seamus dubhghaill

Promoting Irish Culture and History from Little Rock, Arkansas, USA


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Birth of Classical Guitarist John Feeley

John Feeley, classical guitarist, and a teacher and editor of guitar music, is born Ballinasloe, County Galway, on May 24, 1955.

Feeley starts playing guitar in popular music, and at age seventeen is recognised as one of Europe‘s best electric guitarists. After graduating from Trinity College Dublin, with a first class degree in music, he moves to the United States to study with Oscar Ghiglia, Angel Romero, and David Russell, completing a master’s degree at Queens College, City University of New York. In the following years he teaches at Memphis State University in Memphis, Tennessee. He now teaches at the Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT) Conservatory of Music and Drama, Dublin. His past students include all current members of the Dublin Guitar Quartet, along with Redmond O’Toole, Michael O’Toole and Alec O’Leary, director of the Guitar Festival of Ireland. Composers Benjamin Dwyer, Ciarán Farrell, David Fennessy and David Flynn, all of whom have written music for Feeley, are also guitar students of his.

In 2006 Feeley completes a doctorate (Doctor of Philosophy in Music [Performance]) at Maynooth University, which involves a major thesis in three volumes with the title Classical Guitar Music by Irish Composers: Performing Editions and Critical Commentary.

Feeley has appeared at such festivals as the Guitar Festival of Ireland, Bath International Music Festival, the Dundee International Guitar Festival, and the Wirral International Guitar Festival. He has won numerous awards including the Special Award for interpretation in the 1984 Mauro Giuliani competition, Italy. He has appeared as a soloist with the American Symphony Orchestra at Carnegie Hall, the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra, the Ulster Orchestra, the Irish Chamber Orchestra and the Contempo Quartet. He performs regularly in duet with the flautist William Dowdall.

Feeley is an enthusiastic champion of contemporary Irish music and in this capacity has commissioned works from many of Ireland’s leading composers including Seóirse Bodley, John Buckley, Jerome de Bromhead, Jane O’Leary, Brent Parker and Eric Sweeney. He also has a great interest in traditional Irish and Scottish music and has recorded with The Chieftains and published his own arrangements of traditional melodies.

Feeley has been described by The Washington Post as “Ireland’s leading classical guitarist” and by Michael Dervan in The Irish Times as “a trailblazer … when it comes to the guitar and guitar-playing in Ireland.”


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Birth of Bill Whelan, Musician & Composer of “Riverdance”

Bill Whelan, composer and musician, is born in Limerick, County Limerick, on May 22, 1950. He is best known for composing a piece for the interval of the 1994 Eurovision Song Contest. The result, Riverdance, is a seven-minute display of traditional Irish dancing that becomes a full-length stage production and spawns a worldwide craze for Irish dancing and Celtic music. It also wins him a Grammy. Riverdance is released as a single in the UK in 1994, credited to “Bill Whelan and Anúna featuring the RTÉ Concert Orchestra.” It reaches number 9 and stays on the charts for 16 weeks. The album of the same title reaches number 31 in the album charts in 1995.

Whelan also composes a symphonic suite version of Riverdance, with its premiere performed by the Ulster Orchestra on BBC Radio 3 in August 2014.

Whelan is educated at Crescent College, University College Dublin and the King’s Inns. While he is best known for his Riverdance composition, he has been involved in many ground-breaking projects in Ireland since the 1970s. As a producer he works with U2 on their War album, Van Morrison, Kate Bush, The Dubliners, Planxty, Andy Irvine & Davy Spillane, Patrick Street, Stockton’s Wing and fellow Limerickman Richard Harris.

As an arranger and composer, Whelan’s credits include:

  • The Spirit of Mayo, performed by an 85-piece orchestra in Dublin‘s National Concert Hall and featuring a powerful Celtic drum corps and a 200 strong choir and choral group Anúna.

In theatre, Whelan receives a Laurence Olivier Awards nomination for his adaption of Gilbert and Sullivan‘s H.M.S. Pinafore. He writes original music for fifteen of W. B. Yeats‘s plays for Dublin’s Abbey Theatre and his film credits include Dancing at Lughnasa (starring Meryl Streep), Some Mother’s Son, Lamb (starring Liam Neeson) and the award-winning At The Cinema Palace.


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Birth of Matt Molloy, Flautist & Member of The Chieftains

Matt Molloy, Irish musician and member of The Chieftains, is born on January 12, 1947, at Ballaghaderreen, County Roscommon, a region known for producing talented flautists. Coming from a strong musical background, he is considered as one of the most brilliant Irish musicians, his style that adapts piping techniques to the flute has influenced many contemporary Irish flute players.

As a child, Molloy begins playing the flute at age 8 and by the age of 18 he wins the All-Ireland Flute Championship and has a string of successes in National Fleadh Cheoil and Oireachtas. He moves to Dublin in the mid 1960s where he starts playing in the music scene and becomes acquainted with Paddy Moloney.

During the burgeoning folk scene of the 1970s, Molloy is a founding member of the famous Irish traditional band, The Bothy Band. After the Bothy Band, he appears briefly with the reformed group, Planxty. He joins The Chieftains in 1979, replacing Michael Tubridy. The Chieftains 9: Boil the Breakfast Early is his first album with The Chieftains.

Over the course of his career, Molloy has released several highly acclaimed solo albums and has worked with other accomplished musicians. He has teamed up with Paul Brady, Tommy Peoples, Micheál Ó Súilleabháin, Dónal Lunny and the Irish Chamber Orchestra among other artists.

In addition to playing, Molloy owns a pub on Bridge Street in Westport, County Mayo, called Matt Molloy’s, where he has recorded a live session album. His pub is well known for having sessions including many different musicians.

The flutes used in traditional Irish music are called concert flutes. These are the standard instruments found in orchestras during the 19th century, prior to the introduction of Boehm system flutes circa 1843. They are conical-bore, transverse flutes, typically constructed of blackwood. They are played using ‘simple system’ (keyless) fingering or ‘old system’ (four to eight keys) fingering. They have a more robust and breathy tone compared to metal flutes.

In addition to the flute, Molloy plays the tin whistle, though not very often. The tin whistle is a vertical fipple-flute. The fipple is the duct in the mouthpiece that directs air to produce sound. The first tin whistles of the 1800s were rolled plates of tin forming a tube, with a wooden block in the mouthpiece carved to form the fipple. Today’s tin whistles are made of metals including nickel-silver, brass and aluminum. They have a range of two octaves, and are made in a wide range of keys.