Tag Archives: Altan

Artist Profiles: Mark Kelly

Mark Kelly

Mark Kelly’s earliest musical inspiration were rock and jazz. Born and raised in Dublin, his mother was a jazz singer. All members of the band listen widely to other musics, in Mark’s case, Steely Dan, rhythm and blues and country in particular, but Mark brings more of those subtle and sometimes adventurous influences from other traditions to his actual work on guitar arrangements for Altan.

It was the O’Brien family of Coolock whom Mark met on holidays in 1975 in the Connemara Gaeltacht of Tir an Fhia who first sparked Mark’s interest in Irish traditional music, from which he was led to the challenges of bringing what he already knew to creating new arrangements for the old music.

Discography

* Horse with a Heart (Green Linnet 1095, 1992)
* The Red Crow (Green Linnet 1109, 1992)
* Harvest Storm (Green Linnet 1117, 1992)
* Island Angel (Green Linnet 1137, 1993)
* The First Ten Years, 1986-1895 (Green Linnet 1153, 1995)
* Blackwater (Virgin 41381, 1996)
* The Best of Altan (Green Linnet 1177, 1997)
* Another Sky (Narada 48838, 2000)
* The Blue Idol (Narada 11955, 2002)
* The Best of Altan – The Songs (Virgin, 2003)
* Local Ground (Narada, 2005)
* Altan: 25th Anniversary Celebration (Compass Records, 2010)
* Gleann Nimhe – The Poison Glen (Compass Records, 2012)
* The Widening Gyre (Compass Records, 2015)
* The Gap of Dreams (Compass Records, 2018)

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Artist Profiles: Dermot Byrne

Dermot Byrne in 2010 – Photo by Angel Romero

Dermot Byrne, a native of Donegal, guested on two Altan albums, The Red Crow and Island Angel before joining the band in 1994. Dermot had music from his father, Tomas O Beirn), from the Gaeltacht area of Teileann, and heard all the great Donegal fiddlers, the Doherty’s, Cassidy’, and Byrne’s from his infancy. With this start, Dermot was a renowned accordion player before he reached his teens.

He has played and recorded with many great musicians including Seamus and Manus McGuire, Frankie Gavin and Pierre Schrye, and he also has his own solo recording, Dermot Byrne.

Discography:

* The Red Crow (Green Linnet 1109, 1992)
* Island Angel (Green Linnet 1137, 1993)
* The First Ten Years, 1986-1895 (Green Linnet 1153, 1995)
* Blackwater (Virgin 41381, 1996)
* The Best of Altan (Green Linnet 1177, 1997)
* Another Sky (Narada 48838, 2000)
* The Blue Idol (Narada 11955, 2002)
* The Best of Altan – The Songs (Virgin, 2003)
* Local Ground (Narada, 2005)
* Altan: 25th Anniversary Celebration (Compass Records, 2010)
* Gleann Nimhe – The Poison Glen (Compass Records, 2012)
* The Widening Gyre (Compass Records, 2015)
* The Gap of Dreams (Compass Records, 2018)

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Artist Profiles: Ciarán Curran

Ciarán Curran

Ciarán Curran is a native of Kinawley, Co. Fermanagh, an area rich in music and song, and brings his strong family musical tradition to bear on an instrument relatively new to Irish traditional music, the bouzouki. Ciaran’s uncle, Ned Curran is a great fiddle player and has given the band unusual tunes.

Ciaran was introduced to a lot of traditional music and musicians by his friend Cathal McConnell (flute player with The Boys of the Lough) from whom he also learned many tunes. Another friend of his, fiddle player Ben Lennon from Co. Leitrim taught him much about the rhythms involved in traditional music. Ciaran has worked with Co. Antrim singer Len Graham, with fiddle players Ben Lennon and Seamus Quinn and with singer Gabriel McArdle. He is a member of Altan.

Discography:

* Horse with a Heart (Green Linnet 1095, 1992)
* The Red Crow (Green Linnet 1109, 1992)
* Harvest Storm (Green Linnet 1117, 1992)
* Island Angel (Green Linnet 1137, 1993)
* The First Ten Years, 1986-1895 (Green Linnet 1153, 1995)
* Blackwater (Virgin 41381, 1996)
* The Best of Altan (Green Linnet 1177, 1997)
* Another Sky (Narada 48838, 2000)
* The Blue Idol (Narada 11955, 2002)
* The Best of Altan – The Songs (Virgin, 2003)
* Local Ground (Narada, 2005)
* Altan: 25th Anniversary Celebration (Compass Records, 2010)
* Gleann Nimhe – The Poison Glen (Compass Records, 2012)
* The Widening Gyre (Compass Records, 2015)
* The Gap of Dreams (Compass Records, 2018)

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Music for St. Patrick’s Day 2018

St. Patrick’s Day. How exactly did the Catholic patron saint feast day of the the people of Ireland, a relatively small island in the North Atlantic, evolve into a worldwide celebration? With festivities and parades in communities large and small that traverse from United States to Australia from Germany to Argentina from Japan to South Africa, the logical answer of course is the ability of the Irish to pick up and move to wherever the road takes them with all the mitigating factors of migration mixed in like famine, disease and oppression. By why this extravaganza of green? Some might point to mass marketing with promises of barrels of beer, a good time party and a lively parade in those dark days that mark the lull between Christmas and the genuine start of spring. The spread of St. Patrick’s Day by way of the cross pollination of culture seem so reasonable, so rational, so plausible.

