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The University of Hartford

Notes from Celtic Airs
With your host Steve Dieterich September/October 2004

After a summer break, the WWUH Celtic airs concert series will resume with concerts by two well-known bands, the Tannahill Weavers on September 24th and Danu on October 8th. Both bands have performed very successful concerts here in the past, and I trust you’ll come out again to enjoy them.
The Tannahill Weavers originated in the early 1970’s in Paisley, Scotland, and are named for the town’s weaving industry and it’s poet laureate, Robert Tannahill. They were the first band to add the full-sized Highland bagpipes as a melody instrument to their lineup. Along with the Battlefield Band and Runrig, they started the folk traditional revival in Scotland. Now thirty years, sixteen albums and innumerable concerts later, they’re one of the longest running, most consistently entertaining bands on tour today!
The most recognizable characteristic of the Tannies performances is their mix of instrumental medleys featuring Highland pipes and the traditional songs in the old Scot’s dialect sung in tight three and four part harmonies.
Roy Gullane (guitar/vocals) and Phil Smillie (flute/whistle/ bodhran/ harmony vocals) are the two remaining original members of the band. In addition to more than thirty years of performing traditional material, they are also writing songs and tunes in a very traditional style, usually indistinguishable from the “real McCoy.”
In the 1980’s the band added John Martin (fiddle/ viola/ cello/ harmony vocals) and Les Wilson (bouzouki/ guitar/ keyboards/ harmony vocals), who remain with the band to this day. John, one of Scotland’s finest fiddlers, began winning fiddle competitions at the age of fourteen. Les is much in demand as a studio musician for recording sessions. He too has been writing new material in the traditional style including the title track of their 1994 album “Capernaum”, voted best Celtic Album of the Year in the USA that year.
The Highland pipes provide the signature sound of the Tannahill Weavers and the newest member of the band is their young piper Colin Melville who also plays Scottish small pipes and whistles.
The Tanahill Weavers first performed in America in 1981, and have returned for at least one tour each year since. Garrison Keillor has hosted them on “A Prairie Home Companion” many times and remarks “These guys are greeted as heroes every time they tour the USA.” Though most of their material is traditional, like the good folk musicians they are, they have transformed it, bringing it into the modern world alive and kicking. “They’re keeping alive and making accessible the very heart of the tradition,” said Mojo Magazine. The Milwaukee Journal said “The Tannahill Weavers are a must see and a must hear.” Take their advice and seize the opportunity to see this legendary ensemble here at the University of Hartford’s Millard Auditorium on September 24th at 7:30 PM.
Danu returns to the University of Hartford’s Wilde Auditorium October 8th. Seldom will you have the chance to see such a talented group in such an intimate venue.
This septet is named after the mother of all ancient Irish gods. Their origin was unplanned. The renowned Inter-Celtic festival in Lorient, France needed an Irish band for the new band category. A quartet from Waterford led by Benny McCarthy was paired with two brothers from Dublin and the name Danu was chosen on the spur of the moment. The rest, as they say, is history!
Each member of the Danu lineup has been playing Irish traditional music since they were children, in families where the members made music for their own pleasure at home. As they got a bit older, they began developing their talents in the pub sessions of Dublin and Waterford.
Brothers Tom (flute/ whistle) and Eamon (guitar/ bouzouki) Doorley from Dublin are original members of the band that formed in Brittany. The original Waterford contingent was made up of current members Benny McCarthy (button accordion), Donnchadh Gough (uillean pipes/ bodhran) and Donal Clancy (guitar) who left the band for a few years then returned.
Daire Bracken was the band’s original fiddler, still in the lineup when we first presented the group in concert here. He was replaced by current fiddler Oisin McCauley from Co. Donegal, expanding the band’s geographical connections.
The band has been blessed with a series of excellent vocalists beginning with Carthach McGrath, the singer on their initial tour of America. He was replaced by the award winning Ciaran O’Gealbhain, a member of the band on a number of its concert stops here. Ciaran returned to his university studies and was replaced by vocalist Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh, the first female member of the band. This current band released the recent CD “The Road Less Traveled” earlier this year. I’m sure you’ll be able to purchase an autographed copy when they appear in the Wilde Auditorium on October 8th at 7:30 PM. A word of warning: Wilde Auditorium seats only 200 happy souls, so this show is sure to sell out well in advance!
Upcoming shows in the Celtic Airs concert series will feature The Cathie Ryan Band. November 13th, Julee Glaub and friends December 11th, Bohola January 28th and Dervish February 26th.
Tickets for these concerts are available through the University of Hartford box office and go on sale two months before the concert date. You can call the box office at 1-800-274-8587 or 1-860-768-4228 or purchase your tickets on line at www.hartford.edu/hartt.
Celtic Airs is broadcast every Tuesday morning 6:00- 9:00 AM on WWUH 91.3 FM. I hope to be talking to you via the airwaves or internet (at wwuh.org) each week.

Copyright©WWUH: September/October Program Guide, 2004

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