March is upon us, the traditional
time for the WWUH annual fund-raiser or "Marathon." Ive accumulated many
Celtic CDs to use as premiums or "thank you's" for your pledges. Please
plan to call during Celtic Airs fundraising time to show your continued support for this
program and for WWUH. Our volunteer staff work hard all year to fill your needs for
alternative, commercial free radio. Now its your once a year turn to pay us back for
all our efforts on your behalf.
The Celtic concert series continues to be wildly successful and
enjoyable for all whove taken the opportunity to see some of the finest bands on the
traditional music scene in person here at the University of Hartford. Our first two
concerts of 1999 featured Lunasa on January 22, and Cherish the Ladies on February 26.
Both were sell outs and a great time was had by all in attendance, both audience and
Our next concert features Dervish on March 12, 1999 in the Millard
Auditorium (also a sell out). By popular demand, the band is making their fourth trip to
the University of Hartford with a few personnel changes that promise to make them even
better than before! Fiddler Shane McAleer has been replaced by Sligo-born fiddler and
guitarist Sheamis ODowd and the band has expanded to a septet with the addition of a
second fiddler, Tom Morrow.
Dervish are now the torchbearers and leading lights in the world of
Irish traditional music, following in the footsteps of the Bothy Band, Planxty, DeDannan
and Altan. Unlike to many Celtic groups on the scene today, they dont incorporate
odd or quirky instrumentation to give themselves a world music feel, nor synthesizers for
the new age sound.
Vocalist/percussionist Cathy Jordan from Strokestown, Co. Roscommon is
still the stage leader for the band. Her earthy voice is well suited to the traditional
ballads she is constantly searching out in various Irish musical archives. No ethereal
vocals here, unlike to many other Celtic bands of late. Shes comfortable singing in
Irish and English. Her impish behavior enlivens the bands concerts and keeps the
male members of the troupe on their guard at all times.
Dervishes core is made up of Liam Kelly on flute and whistle and
Shane Mitchell on accordion, both natives of Sligo. Theyve played together since
they were pre-teens and were performing in the Mitchell familys pub long before they
were of drinking age. The Mitchells lived above the pub during Shanes formative
years but sold it in 1970. Its now called Fureys and has recently been leased
by members of Dervish who plan to rename it Shelia-na-gig. It will be a place for the band
to play in sessions during their rare time at home, as well as a place to welcome fellow
musicians to Sligo town.
Kelly and Mitchell formed a band in their early teens called Poitin,
which won top prize at the Ballyshannon Folk Fest, a chance to perform on Gay Byrnes
Late Late Show. This group disbanded, where upon the duo joined with fellow Sligo resident
Michael Holmes to form a rock band called Who Says What, with Holmes on electric bass,
Kelly on sax and Mitchell on accordion. After finishing high school, Kelly and Holmes went
to London for awhile where they began writing their own tunes in the traditional style, an
activity they continue to pursue as members of Dervish.
On their return to Sligo, the two rejoined Mitchell and a newcomer from
Dublin, Brian McDonough. In the late seventies, at the tender age of sixteen, he became
one of the original members of the highly regarded band Oisin. He left the band in the
mid-eighties to pursue his other passion, painting. (One of his paintings graces the walls
of Fureys). After playing in sessions for a few years, the quartet plus fiddler
Martin McGinley adopted the name Dervish and in 1988 recorded an all instrumental album
called "The Boys of Sligo." The album was well reviewed and they received offers
to perform throughout Ireland and on the Continent. To improve their audience appeal, they
decided to add vocalist Cathy Jordan and began to record "Harmony Hill," their
first album as a sextet in 1990, although it took until 1993 for the album to be released.
Theyve released two additional studio albums, "Playing With Fire" and
"At the End of the Day" plus a great double CD set "Live in
For Dervish, music is not just their profession, it is their passion,
their way of life. They tour 70% of the year, from South America to Scandinavia to the Far
East. During their rare trips home, they can usually be found at sessions at various
locations in Sligo, happy to play at the drop of a hat. They are friends, not just
business partners and their closeness and confidence in each other is apparent in their
Theyve played for festival audiences of up to 40,000. On March
12, 1999 youll be able to see them in a much more intimate gathering of 400 when
they perform in the Millard Auditorium at 7:30 P.M. Dont miss this opportunity to
see Irelands top traditional band.
One last suggestion: The Battlefield Band, with new vocalist/guitarist
Davey Steele and new piper Mike Katz, will be here on May 2, 1999 in the Wilde Auditorium
(capacity 200). Best to get your tickets early if you hope to attend.
Copyright©WWUH: March/April Program Guide, 1999