Tag Archives: Irish folk music

Introduction to Celtic Music

Irish band The Chieftains, one of the most popular Celtic music acts

It’s difficult to know what the music of the ancient Celts sounded like. Historical and archaeological data indicates that the Celts used bronze horns, flutes and bells.

What we know as Celtic music today is in reality the traditional music developed relatively recently in several western European Atlantic regions that may have been inhabited by Celtic peoples about 2,000 years ago.

Current Celtic music is characterized by the use of various forms of bagpipes (likely introduced by the Romans), harps, fiddles, flutes and whistles, accordion and concertina, and frame drums. In the 1970s, Irish musicians pioneered the use of additional instruments such as the Greek bouzouki, the Spanish guitar, the American banjo and the Italian mandolin, and adapted them to Irish traditional music.

Recent Celtic music history

The great Celtic music upsurge took place in the 1970s thanks to various influential artists from Ireland, Scotland, Brittany (France), Galicia (Spain) and Wales.

Ireland

The Bothy Band

Irish groups such as The Chieftains, The Bothy Band, Plantxy, Clannad and The Dubliners attracted worldwide attention with their innovative, beautifully-crafted arrangements of Irish folk music that were later adopted by colleagues in other Celtic countries and regions, as well as other folk music traditions.

Although many of the best known acts from the 1960s and 1970s disbanded, The Chieftains and Clannad carried on to develop highly successful long careers.

Altan in 2010

A new wave of first class artists continued to popularize Irish traditional and contemporary folk music: Enya, Altan, Kila, Dervish, Lunasa, Andy Irvine, Davy Spillane, Frankie Gavin, John Doyle, Karan Casey, Kila, Liam O’Flynn, Matt Molloy, Micheal Ó Domhnaill, Moya Brennan (Máire Brennan), Mick Moloney, Moving Cloud, Niall Vallely, Niamh Parsons, Oisin Mac Diarmada, Paddy Keenan, Reeltime, Sharon Shannon, Susan McKeown, Téada, and The Gloaming.

Books about Irish traditional music: Focus: Irish Traditional Music (Focus on World Music Series) by Sean Williams, Routledge (2009); Companion to Irish Traditional Music by Fintan Vallely, Cork University Press (2011); O’Brien Pocket History of Irish Traditional Music (Pocket History series) by Gearoid O hAllmhurain, The O’Brien Press (2004); A Short History of Irish Traditional Music by Gearoid O hAllmhurain, The O’Brien Press (2017).

Scotland

Silly Wizard in 1983

Seminal Scottish acts Silly Wizard, Battlefield Band, Tannahill Weavers, Boys of the Lough and Ossian played outstanding contemporary Scottish folk music and created a school of followers.

The next generations of first rate Scottish artists included Alasdair Fraser, Aly Bain, Blazin’ Fiddles, Bodega, Boys of the Lough, Breabach, Burach, Capercaillie, Wolfstone, Catherine-Ann MacPhee, Catriona MacDonald, Lau, Peatbog Faeries, Shooglenifty and Treacherous Orchestra.

Brittany

Alan Stivell

Breton musician Alan Stivell introduced the Celtic harp to large audiences. Two innovative bands, Diaouled ar Menez and Gwendal, also from Brittany, toured Europe extensively for two decades with its blend of Celtic music, jazz and rock.

Additional essential Breton musicians include Dan Ar Bras, Barzaz, Bleizi Ruz, Alain Genty, Gwerz, Kornog, Soig Siberil, Skolvan, Jean-Michel Veillon, Andrea Ar Gouilh, Anne Auffret, Yann-Fañch Kemener, and Nolwenn Korbell.

Galicia

Early lineup of Milladoiro

In Galicia, singer and harp player Emilio Cao, the now legendary group Milladoiro, Doa, piper celebrity Carlos Núñez and the influential Traditional Music of the Municipal School of Arts and Trades of Vigo (currently known as the Municipal School of Traditional and Folk Music of Vigo) initiated the remarkable Galician Celtic music wave.

