible recognition of her pioneering work. “If Maire wasn’t around, Irish harping would be so much the poorer; her work restores the harp to its true voice.” – The Irish Times. Maire has produced two volumes of her harp arrangements (Old Bridge Music), and as a master teacher, has for many years taught the senior class at the Summer School/Festival held by the Irish Harp Society in Co. Louth.
Chris Newman and Máire Ní Chathasaigh
Ben Miller and Anita MacDonald
Combining the fiery edge of the Scottish Border pipes with the rich sounds of the Cape Breton fiddle, Ben Miller and Anita MacDonald merge traditional influences from Cape Breton and Prince Edward Island, as well as the Highlands and Islands of Scotland. This fresh and talented duo pairs driving dance-tunes with expressive Gaelic airs and songs, bringing their listeners a powerful combination of passion and grace.
New York/Cape Breton
Ben Miller traces his interest in traditional music to his exposure to the pipes at a young age, in his hometown of Queensbury, New York, as well as his family’s strong connections to its Scottish and Irish roots, through both his American mother and Canadian father. He began studying the Highland Bagpipes around age eight, but by 12 he began to shift his focus to the bellows-blown Scottish smallpipes and Border pipes. Ben is also an academic, holding an undergraduate degree in Music, as well as a Master’s degree in Scottish Ethnology, from the University of Edinburgh’s School of Scottish Studies. His repertoire and style draw mainly on the Gaelic traditions of Western Scotland and the Canadian Maritimes, blended with a healthy dash of Irish tunes for good measure.
Anita MacDonald is an accomplished musician, dancer, and Gaelic singer. She began stepdancing in the family kitchen at the tender age of four, and picked up the fiddle a few short years later, at age eight. Anita has been wowing audiences with her impeccable timing and neatly choreographed steps ever since. Anita’s fiddle playing has a distinctive sound, influenced by the deep roots of her musical family and her teachers throughout the years. Her energetic style has put her in demand as a performer and teacher, across Cape Breton and beyond. She has been a featured artist in the Celtic Colours International Festival, and has toured throughout New England with Cape Breton folk trio, The Goin’s On. Anita is also the recipient of the Frank ‘Big Sampie’ Sampson Award, nominated by the Festival Volunteer Drive’ers Association. Following this award, Anita released her debut album, Stepping Stone, during the 2011 Celtic Colours International Festival.
Ben Miller and Anita MacDonald
Jerry O’Sullivan has been widely hailed as America’s premier uilleann piper. His reputation for technical and melodic mastery of the instrument, an Irish bagpipe known for its subtlety and expression, is unsurpassed in the United States, and demands considerable attention overseas. Jerry is also widely recorded on the tin whistle, the low whistle, the Highland Pipes, and the Scottish smallpipes.
Jerry has appeared on more than 90 albums and has performed or recorded with artists such as The Boston Pops, Don Henley, Paul Winter, James Galway, Dolly Parton, The Colorado Symphony Orchestra, The Nashville Symphony Orchestra, Eileen Ivers, and many others. He was a featured soloist on Paul Winter’s Grammy-winning album, Celtic Solstice. His first two solo albums, The Gift and The Invasion, received critical acclaim, quickly finding their way to the top of a number of “best albums of the year” lists. In recent years, Jerry has released two solo albums, O’Sullivan Meets O’Farrell, Vols. I and II, which feature music from the 200-year old O’Farrell tutor and tune collections. Jerry has also recorded a number of film soundtracks including From Shore to Shore, The Long Journey Home, Far and Away, Africans in America, and Out of Ireland, and has appeared on numerous television commercials.
Jerry has toured extensively in the US and Europe and has played as far afield as Japan and Israel. He has been a featured performer and instructor in numerous Folk Festivals, including: the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, the Milwaukee Irish Festival, the Catskills Irish Arts Week in East Durham, Boston’s Gaelic Roots Festival, the Philadelphia Folk Festival, the National Council for Traditional Arts National Folk Festival, and the Swannanoa Gathering in Asheville, North Carolina. He has performed at such reputable venues as New York’s Lincoln Center, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and on the mall in Washington D.C. In 2007 he was honored to participate in the Dedication of the new Na Piobairi Uilleann (NPU) headquarters in Dublin. More recently he was a guest performer at the 2009 William Kennedy Music Festival in Armagh and was invited to participate at the 2010 Annual Willy Clancy Summer School in Miltown-Malbay, Ireland.
