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The University of Hartford

Notes from Celtic Airs
With your host Steve Dieterich September/October 2000

     The Celtic Concert series continues to play to sell out crowds as we head into the fall part of our season. On September 8th, Danu will make their second appearance in the Wilde Auditorium, and on October 6th, we're most fortunate to be able to introduce you to Beginish, a wonderful Irish traditional quintet making their first tour of New England.
    Danu is a Waterford based septet, all under 30,who recently signed a three-album deal with Shanachie Records. The first album of the contract, Think Before You Think, was released to critical acclaim in February of this year. This CD marks the debut of Jessie Smith on fiddle and viola (replacing Daire Bracken) and vocalist Ciaran O' Gealbhain (replacing Carthach MacCraith). Dirty Linen magazine is touting this CD as potential Irish album of the year!
    Danu is named after the Irish goddess of prosperity and she has certainly guided them on a meteoric rise among Irish bands. From their humble beginnings at the Lorient Inter-Celtic Festival of 1995, they reached the pinnacle of their genre when named Irish Music magazine's "Best Overall Traditional Band" for 1999.
    Original member Benny McCarthy and Donnchadh Gough from the Ring Gaeltacht (Irish speaking part) of Co. Waterford and brothers Tom and Eamon Doorley from Dublin, have been joined by Noel Ryan, who debuted with the band during their first trip to the Univ. of Hartford, and more recently by the afore mentioned  Jessie Smith and Ciaran O'Gealbhain.
    Tom (flute and low whistle) and Eamon (bouzouki and mandola) Doorley are from Glenageary, Co. Dublin. Benny McCarthy (button accordion) hails from Deelish, Dungarvan, West Waterford. Donnchadh, pronounced "Dunnaka", Gough (uillean pipes and bodhran) from An Rinn, Waterford, is a neighbor of Liam Clancy in whose studio Danu's latest album was recorded. Noel Ryan (guitar) is from Tour, Co. Tipperary. Jessie Smith (fiddle and viola) is the son of Cherish the Ladies keyboard player Donna Long. Born in L.A., raised in Baltimore, he now lives in Ireland. Vocalist Ciaran O'Gealbhain , from An Sean-Phobal, Co. Waterford, is equally persuasive in Irish and English. He's been labeled the most promising male vocalist in Irish Traditional music in many years. After hearing his voice, I most heartily agree and think you will too!   
    Beginish first came together in 1996 and I was fortunate enough to see them in Whelan's Pub, Dublin, on their maiden tour. I said then, I'd love to book them whenever they made their first tour of New England, and on October 6th, you'll get the chance to see them too. We've heard great things about them from some of the other Irish groups who've been here recently.
    Beginish means little island. The name comes from one of the Blasket Islands, no longer inhabited, off the coast of Dingle, home of the band's founder Brendan Begley. The music of Beginish is rooted in the West Kerry and Donegal styles, the musical roots of the band's principle members. Though quite different from each other, these two regional styles are both known for what the Irish call "swing"- an infectious lift and danceability. Their first CD Beginish was released in 1998 and they have hopes of releasing their second album in time to introduce to American audiences on their upcoming U.S. tour.
    Brendan Begley, youngest of nine very musical siblings, grew up in the Dingle Gaeltacht, and thus his first language was Irish. His father and uncle owned the largest and most famous dance hall in Kerry at one time and their children were raised in this intensely musical milieu. Brendan's a highly regarded accordion and melodeon player and an assured and expressive vocalist. Not surprisingly, in addition to his playing and singing, he is quite a mover on the dance floor! He's also renowned as an entertaining storyteller, a talent he puts to use between numbers at a live performance.
    Brendan is also a teacher, an occupation he pursued for 18 years in Dublin before moving back to Dingle. One of his pupils was current band mate Paul Mc Gratton. The two came to know each other musically during regular seisuns at Hughe's Bar.
    Paul McGratton is from North Dublin, but much of his early musical training occurred in Donegal where he spent summers and holidays as a child. He's now regarded as one of the top traditional flute players in Ireland.   
     Coincidentally, the Beginish lineup includes another Paul, fiddler Paul O'Shaugnessy, who also hails from North Dublin and also spent much of his musical youth in Donegal! It was here that he met and played with Frankie Kennedy and Maighread Ni Mhaonaigh, whom he later joined in the group Altan, recording four albums with the band between 1989-93. The two Pauls recorded a well-received album, Within A Mile of Dublin, in 1996.
    Noel O'Grady of Westport, Co. Mayo has long been regarded as one of the top bouzouki players in traditional Irish music circles. He has performed with Westport neighbor Matt Molloy, Triona and Maighread Ni Dhomhnaill and Liam O'Flynn among others, before joining the Beginish lineup.
    The band's latest addition is well-traveled guitarist Gavin Raleston, a veteran of tours with the Waterboys and Arcady.   
     This fine Irish traditional quintet have impressed audiences in San Francisco, Philadelphia and Washington D.C. You'll get your chance to see and hear them for yourself when they make their first appearance here in the Wilde Auditorium Friday October 6th at 7:30 pm.
    Concerts for the upcoming months include Solas on November 7th and Susan McKeown/ Johnny Cunningham/Aidan Brennan on December 13th. Tickets for all these events are already on sale through the Univ. of Hartford box office. Call 1-800-274-8587 or 1-860-768-4228.All proceeds benefit operation of WWUH radio.
    Tune into Celtic Airs every Tuesday morning 6:00- 9:00 am for the latest concert updates and plenty of music from the artists scheduled to perform here as well as many others.

Copyright©WWUH: September/October Program Guide, 2000

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