Carlos Núñez in 2017

In the 1980s, a significant new act was formed, Luar na Lubre. This group has become one of the leading ensembles in the the Galician folk music scene.

In the 1990s and afterwards, additional key bands and soloists appeared, including Matto Congrio, Fía na Roca, Berroguetto, Na Lua, Leilia, piper and flutist Xosé Manuel Budiño, Mercedes Peón, pipers Susana Seivane and Cristina Pato, Rosa Cedrón and the spectacular Son de Seu folk orchestra.

Wales

A revival of traditional folk music and a renewed interest in the use of its native Gaelic language took place in Wales in the 1970’s. With the help of local media and record companies like Sain, artists who represented the Welsh tradition and language finally got exposure.

Robin Huw Bowen

One of the essential musicians in Wales is Robin Huw Bowen, a master of the triple harp. He researched the music and methods of the old Welsh harpers by studying their old manuscripts. He has performed widely throughout the world, as a soloist and also as a member of the Welsh folk groups Mabsant and Cusan Tân.

Siân James

The best known Gaelic-language singer is Siân James. Aside from her solo career, James also performed with dub reggae and rock bands.

On the traditional folk scene, Calennig’s lively dance music attracts attention. The band, formed in 1978, was led by Pat Smith and Mick Tems. Their material includes Welsh, Galician and Breton tunes. The 2019 lineup featured founder Pat Smith on concertina, Ned Clamp on guitar, Jem Randles on bass guitar, and virtuoso fiddler Iolo Jones.

Other Welsh folk highlights include singer Julie Murphy, Heather Jones and Hin Deg. An exciting group in the contemporary folk style is Carreg Lafar, formed in 1993.

Jamie Smith’s Mabon in 2017

One of the finest Celtic roots acts was Jamie Smith’s Mabon, led by accordion maestro Jamie Smith. The group disbanded in 2019.

Inter-Celtic Festivals

Thanks to the proliferation of Inter-Celtic festivals since the 1970s, musicians from Brittany, Scotland, Ireland, Wales, Galicia, Asturias, the USA, Canada and other locations, have exchanged tunes, musical instruments and participated in mutual recordings.

Celtic Connections, Old-Fruitmarket – Photo by Gaelle Beri

Some of the top Celtic music festivals include Celtic Colours (Cape Breton, Canada), Celtic Connections (Scotland, UK), Festival Interceltique de Lorient (Brittany, France), Ortigueira Festival of Celtic World (Galicia, Spain), Ballyshannon Folk and Traditional Music Festival (Ireland) and William Kennedy Piping Festival (Northern Ireland, UK).

Cwlwm Celtaidd in Wales celebrates the music from Ireland, Scotland, Isle of Man, Cornwall, Brittany and Wales.

Celtic Music Today

The major European centers of Celtic music today are Ireland, Scotland, Brittany (France), Galicia (Spain), Asturias (Spain) and Wales (UK). Other smaller regions with a strong Celtic music heritage are: Cornwall (UK), Northumbria (UK), Tras-os-Montes (Portugal) and the Isle of Man (UK).

Outside Europe, the music from the Irish, Scottish and Galician diaspora has found a comfortable home in eastern Canada, the United States of America, and to a lesser extent Argentina and Australia.

Canadian Celtic and world music star, Loreena McKennitt

The Celtic music artists recovered the hurdy gurdy in Brittany and Galicia, the Celtic harp in Brittany and Scotland, and a newfound respect for the bagpipe, including the uilleann pipe, Highland pipe, border pipe, Scottish smallpipe, gaita gallega, gaita asturiana, gaita de fole and binioù.

Celtic music today has crossed over into the pop mainstream, world music, rock and new age thanks to artists like AfroCelt Sound System (UK), Enya (Ireland), Altan (Ireland), Loreena McKennit (Canada), The Chieftains (Ireland), Capercaillie (Scotland), Ashley McIsaac (Canada), Solas (USA), Connie Dover (USA), Cherish the Ladies (USA), Shooglenifty (Scotland), the electronic bagpipe innovator Hevia (Asturias, Spain) and The Gloaming (Ireland). There is also the success of the Riverdance dance shows. Celtic Woman and the lighter, easy listening side of Celtic music has sold well in the new age market by way of numerous compilations, harp recordings and concept albums.

