March 26, 2017: The Outside Track to perform Celtic music in Harrisburg

The Outside Track, a Celtic group performing Scots, Irish, and Cape Breton tunes, songs, and step-dance comes to Harrisburg for a Susquehanna Folk Music Society concert on Sunday, March 26, 2017, at 7:30 p.m., at the Abbey Bar, Appalachian Brewing Company, 50 N. Cameron Street. The group features vocals, electric harp, flute, whistle, fiddle, and guitar.

For information on the band members visit http://www.sfmsfolk.org/concerts/OutsideTrack.html

The Outside Track was named Group of the Year in both the Live Ireland awards and the TIR awards and was nominated for a Scots trad award. The group’s latest CD, “Light Up the Dark,” was nominated for Best Album in the 2016 Indie Acoustic Project Awards.

Concert tickets are $24 General Admission, $20 for SFMS members and $10 for students ages 3-22. Advance tickets are available through Brown Paper Tickets online at http://www.brownpapertickets.com or toll-free (800) 838-3006. For more information, visit the Susquehanna Folk Music Society website at http://www.sfmsfolk.org.

We had a chance to speak to the band’s accordion player Fiona Black about the origins of The Outside Track and what audiences should expect.

FOLKMAMA: I understand that throughout the history of the band you have had members from Scotland, Ireland, Cape Breton and the United States. Did you start out with the idea to become a Pan-Celtic band?

FIONA: It really didn’t start out as a concept band. We met in Limerick in Ireland at University. Originally it was myself and Ailie (we are the two Scottish members) and we also had a couple of Irish members at the very beginning and a Canadian member.

It has always seemed natural that we would play music from the countries that we were from. That’s how it came about and we have continued to do that.

FOLKMAMA: Would it be easy for an audience member to figure out the country of origin for the tunes or songs that you play?

FIONA: We all play music from our own regions and our own countries, but honestly there are many more similarities than differences between the music from Scotland, Ireland and Cape Breton.

FOLKMAMA: Can you describe your performances?

FIONA: Well, they are really quite lively. About half of what we do are tunes and the other half songs.  We do different arrangements of tunes; some traditional ones and some that we have invented. Each instrument is showcased at different points and we all work together on harmonies and chords. The fiddle player is the dancer. She does Cape Breton style of dancing which is really close to the floor and really beautiful.

FOLKMAMA: Who is in the band and where are they from?

FIONA: Teresa Horgan is the lead singer and flute and whistle player. She’s from County Cork in Ireland. And then Ailie Robertson is the harp player in the band—she plays electric harp. She creates a lot of the bass lines and a lot of the texture as well. And she’s from Edinburgh in Scotland. My name is Fiona Black and I’m from the Highlands in Scotland and I play the piano accordion. And then we have Emerald Rae who’s from Boston. She’s the fiddle player and the step dancer in the band. She spent a lot of time in Cape Breton. And then Eric MacDonald is also from Boston and he’s the guitar player in the band.

FOLKMAMA: How long have you been playing together?

FIONA: We started about 10 years ago. Ailie and I are the two original members left.

FOLKMAMA: Anything you want the readers to know?

FIONA: We just put a new music video out on Facebook. We have another week in the tour and then off we’ll go to Germany. We’ll be back in the US in August!

FOLKMAMA: Is this the main gig for everyone?

FIONA: We tour about six months out of the year. We all have different side projects, other bands and different teaching projects and composing project—but for everyone this is the main band.

 

 

 

Irish Music w/ Mick Moloney, Billy McComiskey + Athena Tergis March 13, Hbg, PA

Three icons of Irish-American music—MICK MOLONEY (guitar/banjo/vocals), BILLY McCOMISKEY (accordion), and ATHENA TERGIS (fiddle)—come to Harrisburg on Sunday, March 13, 2016, for a lecture, potluck dinner, and concert sponsored by Susquehanna Folk Music Society at the Fort Hunter Centennial Barn, 5300 N. Front Street, Harrisburg. The concert is at 7:30.

