Sharon Shannon is a musician who likes to surprise. While she is known for her arrangements of traditional Irish tunes and Irish-influenced compositions, she has always been eager to explore new styles, and to meet and work with other musicians. The accordionist from Ireland has achieved legendary status throughout the world and has made the much-maligned accordion ‘cool’ in her home country. Renowned for her collaborations, not just in Irish traditional music, but through all musical genres, Hip-Hop, Cajun, Country, Reggae, Classical and Rap.
Sharon has recorded and toured with a who’s who of the Irish and Global Music Industry, including Bono, Adam Clayton, Sinead O’Connor, Jackson Browne, John Prine, Steve Earle, The RTE Concert Orchestra, The Chieftains, The Waterboys, Willie Nelson, Nigel Kennedy, Alison Krauss and Shane MacGowan – a list that is testament to Sharon’s versatility as well as talent.
Sharon came from a traditional music household based in the cultural hinterland of Co Clare- an area steeped in musical tradition. Sharon’s accordion style is uniquely based on the traditional fiddle playing of Tommy Peoples. All her musical life she has spent ‘bringing the traditional music of Ireland to the world’.
She has entertained US Presidents Clinton at the White House and Obama in Dublin, and Irish Presidents Robinson and MacAleese on presidential visits to Poland and Australia respectively. She recently accompanied Irish president Michael D. Higgins on his official tour of China. She has a personal relationship with the President and performed at his inauguration in Dublin Castle.
The genre-defying star has achieved multi-platinum album sales and has had several number chart topping albums, singles and DVDs in her home country. Her album Galway Girl went 4 times platinum in Ireland with the title track winning her the Meteor award two years running for the most downloaded song. She also celebrates being the youngest ever recipient of the Meteor Lifetime Achievement Award.
In 2015, Sharon received an IBAM Award in Chicago for her ‘unique contribution to Irish Music’ Other recipients were Darina Allen and actor Liam Neeson.
Born in Birmingham, England, Kevin Crawford’s early life was one long journey into Irish music and Co. Clare, to where he eventually moved while in his 20’s.
He was a founding member of Moving Cloud, the Clare-based band who recorded such critically-acclaimed albums as Moving Cloud and Foxglove, and he has also recorded with Grianin, Raise the Rafters, Joe Derrane, Natalie Merchant, Susan McKeown and Sean Tyrrell. Kevin appears on the 1992 recording, The Maiden Voyage, recorded live at Peppers Bar, Feakle, Co. Clare, and appears on the 1994 recording, The Sanctuary Sessions, recorded live in Cruise’s Bar, Ennis, Co. Clare.
Kevin now tours the world with Ireland’s cutting-edge traditional band, Lúnasa, called by some the “Bothy Band of the 21st Century,”with eight ground-breaking albums to their credit: Lúnasa, Otherworld, The Merry Sisters of Fate, Redwood, The Kinnity Sessions, Sé, The Story So Far and La Nua. His latest project is the Teetotallers, a supergroup trio that also features Martin Hayes and John Doyle. A virtuoso flute player, Kevin has also recorded several solo albums including The ‘D’ Flute Album, In Good Company (a recording featuring Kevin playing in duet with many of Ireland’s top fiddlers), On Common Ground (a duo recording with Lúnasa’s piper, Cillian Vallely), Carrying the Tune, and his most recent The Drunken Gaugers www.lunasa.ie
I started playing the fiddle when I was seven or eight years of age. My parents decided to send me to a music teacher for formal lessons rather than wait to see if I had either the skill or desire to pick it up on my own. This strategy seemed to work pretty well, because by the time I felt that I really wanted to play, when I was 12 or 13, I had already developed some very helpful basic skills which I could use. I started going to music pubs regularly, once or twice a week, usually with my parents or other friends of the family, to hear the sessions and maybe even join in! Most of the people at these gatherings were rural Irish people typically from families that were large and houses that were small. Their conversation and music, their singing and dancing was their entertainment – and I loved it too!