But the Irish in me wants it to be us. The Irish in me wants it to be our storytelling, our music, our dance. Yes, the Irish in me wants it to be the utter surety that “if you knew us, you’d like us,” which I’m not sure if it makes us charmingly likable or just a wee bit obnoxious. Those not quite spring days of March seem a good time for us heathens in the Northern Hemisphere to settle in with a pint against the backdrop of a sweet tune and listen to someone’s Da tell a story that couldn’t possibly be true, but then again it just might. See, I have no doubt that there’s a Irishman out there, right now, that’s looking at a lovely woman and saying, “Ah, Mo stoirín, you remind me of a girl …” before weaving a fantastical tale. Perhaps that’s the real lure of St. Patrick’s Day.

To lure you in further let’s find some music for your St. Patrick’s Day and there is indeed some fine music this year to tempt you.

 

Celtic Thunder – Celtic Thunder X

 

There’s the standard St. Patrick’s Day fare of Celtic Thunder’s Celtic Thunder X with tracks like “Sons of Light,” “Toora Loora Lay” and “The Wild Rover.” While a little overblown and a bit more commercial pop than I personally prefer, their version of “Lannigans Ball” is lively.

 

Celtic Woman – Homecoming – Live From Ireland

 

The late 2017 releases of Voice of the Celts and The Voice Within by Dulaman follow along the same vein, but “Dulaman,” “On Raglan Road,” “Sally Brown,” “The Sally Gardens” and Na Ceannabhain Bhana” are worth a listen. Also, Celtic Woman has put out Homecoming – Live From Ireland for Susan McFadden, Mairead Carlin, Eabha McMahon and Tara McNeil fans.

Linn Records has put out Celtic Experience Vol 1: Haunting Themes from Scotland & Ireland by Scottish harpist and composer William Jackson for your listening pleasure. “My Laggan Love,” “Ca The Yowes,” “The Rocky Road” and “The Raggle Taggle Gypsies” are charming.

 

Altan – The Gap of Dreams

 

The Gap of Dreams by Altan is certain to set your Celtic heart all aflutter. The stunning bright and beautiful recording is full of the goodness of Mairead Ni Mhaonaigh’s vocals and fiddle, Ciaran Curran’s bouzouki, Daithi Sproule’s guitar and vocals, Mark Kelly’s guitar and vocals and Martin Tourish’s piano accordion. They threw in Tommy McLaughlin on keyboards just for kicks. On The Gap of Dreams fans get a dose of “The Gap of Dreams/Nia’s Jig/The Beekeeper,” “The Month of January,” “Nion a’ Bhaoigheallaigh” and “The Tullaghan Lasses/The Cameronian/The Pigeon on the Gate,” as well as “Cumha an Oileain” and the sweetly simple Mark Kelly composition “Port Alex.”

 

Maeve Mackinnon – Stri

 

Equally delicious is the third offering Stri by Gaelic singer Maeve Mackinnon. Fans will want to check out this for tracks like “Iomaraibh Eutrom,” “Roisin Dubh,” “Dh’fhalbh Mo Run air an Aiseig” and “O Mo Cheist am Fear Ban.”

 

Eric Ryan-Johnson – From Within

 

Fiddle fans will want to check out From Within by fiddler Eric Ryan-Johnson. This artist self release is packed with goodies like “Jigs: The Beginning/A Boy & His Dad/The Yelping Dog,” “Air: The Farmer of Florence,” “Reel: The Morning Cup,” “Air: February 23” and “Reels: The End Is Near/ Bound to Break.” And if that wasn’t enough sweet Celtic fiddle goodness for you, he’s also got The Wonderful Day on tap with treats like “Hornpipes: The Wonderful Day/The Bee’s Wings,” “Jigs: Knights of St. Patrick/Hast to the Wedding/Father O’Flynn’s,” “Air: Melody for Meredith Keefe,” “Reels: Bag of Potatoes/Blacksmith’s Reel/Castle Kelly” and “Reel: Coffin Ships.”

There’s Celtic Crumble’s Echos of Ireland with tracks like “Carry Me Home,” “The Rocky Road to Dublin,” “The Twins of Ballina” and title track “Echos of Ireland” to tempt fans.

 

Discover Celtic Music

 

Perhaps, a mixed bag of tricks will tickle your fancy. Well, then you might want to try out ARC music’s Discover Celtic Music. There are some real treats here with Aryeh Frankfurter’s “The Morning Dew,” Golden Bough’s “The Wren Boys/Gavin’s Hornpipe/Honeysuckle,” Noel Mclourghlin’s “The Hills of Connemara” and Mary Ann Kennedy’s “Air Leathad Sleibhe.” There’s also Gwyneth Glyn’s “Cwlwm,” Yvon Etienne’s “Si j’ai le courage,” Os Rosales’s “Muineira a Gatuxa” and Sian James’s “Mwynen merch.” Good stuff.

