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The University of Hartford

Notes from Celtic Airs
With your host Steve Dieterich May/June 2000

    First and foremost, let me offer a heartfelt "THANK YOU" to the 200+ faithful and committed Celtic Airs listeners who pledged more that $10,000 to support operation at WWUH radio during the 3-hour program on March 7, 2000. And, special thanks to the six listeners who got up early that morning to answer your phone calls.
    Aman assisted our fundraising efforts during this years Marathon fundraiser performing a benefit concert on March 8. All had a good time. Those in attendance were able to pick up a copy of Anam’s latest CD Tine Gheal months before its scheduled US release.
    The next in our series of Celtic concerts takes place on May 17, 2000 at 7:30 pm in the Wilde Auditorium, featuring the Karan Casey Band. This trio comprises Karan, the lead vocalist for Solas for four years, Niall Balley, concertina virtuoso and leader of the band Nomos and guitarist Donal Clance, Liam’s son, a prominent member of the Eileen Iver’s band and former member of Danu.
    Karen, born 30-odd years ago in Kilmeadan, Co. Waterford, decided to give up the rigors of constant touring with well-known Irish-American band Solas, for the joys of motherhood. Now, mother, child and father Niall Valley are on the road again and Karan is working on her second solo album. So much for a quiet family life at home!
    Leaving the Waterford Gaeltacht (Irish speaking area), Karan came to Dublin to earn a degree in Music at University College. She also trained at he Irish School of Music and the Royal Irish Academy of Music. During her school days, she gained extensive experience singing in jazz combos but on immigrating to New York City in 1993, she returned to her early love, Irish traditional music. Soon she joined Seamus Egan, Win Horan, John Doyle and John Williams and formed the band Solas.
    Much has been made of Karan’s voice by a variety of reviewers. "One of the true glories of Irish music today" trumpets the Wall Street Journal. Others say, "Her voice is forceful and angelic, and exhibits exquisite control and stirring emotion."
    The other oft mentioned aspect of Karan’s persona is her willingness to "Undertake material of barbed political import and strong social conscience, infusing the songs of others with the fire of her own convictions."
    A mere three weeks after Karan’s visit to the University of Hartford, WWUH and Celtic Airs have the distinct pleasure of presenting the number one Irish traditional band touring the world today, Dervish. To accommodate the huge demand for tickets we anticipate with a band of such worldwide acclaim, we’ve arranged two shows, June 8th and 9th, in the Millard Auditorium.
    This Sligo based septet stands out as the most sought after live band on the scene today, earning high praise from critics and the adulation and loyalty of their fans. The seven band members are all superb musicians, but their chemistry really comes into evidence when they play as a unit. At times, their performances can be frightening in their excellence. The extra-ordinary tightness of the lead instrumentalists, driven along by the exceptional rhythm section is breathtaking. Add the earthy vocals and masterful stage presence of singer Cathy Jordan and it’s easy to see why Dervish is such a formidable live band.
    Accordionist Shane Mitchell and flautist Liam Kelly, natives of Sligo, have played together since the ages of 7 and 9. At 10 and 12, they were playing for dances in the Mitchell family’s pub (now owned by three of the band members including Mitchell). In their teen, these two formed the award-winning band Poiten. In college they wandered away from traditional music for a while and with future Dervish bouzouki player and fellow Sligo resident Michael Holmes, they formed a rock band.
    In the mid 80’s, Mitchell, Kelly and Holmes began playing in seisuns with Brian MCDonough, a Dublin native who had moved to Sligo. He was already well known to them as a member of Oisin, one of the seminal bands of the 1970’s Irish traditional revival. He was one of the band’s founding members at the tender age of 16.
    It was 1988 when Mitchell, McDonough, Kelly and Holmes, joined by fiddler Martin McGinley, recorded the album The Boys of Sligo. This all-instrumental project was the firs recording to bare the Dervish name. They quickly realized that to become truly successful, they needed a quality vocalist and contacted Cathy Jordan from Co. Roscommon, well known to the three Sligo lads who had often heard her sing during their college days.
    Cathy joined the band in 1990 and shortly thereafter fiddler McGinley was replaced by Shane McAleer. This lineup recorded three studio albums, Harmony Hill (1992-US premiere here at WWUH radio on Celtic Airs!!), Playing With Fire (1994) and At the End of the Day (1996), followed by the double CD Live in Palma (1977).
    In 1998 Shane McAleer departed and was replaced by another Sligo-born musician, Sheamie O’Dowd on fiddle, guitar and vocals and Tom Morrow on fiddle, viola and vocals. This growth to a septet afforded the band an exciting double fiddle sound (popularized by Altan) and greatly enhanced their ensemble singing. This new lineup has recorded a fourth studio album Midsummer’s Night released to great acclaim in Ireland and Europe in 1999, but yet to be released in the US.
    Dervish has resisted the temptation to stray from their traditional roots, to add "outside influences" (non-Irish, non-traditional) to their performances. "We bring the music of the seisun to the stage" says McDonough. He fails to add that they also bring the considerable talents of Cathy Jordan to the stage as well!! Regarded as one of the finest traditional vocalists in Ireland today, whether singing in Irish or English, her interaction with the audience draws people into the music in a way very few performers are able to achieve.
    Come see for yourself June 8-9 when Dervish "present high energy tunes and beautifully measured songs that lift the audience from their seats."
    Tickets for both these shows are available through the University box office, 1-800-274-8587 or 76804228.
    We have a tremendous lineup of concerts planned for the second half of 2000 including Ealu July 15, Lunasa August 3&4, Craobh Rua August 18, Danu in September, Beginish October 6 and Solas with new vocalist Diedre Scanlan on November 7. I strongly encourage you to take advantage of this unique opportunity to see the cream of the Irish traditional bands touring the world today live, right here at the University of Hartford. You’ll have a great time AND all concert proceeds will support operation of WWUH radio.
    One final note, if you’re looking for information on the latest releases in Irish traditional music, log onto the Custy’s Music Shop site from Ennis, Co Clare (www.custymusic.com), a great source for independent releases as well as all the major labels.
    If you are not on the Celtic Airs mailing list please use the coupon on the previous page, fill it out and send it to me c/o WWUH. I will make sure you receive advance notice of concert’s and ticket sales via our Celtic Airs newsletter mailings.
    Again, thanks for all your support during Marathon. I look forward to seeing you at the concerts.

Copyright©WWUH: May/June Program Guide, 2000

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