The 1995 hit Sleepy Maggie by fiddler Ashley MacIsaac :

Piracy, consolidation, streaming and other factors have led to the demise and consolidation of many of the great Celtic music record labels of the past.

Brief History of the Celts

Ancient Greek historians, like Herodotus (400 BC) and Hecataeus of Miletus (500 BC), wrote about the Keltoi, a group of Iron Age “barbarian” tribes with a common language and culture that inhabited vast territories of Europe. The Keltoi’s dominion stretched from Ireland and the western Iberian Peninsula (Spain and Portugal) in the west to Bohemia (Czech Republic), Bavaria (Germany) and Austria in the east.

Castro de Baroña Celtic settlement in Galicia, Spain – Photo courtesy of Turismo de Galicia

The Celts were a mixture of western Indo-European peoples who created vivid ornamental art and spoke a language described by the Romans as Celtic. Their social power structure included warlords and priests known as druids. They lived in hill towns made to defend populated areas from other warring Celtic tribes. With the arrival of the Roman Empire, Celtic civilization nearly disappeared. Most of western Europe, except Ireland, was Romanized.

Celtic History books:

The Ancient Celts by Barry Cunliffe, Oxford University Press (1997); The Sea Kingdoms: The History of Celtic Britain & Ireland by Alistair Moffat, Birlinn Ltd (2001); Saxons, Vikings, and Celts: The Genetic Roots of Britain and Ireland by Bryan Sykes, W. W. Norton & Company (2006); Celts: The History and Legacy of One of the Oldest Cultures in Europe by Martin J. Dougherty, Amber Books (2015); The Celts: A History From Earliest Times to the Present by Bernhard Maier, Edinburgh University Press (2018); Los Celtas. Imaginario, mitos y literatura en España by Martín Almagro-Gorbea, Almazara (2018): Celts: A Captivating Guide to Ancient Celtic History and Mythology, Including Their Battles Against the Roman Republic in the Gallic Wars, CH Publications (2019).

Share

Artist Profiles: Alex Caton

Alex Caton

Alex Caton grew up in England, Scotland and the East Coast of the United States. She first put a bow in her hands at the age of four and played violin through her college years at Binghamton University. As her interest in Irish and Old Time music grew, she changed her tunes (and her instrument name) and began playing and teaching fiddle on the side. But it wasn’t until she moved to the Charlottesville, Virginia area to work on a PhD in Anthropology that she found her true calling.

Alex fell in love with the music scene in Charlottesville and soon cast aside her career as a professional archaeologist (she worked up and down the East Coast of the United States, as well as in West Africa) to focus on fiddle music full-time.

Since 2001, Alex has lived in Gordonsville, Virginia, teaching Irish, Old Time and Gypsy music out of her home and playing with a wide variety of local groups including the Irish band, The Ryegrass Rollers.

Alex Caton

In 2003, Alex founded the all-girl gypsy group Las Gitanas, a precursor to Verbunk, the “groovy gypsy” band she started in 2007. But gypsy music didn’t replace Alex’s love for Old Time and Irish music—it just enhanced what she brought to the other Charlottesville groups she played in: Odd Legged Jenny (Irish-Americana), The Two Dollar Bills (Old Time) and an acoustic roots duo with Chris Leva, lead singer and guitarist for the Guano Boys.

In 2005, Alex started a fiddle camp held one weekend in August at the Brazenhead Inn in Mingo, West Virginia. What started as a small group of interested students has grown into a popular gathering for adults and children, beginners and pros, where Alex teaches different fiddle styles and other instructors come to share their expertise in guitar, bass, banjo Irish drum, voice and dance.

Alex’s self-titled CD was released June 7th, 2007 at the Gravity Lounge in Charlottesville. Chris Leva plus aclaimed vocalist and guitarist Pat Egan were just a couple of talented musicians who joined Alex on stage.

