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Notes from Celtic Airs
March / April 2006
by Steve Dieterich

  It's March, St. Patrick's month, and time for Irish traditional bands to make their pilgrimage to America. Our Irish visitors will include Dervish on 3/2/06 in the Millard Auditorium and Craobh Rua on 3/10/06 in the Wilde Auditorium. Those are hard acts to followł but I've got a serious contender lined up for you when Danu play the Wilde on 4/2/06!

  We've been presenting Dervish since their first U.S. tour. We were one of the "anchor dates" on that tour when they were relative unknowns to American audiences. Their debut album "Harmony Hill" was first played on U.S. radio right here in CT, on WWUH's "Celtic Airs"! The first concert here took place on 6/6/96 in Wilde Auditorium. They appreciate our avid support over the years, and I think this keeps them coming back to the University of Hartford even though they generally play much larger venues in recent years.

  There have been very few changes in the Dervish line up since that June '96 tour. Founding members Brian McDonagh (mandola, mandolin), Shane Mitchell (button accordion), Liam Kelly (flute, whistle, backing vocals) and Michael Holmes (bouzouki, guitar) are still on the scene. Less than a year after their birth, the band added it's first and only lead vocalist, Cathy Jordan. Her proficiency on percussion and exhilarating stage presence remain a key feature of the band's success. Original fiddler Sean McAleer was a member of the band during their appearances here on 6/6/96, 3/14/97 and 2/18/98. By the time of their fourth trip here on 3/11/99, Mr. McAleer had been replaced by the duo of Seamie O'Dowd (fiddle, guitar, harmonica) and Tom Morrow (fiddle). Seamie participated in the recording of the band's most recent CD "Spirit", but left the group just before they performed their most recent concert here on 2/26/05.

  Fifteen years of touring and seven albums have proved Dervish are indeed "formidable heirs to the Bothy Band and serious contenders for the Chieftains international fame", as they were described in 1997 by The Irish Times.

  Come see Dervish on 3/2/06. If it's your first Dervish concert, you'll be duly amazed! If you're a "repeater", you can look forward to yet another magical evening of music and song. Tickets won't last long, so I recommend you call for yours as soon as you finish this article!

  Belfast based Craobh Rua are from the "other part of Ireland", the six counties of Northern Ireland, long separated from their brethren in the Irish Republic to their south. Craobh Rua made their debut in the WWUH/Celtic Airs concert series on 9/25/98 and last appeared here on 6/22/02. A concert planned for 6/03 was abandoned when the American government authorized a widespread and indiscriminate revocation of travel visas for "radicals" like these traditional musicians. The upcoming concert on 3/10/06 will be part of their first U.S. tour since that unfortunate occurrence.

  Like Dervish, the Craobh Rua line-up still contains some founding members: Brian Connolly (banjo, mandolin) and Michael Cassidy (fiddle), both from Belfast. The uillean piper for the first tour in 1998 was Mark Donnelly. Mark was widely praised for his musical skills and commitment to passing on the music to others as an instructor at NPU(Na Piobar Uillean), the Belfast organization formed to promote this most Irish of traditional instruments. Sadly, he died at a very young age. The ensemble's current piper is Conor Lamb from Crumlin, Co. Antrim. The band has seen a series of vocalists/guitarists grace their ranks. The latest among these talented individuals is Jim Rainey, another Belfast native.

  "Craobh Rua are free advertisement for everything that's good about Irish traditional music; they play it from the heart and they play it superbly", said The Belfast Telegraph. I couldn't say it better! Come wish Craobh Rua a hearty welcome on their first return to American shores on Friday 3/10/06 in the Wilde Auditorium.

  The finale in our trio of concerts celebrating Irish traditional music takes place on Sunday 4/2/06 featuring a wonderfully talented group of musicians who took the name Danu, the mother of all the ancient Irish gods and goddesses. The group's current personnel include seven shining traditional musicians from counties Waterford, Dublin, Kerry and Donegal.

  The band members were all so young when they first performed here on 6/12/98 that only guest vocalist Carthach McGrath was old enough to rent a car in the U.S.! By the time they made their second appearance on 9/8/00, Carthach had been replaced by the brilliant tenor Ciaran O'Gealbhain. After a few tours and some acclaimed albums with Danu, Ciaran returned to university and was replaced by the bands first female vocalist, Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh. We first encountered Muireann during the band's last stop here on 10/8/04.

  This group of talented musicians have all grown up and taken on roles as spouses and fathers. These other important obligations have caused them to make the painful decision to abandon their habit of constant touring. For the foreseeable future, they will get together only for brief festival tours or short "weekend getaways" to Europe and the U.K. Their performance here on 4/2/06 will likely be one of your last chances to see them touring solo for quite some time, so don't miss your opportunity!

  "Danu is the next big thing in Celtic music" proclaimed The Boston Globe in 1999. How right they were!! "Their vibrant mix of instrumental virtuosity and vocal energy defines great ensembles" said The Washington Post.

  I hope you're in attendance 4/2/06 to say hello, and perhaps good-bye, to Danu when they appear in the University of Hartford's Wilde Auditorium.

  Upcoming concerts in the Celtic Airs series include: North Sea Gas on 5/13/06, Grada 6/16/06 (our 100th concert if all goes well 'til then) and The Old Blind Dogs on 7/28/06. Tickets go on sale two months before the concerts and are only available through the University of Hartford Box Office. They're open Monday - Friday, 10:00AM - 6:00PM. Call 1-800-274-8587 or 1-860-768-4228. On line purchases can be made at any time via hartford.edu/hartt. I urge you to take the opportunity to enjoy these wonderful musicians in person, in an intimate venue very close to your own home. It's a very satisfying experience I think you'll agree.

  Please tune in to Celtic Airs every Tuesday morning from 6:00AM - 9:00AM on WWUH, 91.3 FM for traditional Celtic music.

WWUH: Program Guide 2006 ©

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