 

Damien O’Kane – Avenging and Bright

 

Pure Records has released Avenging and Bright by Damien O’Kane. Don’t let the goofy cover photo of Mr. O’Kane scare you off because this Northern Ireland singer and musician goes down silky smooth like the perfect pint on offerings like “Boston City,” title track “Avenging and Bright,” “All Among the Barley,” January Man,” and “Dancing in Puddles.” Mr. O’Kane’s vocal against piano, guitar and tenor guitar makes for some fine contemporary fare.

 

Danny Diamond – Elbow Room

 

Perhaps one of my favorites has to be the Danny Diamond’s Elbow Room. This fiddler extraordinaire has played previously with Slow Moving Clouds and Morga, but on Elbow Room Mr. Diamond wows listeners simply by the shape and breadth of his own solo fiddler’s soul. Whether you’re a newbie listener or a seasoned Irish fiddle devotee, it’s easy to fall under the spell Mr. Diamond weaves on tracks like “Maureen from Gibberland,” “The Pinch of Snuff,” “Watching the Evening Grow,” “The Blackbird” and “Johnny Cope.” This is truly a fiddler’s delight.

 

The String Sisters – Between Wind and Water

 

The String Sisters have out Between Wind and Water. Irish vocalist and fiddler Mairead Ne Mhaonaigh, Norwegian Hardanger fiddler Annbjorg Lien, the American fiddler Liz Knowles, Shetland fiddler Catriona MacDonald, the American fiddler Liz Carroll and Swedish fiddler and vocalist Emma Hardelin have turned out some fine tunes on Between Wind and Water with jaunty tracks like “The Crow’s Visit,” “Hjaltland” and “Late Night in Forde.” Fans get morsels of sweetness like “Wind and Rain,” “Det bor I mina tankar” and “Mo Nion O.”

 

Theresa Kavanagh – An Choill Uaigneach

 

Another stunning fiddle recording is An Choill Uaigneach by Theresa Kavanagh. Hailing from Donegal, Ms. Kavanagh dazzles listener with the bright wildness of the fiddle on such tracks as “The Wild Swans of Coole/The Abandoned Meadow,” “Jocelyn’s/Grainne’s Jig” and “The Sword of Light/Secrets of the Willow,” and title track “An Choill Uaigneach” or “The Lonesome Forest” is elegant.

 

Plantec – Live at the Festival Interceltique Lorient

 

For Celtic fans looking for a little something off the beaten path might want to check out Plantec’s Live at the Festival Interceltique Lorient. These Breton Celtic rockers dole out a ferocious performance on this recording. Full of Breton bombard, guitar and synthesizer and programming, this is a definitive kick in the pants to any sweet version of “Danny Boy.” Recorded at the 2017 Lorient Inter Celtique Festival, Plantec’s Odran and Yannick Plantec and Gabriel Djibril kick some Celtic rock ass with tracks like “Croissant de letiez,” “Speedwell,” “Koun” and “Feulz.”

 

Alan Simon – Excalibur IV The Dark Age of the Dragon

 

Another off the beaten path choice might be Celtic Rock Opera series recording “Excalibur IV The Dark Age of the Dragon” with music, lyrics and concept by Alan Simon. If you need a backing soundtrack for your noble quest down the highway or to the grocery store, well, here’s your music. Recorded with the Bohemian Symphony Orchestra Prague, this recording rocks out with electric guitars, drums and keyboards, as well as mandolins, Celtic harps and big bold vocals. It features Moya Brennan (Clannad), John Helliwell (Supertramp), Martin Barre (Jethro Tull), Michael Sadler (Saga),and Bernie Shaw (Uriah Heep).

 

Brona McVittie – We Are the Wildlife

 

Brona McVittie’s We Are the Wildlife is a lovely contemporary Celtic folk collection. Her sweet vocals on “Where the Angels Wake You,” “The Flower of Magherally“ and “Molly Brannigan” are intimate and mesmerizing. Add in Myles Cochran on “The Vast and Vague Extravagance That Lies at the Bottom of the Celtic Heart” and you definitely have a winner.

 


Aine Minogue – In the Name of Stillness Celtic Meditation Music

 

If atmospheric and ethereal is what you are looking for you might want to check out the Irish harpist Aine Minogue’s In the Name of Stillness Celtic Meditation Music. Ms. Minogue set us a serene loveliness from opening track “In the Name of Stillness” and through tracks like “Home of Belonging,” “In the Name of Solitude” and “Quiet Absence.”

 

Mary Ann Kennedy – An Dan: Gaelic Songs for a Modern World

 

Mary Ann Kennedy has An Dan: Gaelic Songs for a Modern World out on the ARC label. The Scottish singer has tracks like “Seinn, Horo, Seinn,” “Sith na Coille,” “Iain Againn Fhin” and “Air Leathad Sleibhe” on tap for listeners.

