Tag Archives: Celtic music

Artist Profiles: Julie Fowlis

Julie Fowlis – Photo by Ashley Coombs

Julie Fowlis grew up in North Uist, a small island in the Hebrides, in a Gaelic speaking community, and has been involved in singing, piping and dancing since she was a tot. She is a member of the successful Scottish sextet, Dochas, who were voted winners of Best Newcomer Award at the Scots Trad Music Awards 2004. Having toured extensively, and after releasing two albums, Dochas are widely considered as one of the most exciting and dynamic young bands in Scotland today.

In 2005, Julie released her debut solo album, Mar a Tha Mo Chridhe (As My Heart Is), which immediately launched her music career into an exciting new direction. She was named Gaelic Singer of the Year at the 2005 Scottish Traditional Music awards and was nominated for the BBC Radio 2 Folk Horizon Award.

Her good nature, natural charm and energy on the stage makes her a popular performer, and this is evident in her busy touring schedule, which included a prestigious Showcase concert at the Cambridge Folk Festival in 2005, Julie being the first ever Gaelic artist to perform at a Showcase slot.

Before any of this, Julie was already quietly making a name for herself as soloist. In 2003, she was invited to be part of a special project Gluaiseachd a Chuain Siar which showcased singers such as Maighread and Triona Nic Dhomhnaill, Alyth McCormack, Mary Jane Lamond, Mary Smith and Julie Murphy.

She was also selected as part of the Celtic Connections ‘Master and Apprentice’ series, where she performed with Arthur Cormack. Julie’s reputation as a singer was confirmed when she was named Winner of the prestigious Pan-Celtic Sean-Nos singing competition in 2004, which took place in Tralee, Ireland.

As well as appearing on numerous Gaelic Television Programs such as Tacsi, Failte, An t-Urlar Ur, Air an Urlar, Ceol, Ceilraidh and D? a-nis, Julie has also been involved in numerous musical commissions – three by Mark Sheridan, The Curve of the Earth (performed at Celtic Connections 2002 and the Festival Interceltique de Lorient 2002), The Evangelists, which has been performed three times since 2002 and When They Lay Bare, an Opera Ballad which was performed over three nights in the Tramway Theatre at Celtic Connections 2003.

She was also involved in Maggie’s MacInnes’ Commission, A Woman’s Song in 2004 and in the musical settings of Sunset Song and Cloud Howe by Wendy Wetherby in 2004 and 2005.

Discography

* Dòchas, with Dòchas (2002)
* An Darna Umhail, with Dòchas (2005)
* Mar a Tha Mo Chridhe (Spit & Polish, 2005)
* Cuilidh (Spit & Polish, 2007)
* Dual, with Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh (Machair Records, 2008)
* Uam (Spit & Polish, 2010)
* Live at Perthshire Amber (2011)
* Gach sgeul – Every story (2014)

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Artist Profiles: John Doyle

John Doyle

John Doyle is one of the most talented and innovative musicians to come out of Ireland in recent years. Now a resident of Asheville (North Carolina), John Doyle was born in 1971 in Dublin, Ireland, into an extended family of musicians and singers. He was playing professionally by the age of 16 when he and singer Susan McKeown joined to form The Chanting House, which later added the prodigious talents of Seamus Egan and Eileen Ivers to the group.

A few years later, John and Egan came together with John Williams, the wonderfully inventive accordion player from Chicago, talented fiddler Winifred Horan, and Waterford-born singer Karan Casey, to form the enormously influential band, Solas.

John’s powerful guitar playing provided the signature rhythmic backbone for the band, and his delicate and emotional finger-style playing and creative vocal harmonies can be heard on all Solas’ recordings for Shanachie Records. Solas performed to sold-out audiences around the world, appeared on NBC’s The Today Show, public radio’s A Prairie Home Companion, Mountain Stage, E-Town and World Cafe, and received three NAIRD awards and a Grammy nomination.

John composed music for the film Uncle Robert’s Footsteps and the play Down the Flats, and appears on the soundtracks for The Brothers McMullen, Soldier and PBS’s Out of Ireland. He has performed at scores of major festivals worldwide, including the Telluride Bluegrass Festival, Rocky Mountain Folks Fest, Washington Irish Festival, Milwaukee Irish Festival and major festivals in Denmark, Belgium, Brittany, England, Spain, Switzerland, Austria, Finland and Ireland.