Born in New York City to an Irish-American mother and a father from Dublin, Ireland, Jerry first learned to play the Scottish highland pipes. During summer visits to family in Dublin, he learned the uilleann pipes from listening and asking questions to experienced players such as Peter Carberry, Matt Kiernan, Dan Dowd, Peter McKenna, Fergus Finnegan, Mick O’Brien, Gay McKeon, and others. In New York, uilleann piper Bill Ochs was a major help and inspiration to Jerry. www.jerryosullivan.com
Review of O’Sullivan Meets O’Farrell, Vol II:
“The album consists of four beautifully arranged suites teeming with tunes, plus the concluding “Sheeling O Guira,” performed as a glistening uilleann pipes solo. The long-deceased, oft-forgotten Mr. O’Farrell comes alive again through the muse and mastery of Mr. O’Sullivan. This second meeting between them is a drop-dead gorgeous recording.” -Earle Hitchner
“The breathtaking intricacy of Jerry O’Sullivan’s piping was delivered with such confident abandon that it brought the crowd to its feet.” –Scott Alarik, The Boston Globe
“Jerry O’Sullivan is a gifted ambassador of the Irish uilleann pipes, maintaining the historic traditions and melodies of the instrument while expanding its range into new genres of music and media. His mastery of the instrument, traditional knowledge, versatility, and dedication to education truly make him America’s premier uilleann piper.”- Scott Spencer
A native of Edinburgh, Ed Miller first came to the US for “a year or so” to do graduate work at the University of Texas. Now, over 40 years later, he is still based in Austin and travels throughout North America entertaining and educating audiences with his wonderful songs and droll stories.
Ed did gain a PhD in Folklore from UT, and hosts a popular folk music show, Across the Pond, on sunradio.com. Over the past 30 years, he has established himself as one of Scotland’s finest singing exports, and is in great demand to perform at concerts, folk clubs, coffee houses, Celtic festivals, Burns Suppers, and Highland Games all over the country. In recent years, Ed has expanded his activities to include leading folksong tours to Scotland to meet the singers and hear the songs “on location.”
Ed first learned his craft in the pubs and clubs of Edinburgh during the folk revival of the 1960s, and his repertoire reflects the breadth of that movement. From old traditional ballads and the timeless songs of Robert Burns, to contemporary songs of urban change, emigration, nationalism, and humor, Ed Miller’s performances give a real taste of Scotland and reveal his continuing love for his homeland. Don’t be surprised, however, if he draws musical connections between the old country and his adopted home in Texas.
Reviews of Miller’s performances often use words such as “flawless,” “compelling,” or “refreshing,” while his voice has been described as being “as smooth and satisfying as a really good single malt whisky.”
Ed has nine CDs to his credit, the most recent of which is Come Awa’ Wi’ Me. His earlier Lyrics of Gold, a collection of Burns songs, was featured in Sing Out magazine as one of the four best Robert Burns CDs of recent times. www.songsofscotland.com
Máirtín de Cógáin
Máirtín de Cógáin is a singing, dancing, story-telling bodhrán player extraordinaire who also is a noted playwright and actor. He performs in his native Ireland and all over the US, and between and beyond, too! An infectious personality, Máirtín pleasantly commands the attention of any collection of people, as large as a concert hall or as small as a porch.
Máirtín learned his singing from many famous Irishmen such as Séamus Mac Mathúna, Danni Maichi Ua Súilleabháin, and Ciarán Dwyer. Storytelling has been in his family for generations. Máirtín’s talents are boundless, having garnered recognition as a storyteller (winning two All-Ireland’s), singer (front man for the Fuchsia Band), dancer, and actor (most notably in the film The Wind that Shakes the Barley). A fluent speaker of Irish Gaelic and gifted teacher of Cork’s folk dances, Máirtín makes friends wherever he goes. In a very short time, Máirtín, the Fuchsia Band, and the ‘Project’ have made themselves regulars at some of the most prestigious Irish festivals in the US. Máirtín’s hour-long DVD From Cork with Love, featuring himself and fellow Cork musicians and set in his home county, is beautifully conceived – truly an amazing accomplishment. On the night of a full moon, it is rumored de Cógáin stands at the cross roads playing to the wind. www.mairtinmusic.com
Máirtín de Cógáin
Robbie O’Connell is a beloved singer in his native Ireland and here in America where he eventually settled after touring in the States with his uncles, the Clancy Brothers.