 

John McSherry – The Seven Suns

 

If Ulileann pipes, bouzouki, bodran, fiddle, flute and cello are on your wish list for the season, then you might want to take a listen to John McSherry’s The Seven Suns. A 2016 release that some how passed us by is bold and infectiously delightful. With tracks like “Dance of the Siog,” “The Atlantean,” “Sunrise at Bealtaine,” “The Golden Mean” and “The Cloghogle,” Mr. McSherry, along with fellow musicians Sean Og Graham, Niamh Dunne, Michael McGoldrick and Sean Warren, will have you and yours feting until the wee hours.

 

Doolin’ – Doolin

 

Another 2016 out on the Compass Records label that somehow also passed us by that is well worth a listen is Doolin‘ by the band of the same name. Doolin’ is a fine time and rollicking good fun with tracks like “Mary’s Jigs,” “Sailing Across the Ocean,” “The Road to Gleanntan,” “Wind Her Up” and “The Galway Girl.”

 

John Duhan – The Irishman’s Finest Collection

 

There’s also The Irishman’s Finest Collection by John Duhan. Starting out his career at the age of 15 as the front man for Limrick’s 1960s rock group Granny Intentions, Mr. Duhan would later turn to his own writing and solo recordings like The Voyage, Just Another Town and To the Light, as well as having some of his songs recording by heavyweights such as Christy Moore, The Dubliners and Mary Black. On The Irishman’s Finest Collection, Mr. Duhan lays bare the Irish soul by way of tracks like “Just Another Town,” “The Voyage,” “All I Need” and “The River Returning.”

 

The Gloaming – The Gloaming Live

 

Should musicians like Irla O Lionaird, Caoimhin O Raghallaigh, Dennis Cahill, Martin Hayes and Thomas Bartlett mean anything to you then you should drop whatever bit of nonsense you are doing and run around in a circle of delight. A bit of girlish screaming and arm waving wouldn’t go amiss either. If you hadn’t guessed these five musicians have out on the Real World label The Gloaming Live at the NCH . And let me say this recording is lovely, lovely and even more lovely. Be prepared to be entranced by the opening fiddle lines of “The Booley House,” through the sweet charms of Iarla O Lionaird’s vocals on “Cucanandy” and “The Sailor’s Bonnet” to the very Celtic magic of “The Pilgrim’s Song” and “The Rolling Wave” and all the way to the very end of “Fainleog.” You want this CD. You need it. Your very connection to all that expresses the sweetly joyful sorrowful Celtic soul depends on it.

Recorded at Dublin, Ireland’s National Concert Hall, The Gloaming Live at NCH is breathtakingly good, so good it’s hard not to feel a little giddy over this elegant work of voice, piano, Hardanger d’Amore, guitar and fiddle. You don’t even need to think about, just get it.

Finally, let me say that in regards to St. Patrick’s Day that I’m glad to know that we Irish aren’t hoarders of the holiday. There’s enough Irish to go around. That frothy pint doesn’t care a whit if you are saint or sinner. The fiddle tune doesn’t care if your are ferocious or feckless. You could be fool or faerie folk and you would still be welcome for what the Irish call comhaltacht – fellowship. So, settle in and listen to some good music and maybe somebody’s Da will tell you a story.

Headline photo: The Gloaming

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Artist Profiles: Altan

Altan in 2010 – Photo by Angel Romero

Irish traditional band Altan has had a tremendous effect on audiences and music lovers throughout the world. With their beautifully crafted award-winning recordings, ranging dynamically from the most tender old Irish songs all the way to vibrant reels and jigs, Altan have taken Irish music to some of the best concert halls and festivals throughout the world.

During all this time, there has been the resolute commitment of the band to delivering the beauty of traditional music, particularly that of the Donegal fiddlers and singers, to a wide-range of audiences.

Altan have always believed that Irish traditional music is modern-day music. “Ireland isn’t known for its opera or classical music. What we are known for is our traditional music, our language, our culture. That’s what we can give the world,” says acclaimed fiddler and lead vocalist Mairead Ni Mhaonaigh.

 

Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh in 2010 – Photo by Angel Romero

 

The History

The roots of the band begin with the music and fun of gatherings and sessions in kitchens and pubs in Donegal where masterful music was heard in an environment of appreciation and intimacy; this is the foundation of the band.

The real essence of the band was the music and personality of band founders, Belfast flute-player, Frankie Kennedy, and Gweedore singer and fiddler, Mairead Ni Mhaonaigh.

As soon as anyone met them and heard their unique music in the early 1980s, whether in a large noisy festival session, or in the small traditional clubs of Dublin and Belfast, it was immediately clear there was synergy at work.

Mairead and Frankie played a mix of old Donegal fiddle music and rare Northern flute tunes. Steadily, the duo grew organically into a band in the mid-1980s. They chose the name Altan, which is a deep and mysterious lake behind Errigal Mountain in Donegal.