Soon I started to play with a ceili band, the Glenside, and played nearly every weekend at various Irish Dance Halls around London. My favourite nights were when groups of great Set dancers would show up. They were very exciting to play for and really heightened the energy of the music. In 1966 we took part in the Ceili Band competition at the All-Ireland Fleadh in Boyle, Co. Roscommon. Although very much the “underdog” we were declared the winners. Of course, we were all thrilled at the result but we were especially delighted for the several band members who came from that part of the country.
One day I walked into a pub in Miltown Malbay in Co. Clare and heard some great music being played by a few American visitors. I drew closer and they spotted the fiddle case and asked me to play a tune. So I did. We got talking and it turned out one of these guys was Arlo Guthrie, Woody’s son. Arlo and his friends John Pilla, Gil Gilbeau, Jeffie Outlaw and a few others had been in England, performing, and had decided to come to Ireland for a few days looking for music and ended up in Miltown. The weather was great (i.e. not raining) so we all went went out to the neighboring village of Quilty and sat on the clifftops most of the day enjoying the sunshine, the sea air and each other’s music. A few days later we said our good-bye’s and went our separate ways, but not long afterwards I got a letter inviting me to come over to the US and maybe do some recording with Arlo. I decided to go. Through Arlo I met many musicians, but more importantly, I had the chance to see them work. They inspired me to devote my life to playing music.
Not long after I had returned from the US I got a call from Christy Moore who had left Planxty and was forming his own band. Would I like to join? This involved moving back to Ireland so I was thrilled. I moved to Dublin and played as a member of Christy’s band for a couple of years. Then one day I had a visit from Donal Lunny and Matt Molloy asking if I would play with the Bothy Band. At first I was under the impression that I was just going to “fill in” for Tommy Peoples for a few days but then I realized Tommy was leaving the band permanently and that there was a position available if I wanted it. Christy called me and told me I’d be daft not to join such a great band and wished me all the best. So, I joined up.
Over the next four years, Micheal O Domhnaill, also in the Bothy Band, and myself started playing a lot together so when the band broke up at the end of the 70’s, Micheal and I continued to play as a duo. We recorded an album, Promenade, which met with some very encouraging critical acclaim and decided to try a few concerts together in the US. One of the places we played in the US was Portland, Oregon. When Micheal and I arrived in Oregon we did indeed like the area and the people very much and finally about a year later we moved over. We recorded our second album there, named it “Portland” . Over 30 years after first setting foot in Oregon I am still living here.
The heartbeat of Chicago’s music scene for more than 3 decades, John Williams is an award winning multi-instrumentalist who performs 300 events a year on over 10 instruments. Selected as Best in Chicago by Chicago Magazine, John is an All Ireland Champion on the concertina, an instrument played by his father and grandfather at rural house dances in Doolin, County Clare dating back to the late 1800’s. The Irish Musicians Association of America have presented John and his father Brendan with the Musicians of the Year award.
From the pubs and parishes of Chicago to concert halls in Paris, Zurich, Dublin, Amsterdam, Bermuda, and Montreal, audiences internationally have been thrilled from groundbreaking work with his supergroup Solas to appearances with The Chieftains, Riverdance, and Nickel Creek. The National Council for the Traditional Arts has presented John Williams at the National Folk Festival in Chattanooga, the Lowell Folk Festival, Butte Folk Fest and Folk Masters Concert
Series at the Barns of Wolftrap in Virginia.
Mr. Williams has appeared on the silver screen as bandleader and composer in two films: The Traveller and Road to Perdition with Paul Newman and Tom Hanks who together performed his Perdition Piano Duet commissioned for the scene by director Sam Mendes. His music can be heard in the film scores of The Brothers McMullen, The Ride of Our Lives (PBS), In Common, Out of Ireland, and Rapunzel with the London Symphony Orchestra. John has performed at the Telluride Bluegrass Festival, The National Concert Hall in Dublin, and the World Accordion Festival in Quebec. He has collaborated recently with mandolinist Chris Thile at Symphony Center for their third performance on the national broadcast of a Live From Here.
John Williams had his formative musical experiences on the south side of Chicago as a percussionist playing pots and pans on the kitchen floor to his father’s spirited concertina music of Doolin, County Clare. At age 7 he received weekly music lessons with Mrs. Evelyn Serna of Bohemia. He tried unsuccessfully to give up music entering high school, but instead kept returning to it and teaching himself from the many inspiring players he played alongside at ceilis, sessions, workshops and festivals in Chicago and on West Coast of Ireland.