Alex Caton

From her base in Central Virginia, Alex Caton has a custom-built barn/music studio for classes and concerts, a coop full of chickens and huge garden.

Discography:

Alex Caton (2007)
The Sinners and the Saved (2009)
Swimming to Lindsey (2013)
Never Take a Daisy Down the Mine (2015)

Share

The Stylish Celtic Flute Allure of Flook

Flook – Ancora (Flatfish Records, 2019)

Flook, the Celtic flute powerhouse, is back with a fabulous new album. Ancora is Flook’s first studio album since 2006 and the four musicians have delivered another gem. Flook performs original contemporary instrumental pieces rooted in Irish folk music traditions. The primary composers are the two flute players, Sarah Allen and Brian Finnegan.

Flook – Ancora

The music of Flook revolves around masterful flute and whistle melodies and their exquisite interplay, supported by the trance-like beat of the Irish bodhran frame drum and string instruments.

Ancora features various guests that contribute influences from other global musical traditions and new tonalities through several unexpected, delightful musical instruments like the Theremin, steel drums, hurdy gurdy, hammered dulcimer and the pandereta asturiana.

The current Flook lineup includes Brian Finnegan on flutes and whistles; Sarah Allen on alto flute, concert flute and accordion; Ed Boyd on guitars, bouzouki and piano; and John Joe Kelly on bodhran.

Guests include Simon Chrisman on hammered dulcimer; Phil Cunningham on piano accordion; Amadou Diagne on percussion; Philip Henry on lap steel guitar; Trevor Hutchinson on acoustic bass; Melvin Ifill on steel drums; Matthias Loibner on hurdy-gurdy; Conor McCreanor on acoustic bass; Niall Murphy on fiddle; Patsy Reid on cello, viola, violin; Eva Tejedor on pandereta asturiana; and Mark Tucker on Theremin.

Ancora is an impeccable example of exceptionally expressive, shape-shifting Celtic music craftsmanship

Share

Glasgow Gets Hometown love from Mary Ann Kennedy

Mary Ann Kennedy – ‘Glaschu’ Home Town Love Song (ARC Music EUCD2833, 2019)

Scottish singer and arranger Mary Ann Kennedy (Màiri Anna NicUalraig) celebrates her hometown, Glasgow and her Gaelic roots in ‘Glaschu’ (Glasgow in Gaelic). ‘Glaschu’ brings together captivating song, insightful poetry and superb Celtic music from the Scottish and Irish traditions, featuring bodhran, whistles, and uilleann pipes.

Mary Ann Kennedy – Glaschu

Gaelic is spoken by an estimated 60,000 people in Scotland and Mary Ann Kennedy is involved in the promotion and safeguarding of the language. She sings beautifully in Gaelic throughout the album and the CD booklet includes the lyrics in Gaelic and English.

Mary Ann Kennedy goes beyond Celtic arrangements and instrumentation and incorporates classical chamber music elements, blues, mesmerizing folk ballads, evocative jazz (think of ECM), urban sound effects, and poetry readings.

‘Glaschu’ is a masterfully crafted recording enclosed in exquisite packaging. It is a tribute to the melting pot of Glasgow where various musical traditions and religions have coexisted for years. A wonderful place where Gaelic roots meets urban life.

Purchase Glaschu in North America

Purcgase Glaschu in Europe

Share

Artist Profiles: John Carty

John Carty

Born in London, England and now residing in Co. Roscommon, Ireland, John plays in the Roscommon and Sligo styles of his family roots. He was named Traditional Musician of the Year for 2003 by Irish Television TG4. He has released a number of well-regarded albums and also plays with his band At the Racket.