Altan was committed to musical excellence and good-natured fun. The band members were some of the best players in the contemporary folk music scene. Altan has always been a band featuring virtuoso musicians. One of the first was bouzouki-player, Ciaran Curran from Co. Fermanagh, a well-respected session and festival musician, nephew of fiddler, Ned Curran. Like all accompanists of the time, Ciaran had created his own style on the bouzouki, and his playing is an essential part of the Altan sound.

 

Ciaran Curran – Photo by Angel Romero

 

With the inclusion of guitarist Mark Kelly in the mid-1980s Altan truly became a band. Mark had played other musical styles, and from the very beginning he showed a talent for stylishly incorporating fresh rhythms and chordings to the band’s arrangements. Mark and Ciaran appeared on the 1987 album “Altan”, which, even though not officially a band album, unveiled the Altan’s studio sound.

 

Mark Kelly – Photo by Angel Romero

 

The increasing amount of live performances in 1984 and 1985 led Frankie and Mairead to quit their teaching jobs and go professional. Especially influential were short trips to the United States in those years when Altan played concerts in New York, Minnesota, Madison, Portland and Seattle with Derry guitarist, Daithi Sproule, a Minnesota resident, and like Ciaran and Mark, an old friend.

Daithi was one of the first musicians to adapt the guitar to old Gaelic songs (many of which he learned in the Gaeltacht of Rannafast, just a few miles from Mairead’s home in Gweedore). These US concerts, played in clubs and sometimes in noisy Irish pubs, where people were expecting a very different sort of music, convinced Frankie and Mairead that no-compromise traditional music played with passion and vitality could win over any audience anywhere.

In subsequent years, Altan recorded albums for American independent record label Green Linnet, all of which won praises and awards and appeared in the Billboard charts. Alytan’s collaborators on these albums were first-rate: Donal Lunny, Brian Masterson and Steve Cooney in particular made oustanding contributions over the years.

Another friend played with Altan for several years, fiddle maestro Paul O’Shaughnessey, a stunning player with a deep knowledge of Donegal music. The two-fiddle sound became popular, so as Altan toured more and more widely, Paul had to leave due to pressure of work. His place was taken by another great young Donegal fiddler, Ciaran Tourish, a musician with a special love for the weaving of spontaneous harmony and counterpoint around the melodies of the other lead players.

 

Ciaran Tourish – Photo by Angel Romero

 

A final element was added to Altan’s sound in the early 1990s. It was another old friend, accordion-player Dermot Byrne, another Donegal musician, who grew up listening to an older generation of Donegal fiddlers, the Doherty’s, the Byrne’s and the Cassidy’s.

 

Dermot Byrne – Photo by Angel Romero

 

Sadly, in the early 1990s Altan suffered a devastating blow, when band leader and manager, Frankie Kennedy, at the height of his career as a brilliant and innovative flute-player and just when his and Mairead’s musical dreams were being realized, was diagnosed with cancer.

Through a long illness, Altan, at Frankie’s insistence, continued to tour and perform with Frankie’s participation whenever possible. Frankie died on September 19, 1994. He continues to be a presence and inspiration in Altan’s life and music.

In 1996 Altan was signed to Virgin Records, the first Irish band of their kind to be signed by a major label. Altan achieved gold and platinum albums in Ireland and toured larger venues, throughout the globe, with tours in Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Europe as well as regular successful U.S. tours.

In recent years Altan has experimented with traditional music, using orchestral arrangements of its most popular pieces. The arrangements have been scored by the highly respected arranger Fiachra Trench and performed with the Ulster Orchestra, The RTÉ Concert Orchestra, and the Royal Scottish Opera Orchestra.

In March of 2010 Altan released Altan: 25th Anniversary Celebration album with the RTE Concert Orchestra, and embarked on an international tour.

In 2012, Altan released Gleann Nimhe – The Poison Glen inspired by a region around Dún Lúiche, in County Donegal, made of deep glens and lakes. The album featured Martin Tourish who would later replace Dermot Byrne.

The Widening Gyre, released in 2015, was recorded in Nashville and explored the influence of Appalachian music on Irish music.

 

The Band in 2013-2016

Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh – lead vocals, fiddle
Ciaran Tourish – fiddle, tin whistle, backing vocals
Mark Kelly – guitars, bouzouki, backing vocals
Ciaran Curran – bouzouki, mandolin
Dáithí Sproule – guitar, vocals
Martin Tourish – accordion

In 2018, Altan released The Gap of Dreams. The album was recorded at Attica Studios in the townland of Termon in northern County Donegal, produced by Michael Kenney and Tommy McLaughlin. The album title, The Gap of Dreams, is borrowed from a poem by Francis Carlin, “The Ballad of Douglas Bridge,” in which he writes: “The Gap of Dreams is never shut,” referring to the gap between this world and the Otherworld. The Otherworld has always wielded a large influence on the fiddling tradition of County Donegal and has served as inspiration for song, music, and folklore.