The evening opens with a 5 p.m. with what is sure to be a fascinating illustrated talk on “Irish and African Roots of American Music.” Mick Moloney, who will be giving the talk along with Harrisburg’s own LENWOOD SLOAN, says that they will focus specifically on Appalachian music and the music of the minstrels. “Throughout history there has been a close association between Afro-Americans and the Irish, “Mick told me. “Both groups lived on the margins of society.”

“It might be a startling fact, but 38% of African Americans have Irish DNA,” he said. “Both BARAK AND MICHELLE OBAMA have Irish ancestry.”

Moloney has taught ethnomusicology, folklore, and Irish studies courses at several universities. Lenwood Sloan is a choreographer and scholar of dance history with a special interest in minstrel dance. Additionally Lenwood has served as director of PA’s Culture and Heritage Tourism Program and PA’s Film Commission and is active with the arts in Harrisburg.

Mick Moloney has recorded and produced over 40 albums of traditional music and has been an advisor for scores of festivals and concerts all over America. In 1999 he was awarded the NATIONAL HERITAGE AWARD from the National Endowment for the Arts, the highest official honor a traditional arti

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st can receive in the U.S. Billy McComiskey is a highly regarded player and composer of Irish traditional music. He has won FOUR ALL IRELAND CHAMPIONSHIP TITLES. Athena Turgis has toured extensively with the Sharon Shannon Band and has appeared in the Las Vegas production of Lord of the Dance. She has also been principal fiddler for the Broadway production of RIVERDANCE.

All are welcome to a free potluck dinner before the concert. Bring a covered dish to share. Drinks and place settings will be provided.

Concert tickets are $24 General Admission, $21 for SFMS members and $10 for students ages 3-22. The lecture is included with concert admission. Advance tickets are available through Brown Paper Tickets online at http://www.brownpapertickets.com or toll-free (800) 838-3006.

For more information, visit the Susquehanna Folk Music Society website at http://www.sfmsfolk.org

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Following are a few more details from my conversation with Mick:

FOLKMAMA: Susquehanna Folk has been lucky enough to have Billy McComisky on our stage twice; once with Pride of New York (which features Cherish the Ladies’ JOANIE MADDEN) and Trian (which features fiddler LIZ CARROL). We haven’t had Athena play for us yet, but she sure has an impressive bio! What’s it like playing with these two powerhouses?

MICK: There is not too much more to say then they are the best of the best. They are just fantastic musicians and I love playing with them. They’re masters of their craft.

FOLKMAMA: How long have you been playing together?

MICK: About 10 years now. But we play in different configuration and sometimes with other musicians.

FOLKMAMA: What’s the music like that you play?

MICK: Well it’s all traditional Irish music, but between us we have such a huge repertoire that we can adjust to any situation. We don’t have to spend hours rehearsing. We just have so much stuff under the belt as it were.

FOLKMAMA: You might know that Susquehanna Folk has been doing a little bit of a focus on the banjo this season. You play the tenor banjo. I’m curious to know a little bit about the history of the banjo in Ireland.

MICK: Well, the banjo found its way formally to Ireland with The Virginia Minstrels in 1844, and it’s been a part of Irish music ever since. The banjo that we play, though, is the Irish banjo. It’s tuned an octave below a standard banjo. The tenor banjo is tuned like a fiddle, and the music fall on it fairly naturally.

FOLKMAMA: Anything else that you want to add?

MICK: We expect the concert to be fresh and lively because we’ll figure out what we’ll play a half an hour before! And we’ll enjoy ourselves immensely and hopefully everyone will too!

 

Yves Lambert Trio to appear in Harrisburg, PA January 10, 2016. An interview with band member Olivier Rondeau.

The Yves Lambert Trio

Hailed by some Quebec music critics as a beacon in the aesthetics of Quebec’s cultural heritage, Yves Lambert is a powerful singer and musician whose 36-year career has been full of risks and adventures. He and his trio brings the energy, multicultural ambiance, and colorful sounds of Quebecois music (a wonderful mix of Irish and French styles) to Harrisburg for a January 10, 2016, Susquehanna Folk Music Society concert at 7:30 p.m. in the Fort Hunter Centennial Barn, 5300 N. Front Street, Harrisburg.

Often seen as a veritable patriarch of the revival of Quebec’s musical roots, Lambert founded the legendary group La Bottine Souriante in 1976. In his 26 years with that group, Lambert was the link between its various incarnations and was its heart and soul.