Discography:

The Cat That Ate The Candle (Cló Iar-Chonnachta, 1994)
Last Night’s Fun (Shanachie, 1996)
Yeh That’s All It Is (Shanachie, 2001)
At It Again (Shanachie, 2003)
I Will If I Can (Racket Records, 2005)
Upon My Soul (2006)
Pathway To the Well (Racket Records, 2007)
On the Fly, with Patrick Street (2007)
It’s Not Racket Science – At the Racket (2008)
Meadbh (The Crimson Path), with Ann Joyce (Racket Records, 2010)
At Complete Ease, with Brian Rooney (Racket Records, 2011)
The Good Mixer (Racket Records, 2015)

Share

Artist Profiles: Flook

Flook in 2019

The idea of Flook was first conceived in Manchester, November 1995, when Michael McGoldrick (flutes), Brian Finnegan (flutes) and Sarah Allen (flutes, whistles, accordion) got together for one tour titled Three Nations Flutes. The unusual line-up included three flute players. Guitarist Ed Boyd was drafted in at the end of the tour and they changed their name to Fluke!, later to Flook.

In 1997, the band released Flook! Live!, which captured the three talented flutists at their best during the Sidmouth Folk Festival. Michael McGoldrick was part of the Manchester Irish scene from a young age. Brian Finnegan was raised in Armagh in Ireland while Sarah Allen was originally from London. Ed Boyd spent his childhood in Bath before he moved to Manchester and formed Red Ciel prior to Flook!

When Mike left to pursue solo projects in 1998, John Joe Kelly (bodhran), who was also a veteran of the Manchester Irish scene, was brought in full time, having previously appeared as an occasional guest.

Flook’s unique combination of flutes, underpinned by fluid guitar and hugely impressive bodhram playing made them one of the most popular groups on the live music circuit in the UK.

Flook won Best Band at BBC Folk Awards in 2006.

The group disbanded in 2008 and reformed in 2013.

In 2019, after a recording hiatus of 14 years, Flook announced the release of ‘Ancora’ in April 2019. The 2019 lineup featured the flutes and whistles of Brian Finnegan and Sarah Allen, the guitar of Ed Boyd and the bodhran of John Joe Kelly.

Brian Finnegan said, “Way back in 2005 when we released our 3rd studio album ‘Haven’, little did we know that it would be our last for almost a decade and a half. We took a break in 2008, followed our hearts and instincts and went our separate ways; had kids, got hitched, loved, lost, explored the musical world post-Flook. But when Flook came calling again in 2013, so the voltage returned and like all deep friendships it felt like we’d never been apart.

Part of the decision to re-group was the understanding that we had much left to say as a band, and a certain responsibility to our loyal fans, old and new, to create Flook music of the present, rich in both past and future.

The imagery associated with the meaning of ‘Ancora’ is abundant indeed. It is the Latin word for anchor, be that to the seabed or in the kith and kin of our lives. It also means ‘hope’ and ‘again’. The great Italian master Michelangelo was attributed as saying “Ancora Impara” on his 87th birthday, meaning “I am yet learning”. This resonated in us and was present throughout the process of recording ‘Ancora’. So, deeper in we go. Thanks for listening.”

Discography:

Flook! Live! (Small CD 945 1997)
Flatfish (Flatfish 2CD 1999)
Rubai (Flatfish4CD 2003)
Haven (World Village, 2006)
Ancora (Flatfish Records, 2019)

Share

Lustrous and Fresh Areas of High Traffic

Damien O’Kane – Areas of High Traffic (Pure Records, 2015)

Often the first impressions that come to mind when handed a Celtic CD are of ethereal throated songstresses full of sorrow and longing for lost loves or traditional rowdy romps that seem to run quick and fast as if chased by the light, so cozying up to a newfangled take on the Irish Celtic traditions is a true delight.

Putting a new voice to those traditions is vocalist and musician Damien O’Kane. Those in the know might recognize him from such recordings Avenging and Bright, Banjophony with Ron Block, The Mystery Inch with David Kosky and Summer Hill.

Corralling a collection of mostly traditional songs on Areas of High Traffic, Mr. O’Kane has clearly and decisively put his own stamp on the music, fashioning a sound that’s fresh and easy.
It’s plain from the opening tracks of “‘Til Next Market Day,” that the music matters. There’s not a delicate fairy voice, a brash drinking song or an angry Celtic rocker in sight on this recording, instead there’s electric guitars, keyboards, piano, synthesizers wrapped up with Mr. O’Kane’s vocals and his own guitar and banjo work.

