Co. Dublin native Séamus Ennis (1919-1982), master uilleann piper, teacher, singer, storyteller, broadcaster, and song collector, is credited with being one of the most pivotal players in the evolving history of Irish music. During his career, Ennis witnessed and promoted the changing of the generational guard. He understood that it was essential to embrace new technologies in order to preserve Irish music while simultaneously emphasizing and passing along the organic, ever-developing nature of the oral tradition.
Ennis took up the uilleann pipes at the age of 13 under the tutelage of his father, a civil servant and national multi-instrumental champion. After graduation, Ennis told Colm Ó Lochlainn, a close family friend and the editor of “Irish Street Ballads,”, that he was thinking of joining the British Army. It was the beginning of WWII, and Lochlainn offered Ennis a job with The Three Candles Press to keep him off the lines.
While at The Three Candles, Ennis learned how to transcribe and print slow airs, a skill that he put to use after war shortages closed the press. He was subsequently hired by the Irish Folklore Commission to collect songs. Given a pen, some paper, a bike, and three pounds a week, Ennis spent the next five years collecting tunes from across Ireland.
In 1947, Ennis went to work as a broadcaster at Radio Eireann, where he recorded pipe great Willie Clancy for the first time. In 1951, Ennis moved to London to record traditional Irish, Scottish, and Welsh music for the BBC.
Ennis began work as a freelance musician in 1958, later returning to Ireland where he lived until his death in 1982.
Ennis bridged old Éire and modern Ireland. A master of the slow air, he lives on in the style and approach of many of today’s top pipers, having influenced the tradition as it transformed throughout the twentieth century. The once-obscure tunes that he collected are some of the most well-known today, and his work in broadcasting helped to legitimize Irish music’s widespread entertainment value.
In the northwest of France lies the province of Brittany, where a unique Celtic culture has flourished for centuries. Kornog merged traditional Breton tunes with the Scottish vocal repertoire, creating an exciting new acoustic music. The quartet’s complex arrangements result in a style quite unlike any other, at once graceful and thrilling, ancient and contemporary.
1980 saw the creation of the trio Kornog (meaning “West” in Breton) with vocalist, bouzouki, mandolin, and cittern player Jamie McMenemy, Breton guitarist Soïg Siberil, and French-born Breton fiddler Christian Lemaître. Soon flautist Jean-Michel Veillon joined the band, and the formula was complete.
Their unique sound, created by a focused unison of flute and fiddle, a complex bouzouki and guitar rhythm section, and complex arrangements, was ideal for the Western Europe concert circuit. When Kornog toured the United States for the first time, they had such an enthusiastic public response that they recorded a live album in Minneapolis, Premiere, released on Green Linnet.
In 1986, Soïg Siberil left the band, and guitarist Gilles Le Bigot joined in order to record the album Kornog IV. After a Yugoslav tour and a stint with the Irish traditional powerhouse the Chieftains, Kornog disbanded. Veillon and Le Bigot founded Barzaz, Lemaître joined Storvan and then the Celtic Fiddle Festival, and McMenemy took a nine-year break before guesting in several recordings throughout the 90s.
Then, in 1999, Kornog reformed with the addition of guitarist Nicolas Quemener. After the reformation, they toured the United States and recorded Korong, 2000.
Recognized as one of Celtic music’s most talented vocalists and songwriters, former lead singer of Scottish band Silly Wizard Andy M. Stewart has captivated audiences through his talent and humor for over thirty years.
In the mid 80s, Stewart teamed up with Scottish band Capercaillie’s Manus Lunny, an esteemed multi-instrumentalist, vocalist, and composer. The duo toured extensively and recorded Fire in the Glen (1985) (featuring Silly Wizard member Phil Cunningham), Dublin Lady (1987), and At it Again (1990).
