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
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 McAleer had been replaced by the duo of Seamie O'Dowd (fiddle,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
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
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
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
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
WWUH: Program Guide 2006