Joined by percussionist Cormac Byrne, electric guitarist Steven Iveson and keyboardist, pianist and synth master Anthony Davis, Mr. O’Kane takes the traditional past folksy into a sophisticated brand of folk that takes subtle dips into rock and jazz with aplomb.

Shimmering guitar and banjo lines provided by guest musician Ron Block remake traditional song “The Blacksmith” a standout track, just as the underlying rock sensibilities take “The Maid of Seventeen” beyond the expected.

And the goods just get better with the sweeping strains of “The Close of an Irish Day” or the dreamy moody sway of “The Banks of the Bann,” with additional vocals of Mr. O’Kane’s wife Kate Rusby.
Listeners get a dose of the inner musical workings of Mr. O’Kane by way of instrumentals “The Goddaughter Part 1” and “Interlude for Mama.”

The simply loveliness of “I Am A Youth” and “Erin’s Lovely Home” are as potent as they are soothing to the Irish soul. Areas of High Traffic closes out with a savvy version of “The Green Fields of America.”

Sleek and fresh, Areas of High Traffic is spectacularly rich and promises to break all the Celtic musical traditions it keeps.

Buy Areas of High Traffic in Europe

Buy Areas of High Traffic in the rest of the world

Share

The Best Ballads of The High Kings

Decade – The Best of The High Kings

Decade – The Best of The High Kings (Celtic Collections, 2017)

The High Kings, a well-liked Irish band that specializes in folk ballads released “Decade” – The Best of The High Kings’. The album contains the group’s most popular songs, a total of 18 tracks. Some of these include “Rocky Road to Dublin,” “Marie’s Wedding” and “Spancil Hill.”

The High Kings’ music cuts across generations, appealing to older music fans and younger people as well. Current band members include Finbarr Clancy, Brian Dunphy, Darren Holden and George Murphy.

Share

Artist Profiles: Mel Mercier

Mel Mercier

Mel Mercier is a lecturer in Music at UCC where he specializes in Irish Traditional Music, Ethnomusicology, Javanese Gamelan, Indian Classical Music and Ewe Dance Drumming (Ghana). Born in Dublin in 1959, he received his first bodhran and bones lessons from his father, Peadar Mercier, a member of The Chieftains until 1976.

Mel has performed and collaborated with pianist and composer, Micheal O Suilleabhain, for over twenty-five years and, throughout the 1980s, he performed extensively in Europe and the USA with John Cage and the Merce Cunningham Dance Company. He has also performed and recorded with many of the leading Irish traditional musicians of the last thirty years and his Bodhran & Bones video tutor was released in 1991 by Interworld Music. Mel has given bodhr?n and bones workshops in the USA and Europe for more than twenty years.

Mel also composes music for theater, working regularly with Deborah Warner and Fiona Shaw (Medea at Abbey Theatre, West End London, Broadway ? Drama Desk Award nomination, Paris, and Rome 2000-3. The Powerbook at National Theatre UK, Paris, and Rome 2003-4. Julius Caesar at Barbican, Paris, Madrid, and Luxembourg 2005. Readings – Paris 2005. Happy Days – National Theatre, London 2007) He co-composed (with Linda Buckley) the music for Corcadorca’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream in 2000 and The Merchant of Venice in June 2005.

Mel directs the UCC Javanese Gamelan and has been commissioned to write several contemporary works for the ensemble (Telephones and Gongs, 2004. Kelly and Andy, 2005). Mel was commissioned to write Panarama, the Signature Music for Cork 2005: European Capital of Culture.

Share

Artist Profiles: Melanie O’Reilly

Melanie O’Reilly

One of the most sensational musical pioneers to explode on the Irish scene, Melanie O’Reilly is now firmly established in the pantheon of creative Irish artists.