The Kips Bay Ceilidh Band, an Irish Trad-fusion quartet, hailed from the Kips Bay district of New York City. The innovative group was a powerhouse of Irish-American and immigrant talent, and recorded three albums, Kips Bay Ceilidh Band (1993), Into the Light (1996), and Digging In 2000.
Band members included Pat Kilbride on guitar, cittern, and vocals, John Whelan on button accordion and keyboards, Steve Missal on percussion and vocals, and Richard Lindsey on bass guitar.
Various special guests on their two albums included John McGann on electric guitar, mandolin, and dobro, fiddler Tony De Marco, Joanie Madden on tin whistle and flute, and the bandâ€™s producer, John Simon, on keyboards and percussion.
A céilí (kay-lee) is a night of live Irish music and set dance; a massive party for all ages and the premier social event of rural Ireland, a céilí provides a regular chance for the entire village to come in from the fields for a pint, some set dancing, and good fun.
One of the premier céilí bands in the world, Co. Clare’s Tulla Céilí Band was formed in 1946 by Paddy Canny and P.J. Hayes. Since then, the Tulla Céilí Band has entranced audiences and dancers alike from Co. Clare to Carnegie Hall. A family tradition at it’s finest, P.J. Hayes’s son, world-class fiddler and Compass Records artist Martin Hayes, currently helps to lead the band when he is in town.
Whether live or recorded, a great céilí band creates a compelling, driving atmosphere intended for set dancers. Incorporating fiddles, accordions, flutes, whistles, a piano and a snare drum, the band will slip seamlessly from tune to tune, gaining momentum and intensity . The multi-award winning band has recorded four albums, including Echoes of Erin, The Claddagh Ring, Ireland Green, Sweetheart in the Spring and A Celebration of 50 Years, (Green Linnet).
Derry-born fiddler and renowned Irish step dancer Eugene O’Donnell is particularly well known for his vivid, riveting slow airs. The TCRG and ADTCRG (listened Irish dance instructor and adjudicator) began Irish dancing at the age of three, and was the first Irish dancer ever to dance on television in London at the age of twelve, all the while playing and perfecting Derry-style Irish fiddling.
As a teen, O’Donnell won an unprecedented five consecutive All-Ireland dancing championships, and in 1957, he moved to Philadelphia, where he has continued to promote the Irish arts. As a young man, O’Donnell frequented The Commodore Barry Club (The Irish Centre) in Philly. Six months after several Irish societies banded together to buy the building in 1958, O’Donnell helped to create a Ceili band that would go on to win the New York fleadh in the mid-60s.
Known for his Derry region-style fiddling, a Northern regional style characterized by an excitable, stacatto, Scottish quality (similar to the Donegal region style), O’Donnell holds six All-Ireland fiddle championship titles. In 1978, O’Donnell teamed up with guitar/bouzouki/mandolin great Mick Moloney to create Slow Airs and Set Dances and in 1988, O’Donnell released The Foggy Dew.
“Andy M. Stewart is among the finest interpreters of Scottish Folk songs and a wonderful songwriter.”
The Boston Globe
Recognized as one of Celtic music’s most talented vocalists and songwriters, former lead singer of Irish band Silly Wizard, Andy M. Stewart has captivated audiences through his talent and humor for over thirty years.
Born into a family famous for their traditional singing, Stewart gained his first notoriety through leading the Wizards through eight albums and a few worldwide tours, and later through an extensive solo albums career that included four albums: By the Hush (Melody Maker Magazines Folk Album of the Year) Songs of Robert Burns, Man in the Moon, and Donegal Rain. Stewart also recorded three duet albums with Manus Lunny: Fire in the Glen, Dublin Lady, and At it Again.
Celtic Thunder (the East Coast-based band, not the “show”) played its first gig in 1977 before going on to become one of the most enduring US-based Celtic bands.