 

Discography

* Altan (Green Linnet, 1987)
* Horse with a Heart (Green Linnet 1095, 1992)
* The Red Crow (Green Linnet 1109, 1992)
* Harvest Storm (Green Linnet 1117, 1992)
* Island Angel (Green Linnet 1137, 1993)
* The First Ten Years, 1986-1895 (Green Linnet 1153, 1995)
* Blackwater (Virgin 41381, 1996)
* The Best of Altan (Green Linnet 1177, 1997)
* Another Sky (Narada 48838, 2000)
* The Blue Idol (Narada 11955, 2002)
* The Best of Altan – The Songs (Virgin, 2003)
* Local Ground (Narada, 2005)
* Altan: 25th Anniversary Celebration (Compass Records, 2010)
* Gleann Nimhe – The Poison Glen (Compass Records, 2012)
* The Widening Gyre (Compass Records, 2015)
* The Gap of Dreams (Compass Records, 2018)

Website www.altan.ie

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Scottish Fiddle and Song, Solas and Altan Highlights of Celtic Connections 2008 on Sunday, January 20

Altan
Altan

Sunday’s program for Celtic Connections 2008 includes Irish Celtic stars Altan, renowned American group Solas, Songs of Scotland, fiddler Gavin Marwick and numerous workshops.

Program:

Public Workshops
Women’s Samba
Sun 20 January, 11am
£6
Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, Exhibition Hall

This is definitely the way to start a Sunday morning-a wonderful, releasing, therapeutic class of samba drumming. Big Groove will lead a workshop especially for women to build confidence and have fun exploring samba rhythms. Energizing, invigorating and empowering- loads better than staying home and washing your hair!
come&try
Gaelic Song
Sun 20 January, 11am
£6
Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, Buchanan Suite

Gold medal winner and Young Trad Tour finalist Darren Maclean is a lovely singer from Skye.

Darren will share his songs and enthusiasm for Gaelic singing with students in this come&try session. No knowledge of Gaelic is necessary.

come&try
Traditional Scots Song
Sun 20 January, 11am
£6
Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, Lomond Foyer

Having found your own voice, come and learn some songs with Maureen Jelks. Originally from Dundee, Maureen is one of Scotland’s foremost singers in the tradition. This is a great workshop for those who love to sing but have little or no technical training. Maureen will encourage you to find your own harmonies and develop the confidence to sing with your own voice.

come&try
Mandolin
Sun 20 January, 11am
£6
Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, Clyde Foyer

The Lanarkshire Guitar and Mandolin Association are on a mission to get everyone in Scotland to play the mandolin. They will bring loads of instruments and boundless energy and enthusiasm -it’s absolutely infectious! Come and have a go! It’s great fun and you might just reveal the Captain Correlli within you!

New Voices Series
Gavin Marwick
Sun 20 January, 1pm
£10.50
Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, Strathclyde Suite

Few fiddlers can have had their fingers in more musical pies than Edinburgh-born Gavin Marwick. A past or present member of Iron Horse, Burach, Cantrip, Ceilidh Minogue, the Unusual Suspects and Bellevue Rendezvous, among others, he has also worked extensively in theatre and broadcasting.

Equally renowned as a performer and composer, he has played probably thousands of gigs and festivals around the world, travels which serve as the underlying theme for Journeyman, a newly arranged selection of Marwick’s tunes from the past two decades, for which he’s joined by longtime pals Fraser Fifield (sax/whistles), Gregor Lowrey (accordion), Ruth Morris (nyckelharpa), Cameron Robson (bouzouki/guitar) and Bob Turner (piano).

Sponsored by Sunday Herald

Public Workshops
Improvers Fiddle
Sun 20 January, 1:30pm
£6
Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, Buchanan Suite

The strathspey is a melodic and rhythmic tune distinctive to Scottish music and Lori Watson, fine Borders fiddler and tutor at Glasgow Fiddle Workshop will introduce her students to playing strathspey tunes and techniques.

Public Workshops
Big Ballad
Sun 20 January, 1:30pm
£6
Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, Lomond Foyer

Do you want to explore the Big Ballad and discover why this style and subject matter is so important to the rich tapestry that is Scottish song? Gordeanna McCulloch and Anne Neilson are two of Scotland’s finest singers and wonderful exponents of the ballad genre. They will lead this workshop featuring the big narrative ballads of Scotland. Learn something about the background to these fascinating songs, learn about the people behind them and the ways in which their stories unfold. These are the soaps of yesteryear and yet their stories are as contemporary as we are. You are welcome to bring personal recording equipment.

Public Workshops
Beginners Mandolin
Sun 20 January, 1:30pm
£6
Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, Clyde Foyer

So you’re a convert and you want to learn more. Well here’s your opportunity to extend your skills on this delectable wee instrument. The Lanarkshire Guitar and Mandolin Association will provide instruments and expert tuition. Fiddle players and guitar players will also find this workshop enhances their skills to complement their playing.