In the summer of 2010 he joined with multi-instrumentalists Yves Lambert Trio and Tommy Gauthier in a trio that brilliantly demonstrates how traditional local music continually reinvents itself within a modern context.

Concert tickets are $20 General Admission, $16 for SFMS members and $10 for students ages 3-22. Advance tickets are available through Brown Paper Tickets online at http://www.brownpapertickets.com or toll-free (800) 838-3006. For more information, visit the Susquehanna Folk Music Society website at http://www.sfmsfolk.org

I caught up with band member Olivier Rondeau and had a chat with him about the roots of Quebecoise music as well as the innovations that the Yves Lambert Trio brings to the genre.

FOLKMAMA: I know that Quebecoise music was heavily influenced by two groups that settled in Quebec; the French and the Irish, but how did the style first become popular?

OLIVER: The traditional music from Quebec just starts from the kitchen party. There were people down there that were playing fiddle during the night, just to entertain the people and there were singers too. And people go with foot tapping on the floor, just to keep the beat and all the dancers going crazy!

Mainly all the music influence is from Ireland and stuff like that. When people come, when there is a deportation, they come with traditional music.

Quebec music is a big ear training tradition and there are many different versions of songs just because they were interpreted differently. So extra beats, a lot of extra beats here and there [Known as “crooked tunes”]

FOLKMAMA: How does Yves Lambert fit into all this?

OLIVER Back in the 70s there was a folk revival in Quebec and he became really impressed with accordion playing. He’s totally self-taught. Yves helped to keep the music alive. He was an original member of La Bottine Souriante, one of the most famous bands in Quebec.

And now for over 40 years now he keeps going the tradition. He keeps on looking for new airs and new reels on the accordion. Yves role in the band is to keep it alive and to always bring new traditional music to the band.

FOLKMAMA: And what’s the instrumentation of the trio?

OLIVER: Yves Lambert is the lead singer and plays accordion: diatonic accordions and he has a chromatic one too. I play the guitar and kind of bass on my guitar and the response [Quebecoise music is characterized by call-and-response singing) , and we have Tommy Gauthier on the fiddle and mandolin, and he’s the [foot] tapper of the band. And he’s on the response too.

FOLKMAMA: I understand that the Cajun accordion and the Quebecoise accordion are the same.

OLIVER: Yes, actually Yves has two Cajun accordions that were built in Louisiana by Mark Savoy.[a famous Cajun accordion builder] Old ones. One is back to 1976 and the other one may be in the beginnings of 80s. So he is playing with those two beautiful instruments, both diatonic One in “C” and one in “D”.

FOLKMAMA: Does the band play straight Quebecoise music, or are you influenced by other styles?

OLIVER: For me, and for my generation , every music that I hear that has a good groove is an influence. So that’s the way it works. If it’s good music and we hear it, it could influence our sound.

And I could say since we’ve played more in the United States we hear other bands and we’re intrigued by their style. We love it so much that we put some in the last recording. When you listen to us you can hear a hint of old time, bluegrass, and the kind of rhythmic phrasing that you hear in Appalachian music

FOLKMAMA: Your guitar has a pretty distinctive sound and the times that I’ve seen you I’ve noticed a lot of electronics at you feet. What’s the purpose?

OLIVER : Mainly it’s so that the two lower strings on my guitar can be processed with an “octaver” to give an extra lower octave to the notes. The two lower strings have two functions; they are guitar and they are a bass as well. This creates a powerful sound.

When we all play together Tommy is doing the rhythm with his feet and playing the fiddle at the same time, Yves singing and. playing the accordion and I got the guitar and the bass going on so as a trio one thing that we love is to make the sound way bigger than it looks.

FOLKMAMA: What else would you like people to know?

OLIVER : One thing we love to do, Tommy and I, is to arrange music. We love the texture and we put a lot of work in the arrangement. We try to make each song distinctive; make it grow. So we work pretty hard on this.

When you listen to the song you can hear the roots of it, but there are a lot of influences that come to the music. There are a lot of surprises!