The current line-up of the band consists of original members Jesse Winch (bodhran, bouzouki, guitar, harmonica), Terry Winch (button accordion), and Linda Hickman (flute, whistle, vocals) along with 20+ year veterans Laura Murphy (lead vocals) and Regan Wick (piano, Irish step-dance).
In addition, other members of Celtic Thunder over the years have included Nita Conley (vocals, guitar, piano), Steve Hickman (fiddle, harmonica, vocals), Tony DeMarco (fiddle), Dominick Murray (vocals, guitar), Rob Thornburgh (fiddle, vocals), Marty Somberg (fiddle), and Patrick Orseau (fiddle).
Frequent headline performances by Téada at major music festivals throughout the US, Canada, Europe, Israel and Australia has seen Irish Music Magazine’s “Best Traditional Newcomers 2003” evolve into one of the busiest Irish touring acts worldwide with an established reputation for knock-out live shows. Recent performances have ranged from a 30,000-audience headlining appearance alongside Carlos Nunez in Brittany, to closer to home Irish festivals such as Kilkenny Arts Festival.
The new CD/DVD from Teada, Inne Amarach (In-ay A-moor-ak), which is Irish for “Yesterday/Tomorrow”, brilliantly showcases their uncanny ability to blend the modern with the traditional. Although no words are spoken, stories are certainly being told through the eleven sets of reels, jigs, marches, polkas and slips. Outstanding and electrifying tracks include the hornpipes on “The Ebb Tide/Peter Wyper’s” and the slip jog/hop jig set starting off with “The Tenpenny Piece.” The accompanying DVD is an additional window into the band’s influences, live performance style, and their connection to Sligo.
Founded by Sligo fiddler Oisín Mac Diarmada, Téada first came together in 2001 to make an appearance on the innovative Irish television series ‘Flosc’. The young musicians shared a passion for a deeply traditional approach, and following an initial gig opening for the Sharon Shannon band at Dublin’s Celtic Flame festival in February 2001, Téada was off and running. Their self-titled debut CD in 2002 brought popular and critical raves, with THE IRISH TIMES applauding the band for “keeping the traditional flag flying at full mast.”
Most of the group’s members grew up in rural Ireland, assimilating the tradition through local classes and by listening to older musicians. With Téada, the group strives to capture some of the rawness and individuality of the solo artist within a modern group context. Oisín, on fiddle, was joined in the band initially by John Blake on guitar and later flute, Seán McElwain from Monaghan on banjo and bouzouki, and Dubliner Tristan Rosenstock on bodhrán. Following a growing popularity, particularly in the US, which had seen the band becoming a full-time worldwide touring act by early 2003, the band sound was augmented greatly by the joining of Co. Laois accordion-player Paul Finn. The end of 2004 saw founding member John Blake depart the band for other pursuits as Sligo flutist Damien Stenson became the most recent addition to the line-up.
Oisin Mac Diarmada (fiddle)
At 28 years of age Oisín Mac Diarmada is an honours graduate in Music Education at Trinity College, Dublin/RIAM. Growing up initially in County Clare and then later in Sligo, he began playing fiddle at age six and won the All-Ireland senior championship in 1999. Oisín released an acclaimed solo album, “Ar an Bhfidil” (Green Linnet) in 2003 and was subsequently featured in renowned US magazine “Strings”. He is also respected as a fiddle tutor and for his journalistic, lecturing and production work. THE IRISH ECHO’S Earle Hitchner calls him “one of the most gifted and creative traditional fiddlers playing today.”
Paul Finn (button accordion)
Paul Finn from Co. Laois is one of the rising stars of button accordion playing in Ireland. Known for a pulsating and rhythmic performance style, his playing featured prominently in major international touring dance productions, as well as in the indigenous session scene in Ireland, prior to his joining Téada.
Damien Stenson (flute)
Hailing from the rich musical environment of Co. Sligo, 27-year-old Damien Stenson is noted for his extensive repertoire and flowing style of playing, honed by many years of extensive musical activity. He is featured on a number of recent albums including the compilation “Wooden Flute Obsession Vol. 2”, Oisín Mac Diarmada’s solo album “Ar an Bhfidil”, along with a recent bodhrán album by Junior Davey.