Danny Kyle’s Open Stage hosted by Gibb Todd
Sun 20 January, 5pm
Free
Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, Exhibition Hall

Hosted by Danny Kyle’s good friends Gibb Todd and Liz Clark, the Open Stage is a chance to see new musical talent as they try to win a coveted support slot at next year’s festival – and all absolutely free!
In partnership with the Evening Times

Two Tall Girls: Sophie Bancroft & Christine Hanson
Sun 20 January, 6pm
£10
City Halls, Recital Room

The statuesque pair in question are jazz/folk singer-songwriter Sophie Bancroft and Canadian-born cellist Christine Hanson, whose new duo partnership was premiered with three sellout shows at the 2007 Edinburgh Fringe.

Altan & The Brendan Voyage featuring Liam O’Flynn with The Orchestra of Scottish Opera conducted by David Brophy
Sun 20 January, 7:30pm
£20, £18
Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, Main Auditorium

The first major work to integrate traditional music with classical orchestra, Shaun Davey’s ‘The Brendan Voyage’ (1980) receives its long-awaited Celtic Connections premiere, featuring its distinguished original soloist, Liam O’Flynn, on uilleann pipes, with the Orchestra of Scottish Opera and will be conducted by David Brophy.

A landmark in the development of Irish music, the piece was inspired by historian Tim Severin’s 1976 recreation of St Brendan’s legendary crossing from Kerry to Newfoundland in a traditional leather-hulled boat.

The 50-member orchestra returns in the second half to accompany Ireland’s top traditional band, Altan, for a reprise of their successful shows in Dublin and Galway last September with the RTÉ Concert Orchestra, featuring arrangements of songs and tunes from their 20-year back catalogue by leading Irish composer Fiachra Trench.

Founded in 1980, the highly-regarded Orchestra of Scottish Opera, well known to Celtic Connections audiences from previous festival collaborations, is increasingly in demand as a concert ensemble, staging its own regular performances in Glasgow since 2004.

Julie Fowlis with Chris Wood
Sun 20 January, 7:30pm
£15
ABC

A double-bill encounter between two outstanding contemporary exponents of their respective traditions, both credited with reinterpreting this heritage for a new generation to discover.

The release of Julie Fowlis’s second album Cuilidh, in March 2007, was an early high point in a whirlwind year for the North Uist-born singer, gaining unprecedented media attention for a Gaelic artist. A hectic festival schedule included appearances at Glastonbury, Tönder, the Outsider and Runrig’s Beat the Drum, with Fowlis also performing memorably on Jools Holland’s Later.

She’s accompanied tonight by Eamon Doorley (bouzouki), Tony Byrne (guitar), Duncan Chisholm (fiddle), Ewen Vernal (bass) and Martin O’Neill (bodhrán).

Lauded by musical luminaries as diverse as Mícheál Ó Súilleabháin and Laurie Anderson, the singer, fiddler and guitarist Chris Wood creates masterly new versions of venerable English songs alongside his own, equally eloquent compositions, often earning comparisons to Richard Thompson. His second solo album, 2005’s The Lark Ascending, has been widely hailed as a contemporary classic. Chris will be joined on-stage by well-known Scottish singer-songwriter Karine Polwart.

The Pearlfishers with Finniston
Sun 20 January, 7:30pm
£12.50
The Classic Grand

Recently celebrated in a one-hour Radio Scotland feature, The Pearlfishers have been part of Scotland’s alternative cultural landscape for a good two decades now, their ever-shifting personnel and intermittent recorded output threaded together by the 60s-steeped vision of singer-songwriter David Scott.

Marking the end of their latest hiatus, 2007’s Up With the Larks is another idiosyncratic gem, chock-full of the lush vocal harmonies, vibrant guitars and vivid lyrical imagery that have long been the Pearlfishers’ trademarks.

Finniston’s recently released debut album Organised for Hi Fi showcases their truly interesting and sublime take on modern guitar pop sound. As a group which originally started as a brother and sister duo, there is an open honesty to their song writing.

Harp Heaven
Sun 20 January, 8pm
£12.50
Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, Strathclyde Suite
Sponsored by The Clarsach Society

Almost certainly the first time that twelve top Celtic harpists have shared the same stage, tonight’s specially-created performance will no doubt include a wealth of heavenly sounds – together with a liberal dose of musical devilment.

The harp is currently enjoying a particularly exciting renaissance in Scotland, as reflected here in the diverse styles of Corrina Hewat, Mary MacMaster, Patsy Seddon, Catriona McKay, Maeve Gilchrist, Ailie Robertson, Fraya Thomsen, Gillian Fleetwood and Rachel Hair. Joining them from Ireland are Cormac DeBarra and Laoise Kelly, with Germany’s Jochen Vogel completing the line-up, for a programme that will range from solo spots to the full dozen-strong ensemble.
www.clarsachsociety.co.uk

Tayside Tae Tennessee
Sun 20 January, 8pm
£12.50
St Andrew’s in the Square

Singer-songwriter and fiddler Laura McGhee is joined by US roots and blues stars including Jim Lauderdale and Josh White, Jr., to explore the links between Scottish and Americana music.

Songs of Scotland
Political Songs hosted by Doris Rougvie
Sun 20 January, 8pm
£8.50
Universal

Over the last two years the Songs of Scotland series has looked at different regions of Scotland and the songs that have emerged from these areas.