He is also known as a songwriter of vision, awareness and maturity. Robbie was born in Waterford, Ireland, and grew up in Carrick-on-Suir, County Tipperary, where his parents had a small hotel. He began to play guitar and sing at age 13 and soon became a regular performer at the hotel’s weekly folk concerts. He spent a year touring the folk clubs in England before enrolling at University College Dublin where he studied Literature and Philosophy. During school vacations Robbie worked as an Irish entertainer in the US. A nephew of the Clancy Brothers, he began touring with his uncles in 1977 and recorded three albums with them.
With the release in 1982 of his first solo album, Close to the Bone, Robbie emerged as an artist of major stature. Soon after, he began touring extensively with Mick Moloney and Jimmy Keane, and also with Eileen Ivers and Seamus Egan in the Green Fields of America. In 1985, the trio’s first album, There Were Roses, was released. Robbie also participated in The Festival of Mountain Music and Dance on a five-nation tour of Latin America. In 1987, the trio followed up their very successful first release with the album, Kilkelly, the title track of which was voted “Best Album Track of the Year” in Ireland.
Robbie has taught songwriting at the Augusta Heritage Arts Workshop in Elkins, West Virginia, Gaelic Roots Week at Boston College, Catskills Irish Arts Week, the Swannanoa Gathering, and at the Summer Acoustic Music Week in Boston. His album of original compositions, Love of the Land, was voted the No. 1 acoustic album of 1989 by WUMB in Boston. In 1991, he won a prestigious Boston Music Award as Outstanding Celtic Act and was also featured in the highly acclaimed TV series Bringing It All Back Home. In 1992 he performed at Carnegie Hall with the Clancy Brothers and was also seen by an estimated 500 million people worldwide on the telecast of a live tribute to Bob Dylan at Madison Square Garden, a performance that Rolling Stone magazine described as “breathtaking.”
Never Learned to Dance, his 1993 album of original songs, was critically acclaimed on both sides of the Atlantic. In 1994 he headlined a celebration of Boston based Irish Music at the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts. Older But No Wiser, his last CD with the Clancy Brothers was released on Vanguard in 1995, followed in 1997 by the Clancy, O’Connell & Clancy CD and in 1998 by The Wild and WastefulOcean CD with Liam and Dónal Clancy. Robbie O’Connell, Live, Humorous Songs and All on a Christmas Morning with the group Aengus, were released in 1998. Recollections, a twenty-year retrospective collection album, was released in 2001. In 2006 he began an ongoing collaboration with his cousins Aoife and Donal Clancy. The Clancy Legacy, their first CD together, was released in 2010. He is currently working on a new solo CD of his own compositions. www.robbieoconnell.com
“A National Treasure” is how Ireland’s top music magazine, Hot Press, describes Robbie O’Connell, “…a man blessed with an enviable turn of phrase and a gift for melody bestowed on only the few.”
Dave is a 13-time national solo fife champion who grew up in New York City and came into traditional flute playing as a natural extension. He’s twice been a finalist for the All-Ireland world championship on flute and fife (miscellaneous instruments) in consecutive years. His paternal grandmother is from Co. Mayo, Ireland, and his mother is a native of Galicia, Spain, one of the world’s oldest Celtic regions, and he has performed in a variety of venues in both countries. Dave’s been named overall Folk Musician champion at the Longs Peak Scottish–Irish Highland Festival at Estes Park, CO, and holds a variety of other competitive honors in traditional music. He is an award-winning investigative reporter for The Denver Post in his “regular” life.
Jim Remington studied fiddle and tin whistle in Ireland primarily at the famed Willy Clancy School. For 10 years he played fiddle with the Greencastle Band in New England and now teaches guitar, ukulele, tin whistle, songwriting, composition, and music theory at Lakewood School of Music (lakewoodschoolofmusic.com). Jim is also an author whose recent publication, Mostly Short, Mostly True Stories from Ireland, is a compilation of 31 tales of his travels across Ireland from 1978 to 2010 which appeared monthly in the Celtic Connection newspaper, Denver, Colorado.
Arlene Patterson, a native of Glasgow, Scotland, lives and teaches in Longmont, Colorado. She has studied and performed violin and fiddle since childhood, counting among her early influences Aberdeen’s celebrated North East fiddler, Bill Hardie, and Dr. Tom Anderson, musical mentor to a generation and pioneering conservator of the musical heritage of the Shetland Islands and its unique style of fiddling playing. Arlene’s special interest in the traditional fiddle music of the Shetlands continues to this day, as does her affinity for teaching others to play and to enjoy playing the fiddle.