The Celtic group Longtime Courting plays on October 25th

The Boston-based all-woman super group Long Time Courting, featuring the talents of four women who each have achieved great success in other groups, comes to Harrisburg on Saturday, October 25, 2014, for a Susquehanna Folk Music Society concert at Fort Hunter, 5300 N. Front Street, Harrisburg. The concert will begin at 7:30 p.m.

The group features Shannon Heaton (flute, accordion, vocals), Liz Simmons (guitar, vocals), Valerie Thompson (cello, vocals) Katie McNally (fiddle, vocals).

Concert tickets are $20 General Admission, $16 for SFMS members and $10 for students ages 3-22. Advance tickets are available through Brown Paper Tickets online at http://www.brownpapertickets.com or toll-free (800) 838-3006. For more information, visit the Susquehanna Folk Music Society Web site at www.sfmsfolk.org

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I had the chance to interview Longtime Courting’s newest member, fiddler Katie McNally. Katie McNally grew up steeped in fiddle music. She is a former New England Scottish Fiddle Champion and a two time runner up for the National title. She performs with the supergroup Childsplay and in her own solo project, and this past year she could also be seen touring with famed Galician piper Carlos Núñez.

FOLKMAMA: Tell me about Longtime Courting’s sound.

KATIE: We pull together a lot of different influences, but our sound is strongly based in Scottish and Irish music at it’s’ core. Our repertoire is a blend of traditional and contemporary tunes. It’s kind of half songs and half instrumentals.

Each member of the group comes from a different tradition. I grew up playing Scottish and Cape Breton fiddle and Shannon Heaton is an Irish flute player. Liz is more of an American and English folk singer and our cello play is kind of a wild card. She grew up playing classical but also rock and more experimental music.

FOLKMAMA: Do you write some of your own material?

KATIE: Yes. I have a tune that we perform and Liz and Shannon have written some songs that are in the program. We also play some other current tunes that are composed by other people. So that’s the contemporary aspect of our program and there are also old, timeless songs that we do.

FOLKMAMA: Tell me a little bit about yourself and the other band members.

KATIE: I’m a New England Scottish fiddle champion, but I don’t do a lot of competitions right now. I grew up going to a lot of fiddle camps and I teach at a lot of fiddle camps around the country.

We all have our own projects. We all come together from very busy solo careers. I have my own band of Scottish and Cape Breton music. Shannon performs with her husband Matt in a duo doing traditional Irish music. Liz plays in a band with her husband and the fiddler Lissa Schneckenburger. Their focus is on bluegrass and New England fiddle tunes. And our cello player, Valerie Thompson, plays with Laura Cortese and her band.

FOLKMAMA: You are all singers, and there is some really nice four part harmony on your CD. Do you trade off taking the lead?

KATIE: I don’t sing all that much, but everyone else trades off on leads singing and we do sing in four part harmony. That’s really also important to our sound.

FOLKMAMA: What are you like in concert? Do you talk to the audience, tell them about the different songs?

KATIE: Basically, we want it to be like a house party. We like to bring the audience in. Have them participate. We do have a couple of sing a longs.

FOLKMAMA: With everyone so busy with their various projects, we feel really fortunate to be getting you for this performance. How often does the band tour?

KATIE: About four tours a year with a smattering of other dates here and there.

FOLKMAMA: Where did the name come from? Perhaps it was taken from the name of a fiddle tune?

KATIE: It’s kind of a joke. We have a bunch of friends in the Boston area that were a long time courted, or waited to be courted. We think the name sounds kind of folksy.

FOLKMAMA: What’s new with the group?

KATIE: I feel like since I’ve joined the line-up that we’ve really been honing our sound, adding new material to the repertoire. We’re gearing up to record an EP in December and some music videos. So we’ll be trying out some new things and have been really polishing things up for you guys!

FOLKMAMA: About how old are the women in the group?

KATIE: It’s really a wide age range. I won’t tell you who, but one of us is in their 20s and two are in their 30s and one if in their 40s.

FOLKMAMA: And you are able to bridge the age gaps with the music!

KATIE: Yes, that’s one of my favorite things about playing traditional music is that some of my best friends are 20 years older than me and I have some students that I’m really close to who are 6 years old. It’s a part of my life that where there is no age discrimination which is pretty amazing.