Seán McElwain (guitar/bouzouki)
Seán McElwain from Monaghan brings a strong string dimension to Téada through his energetic contributions on guitar and bouzouki. Touring performances have seen Seán gaining growing accolades for his accompaniment and melodic skills. Along with developing websites for a number of leading Irish musicians, he nevertheless has found time to guest as accompanist on a number of recent albums.
Tristan Rosenstock (bodhrán)
From Glenageary in Co. Dublin, Tristan picked up the bodhrán at the age of 10. His playing encompasses a distinctive musical sensitivity, evident on a number of recordings and tours with which he has been involved. Prominent in Dublin musical circles, Tristan also possesses a deep knowledge of the Irish language.
“Sparsely accompanied fiddle music has rarely sounded so complete and so essential.” – Colin Harper, Q Magazine
Martin Hayes epitomizes the fiddle music of County Clare for many people. He started playing when he was seven years old and, by the age of thirteen, was touring with the Tulla Ceili Band, arguably the most revered and famous ceili band in Ireland at the time which was led by his father, PJ Hayes. Martin was also entering national competitions and winning them. By the age of twenty he had won every available competition in the country.
The music scene in East County Clare in the 1970’s was full of fine fiddlers, and Martin’s locality near the village of Feakle was home to many of them. In addition to PJ Hayes, Paddy Canny, Martin Rochford, Francie Donnellan, Vincent Griffin and Martin Woods all were a great influence on the young musician. The gentle contemplative style of these fiddlers molded Martin at an impressionable age, and by the time he left school he was playing to the approval of musicians thirty years older and more. It is a rare thing to have such depth and clarity of understanding in one so young, but Martin Hayes seemed to feel the music of his home place and to hear what older players were trying to express.
When Martin left Clare for Chicago in the 1980’s he became immersed in the diversity of musical styles that the city had to offer. It was also in Chicago where Martin met his current musical partner, Dennis Cahill. With several other musicians, they formed an electric/Irish/rock fusion band called Midnight Court, after the poem by the eighteenth century Clareman, Brian Merriman. After three years dedicated to the freedom of musical experimentation and exploration, Martin was drawn back to the music of his roots with new insights and a deeper confidence. He headed for Seattle in the 1990’s and pursued a new path playing a pure and distilled version of the music he had grown up with; a version built on universal musical principles that could now find its place in the wider world of music.
The 1993 recording, Martin Hayes was greeted by widespread critical acclaim, which garnered Martin the National Entertainment Award (the Irish Grammies) and the Hot Press Heineken Award. His second album, Under the Moon, released in 1995, continued to build on the success of the first, attracting an international following.
For Martin, the music spoke to him and inspired him. He constantly sought to express that inspiration and to convey the same musical message as generations of musicians before him. With Dennis Cahill’s understated guitar outlining and intensifying that message, the duo touched audiences across the world. The Lonesome Touch, released in 1997, reached out to the Irish music community and beyond. Hayes and Cahill became more adventurous, more empathic, more attuned to each other, and more able to stretch the music while remaining true to its essential qualities.
Following international festivals, concert tours, television spots and awards ceremonies, Martin and Dennis released Live in Seattle in 1999. Their live sound had become legendary: tunes which never ended, sets which started in one place and finished somewhere totally different. Recorded at the Tractor Tavern, the album featured as its centerpiece one medley lasting almost thirty minutes.