John is also a highly sought-after sideman and has recorded and/or toured with Liz Carroll, Eileen Ivers, Tim O’Brien and The Crossing, Frank McCourt, Linda Thompson, Kate Rusby, Mick Moloney, John Williams, Seamus Egan, Cathal McConnell, Kim Robertson, Brian Conway, Joannie Madden, James Keane, Joe McKenna, Karan Casey, Cathie Ryan and James Leva.

John’s much anticipated first solo recording, Evening Comes Early, was released on Shanachie Records in 2001, and his second solo CD Wayward Son was released in 2004 on Compass Records.

Discography

* Solas, with Solas (Shanachie Records, 1996)
* Sunny Spells and Scattered Showers, with Solas (Shanachie Records, 1997)
* The Words That Remain, with Solas (Shanachie Records, 1998)
* The Hour Before Dawn, with Solas (Shanachie Records, 2000)
* Evening Comes Early (Shanachie, 2001)
* Wayward Son (Compass Records, 2004)
* In Play, with Liz Carroll (Compass Records, 2005)
* Double Play, with Liz Carroll (Compass Records, 2009)
* Turning Tide, with Solas (Compass Records, 2010)
* Exiles Return, with Karan Casey (Compass Records, 2010)
* Shadow and Light (Compass Records, 2011)
* Live, with Michael McGoldrick, John McCusker (Vertical Records, 2012), recorded on the 2009 tour

Videos

* Irish Rhythm Guitar: Accompanying Celtic Tunes (Homespun Tapes, 2004)

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Artist Profiles: Dervish

Dervish

Widely hailed as the 1990s’ successors to Irish traditional legends Planxty and the Bothy Band, Dervish unite passion with virtuosity. The members of Dervish met as most Irish musicians do: as strangers in a bar. “I’m a farmer’s daughter,” says singer Cathy Jordan, “and someone else in the band is an architect’s son. Outside of music, we may have never met, but this is how Irish people have forged unlikely friendships for years, playing music together.”

In Irish music, there are three elements: goltra, so sad it brings tears; geantra, so lively it makes you want to dance; suantra, so soothing you want to sleep. At a Dervish concert, you experience all three and it leaves you exhilarated!” explains Jordan.

Dervish in their original form were five musicians from the Northwest of Ireland who came together in 1989 to record an album of music, primarily, by local players. The album was released under the title `The Boys of Sligo’ after a reel from the recording. The five musicians involved -Liam Kelly, Shane Mitchell, Martin McGinley, Brian McDonagh and Michael Holmes- were inspired by the project and decided to develop the informal gathering into a working band.

Mandola-player Brian McDonagh saw a documentary about Whirling Dervishes and found the parallels between the devotional art form and Irish musicians similar. “Dervishes are usually a group of poor but spiritual people enraptured by music,”clarifies Jordan. “They spin around and become entranced by the music. As the spinning progresses, the dervishes reach a higher level of being. Similarly, in a traditional Irish session, people may meet for the first time through the common bond of music. As the night progresses, a euphoria builds and lifelong friendships ensue.” The name Dervish was meant to be an album, but it stuck as the band’s name.

The Sligo County band’s sound is characterized by Jordan’s distinctive voice combining with the compelling contrasts of the low-range bouzouki and high-range mandola and their powerful rhythmical backing of accordion and guitar. Fiddles, whistles, flute, bodhran, and harmonica round the band out for its full effect.

Over the following two years Dervish refined their craft as a formative band. The addition of Roscommon-born singer Cathy Jordan in 1991 and subsequent replacement of fiddle player Martin McGinley by Tyrone man and All Ireland Champion, Shane McAleer, gave the band a new dimension. Having found the right balance of creativity and dedication, Dervish released their legitimate first album Harmony Hill in 1992.

The effect of the recording was immediate. Its artistry, musicianship and maturity won outstanding praise from the media placing Dervish to the forefront of the bands working on traditional Irish music. Substantial TV and radio exposure for the band and the album began to open all kind of doors.