LongTimeCourting

Master Scottish fiddler Alasdair Fraser and cellist Natalie Haas to delight audeinces in Harrisburg, PA on Sunday, April 27th!

By John Hope

Alasdair and Natalie, smallMaster Scottish fiddler Alasdair Fraser and dynamic young American cellist Natalie Haas, who have teamed up for appearances in Scotland, Spain, France, and throughout the U.S., come to central Pennsylvania on Sunday, April 27, 2014, for a Susquehanna Folk Music Society matinee concert at 4 p.m. at Appalachian Brewing Company’s Abbey Bar, 50 N. Cameron Street, Harrisburg

 

“People may be familiar with the gorgeous, melodic cello sound,” Fraser says, “but they’re surprised to learn that the cello used to comprise the rhythm section in Scottish dance bands. Natalie Haas unleashes textures and deep, powerful rhythms that drive fiddle tunes. We can ‘duck and dive’ around each other, swap melody and harmony lines, and improvise on each other’s rhythmic riffs. She has such a great sense of exploration and excitement for the music; it’s a joy to play with her.”

 

Alasdair Fraser, hailed by the San Francisco Examiner as “the Michael Jordan of Scottish fiddling,” is a consummate performer whose dynamic fiddling, engaging stage presence, and deep understanding of Scotland’s music have created a constant international demand for his solo appearances and concerts with a variety of ensembles for more than 30 years. He is credited with being a major force behind the resurgence of traditional Scottish fiddling in his homeland and the U.S.

 

Fraser has been featured on more than 100 TV and radio shows in the UK and on several US national broadcasts, including Prairie Home Companion and Thistle and Shamrock. He has released several critically acclaimed albums, including the Indie Award-winning Dawn Dance (Best Celtic Album of 1996).

 

Haas is a Juilliard School graduate who is accomplished in a broad array of fiddle genres in addition to her extensive classical training. She was encouraged to explore the cello’s potential for rhythmic accompaniment to Celtic fiddle tunes while a student at Fraser’s Valley of the Moon Scottish Fiddling School. Fire & Grace, her 2004 album with him, was awarded Best Album of the Year in the Scots Trad Music Awards. She also has toured extensively as a member of Mark O’Connor’s Appalachia Waltz Trio. She teaches privately, at workshops and fiddle camps, and at Boston’s Berklee College of Music.

 

In addition to their concert, Fraser and Haas will present an Arts in Education program at Harrisburg School District’s Foose School, with support from the Hall Foundation, the Lois Grass Foundation and the Foundation for Enhancing Communities.

 

Concert tickets are $22 General Admission, $18 for SFMS members, and $10 for students ages 3-22. Advance tickets are available through Brown Paper Tickets at (800) 838-3006 or online at http://www.BrownPaperTickets.com. Funding is provided by the Cultural Enrichment Fund and the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, administered locally by the Cultural Alliance of York County. “Your Name in Lights” sponsors for this event are Fred and Kathy Fries. The concert is presented in collaboration with Greenbelt Events. For more information, visit the Susquehanna Folk Music Society web site at http://www.sfmsfolk.org

Martin Hayes, John Doyle & Kevin Crawford–The Teetotallers– appear in Harrisburg Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The Teetotalers by Jordan KoepkeOn Wednesday, April 16th at 7:30 PM the Susquehanna Folk Music Society is very pleased to be welcoming back three of the very best Irish musicians alive–six times All Ireland Fiddle Champion Martin Hayes, John Doyle; who the Irish Echo called the best guitarist in traditional Irish music today and Kevin Crawford from the group Lúnasa who is known for his excellent Irish flute playing and wit.

 

This trio—who call themselves the Teetotallers will appear at the Fort Hunter Centennial Barn, 5300 Front Street, Harrisburg. Tickets and information can be found at: http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/571342

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Following is a reprint of an interview that I did with Teetotalers guitarist JOHN DOYLE in April, 2013.

1. How long have the Teetotallers been together?

 

We’ve been doing it for the last couple of years. Very seldom we’ll do a tour because we’re busy with other things. Kevin Crawford is with Lúnasa and Martin is Martin, you know with all sorts of projects going on—and myself too. We try to get our calendars together to do at least one tour together a year. This is our second tour in the states.

