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The University of Hartford

Notes from Celtic Airs
With your host Steve Dieterich May/June 2004

With winter finally behind us, and a successful Spring Fundraiser a pleasant memory, we forge ahead into the warm weather portion of the Celtic Airs concert series. Though WWUH’s expenses rise annually, the profits from the concert series have allowed us to keep the monetary goals of our annual fundraiser unchanged for the past few years. If you’ve been to any of our concerts, you’ve also discovered that this is a very pleasant, painless way to provide financial support for this commercial free station. If you’ve yet to experience the joys of Celtic music live, in an intimate, acoustically ideal venue, I urge you to do so soon!!
Our next concert takes place May 7th at 7:30 PM in the University of Hartford’s Wilde Auditorium featuring Andy Irvine and Niamh Parsons, two of Irish traditional music’s most loved vocalists. Niamh will be accompanied by guitarist Graham Dunne. Andy is joined by Rens van der Zalme on mandolin, fiddle and guitar.
The plan for the night is to have each vocalist perform a set with their respective accompanists and then to close the show with all four musicians performing together. It should be an evening to remember!
After stints with the bands Loose Connections and Arcady, Niamh embarked on a successful solo career focusing on traditional Irish songs she learned from her father while growing up in Dublin. She’s produced one successful album after another. The most recent, Heart’s Desire, was named “Celtic Album of the Year” by the Association for Independent Music. Ireland’s Hot Press called it ‘spine chilling.’
Andy Irvine has been a member of some of the most influential bands of the Irish traditional revival, beginning with Sweeney’s Men in the late 1960’s. He moved on to the legendary Planxty in the 1970’s. In the 1980’s, he founded Patrick Street, the first Irish “super group,” and continues to perform with them to this day including two shows in the Celtic Airs concert series. His love of Balkan music led to the formation of the band Mozaik in 2002. This band made a recent stop at Wesleyan University. During breaks from Planxty, he produced some renowned duet albums with Paul Brady and Dick Gaughan as well as three fine solo CDs.
Songwriting is one of Andy’s fortes. He has written many ballads in the traditional style telling the stories of people and events of the past two centuries, from the Irish League’s Michael Davitt, to Sweden’s World War II hero Raoul Wallenberg, to American folk hero Woody Guthrie. Like these men, he is a champion of the poor and the oppressed.
Andy and Johnny Moynihan of Sweeney’s Men are credited with introducing the bouzouki to Irish music, an instrument they first encountered while traveling in Greece and the Balkans. Andy’s also a proficient mandolin player.
I hope you’ll come to enjoy this concert, a unique endeavor in the more than eighty concerts in our continuing series.
Lunasa will return to the university of Hartford June 19th at 7:30 PM in the Millard Auditorium. Lunasa (LOO-nuh-suh) take their name from an ancient Celtic festival in honor of the god Lugh, patron saint of the arts.
The original band, which recorded the wildly successful first album Lunasa in 1997, was composed of Sean Smyth (fiddle/ whistles), Donogh Hennessy (guitar), Trevor Hutchinson (upright bass), Michael McGoldrick (uillean pipes/flutes/whistles) and John McSherry (uillean pipes/ whistles).
McGoldrick and McSherry departed and Kevin Crawford (flute/ whistles/ bodhran) joined the band in time to record the second album Otherworld in 1999. The current line up was completed with the addition of Cillian Vallely (uillean pipes/ whistles) and recorded The Merry Sisters of Fate in 2001. The much-delayed album Redwood was released in 2003 by Green Linnet. The band were very dissatisfied with the version released by Green Linnet and re-released their preferred version on their website and at their concerts shortly thereafter. The Kinnitty Sessions, recorded live at Kinnitty Castle, Co. Offaly in December of ’03, was released on Compass records in March of 2004.This album features all new tracks previously unrecorded by the band.
Sean Smyth is an All Ireland champion on both fiddle and whistle. Kevin Crawford is the band’s master of ceremonies, perhaps a carry over from his days as a DJ? His skills on flute, whistle and bodhran have also been featured in the dance band Moving Cloud. Trevor Hutchinson was initially the bass player in the Irish rock group The Waterboys where he first encountered guitarist Donogh Hennessy. The two departed the rock scene to pursue a more traditional Irish repertoire when they joined the Waterboys’ young accordion player Sharon Shannon as members of her newly formed band. Cillian Vallely is a member of the revered Armagh family that includes brother Niall Vallely, founder of the band Nomos and is now a member of the Karan Casey band.
The “Lunasa Sound” is defined by the distinctive rhythm section of upright bass and percussive guitar that discovers the essential heartbeat of the tune, overlaid by the harmonious melodies of pipes, fiddle and flute. This unique and powerful sound was captured on the Kinnitty Sessions. “This is Lunasa at their edgy best” says Earle Hitchner of the Irish Echo.
Those who’ve seen Lunasa live always clamor for their return. If you’ve somehow missed them, be sure to seize the opportunity to be enthralled by Lunasa when they return here June 19th.
Other concerts in the works for the second half of 2004 include potential performances by Susan McKeown, The Tannahill Weavers, Cathie Ryan and Julee Glaub.Tickets to these concerts go on sale two months before the performance date through the University Box Office. You can reach them Mon-Fri 10:00 AM – 6:00 PM or via their website www.hartford.edu/hartt.
Tune into Celtic Airs every Tuesday from 6:00-9:00 AM for the latest developments in our concert series as well as the newest Celtic CD releases and a large dollop of older favorites.

Copyright©WWUH: May/June Program Guide, 2004

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