Dervish soon became one of the most sought after acts for live performances and have continued to remain over the years. The demand led to the band touring continuously in many European countries throughout 1993 and performing at all the major folk festivals.

The enormous work load and the constant touring made it difficult for the band to work in the studio, but in 1994 their keenly awaited second album Playing with Fire was released. The high expectations for the recording were not only met, but surpassed. Reviewers and critics alike lauded praise for Playing with Fire, confirming Dervish status as the pre-eminent Irish traditional band. The album reached number 1 in the Irish Folk Music Charts and stayed on top for several months.

With their reputation firmly established, Dervish set their sights on the American market, signing a deal with the New York-based company Kells Music. The release of their two albums in the USA saw the demand for the band take off in dramatic terms. Performances at enormous festivals like Wolf Trap and San Francisco led to worldwide tours. Recognition for the band’s achievements followed with nominations and awards in a variety of Traditional/Folk polls including two in the IRMAs.

In August 1996 Dervish released their third album At the End of the Day, which won the Hot Press Trad/Folk Album of the Year award against mainstream legends like Christy Moore and Donald Lunny. In the same year the band performed a series of concerts in Hong Kong and Malaysia which opened the door to the Far Eastern market.

Dervish’s concert performances are a wide-range of tones and moods, from high energy tunes, played with fluidity and intuitiveness, to beautifully measured songs, from charming lyrics of life and love, to inspiring melodies. All the elements are drawn together by Cathy Jordan’s masterful stage-presence. Her stories to the songs, the interaction with the audience, draws people into the music in a way very few performers can achieve. All this can be found in their fourth album Live in Palma.

As the name implies, Live in Palma is a live recording of a scintillating performance in front of a captivated audience at Palma de Mallorca’s Teatro Principal in April 1997. This double album has been hailed by critics as one of the finest live traditional Irish recordings of our time. It furnishes the listener with an opportunity to savor the atmosphere (music, melodies and witty banter) which only a live recording can provide and Dervish have done it both masterfully and effortlessly: the decision to record just made a few hours before going on stage and a performance such that a minimal amount of studio time was required to put the finishing touches to a virtually flawless concert. This brilliant album has, for sure, something to do with the decision of the readers of Irish Music magazine to award Dervish with the Best Overall Trad/Folk Band of the Year 1997.

1998 was another grueling year for the group. It started with a six weeks coast to coast sell out tour of the USA and a first ever Irish tour that enjoyed considerable success. That year also saw slight reshuffle of the group with Shane McAleer taking a career break. Luckily, formidable replacement was found in Sligo’s own Séamus O’Dowd -a musician of high standing with a distinct Sligo style fiddle playing and incomparable guitar playing- further adding to the talents of the group. Just before the end of the year, the addition of fiddle player Tom Morrow -a native of Co. Leitrim and another All Ireland Champion- completed the line up of the band.

Their fifth album Midsummer’s Night was released in the early summer of 1999. Dervish searches high and low for new material, old melodies, and lesser-known lyrics. “It comes to us in different ways/em>,” explains Jordan. “Sometimes at a session an old man sings a tune we’ve never heard. We have a great rapport with the Irish Traditional Music Archive in Dublin, where there are vast collections of the old manuscripts and the earliest recordings of Irish music. Sometimes we find things on TV, on the radio, or on records.” The search for material is simultaneously part of preserving history and making traditional music relevant to today.

When Jordan was asked to sing at Bob Dylan’s fiftieth birthday party in Dublin, musicians paid tribute by performing his songs. As a result, her choice, ‘Boots of Spanish Leather’ was added to Dervish’s repertoire and has become one of their most requested songs. In exploring other contemporary songs with folk sounds, the band discovered Cher’s ‘Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves’ and Dire Strait’s ‘Brothers in Arms’ which sound perfectly at home in a traditional Irish treatment, and alongside Dervish’s modern arrangements of traditional tunes.

It’s a funny thing, but Irish music is one of the oldest forms of music, yet it is influenced an awful lot by other things,” explains Jordan. “It evolves and evolves. Our sound is very recognizable because of the bouzouki and mandola. And though we have a modern style within the Irish context, you might not say it’s really modern because it blends in so well. But in actual fact there are a lot of modern influences in there.”