As a performer/singer-songwriter, her exhilarating and unique blend of Irish traditional music and jazz creates a powerful and haunting soundscape, exploring untouched frontiers, and which captivates audiences on both sides of the Atlantic.

Born in Dublin, Melanie comes from a family of musicians and actors, and she spent most of her youth treading the boards as an actress and singer, while at the same time was a multiple- award -winner singing in Dublin’s Feis Ceol competitions.

Her passion for jazz began when her sister Clodagh introduced her the sound of jazz singers at the age of 11. Intrigued by the rhythms and scat improvisations of Ella Fitzgerald, she decided then that she would become a jazz singer, and she immersed herself in the music of other jazz giants such as Billie Holiday, Sarah Vaughan, Miles Davis and Dizzy Gillespie. She also absorbed much by listening to Irish groups such as Horslips, Louis Stewart’s Trio and the Sean-nos (unaccompanied traditional) singing of Sean O Riada.

After an Arts Degree from University College Dublin, Melanie began her professional musical career, discovering the possibilities of mixing jazz with traditional Irish music and began to build phenomenal respect within jazz circles.

Melanie tours extensively throughout Ireland, Scotland, England, France and other parts of Europe and the United States. Venues of note include New York’s Cooper Union, the London Barbican, the Lorient Festival Inter-Celtique in Brittany, the Cork International Jazz Festival, La Fete de la Musique in Norway and the Royal Festival Hall in London; a special highlight of her international work was performing at the Lincoln Center Out-of-Doors festival in New York. Her 2004 concert with guitarist Larry Coryell at Dublin’s Green Room was noted as one of the top jazz concerts of the year by the Sunday Independent (Dublin).

Melanie is a regular performer on the BBC radio and TV and on Ireland’s National broadcast station (RTE) as well as being a frequent guest on French radio and TV. In 2004 she entered the world of radio broadcasting, being asked by RTE to record a series of interviews with American jazz musicians. Her interviews of Bobby McFerrin, David Benoit, Larry Coryell, Kitty Margolis and others will air under the name ‘Jazz on the Bay’ in 2005.

Melanie’s stunning Celtic jazz album Oilean Draiochta (Enchanted Island) received the critical thumbs-up from the artistic community as well as garnering wide radio play and has contributions from a host of renowned musicians such as guitarist Larry Coryell, and Irish traditional stars Tommy Hayes and Eileen Ivers. It also features songs that were the result of her collaboration with Nuala Ni Dhomhnaill.

Other recordings include the album House of the dolphins, a further development of Melanie’s fusion of Celtic jazz, and nominated for Best Contemporary Album and Best Contemporary Female Artist by Irish Music magazine.

Her subsequent album, Aisling Ghear (Bitter Vision), is a duo album with guitarist Sean O’Nuallain and has been released to wide critical acclaim. Two of her songs she has co-written with Nuala ni Dhomnaill, ‘Chugat an Puca’ and ‘Amhran na Milaoise,’ were chosen for the compilation albums -‘Realta ’98‘ and ‘Realta 2000‘ (RTE). She also featured on the recently released French album Lorient Festival Interceltique ‘Trent Ans/Thirty Years, a compilation of the best of Lorient.

Melanie’s album, Women who Left, is an original song cycle exploring 19th Century Irish emigration to America through a fusion of jazz and Irish traditional themes.

In addition to her performing and recording work, Melanie also enjoys her work as a music educator. Since 1994, she has taught jazz vocals in workshops and to individual students and has presented workshops in the Scottish Highlands and Islands and at Princeton University, the Chicago Irish Heritage Center the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, the National Concert Hall in Dublin and Napier University, Edinburgh.

In 2003, she was awarded a Visiting Research Scholarship by the University of California at Berkeley in the Celtic Studies program to develop and research the theme of Irish immigration for her songwriting and performing. She currently resides in Berkeley (California).

Discography:

Oilean Draiochta – Enchanted Island
Tir Na Mara-The Sea Kingdom (CBM, 1996)
House Of The Dolphins ‎(Mistletoe Music, 1999)
Women who Left
Thieves of Time (2011)

Share