In Ireland, John has been the subject of The Long Note, The West Wind on ClareFM, The Pure Drop, and Folk Club on BBC Radio Ulster. Next year marks his return to Clare, Galway & Sligo on the Wild Atlantic Music Tour with longtime musical visionary Eoin O’Neill and some of the top names in traditional Irish music today.
Award winning trad musician Eoin O’Neill will be joined on our November 2018 tour by special guests from the Clare music scene. Eoin has lived in Clare for the past 30 years and has been an integral part of the traditional music landscape in the county. His passion for his craft has led him to preserve music that was in danger of being lost forever, and is now being enjoyed and re-invented by a new generation of musicians. He is famous for his informal music sessions and classes in many venues throughout the county, and is chiefly responsible for encouraging the playing of young and old alike.
Eoin O’Neill is a big part of the scene in Clare. “I arrived in Doolin on December 28, 1979. I thought I was coming for an afternoon and I’m still here,” he says of his arrival in this county. That wasn’t far off 40 years ago and he has been playing here since, while he also hosts shows on local radio.
In 2015 Eoin was the winner of the MÓRglór award for Outstanding Contribution to Traditional Music in County Clare. He is a regular contributor to sessions throughout the county. Every Sunday morning he presents a hugely entertaining radio programme on Clare Fm, where he plays a wide range of music of all styles. Eoin says that he’s lucky to have the chance to play the music he loves on radio every Sunday morning. “I’m more passionate than ever. I’m lucky in that I have a couple of shows on Clare FM and that allows me to feature the local musicians, especially the local ones that should be featured and aren’t featured enough.”
Music in Clare is noticeably different from elsewhere, he feels. “The most distinctive thing about Clare is that there is music everywhere. No two musicians play the same anyway, but there is a thing going on in Clare that gives space to the music, gives space to the notes. They don’t rush it. I am a rhythm player and it gives me a great opportunity to express myself the way I want.”
John Whelan represents the best of Irish music in America. Seven time All-Ireland Champion, John Whelan was raised in the vibrant London Irish music scene. He started playing in 1970 up to his move to the US in 1980 at the age of 20. Learning his craft from such legends as Lucy Farr, Roger Sherlock, Paddy Taylor, Mick O’Connor and his teacher Brendan Mulkare, he recorded his first album in 1974 at the age of 14 and toured extensively throughout England and Ireland up until he came to the US.
It did not take long for John to establish himself in the US as he teamed up with Brian Conway and Eileen Ivers. He recorded his first highly regarded US album with Eileen in 1987 called Fresh Takes, on Green Linnett Records. John and Eileen toured the US and Canada and were awarded the duo of the decade by Earle Hitchner, writer for the Irish Echo and Wall Street Journal. In 1990 John recorded his first solo CD in the US, From the Heart, which won an honorable mention by NAIRD. In 1995 John signed a 5 CD deal with Narada, a large independent record label based in Milwaukee, WI, becoming one of the highest selling traditional artist in the genre.
Through his deal with Narada, John went on to sell close to one million CDs and appeared on the Late Night with Conan O’Brien, Fox After Breakfast with host Tom Bergeron and his music could be heard on such TV shows as Sex In The City, History’s Mysteries and History Detectives. John has also appeared in two motion pictures, Gods and Generals with Robert Duvall and Ang Lee’s, Ride with the Devil.
Today John still performs with the John Whelan Band and has recently teamed up with his old pal Brian Conway forming the group Gailfean, which also features Máirtin De Cógáin and Don Penzien. Gailfean has recently released a new CD.
Socks in the Frying Pan are a multi-award winning trio from County Clare on the West coast of Ireland, the universal hub of Irish traditional music. Their dynamic vocal harmonies, virtuosic musical ability and their onstage wit has captured and captivated audiences the world around. One of the most sought after groups in Irish music today, ”The Socks” continue to bring their music far and wide, performing at such prestigious festivals as The New Orleans Jazz Fest, Milwaukee Irish Fest, Walnut Valley, and le Festival Interceltique de Lorient to name but a few.