Discography
 
* Harmony Hill (Whirling Discs WHRL001, 1993)
* Playing with Fire (Whirling Discs WHRL002, 1995)
* At the End of the Day (Whirling Discs WHRL003, 1996)
* Live in Palma (Whirling Discs WHRL004, 1997)
* Midsummer’s Night (Whirling Discs WHRL005, 1999/USA: Compass Records, 2001)
* Decade (Compass Records, 2001)
* Spirit (Compass Records, 2004)
* A healing heart (2005)
* Travelling Show (2007)
* The Thrush in the Storm (Whirling Discs , 2013)

Videos

* MidSummers Session (1999)
* Dervish – Live At Johnny Fox’s (Video Music, 2005)

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Artist Profiles: Natalie MacMaster

Natalie MacMaster

Composer, virtuoso fiddler and skilled step dancer Natalie Ann MacMaster was born on June 13, 1972 in Troy, Nova Scotia, Canada. She was raised in a musical family steeped in Scottish heritage.

Natalie began playing at age 9 after having been given a small fiddle by her great uncle. From the early days, she was encouraged by her father and musically influenced by her uncle, Buddy MacMaster, an undisputed master of the Cape Breton fiddle.

Natalie’s career flourished rapidly. From a small beginning playing at dances and concerts in and around Cape Breton to representing Nova Scotia on the world’s stages. Natalie has become a musical ambassador for a new musical generation of Cape Breton musicians. Whether performing with a small format or with her full band, Natalie’s concerts are a dazzling blend of musical virtuosity and lively step dancing.

Natalie’s first three recordings gained major nominations and awards from the East Coast Music Association. In 1992, she won the Roots/Traditional Artist Award. In 1994, her third album, Fit as a Fiddle, earned Natalie the Instrumental Artist of the Year Award. In 1995, she was nominated as Entertainer of the Year.

Natalie’s phenomenal stage presence has led to considerable media attention. She was profiled by various TV shows. In June of 1995, Natalie won over a crowd of 80,000 in Chattanooga, Tennessee, as opening act for Carlos Santana. A broken fiddle string couldn’t keep her down as Natalie continued playing using only her bottom two strings.

Natalie has headlined in cities such as London, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Brussels, and Tokyo. And for several years, she has acted as guest instructor and performer at the world renowned Mark O’Connor Fiddle Camp in Nashville.

In March of 1996, Natalie received a phone call from Ireland’s The Chieftains requesting that she open for them on a four-week tour of the United States. The Chieftains obviously saw something in Natalie that their audiences would soon come to appreciate. MacMaster capably and expertly delivered the goods. The highlight of each performance had to be Natalie joining The Chieftains at show’s end to fiddle and dance.

Natalie’s first two independent recordings, Road to the Isle and Four on the Floor, have each sold in excess of 12,000 copies each … and that’s on cassette only. Her third Indie release, Fit as a Fiddle, racked up sales of more than 30,000 copies on CD and cassette.

In the spring of 1996, Warner Music Canada negotiated a major label deal with Natalie for the album No Boundaries. Produced by Chad Irschick (The Rankin Family, Loreena McKennitt, Susan Aglukark), No Boundaries is exactly that. Natalie’s diversity extends to places her fans could have never imagined. From beautiful classic pieces through ragtime and country music, Natalie continues to step across musical lines. Special note should be made of guest appearances by Cookie Rankin on “Drunken Piper,” Bruce Guthro on “Fiddle &Bow,” and a host of Canada’s best musicians.

In 1997, Rounder Records made No Boundaries available in the United States and also re-released Fit As A Fiddle. The success of these releases led to the re-release of A Compilation in 1998.

Natalie MacMaster

A good example of MacMaster’s energy during her live performances was documented in a double album recorded live, released in 2002. The sessions were made at the Living Arts Centre in Mississauga (Ontario) and at an old hall in the woods in rural Glencoe, Cape Breton Island.

Blueprint (2003) was Natalie MacMaster’s first studio recording since 1999’s In My Hands. On Blueprint, MacMaster mixes Celtic, Jazz, and Bluegrass. Special guests include Bela Fleck (banjo), Jerry Douglas (Dobro), Sam Bush (mandolin), and Edgar Meyer (bass).