Arlene holds a Bachelors of Music Education from the University of Michigan and a Masters of Education from Lesley University. She teaches and performs regularly at traditional music festivals across the US and in the UK, and at top fiddle camps, including Alasdair Fraser’s Valley of the Moon and his Scottish Fiddle Camp on Skye. Arlene is a certified national judge for Scottish fiddle championship competitions and is a regular clinician for Suzuki institutes and workshops. She is returning to Spanish Peaks International Celtic Music Festival for an 8th year to teach and play fiddle and lead Scottish ceilidh dancing.
David and Debbie Kolacny
David Kolacny is co-owner of Kolacny Music, the National Exhibit Chairman for American Harp Society (AHS) Conferences, and President of International Society of Folk Harpers and Craftsmen (ISFHC). David is also the author of The Harps Nouveau Introduction to Harps and Trouble Shooting Your Lever Harp. David started playing the tin whistle in order to demonstrate them in the shop and fell in love. Now he offers beginning and elementary workshops to others who want to learn the instrument. E-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Deb Kolacny is co-owner of Kolacny Music in Denver. She has been playing harp for twenty-five years. This will be her 11th year teaching the ‘Hands on the Harp’ classes. E-mail to: email@example.com.
David & Debbie Kolacny
Tanya Perkins began teaching her workshop ‘Take Your Voice Out of the Shower’ at Spanish Peaks Celtic Music Festival in 2008 when Scottish singer Alison Bell initiated the festival’s informal singing program where participants could learn favorite traditional songs taught by Festival performers. In 2009 Tanya was asked to help develop a regularly scheduled ‘Singing for Fun’ program. The program and Tanya’s singing workshops have proven to be perennial favorites among festival goers, according to Festival founder, Barbara Yule. Although Tanya does not claim to be a veteran of the Celtic music scene, she does have extensive experience in teaching singing to students of all skill levels with interests across all musical genres. As Tanya herself says, “I don’t have any street credits as a Celtic performer, unlike some of the prestigious performers that bring their talents to Spanish Peaks. However, I can teach you “how” to sing. My goal, especially for my more reticent ‘shower students,’ is to teach them singing techniques so they can have fun and satisfaction singing in a group. I am passionate about teaching new singers and feel strongly that everyone has a voice. Equally, I love helping veterans with subtleties to help elevate their performances.” Performer Bonnie Carol, a student of Tanya’s, categorically states, “Although I haven’t experienced every singing guide, guru, and teacher on the planet, I’m ready to stop any further experimentation and decide we have the best here in Tanya.”
Tanya has taught for NYU’s Musical Theatre Program, the Swallow Hill Music Association, the Academy of the Arts, and Perry Mansfield Performing Arts School. She currently teaches seminars and offers private and group lessons along the Front Range. Tanya has a musical theater background and has performed in venues from Seattle to NY, taking leading roles in such productions as My Fair Lady, Romance, Romance, and A Little Night Music. (“And for you Celts, I played an Irish nun in Nunsense and a Scottish lass in Brigadoon!”) Tanya has released two well-received CDs – Lead Me to the Rock and Still with Thee.
John Crumlin grew up in Glasgow, Scotland. His former job as a manufacturing engineer brought him to the U. in 1981, but he now is a psychologist at the CU Aging Center in Colorado Springs.
He was first exposed to Scottish dancing at school but wasn’t particularly interested. Traditional dancing was just one of the things that Scottish kids had to do in PE, like sit-ups and playing rugby in the freezing rain.
By his early 20s, John’s outlook had changed. On mountaineering trips, he would find himself in the village hall on Saturday night after the pub had closed, desperately trying to figure out the complexities of Strip the Willow or The Eightsome Reel, often still wearing his hiking boots. Those happy evenings got him interested in learning more, but it was only after coming to the US that he really got involved seriously with Scottish dancing. He obtained his first teaching certificate through the Teachers’ Association of Canada in 1990, and his “full” certificate in St. Andrews, Scotland, in 2000. For many years, John taught a weekly Scottish dancing class in Colorado Springs. His love of Celtic dance and music has also led him to host The Celtic Show on KRCC.
John appreciates the enthusiasm and friendliness of Scottish dancers, and he really enjoys introducing newcomers to the dances and the dance form. He has led Scottish dancing at the Spanish Peaks Festival since its inception and is looking forward to doing so again at this year’s Festival.