This youthful trio blend Irish traditional melodies with their own personal flair which has gained them critical acclaim and accolades including ‘New Band of the Year’ by the Irish Music Association. The group have been embraced in the United States, having been booked by every major Irish festival and praised for their modern traditional style and energetic approach to music. They have a clear love for live performance which only compliments the traditional essence in their shows and makes for a truly unique form of entertainment.
From Ennis, County Clare, the band is made up of brothers Shane and Fiachra Hayes on accordion and fiddle, with Aodan Coyne on guitar. Growing up in County Clare instilled in them a sense of musical and cultural appreciation of the region, one which they are eager to showcase.
Grammy awarded, Emmy nominated, London Symphony Orchestra, Boston Pops, guest starred with over 50 orchestras, original Musical Star of Riverdance, Nine Time All-Ireland Fiddle Champion, Sting, Hall and Oates, The Chieftains, ‘Fiddlers 3’ with Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg and Regina Carter, Patti Smith, Al Di Meola, Steve Gadd, founding member of Cherish the Ladies, movie soundtracks including Gangs of New York, performed for Presidents and Royalty worldwide…this is a short list of accomplishments, headliners, tours, and affiliations.
Fiddler Eileen Ivers has established herself as the pre-eminent exponent of the Irish fiddle in the world today. She’s been called a “sensation” by Billboard magazine and “the Jimi Hendrix of the violin,” by The New York Times. “She electrifies the crowd with a dazzling show of virtuoso playing” says The Irish Times. Eileen’s recording credits include over 80 contemporary and traditional albums and numerous movie scores.
The daughter of Irish immigrants, Eileen Ivers grew up in the culturally diverse neighborhood of the Bronx, New York. Rooted in Irish traditional music since the age of eight, Eileen proceeded to win nine All-Ireland fiddle championships, a tenth on tenor banjo and over 30 championship medals, making her one of the most awarded persons ever to compete in these prestigious competitions. Being an Irish-American, the intrigue of learning more about the multicultural sounds of her childhood took hold. After graduating magna cum laude in Mathematics from Iona College and while continuing her post-graduate work in Mathematics, Eileen fully immersed herself in the different genres of music which she experienced growing up in New York. In 2019, Iona College conferred upon Eileen Ivers the degree of Doctor of Arts, honoris causa for her “lifelong commitment to innovation, excellence and deep dedication to bringing people together through music.”
Eileen and her ensemble headline prestigious performing arts centers, guest star with numerous symphonies, perform at major festivals worldwide, and have appeared on national and international television. The L.A. Times proclaims, “Ivers’ presentation was music with the kind of life and spirit that come together when talented artists from different backgrounds find the linkages that connect all forms of music…no wonder the audience loved every minute.”
For over twenty years, the Ennis Sisters have been connecting to audiences across the world. From church halls in outport Newfoundland to performing for International leaders at the 75th anniversary of D-Day on Juno Beach, their harmonies resonate with us all.
A Juno Award, multiple ECMA’s, a SOCAN award – along with endless accolades from fans and critics alike – tangible proof that they’ve tapped into something universal, beyond the notes on the page.
Flavoured by Celtic and traditional Newfoundland influences, Maureen, Karen and Teresa are known for their captivating sibling harmonies and their powerful, often humourous, storytelling. Their music offers a broad mix of original songs as well as uniquely interpreted tunes and ballads.
The Ennis Sisters’ latest CD release, Keeping Time, is a concept album that honours and preserves our most precious gift – time, and what we choose to do with it. It is reflective yet uplifting. It is about keeping time in both life and music. Inspired by the unraveling and tethering of memory, Keeping Time is part homage, part celebration of life, as the album honours their father, who they recently lost to dementia.
Live performance has been a staple of the Ennis’ experience, and continues to be. Proven road warriors since 1997, they gained underground notoriety before translating it into the global success they’ve become – and they aren’t finished yet!
“We are proud of where we come from. We are the product of the women who came before us and we’re helping to carve the way and be an inspiration for the generations of women to come.”