Natalie MacMaster collaborated with cellist Yo-Yo Ma on the Grammy-winning album “Songs of Joy & Peace” (2008) and artists as diverse as Alison Krauss, Jesse Cook, and Béla Fleck.

Fiddle album One, released in 2015, features Natalie MacMaster and her husband Donnell Leahy. In addition to the familiar Celtic sounds, the album features distorted electric guitars, two players on one piano, and a drum kit made of paint cans and a cardboard box.

Natalie MacMaster and Donnell Leahy

In 2016, Natalie MacMaster and Donnell Leahy released A Celtic Family Christmas accompanied by an outstanding group of musicians and their children. The album features classic Christmas songs seasoned with the duo’s style of Celtic tradition. “We have celebrated Christmas in a big way our entire lives and finally have recorded the music,” said Natalie MacMaster.

Natalie MacMaster is a recipient of the Order of Canada. She has won two JUNO and 11 East Coast Music Awards.

Discography:

Four on the Floor (Astro Custom Records, 1989)

Road to the Isle (Astro Custom Records, 1991)

Fit as a Fiddle (1993)

A Compilation (Rounder Records, 1996)

No Boundaries (Rounder Records, 1997)

In My Hands (Rounder Records Select, 1999)

My Roots Are Showing (Rounder Records Select, 2000)

Live (Rounder Records Select, 2002)

Blueprint (Rounder Records, 2003)

Yours Truly (Rounder Records, 2006)

Cape Breton Girl (MacMaster Music, 2011)

One, with Donnell Leahy (MacMaster Music, 2015)

A Celtic Family Christmas, with Donnell Leahy (Linus Entertainment, 2016)

website: www.nataliemacmaster.com

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Artist Profiles: Damien Stenson

Damien Stenson

Damien Stenson grew up in County Sligo (Ireland), an area with a rich folk music tradition. He is known for his extensive repertoire and flowing style of flute playing, developed by many years of constant musical activity.

He is featured on various albums including the compilation “Wooden Flute Obsession Vol. 2”, Oisín Mac Diarmada’s solo album “Ar an bhFidil”, together with a bodhrán album by Junior Davey. He is the flute player of renowned Irish traditional group Teada.

Discography

* Teada (Ceol Records CEOCD 002, 2003)
* Give us a penny and let us be gone (Green Linnet 1228, 2004)
* Inne Amarach (Yesterday Tomorrow) (Gael Linn/Compass Records, 2006)
* Ceol & Cuimhne (Music & Memory) (Compass Records, 2010)
* Ainneoin Na Stoirme (In Spite Of The Storm) (2013)

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Startijenn‘s Live Osmosis

Startijenn – Live Paker Tour (Paker Prod. 22, 2016)

This album gives the listener the opportunity to experience Startijenn, one of the finest Breton acts live. The album was recorded during the summer tour in 2016, where music and dance came together in the popular festoù-noz festivals.

The name of the band Startijenn, means energy in Breton and they deliver a vibrant sound rooted in Breton musical traditions. Startijenn’s sound is instrumental music centered on the fascinating interplay between the bombard (double-reed), the biniou (bagpipes) and accordion, supported by rhythm guitar and electric bass.

The band presents new, extended versions of Startijenn’s audience favorites from previous albums, such as “Hir, hir!”, “Skeud”, “Flagas Track”, “Paker Nozter” along with previously unreleased new material.

The lineup includes Tango Oillo on guitar; Julien Stevenin on bass; Youenn Roue on bombarde; Lionel Le Page on biniou;and Tangi Le Gall-Carré on diatonic accordion.

Live Paker Tour is a superb live album showcasing the deep Breton music intensity of Startijenn.

You can purchase the album from www.coop-breizh.fr

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Artist Profiles: The Bothy Band

The Bothy Band

The Bothy Band evoked universal praise from audiences and critics alike. Siblings Micheal O Domhnaill and Triona Ni Dhomhnaill, percussionist Donal Lunny, master piper Paddy Keenan, flute virtuoso Matt Molloy, and brilliant fiddler Kevin Burke stood at the very summit of Celtic music.

Eventually, the band members went their separate ways in 1979, joining celebrated groups like The Chieftains, Relativity, Nightnoise, Touchstone and Patrick Street.