The duo’s new album, Welcome Here Again, is a fresh departure; eighteen tracks and not one of them over seven minutes, but with that same burning intensity and depth of emotion. It used to be common for Irish musicians to record one tune at a time, to make each one a self-contained masterpiece. The new album revives this tradition. The playing of Martin Hayes and Dennis Cahill renders the essence of the tunes, revealed in their purest form, accessible and appealing to all. “The Dear Irish Boy” is one such track. “P Joe’s Reel” is another. The mesmeric rhythms, the tantalizing slow release of melody, the extra tone from viola or tuned-down fiddle, all of that and more is on this album. After eight years, Hayes and Cahill are indeed Welcome Here Again.
Quotes From the Press
“A Celtic complement to Steve Reich’s quartets or Miles Davis’s ’Sketches of Spain.” – The New York Times
“Hayes has one of the most ravishing violin styles in all of Celtic music…the vocal quality of his tone brings an incomparable feeling of warmth to everything he plays. Cahill’s gentle, supportive accompaniment adds precisely the right touch.” – Los Angeles Times
“Together they create a music filled with calm and silence, the likes of which you’ve never heard before. Except, perhaps, in brief snatches of a long forgotten dream.” – Time Out, London
“Martin Hayes…the most important individual musician in Ireland right now.” – Hot Press, Ireland
“There’s no more impressive partnership in Irish instrumental music today than Martin Hayes & Dennis Cahill.” – The Irish Echo
“…maddeningly slow and unbearably beautiful, with an approach so radical it sounds perfectly true to the tradition.” – Acoustic Guitar
“Fiddler Martin Hayes wielded his bow with such an exquisite balance of sweetness and sinew, delicacy and fire, graveness and mischief you just didn’t want him to stop…Simply the loveliest fiddle music I’ve heard.” – Scotland on Sunday
“Hayes redefines your concept of excellence and reveals levels of beauty and artistry that previously hadn’t existed in your frame of reference.” – The Sydney Morning Herald, Australia
“Ireland’s answer to hot young American fiddler Mark O’Connor.” – Washington City Paper
“Hayes weaves seemingly magical spells over his audience, which ride with every curve of the bow as he gently shifts moods, styles and nuances. Dennis Cahill’s symbiotic guitar accompaniment is a crucial foil for Hayes’ deliciously subtle displays of charming brilliance.” – Folk Roots, UK
The Irish Tradition play music and sing songs with passion, pleasure, and virtuosity. Their sound is as refreshing as anything you’ll ever hear, yet they are infused with a sense of history and a singular commitment to the traditional music they love to play. A glorious ensemble sound.
Born of the musical union of British fiddle virtuoso Brendan Mulvihill and New Yorker accordion virtuoso Billy McComisky, Irish Tradition recorded two albums for Green Linnet Records, The Corner House (1978), and The Times We’ve Had (1985), produced by Irish guitarist Mick Moloney.
McComiskey and Mulvihill first performed together during a week-long Washington DC Irish festival in 1975 with guitarist/vocalist Andy O’Brien. The trio soon became a permanent fixture in Washington, DC, playing five nights a week for four years. Their musical collaboration spurned many new projects including Irish-American bands Celtic Thunder, the Hags, and Boiling Spuds.
The Tannahill Weavers are one of Scotland’s premier traditional bands. Their diverse repertoire spans the centuries with fire-driven instrumentals, topical songs, and original ballads and lullabies. Their music demonstrates to old and young alike the rich and varied musical heritage of the Celtic people. These versatile musicians have received worldwide accolades consistently over the years for their exuberant performances and outstanding recording efforts that seemingly can’t get better…yet continue to do just that.
The Tannahills have turned their acoustic excitement loose on audiences with an electrifying effect. They have that unique combination of traditional melodies, driving rhythmic accompaniment, and rich vocals that make their performances unforgettable. As the Winnipeg Free Press noted, “The Tannahill Weavers – properly harnessed – could probably power an entire city for a year on the strength of last night’s concert alone. The music may be old time Celtic, but the drive and enthusiasm are akin to straight ahead rock and roll.”