 

2. Where do each of you live?

 

I live in Asheville, North Carolina and I’ve been spending quite a bit of time in County Sligo. Ireland the last year and a half—been back and forth. Kevin lives in County Clair and Martin lives in Clair also, although he’s back and forth a lot too.

 

3. How did the band first get together? How did you pick your name?

 

We were all doing this festival called the Sebastopel Celtic Festival in California back in 2010 and this man named Cloud Moss who organizes the festival does this thing during one show where he throws a bunch of people together to play. So this is one of the configurations that he picked. He actually even named us the Teetotallers because none of us drink. So we thought it was pretty apt and we figured that no one else would take the name. So it was great to not have to ponder or worry about the name.

 

4. Style of music?

 

Its old reels—flute, fiddle and guitar. It’s going back to the roots of the music and playing simply but at the same time deeply. We play mainly music from County Clare. I sing too so there will be a combination of songs and tunes.

 

5. Which Counties are you all from in Ireland?

 

They are both from Clare and I’m from Dublin originally.

 

6. What strengths does each person bring to the group?

 

Martin and Kevin are really in-depth. They have been studying the tradition and played it all their lives. Myself too. We all started from a very early age. We all started in the tradition itself—we grew up in a family of musicians—all of us. That’s one of the things about Irish music or folk music; it’s very familiar—familiar based. It’s serving the tradition—serving the culture to a degree even though you’re not consciously thinking about that. There’s an overriding feeling about that somehow—subconsciously maybe. From that—Martin has keep the tradition from his family—this depth of fiddle playing that he has. And it’s more of a feeling—the feeling of a country, and Kevin really does the same thing. And I’m different in a way. I bring a different quality to the band—a different feeling and a different energy. And as far as songs are concerned I really try to go back and get some old—some really traditional ballads. I also write some songs, but the songs I write sound very much like the traditional ones, and they give the feeling of the country too.

 

7. So how long have you known each other?

 

We’ve known each other a long time. Off and on we’ve met each other at festivals and airports a lot. But the last couple of years were the first time that we have played together.

 

8. Do you have a CD together yet?

 

No, we’ll figure that out when it comes.

 

9. And have you had pretty good reception at your concerts?

 

People understand where we are coming from. The music—it’s not about trying to impress anyone, it’s about playing the music how we feel it. We’ve been playing it long enough to know that just playing it from the heart and playing as well as you can. It’s about jelling together when we play, it’s about the community. When people get together to play it’s like there is a jelling of spirit, of tone, and of experience. If you really pay attention to each other’s playing, there is something special that happens in the music. Any form of music—any tradition. That’s what I feel when I play with the Teetotallers. I feel the energy that is there. I love it.

The Irish Band GOITSE to appear in Harrisburg March 9th. An interview with band member Tadhg Ó Meachair

GOITSE-PHOTOOn Sunday, March 9 at 4 PM the Susquehanna Folk Music Society will recreate the excitement and fun of a traditional Irish pub when they present the Irish band Goitse and dancers from the Coyle School of Irish Dance. The event will also featuring an opening act by the popular area Celtic band Irish Blessing and an Irish session held after the concert to which musicians are encouraged to bring instruments.

The event will be held at the Abbey Bar, Appalachian Brewing Company, 50 N. Cameron Street, Harrisburg. Concert tickets are $22 General Admission, $18 for SFMS members, and $10 for students ages 3-22. Advance tickets are available through Brown Paper Tickets at (800) 838-3006 or online at www.BrownPaperTickets.com.

I had a chance to speak to Tadhg Ó Meachair, one of the founding members of the band, about the group’s members, repertoire, and Limerick University’s Irish Music and Dance program where they met.

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FOLKMAMA: How long has the group been together?

TADHG: We’ve played   three or four years full time at this stage but we started 7 years ago. Colm and I put the idea of the band together originally and started putting some music together, and Conal joined and a year later James came to the University and we asked him to join the band. So it gradually happened.

FOLKMAMA: Were you still at school when the band started performing?

TADHG: Yes, we performed here and there over the course of the four years. It was in our final year that we first started going on tours. It was at our third year at University that we recorded our first CD. As soon as we finished we went full time into touring and traveling.