Discography

* The First Album: 1975 (Mulligan Lun 002/Green Linnet 3011, 1975)
* Old Hag You Have Killed Me (Mulligan/ Green Linnet 3005, 1976)
* Out of the Wind, Into the Sun (Polydor 2383456/Green Linnet 3013, 1977)
* After Hours-Live in Paris (Green Linnet 3016, 1979)
* The Best of the Bothy Band (Polydor 3170583/ Green Linnet 3001, 1983)
* BBC Radio One: The Bothy Band Live In Concert (Green Linnet, 1996)

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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

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 (Narada70876-19196-2 2, 2005)
* Altan: 25th Anniversary Celebration (Compass Records, 2010)
* Gleann Nimhe – The Poison Glen (Compass Records, 2012)
* The Widening Gyre (Compass Records, 2015)

Website www.altan.ie

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Splendid Celtic Suites

Máiréad Nesbitt – Hibernia (Cosmic Trigger, 2016)

This is the second solo album by celebrated Irish violinist, composer and instrument maker Máiréad Nesbitt. For over 10 years, Máiréad was the violinist for popular crossover act Celtic Woman. She left the band recently to focus on her solo career.

On ‘Hibernia, Máiréad brings traditional Irish/Celtic music together with classical music. And she does it beautifully. Máiréad also celebrates the anniversary of the rise of Ireland as an independent nation. Hibernia was the name the Romans gave to Ireland.

The format of most of the album is solo violin accompanied by classical orchestra, flute and percussion. The percussion featured includes traditional percussion played by percussionists as well as foot percussion made by a group of dancers.

‘Hibernia’ is divided into various suites, a sort of mini-symphonies composed by Máiréad, Colm Ó Foghlú, and Liam Bates, inspired by the music and dance from the southern province of Munster. Máiréad leads the way with her extraordinary violin, through exquisite slow airs and high-speed reels.

Although the majority of the album is instrumental, Hibernia includes a song To Bring Them Home, written by Liam Bates and performed by tenor Nathan Pacheco. This song portrays the heroes of a shipwreck off the coast of Ireland.

The lineup on Hibernia includes Máiréad Nesbitt on Celtic violin; Karl Nesbitt on flute, low whistle, bouzouki and didjeridoo; Mick O’Brien on uilleann pipes and whistle; Kathleen Nesbitt on fiddle; John Nesbitt on accordion; Seán Nesbitt on accordion; Nathan Pacheco on vocals; Noel Eccles on percussion; Nick Bailey on percussion; The Orchestra of Ireland, leader Kenneth Rice, conducted by Liam Bates; Cashel Set Dancers: Gráinne Uí Chaomhánaigh, Áine Cody, Bernie Sullivan and Coleman Lydon on foot percussion.

Hibernia is an exquisitely crafted Celtic Classical album by the talented and multi-faceted artist Máiréad Nesbitt.

Buy Hibernia

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Artist Profiles: Allie Mombourquette

Allie Mombourquette

Allison Mombourquette began step dancing at the age of 5. This influenced her decision to begin taking fiddle lessons, which she started at age 8. She joined the Cape Breton Fiddlers’ Association in 2001, in the hopes of learning more about the music she heard her grandfather play. Through the Association, she has had the opportunity to perform across Canada and in the United Kingdom.

She has been a part of Feis Mhabu since the winter of 2006, which gives young Celtic musicians the opportunity to learn from some of Cape Breton’s finest musicians. Allison has also studied fiddle, piano, and step-dancing at the Gaelic College and been a guest fiddler at he Baddeck Gathering, Normaway Inn and, Celtic Music Interpretive Centre in Judique.

Allison has played together with Natalie MacMaster, Glenn Graham, Andrea Beaton, Ashley MacIsaac, Jerry Holland, J.P. Cormier, and Dave MacIsaac and performed at such events as the Royal Nova Scotia International Tattoo, Edinburgh Castle, Saturday night square dances at the West Mabou Hall, Celtic Colours International Festival, and Friday night ceilidhs in Sloan’s Pub in Glasgow, Scotland.

Allison’s influences include Ciffy Carter, a local musician; Dwayne Cote, JP Cormier, Nickel Creek and Union Station.

Discography:

Allie Mombourquette

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