Born of a session in Paisley, Scotland and named for the town’s historic weaving industry and local poet laureate Robert Tannahill, the group has made an international name for its special brand of Scottish music, blending the beauty of traditional melodies with the power of modern rhythms. The Tannahill Weavers began to attract attention when founding members Roy Gullane and Phil Smillie added the full-sized highland bagpipes to the on-stage presentations, the first professional Scottish folk group to successfully do so. The combination of the powerful pipe solos, Roy’s driving guitar backing and lead vocals, and Phil’s ethereal flute playing breathed new life into Scotland’s vast repertoire of traditional melodies and songs.
Three years and a dozen countries later, the Tannahills were the toast of Europe, having won the Scotstar Award for Folk Record of the Year with their third album, The Tannahill Weavers. Canada came the next summer, with thousands at the national festivals in Vancouver, Winnipeg and Toronto screaming an approval that echoed throughout the Canadian media. The Regina Leader-Post wrote, “The Tannahill Weavers personify Celtic music, and if you are given to superlatives, you have to call their talent ’awesome’.”
Since their first visit to the United States in 1981, the Tannahills’ unique combination of traditional melodies on pipes, flute and fiddle, driving rhythms on guitar and bouzouki, and powerful three and four part vocal harmonies have taken the musical community by storm. As Garrison Keillor, the host of “Prairie Home Companion”, remarked, “These guys are a bunch of heroes every time they go on tour in the States”.
Over the years the Tannies have been trailblazers for Scottish music, and their tight harmonies and powerful, inventive arrangements have won them fans from beyond the folk and Celtic music scenes. The Ithaca Journal writes, “Traveling overseas to perform always thrusts the artist into the role of cultural ambassador. If that is the case, the Tannahill Weavers make Scotland out to be a country to desire, one with an appreciation of the old, an acceptance of the new and a quick and playful wit.”
1994 saw the release to critical acclaim of Capernaum, which won the Indie Award in the USA for Celtic Album of the Year from the National Association of Independent Record Distributors and Manufacturers. Now with their 15th album, Alchemy (2000), the Tannahill Weavers are firmly established as one of the world’s premier Celtic artists. From reflective ballads to footstomping reels and jigs, the variety and range of the material they perform is matched only by their enthusiasm and lively Scottish spirit.
Quotes From the Press
“These guys are a bunch of heroes every time they go on tour in the States” – Garrison Keillor, Prairie Home Companion
“…world class musicians with passion and a healthy sense of fun, keeping alive and making accessible the very heart of the tradition itself.” – Mojo Magazine
“…as close to perfect as it gets in an imperfect world…there is no Celtic group which can match the enigmatic Tannahill Weavers for pure excitement.” – R. Weir, Sing Out
“…no band of their ilk has performed with more energy or authority than the Tannies, who blend guitar, mandolin, bouzouki, fiddle, whistles, bodhran and pipes into a lilting product as fine and enduring as the textiles woven by namesake weavers of their Scottish hometown, Paisley.” – Westword, Denver, Colorado
“…the Weavers’ unpretentious manner and superlative playing set them apart from most other Celtic groups. In a world where good taste has become a scarce commodity, the Tannahill Weavers are a wealthy bunch.” – Michael Lipton, The Charleston Gazette
“Versatility is their strong suit, backed up by instrumental brilliance and on-stage high spirit.” – Vancouver Press
“Past meets present for a heckuva future!” – St. Paul Pioneer Press
“If you haven’t yet discovered the emotional power and beauty of Celtic music, then you owe it to yourself to see firsthand one of the best traditional Celtic folk bands in the world – The Tannahill Weavers. No other group comes close to matching their musical style and breathtaking harmony. Whether they’re performing an a cappella ballad with beauty and precision, or a hard-driving Gaelic battle tune, this band is one of a kind, featuring stunning vocals, as well as the best guitar, pipes, fiddle, bodhran, and tin whistle players anywhere.” – Miami Valley Guide to Musical Diversity