New York born fiddler Brian Conway is a leading exponent of the tastefully ornamented Sligo fiddling style made famous by the late Michael Coleman. The winner of two All- Ireland junior titles in 1973 and 1974 and the All-Ireland senior championship of 1986, Brian’s early studies were with his father Jim of Plumbridge, County Tyrone and with Limerick born fiddler/teacher Martin Mulvihill. However, it was the legendary fiddler and composer Martin Wynne who taught him the real secrets of the County Sligo style. Later, Brian met and befriended the great Andy McGann of New York, a direct student of Michael Coleman, who further shaped his precision and skill on the instrument
Brian’s recordings include The Apple in Winter (1979), First Through the Gate (2002), A Tribute to Andy McGann (2007), Consider the Source (2008), and Pride of New York (2017). He is considered one of the musical rocks of the New York area.
Brian remains faithful to the rich tradition handed down to him. The distinctness of his tone, the lift of his playing, and the deft ornamentation he brings to the tunes have placed him among the finest Irish fiddlers of any style, Sligo or otherwise. He has performed all over North America from San Francisco to New York and places in between, such as Chicago, Milwaukee and Colorado. His talents have also been enthusiastically received throughout Ireland and the rest of Europe. He is also considered one of the premier instructors of traditional Irish music who has mentored many fine fiddle players, including several who have gone on to win All-Ireland championships.
Enda is the most accomplished and recognised banjo player of his generation, an innovator who bridges the traditions of Irish music and the dynamic folk music of America. His rise from session musician to his debut album Pick It Up and on to founding one of Ireland’s greatest roots bands We Banjo 3 has been grounded in quiet professionalism and ever-expanding musicianship.
Enda is a multiple time national champion on tenor banjo. Over many years he has developed a technically demanding instrumental style and has become a thought leader on banjo instruction and technique. And supplementing his touring band work, he’s now a mentor, educator and leader in online music instruction.
Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh’s name is synonymous with what’s good in the music and culture of her native County Donegal, Ireland. Born in the Gaeltacht area of Gaoth Dobhair, where Gaeilge was her main language, she learned her songs and tunes from her family and neighbours.
Mairéad’s father, Francie Mooney was a noted fiddler, song writer and school teacher and was her first main influence. Her mother, Kitty Rua (Red haired) was also raised in a musical house that held frequent house dances. It is no surprise, therefore, that both Mairéad and her siblings; Gearóid and Anna all play music together and lately released a new album, ‘Na Mooneys’;
In the early eighties, Mairéad qualified as a Primary school teacher and taught in Saint Oliver Plunkett’s P.S. in Malahide, Co. Dublin. She and her late husband recorded Ceol Aduaidh (Music from the North) for Irish label Gael Linn in 1983. This timeless recording was the genesis of what would later become Altan.
The recording featured, Mairead’s brother, Gearóid Ó Maonaigh on guitar, Fintan Mc Manus on bouzouki, Ciaran Curran on bouzouki and Eithne Ní Bhraonáin (now known as Enya) on keyboards. The album quietly gained praise among enthusiasts of traditional Irish music world wide, which lead the way for a career in music.
Mairéad Ní Mhaonigh’s teaching career came to a halt after she and her late husband Frankie Kennedy took a career break in 1987 and formed Altan. The band went on to become one of the most acclaimed Irish traditional bands touring the world. They recorded for Green Linnet in the USA and toured North America extensively.
Then in 1994, Frankie Kennedy passed away to cancer, which was a tremendous loss to Mairéad. She continued with the band at her late husband’s request and signed to multinational record label, Virgin Records London in late 1994. This marked the first traditional Irish band to be signed to a major record label and propelled Altan and Mairéad into a wider audience of followers.
Altan have travelled all over the world headlining shows from Tokyo, the Sydney Opera House, the Hollywood Bowl to the National Concert Hall, Dublin.
Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh, along with fronting Altan, has remained close her roots between touring and returns to the ‘source’ to her native Donegal to play, sing and teach her music to a new generation.
She helped set up Cairdeas na bhFidléirí (The Fellowship / Friendship of Fiddlers) in the early eighties to promote and preserve the fiddle music of Co. Donegal.
