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The University of Hartford

Notes from Celtic Airs
With your host Steve Dieterich May/June 2002

March Madness………it conjures up visions of basketball for many of us, but don't forget St Patrick's Day, the "Holy Season". That means there's Irish music of varied ilk everywhere you go. Two well-established bands also decided to release new albums during this busy month. Their choices of direction were in stark contrast.
Altan, the longest running act on the Irish traditional music scene, gave us The Blue Idol. It's a wonderful album of traditional music, masterfully performed by a seasoned group of musicians. There is a slight departure from the past Altan formula; this album includes more songs than previous releases, one featuring Dolly Parton! The tunes are still wonderful sets but appear to have taken a back seat to the singing of Maighread Ni Mhonaigh for the time being.
Solas have been acclaimed as America's best Irish band as well as one of the best in the world. Unfortunately, at least in my opinion, they seem to have misjudged their audience with their latest album The Edge Of Silence. Perhaps touring as the opening act for Mary Chapin Carpenter has affected their outlook on their musical careers. You see, this is a POP album!! In spite of adding a fine traditional vocalist, Deirde Scanlon, the band has abandoned the tradition. The songs are written by Bob Dylan, Jesse Colin Young, Nick Drake and newcomer Antje Duvekot. All the tunes are written by the band members. There isn't a track credited to "traditional" on the entire album! Though obviously loaded with talent, this band has apparently reached a turning point in their career and turned the wrong way as far as I'm concerned. It's a nice album if you're after adult contemporary music, but avoid it if you're still addicted to the tradition as I am.
Based on the foregoing review, you won't be surprised to hear I turned down Solas when they called about booking a concert here to promote the new CD. I'm going to stick with musicians new and old who present the wealth of Irish/Scottish traditional music in a style more appropriate to its origin. With that goal in mind, we presented two new Irish bands with growing reputations in Europe in March, Na Dorsa and Providence. Both were well received by our audience. Our next two concerts will feature established performers who you've enjoyed during previous trips to the University of Hartford.
The Cathie Ryan Band returns to the Wilde Auditorium on May 16th. Cathie's latest album Somewhere Along the Road, released at the end of 2001, is typical of her previous efforts, a mixture of traditional songs in Irish and English plus her own original compositions which are generally traditional in content and style.
Cathie is blessed with a mezzo-soprano voice of shimmering purity with a nearly four-octave range. She was born in Detroit of Irish immigrant parents. By age seven she was singing publicly at the local Gaelic League and the Irish-American clubs. As a young adult she moved to the Bronx and came under the tutelage of Joe Heaney the legendary exponent of sean nos/ a cappella singing.
In 1986 she was discovered by Joanie Madden the leader of Cherish the Ladies. She joined the band and remained with them till 1995 recording 3 highly acclaimed albums that included the first recorded versions of her own compositions. Since leaving the Ladies, she has released three solo albums. The Boston Herald says, "she is one of the elite group of Irish Americans so gifted that they can't be dismissed by their Irish music elders." "One of the leading voices in Celtic music" proclaims the Los Angeles Times. Come enjoy this enchanting vocalist when she returns to the Wilde Auditorium May 16,2002.
On June 22nd we will once again play host to North Ireland's premier traditional band, Belfast based Craobh Rua (pronounced Creeve Ru-ah). Though formed in 1986, this band's style resembles the first wave of Irish folk revival bands from the late sixties and early seventies, the Chieftains, Bothy Band and Planxty. After 16 years together, through a variety of personnel changes, they remain true to this format!
Craobh Rua means red branch, a reference to Irish folklore's Red Branch Knights of Ulster. This band of heroes traveled the Irish countryside, castle by castle, staying a few days at a time, doing good deeds then moving on. "It's a lifestyle much like our own," says founder member Brian Connolly, only partly tongue in cheek.
Brian was originally a mandolin player, trained by his grandfather, but after seeing Barney McKenna of the Dubliners; he decided to take up the tenor banjo, now his principal instrument.
Michael Cassidy was next to join the band and remains a member to the present. He was a classically trained violinist whose musical career took a turn when he attended a Bothy Band concert in Belfast during his second year of high school.
Aaron Jones is the band's current vocalist and also provides rhythm on guitar and bouzouki. Though Scottish by nationality and residence, his musical heritage is most definitely Irish with parents both natives of Belfast.
Patrick Davey has taken over the uillean piping duties for the band after the tragic and untimely death of Mark Donnelly. Patrick is a former all-Ireland champion on uillean pipes and is also a fine flute and whistle player.
Craobh Rua is known for its quirky/puzzling album titles, all drawn from the catch phrases of the Belfast vernacular. Their latest, If Ida Been Here, Ida Been There, suggested by Patrick's grandmother, is no exception.
The Belfast Telegraph proclaims "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." "They are among the foremost bands playing Irish traditional music in the world today" says John O'Regan of Rock and Reel magazine.
If you've never been to one of our concerts, you owe it to yourself to rectify that situation! Experiencing this music in person, in a small intimate venue where you can commune with the artist, is an event far removed from listening to it on CD or radio. If you've been to our concerts before, I'm sure I'll see you there again; it's an addictive but healthy habit that gives all in attendance a happy buzz! Tickets are available by calling 1-800-274-8587 or 860-768-4228.
Tune into Celtic Airs every Tuesday morning from 6:00-9:00 AM to learn of the latest additions to our Celtic concert schedule. You'll also hear a wide variety of Celtic music from old favorites to the latest releases. Thanks for your continued support and encouragement.

Copyright©WWUH: May/June Program Guide, 2002

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