FOLKMAMA: Can you tell me about the members of your band? Several of them have Gaelic names. I’m curious how you pronounce them.

TADHG: So there’s Colm (CULL-um) Phelan on the drum, the bodhran. And then there’s Áine (AWE yeh) McGeeney who plays fiddle and is the vocalist for the band. And then we’ve got James Harvey on banjo and mandolin. Conal O’Kane is the guitar player. And my name is Tadhg (TYG) Ó Meachair and I play keyboard and accordion.

FOLKMAMA: I understand that they band writes most of the songs that they play.

TADHG: So basically in Irish music we have a large canon of music from which to draw from, and then there’s the strong tradition of composing as well. So what we tend to do is to kind of make our own compositions out of older tunes that sometimes have been in existence for hundreds of years. We take these melodies that are old and arrange them in a new way using variations and various ornamentations.

FOLKMAMA: How often does the band tour in the states?

TADHG: In the past years we’ve been in the states either twice or three times. At the moment we’re out for three weeks. We tend to be over for St Patrick’s Day and in the summer it’s largely Irish festivals.

FOLKMAMA: So you all met at Limerick University when you were all students at in the Irish Music and Dance program. It says on the school’s website that it’s the first program of its kind in Ireland, and it’s particularly unique because it encourages a lot of performance.

I’m curious what your experiences were like there and what encouraged you all to go there.

TADHG: Well I guess there is this huge imbalance when it comes to music education where a lot of the programs focus on classical music training, but it was a unique program because it gave a unique perspective. Obviously we started with western theory and things like that, but the focus was on Irish music. Just putting folk and traditional music on par with other kinds of music is right and proper I suppose.

But I guess what encouraged us to go there is just the environment that is there. It’s an environment that fosters a lot of creativity and it gives you the opportunity to meet like minded people. I suppose all of us went there to expand our understanding of Irish music and expanding our musicianship. We kind of clicked with each other musically and we went from there.

FOLKMAMA: Have there been a lot of groups that have come out of the Irish Music and Dance program?

TADHG: Yeah. I guess the cool band when we were growing up was a band called Beoga. They graduated just ahead of us. All sorts of different acts have been associated with the academy at different points.

FOLKMAMA: Your band members have won some pretty prestigious awards and actually it seems like in Ireland that there is a very robust system for recognizing talented traditional instrumentalists. We hear about the All-Ireland fiddlers, banjo players, and flute player—for example. How does the system work and how has it helped to keep traditional Irish music alive?

TADHG: So what you are talking about is the Fleadh (festival/competition of Irish music). And basically it starts out at the county level.  The first and second place winners from the county Fleadh go on to the provincial Fleadh, and then the first and second winners from the provincial Fleadh go on to the All- Ireland Fleadh.

Musicians compete in four different age groups; under 12, under 15, under 18 and senior. There are competitions on all different instruments like fiddle, accordion, whistle, pipes, and harp. It’s a great process, from a teaching point of view especially for young children. It provides a great focus for them to really think about and improve the tunes that they are playing. And wrapped around the competition you have this really festive atmosphere. The All-Ireland competition is probably one of the largest Irish Festivals in the world and a great place for musicians to meet and play with one another.

FOLKMAMA: Can musicians from the United States compete also?

TADHG: Yeah, it’s called the All-Ireland Fleadh but you have four provincial Fleadhs in Ireland, an  All-Brittan Fleadh and two provincial Fleadhs in the US. The winners from all of those Fleadhs come in and partake in the All Ireland.

FOLKMAMA: One of the claims that Limerick University makes is that the Irish Music and Dance program helps to make its students more marketable. How easy or difficult have you found it to make a living as a professional Irish musician?

TADHG: It’s really enjoyable work. It’s a lot of travel, obviously, but you really get to see the world from a different perspective. We just spent seven weeks in China, for instance. It’s definitely an enjoyable experience. We get along well on the road. A lot of us teach when we are at home, have private students or teach at the university.

FOLKMAMA: Can you describe to us what people are going to hear when they come to the concert?

TADHG: It’s Irish music with our own fun and energetic twist. It should be a good mix of some high edgy stuff and some beautiful songs .

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