For the 2008 festival the series looks at different themes that occur in Scots song, mixing Gaelic and Scots, and how they have inspired songwriters and singers throughout generations.

Each of the ten themes will showcase a selection of songs, so each night will see the audience taken on a journey of discovery through different languages, dialects and stories, all linked with one common theme.

Solas with Antje Duvekot
Sun 20 January, 8pm
£16
Old Fruitmarket

Even before they’d released an album, the Boston Herald called Solas ‘the first truly great Irish band to arise from America’. Following their triumphant Reunion CD and performances, celebrating their tenth anniversary in 2006 with a full complement of past and present members, few would tend to disagree.

Combining their love of Irish tradition with jazz-inspired improvisational flair and an array of global influences, Solas currently feature multi-instrumentalist Seamus Egan and his co-founder Winifred Horan on fiddle, with Mick McAuley (accordions/whistles) and Eamon McElholm (guitar/keyboards).

Solas also had a hand in the buzz that’s fast developing around German-born, Boston-based singer-songwriter Antje Duvekot, covering one of her songs on their Edge of Silence album, before Egan produced her acclaimed 2006 release ‘Big Dream Boulevard’. Championed by cult urban troubadour Ellis Paul as ‘the next great American folk singer-songwriter’, Duvekot’s captivating voice and poetic lyrics have drawn comparisons to Patty Griffin, Suzanne Vega and Dar Williams.

Celtic Connections Festival Club hosted by Gibb Todd
Sun 20 January, 10:30pm
£5
Central Hotel

The late night club ensures there is even more music to enjoy after all the gigs are over. Join local and international artists as they make special unbilled appearances or join in one of many sessions happening in the bars.

With food and drink in plentiful supply you can happily keep going into the early hours of the morning whilst witnessing some of the best musical collaborations of the festival.

Master of ceremonies, Gibb Todd returns to present each act on stage and Doris Rougvie hosts The House of Song in a peaceful oasis away from the main stage.

The 15th Celtic Connections festival takes place over 19 days in January and February in 14 venues across Glasgow, Celtic Connections is the UK’s premier Celtic music festival, with over 300 concerts, ceilidhs, talks, free events, late night sessions and workshops.

Tickets can be booked:

In person Glasgow Royal Concert Hall
2 Sauchiehall Street
Glasgow, G2 3NY
City Halls and Old Fruitmarket
Candleriggs
Glasgow, G1 1NQ
By phone 0141 353 8000
Online www.celticconnections.com

For further information  check www.celticconnections.com.

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Celtic Fusion Has Begun

Down, Northern Ireland – The annual Celtic Fusion International Music Festival began today and will run until August 10.

This year there was a special opener, Celtic Ceili with Pipes in Ballynahinch on Thursday 7 August, featuring Robert Watt, world champion piper and friends. Michael McGoldrick and Band in concert on Friday 8 August in Castlewellan.

On Saturday 9 August, the Main Festival Stage in Castlewellan Forest Park will play host to a number of highly regarded and talented international musicians including:

· La Bottine Souriante (Quebec, Canada)
· Altan (Ireland)
· Dougie MacLean (Scotland)
· Sharon Shannon (Ireland)
· Shooglenifty (Scotland).

Danu live in concert on Sunday 10 August in Newcastle.

Ticket prices for the main festival stage performance on Saturday 9 August in Castlewellan Forest Park are £20.00 (Under five’s go free). A limited number of family tickets will be available for this main event at a special price of £50.00 for two adults and three children.

Tickets are £10 each for the Michael McGoldrick and Band concert on Friday 8 August and for Danu on Sunday 10 August.

Tickets for the festival will be going on sale May 8th from Ticketmaster and usual outlets.

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Celtic Fusion Festival in Northern Ireland

Down, Northern Ireland – The annual Celtic Fusion International Music Festival will be taking place August 7-10, 2003.

This year there will be a special opener, Celtic Ceili with Pipes in Ballynahinch on Thursday 7 August, featuring Robert Watt, world champion piper and friends. Michael McGoldrick and Band in concert on Friday 8 August in Castlewellan. On Saturday 9 August, the Main Festival Stage in Castlewellan Forest Park will play host to a number of highly regarded and talented international musicians including:

· La Bottine Souriante (Quebec, Canada)
· Altan (Ireland)
· Dougie MacLean (Scotland)
· Sharon Shannon (Ireland)
· Shooglenifty (Scotland).

Danu live in concert on Sunday 10 August in Newcastle.

Ticket prices for the main festival stage performance on Saturday 9 August in Castlewellan Forest Park are £20.00 (Under five’s go free). A limited number of family tickets will be available for this main event at a special price of £50.00 for two adults and three children.

Tickets are £10 each for the Michael McGoldrick and Band concert on Friday 8 August and for Danu on Sunday 10 August.

Tickets for the festival will be going on sale May 8th from Ticketmaster and usual outlets. See website for details: celticfusion.co.uk

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