seamus dubhghaill

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


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Birth of Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh, Irish Fiddler & Vocalist

Compressed by jpeg-recompressMairéad Ní Mhaonaigh, Irish fiddler and lead vocalist for the Irish traditional music band Altan, is born on July 26, 1959 in Gweedore, County Donegal, where Gaeilge is her primary language and she learns her songs and tunes from her family and neighbours.

Ní Mhaonaigh’s father, Proinsias Ó Maonaigh, is a noted fiddler, song writer and school teacher and is her first main influence. Her mother, Kitty Rua is also raised in a musical house that holds frequent house dances. It is no surprise that she and her siblings, Gearóid and Anna, all play music together.

In the early 1980s, Ní Mhaonaigh qualifies as a Primary school teacher and teaches in Saint Oliver Plunkett National School in Malahide, County Dublin. She and her husband, Frankie Kennedy, record Ceol Aduaidh (Music from the North) for Irish label Gael Linn in 1983. This timeless recording is the genesis of what later becomes Altan. The recording features her 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 gains praise among enthusiasts of traditional Irish music worldwide, which leads the way for a career in music.

Ní Mhaonigh’s teaching career comes to a halt after she and her husband take a career break in 1987 and formed Altan. The band goes on to become one of the most acclaimed Irish traditional bands touring the world. They record for Green Linnet Records in the United States and tour North America extensively.

In 1994, Frankie Kennedy passes away to cancer, which is a tremendous loss to Ní Mhaonigh. She continues with the band at her late husband’s request and signs to multinational record label Virgin Records London in late 1994. This marks the first traditional Irish band to be signed to a major record label and propels Altan and Ní Mhaonigh into a wider audience of followers.

Altan travels all over the world headlining shows from Tokyo, the Sydney Opera House, the Hollywood Bowl to the National Concert Hall, Dublin.

Ní Mhaonaigh, along with fronting Altan, remains close her roots between touring and returns to her native County Donegal to play, sing and teach her music to a new generation. She helps set up Cairdeas na bhFidléirí (The Fellowship / Friendship of Fiddlers) in the early 1980s to promote and preserve the fiddle music of County Donegal.

In 2009, Ní Mhaonaigh releases 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 gets time to record the album after parting with her second husband Dermot Byrne, with whom she has her daughter Nia. She tours the album between Altan commitments with her co-producer and recording engineer Manus Lunny.

The album prompts 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 Ní Mhaonaigh as an artist in her own right, prompts The Donegal Association in Dublin to grant her “Donegal Person of the Year 2009” at a gala dinner in Dublin’s prestigious Burlington Hotel.

Ní Mhaonaigh is awarded the top recognition in traditional Irish music by her fellow peers in 2018, when she is awarded TG4 Gradam Ceoil’s Traditional Musician of the Year. The following year, she is honoured in her own county at the now world famous “Cup o’Tae Festival” which is held annually in Ardara, County Donegal.

Ní Mhaonaigh 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 comprised of Maighread and Tríona Ní Dhomhnaill and Moya Brennan of Clannad fame.

Recently Ní Mhaonaigh has recorded with a group of thirteen County Donegal-based female fiddlers which is called ‘SíFiddlers.’

(From: Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh’s website, http://www.mairead.ie)


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Birth of Dónal Lunny, Irish Folk Musician & Producer

donal-lunnyDónal Lunny, Irish folk musician and producer, is born on March 10, 1947 in Tullamore, County Offaly. He plays left-handed guitar and bouzouki, as well as keyboards and bodhrán. As a founding member of popular bands Planxty, The Bothy Band, Moving Hearts, Coolfin, Mozaik, LAPD, and Usher’s Island, he has been at the forefront of the renaissance of Irish traditional music for over five decades.

Lunny attends secondary school at Newbridge College and, in 1963, joins the Patrician Brothers’ school for the Intermediate Certificate year. As a teenager, he joins an occasional trio called Rakes of Kildare, with his elder brother Frank and Christy Moore. They play mostly in pubs and are also booked for a couple of gigs, one at Hugh Neeson’s pub in Newbridge for Easter Monday in 1966.

In 1965, Lunny enrolls at Dublin‘s National College of Art & Design where he studies Basic Design and Graphic Design. He also develops an interest in metalwork leading him to become a skilled gold-and-silversmith, although he only practises the craft for a short time before devoting his energies fully to music. During his time in Dublin, he plays in a band called The Parnell Folk, with Mick Moloney, Sean Corcoran, Johnny Morrissey and Dan Maher.

When Moving Hearts breaks up in 1985, Lunny diversifies and becomes a producer. He is closely involved in the establishment of a new Irish record label, Mulligan Records (acquired in 2008 by Compass Records), and produces and plays on many of its early releases.

Lunny is the producer and music director of the soundtrack of Bringing It All Back Home, a BBC Television documentary series charting the influence of Irish music throughout the world. He produces albums for Paul Brady, Elvis Costello, Indigo Girls, Sinéad O’Connor, Clannad, Maurice Lennon, Baaba Maal, and Five Guys Named Moe. He appears on the compilation albums The Gathering (1981) and Common Ground (1996). In 1994, he produces Irish Australian singer/songwriter Mairéid Sullivan’s first recording, Dancer.

Lunny pushes new boundaries with his band Coolfin (1998) which includes uilleann piper John McSherry. He appears at the 2000 Cambridge Folk Festival, and the album that commemorates it. In 2001 he collaborates with Frank Harte on the album My Name is Napoleon Bonaparte. He produces the album Human Child (2007) by Faeroese Eivør Pálsdóttir, which is published in two versions, one English and one Faeroese.

As an arranger, Lunny works for The Waterboys, Fairground Attraction and Eddi Reader. Journey (2000) is a retrospective album. During 2003–2005, he is part of the reunited Planxty concert tour. He also produces Jimmy MacCarthy‘s album entitled Hey-Ho Believe, which is released on November 12, 2010.

Lunny is the brother of musician and producer Manus Lunny. He has a son, Shane, whose mother is singer Sinéad O’Connor.

(Pictured: Dónal Lunny at the Craiceann Bodhrán Festival 2016, Inis Oirr)