In 2009 Mairéad released her first solo album, ‘Imeall” (Edge/Theshold) as a limited edition. After many years of playing with the band and numerous requests for a solo recording she finally got time to record the album, after she parted from her second husband Dermot Byrne, with whom she had her daughter Nia. She toured the album, between Altan commitments with her co-producer and recording engineer, Manus Lunny.
The album prompted one reviewer, Paul O’Connor to remark “Her identified success as the leader of Altan, has dominated our sense of her to the point that we aren’t cognisant of how good she is as an artist , musician, composer in her own right.”
This new focus on Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh as an artist in her own right, prompted The Donegal Association in Dublin to grant her Donegal Person of the Year 2009 at a gala dinner in Dublin’s prestigious Burlington Hotel.
She was awarded the top recognition in traditional Irish music, by her fellow peers in 2018, when she was awarded TG4 Gradam Ceoil’s Traditional Musician of the Year. The following year, she was honoured in her own county at the now world famous “Cup o’Tae Festival” which is held annually in Ardara, Co Donegal.
Mairéad is also a member of String Sisters, which is a Grammy listed folk supergroup of six of the world’s leading female fiddlers. Together they have released two albums – the Grammy-longlisted ‘Live’ and ‘Between Wind and Water’.
She is a member of “T with the Maggies” which is a vocal supergroup of Donegal singers comprising of Maighread and Tríona Ní Dhomhnaill and Moya Brennan of Clannad fame.
Recently she has recorded with a group of Donegal of 13 based female fiddlers which is called ‘SíFiddlers’
Born in Manchester, England, into a very musical family to parents from Co.Galway and Co.Cavan, Colin started playing the fiddle and tin whistle from an early age and won numerous titles at the Fleadh Cheoil. Since then, he has made a name for himself performing and recording with an array of great musicians in Europe and the US, including singers and groups such as Flook, Grada, Karen Casey, The Elders, Julie Fowlis, Tim O’Brien, Natalie Merchant , Mary Chaplin Carpenter, The Michael McGoldrick Band and is currently playing with the Ashley Davis band and Lúnasa.
Colin is also a composer whose tunes have been played and recorded by numerous bands and musicians. In 2005, Colin was awarded a Masters Degree in Music from Limerick University.
Living in Florida since 2005, when not touring, Colin has been teaching at schools and various camps around the US and Europe. Colin’s 2010 solo debut album ‘On The Move’ was named one of the years 10 best albums by The Irish Echo and his second album ‘Make A Note’ released in 2015 was awarded Instrumental Album of the year by LiveIreland. His latest recording ‘Music and Mischief’ with Kevin Crawford and Patrick Doocey has just been released.
With fourteen albums to his credit, there’s no denying Dave Gunning’s impressive body of work. Fortunately, he’s just getting started…
The Nova Scotian folk musician has shared the stage with legends like Ron Hynes, Rita MacNeil, Stuart McLean, and Stompin’ Tom Connors, and has been recognized in his own right as a master of his craft, both as an award-winning singer-songwriter and a captivating performer.
Known for his abilities as a gracious storyteller, Gunning’s knack for connecting with audiences precedes the skills and experience he’s earned on the road—It is, for him, very much a way of life.
Dave has never needed to look far beyond his Pictou County, Nova Scotia backyard for inspiration. Often shining a light on the well-deserving underdogs, he’s also never shied away from tougher topics, staying true to the folk music tradition.
Despite delivering some very important messages in his songs, audiences should also be prepared to laugh at a Dave Gunning show. His banter is perfectly timed, self-effacing, and very, very funny. It’s this finely-tuned balance of sincerity and impeccable performance that makes him one of the country’s most engaging entertainers.
“Once I’m out on stage and the audience has had their first couple of good laughs, it puts me at ease. I believe that’s why I lean toward stories with humour,” says Gunning. “It makes me less nervous. I love seeing people laugh, and I love knowing that there are moments when they are feeling emotional.”
2022 welcomed the release of Gunning’s latest recording, The Same Storm. Written and recorded mostly at home during the pandemic, the album continues along a similar path its predecessors walked – celebrating moments big and small, lending a voice to the folks that need it most, and indulging in a bit of nostalgia on the way. But always with an eye toward the future and the stories it will bring.