Moya Brennan Live in Leeds!

Moya Brennan Live in Leeds!


Teacher, songwriter, traveler and special guest blogger Paula O’Brien shares her experience, seeing the First lady of Celtic Music Live for the first time. 

Moya Brennan live – Arriving at the theatre you are greeted by Irish harps positioned on the stage, a keyboard, some guitars, setting the scene for the evening of celtic splendour to come. Moya sang songs from her new album “Canvas” and recounted how all these songs are highly personal to her drawing upon influences such as her deceased father(Leo Brennan), her days as a child playing on the beaches of Donegal, sounds of gulls also being included to evoke her childhood memories. All the musicians were highly skilled, her son and daughter were also on stage with her, Aising Jarvis and Paul Jarvis, on harp Cormac de Barra. She also sang classic Clannad songs such as the love theme from Last of The Mohicans, the Theme from Harry’s Game, Robin, The Hooded man and many more. Particularly delightful was the sample played of the instrumental Lady Guinevere, a beautiful harp piece. Her voice soared throughout the intimate, Victorian theatre, note perfect and highly expressive. An ethereal evening for all!

Band: Moya Brennan – Vocals and Harp Cormac De Barra – Harp, Bodhran and Vocals Aisling Jarvis – Guitar, Bouzouki, Whistle and Vocals Lia Wright – Violin and Vocals Paul Jarvis – Keyboards, Percussion and Vocals.


Moya chatted with the audience, she was very calm and smiley. A nice vibe emanated from her. We were on the front row and she smiled at us. It was an amazing musical event.

– Paula.




Hi friends. It looks like yours truly is building momentum for 2018. So expect more posts. I am also keeping busy with my other blogs but I will make sure this one deserves the first on the list as this is first blog I ever built. Yeah that was almost ten years ago. Time flies! So many things happened. Life has altered direction. Perhaps you find yourself in a strange place. It takes time getting used to-like a pair of brand new shoes, but hey we will always find a way to live through many changes. I guess that is what being human is all about. Being hopeful in the midst of adversity. Having faith in the a world of darkness. Is it our DNA? Ir is it something higher? We don’t know fully the mystery of the universe or the forces that draw us to one another. How gravity becomes our death or life-it depends on your perspective.

So March is a busy month. I got these press release from my good friend Anita of Daly Communications. I will just paste them here as I am still creating ideas for the next post. It will be something to look forward to 😉


THE CHIEFTAINS – 55th Anniversary Tour!
MARCH 10TH at Town Hall tickets at AND MARCH 17TH at The Tilles Center Long Island, tickets at
“55 years, wow, where have they gone as we’re still going strong”, says Paddy Moloney, leader of the six-time Grammy Award winners,The Chieftains.  The Chieftains have been highly recognized for reinventing traditional Irish music on a contemporary and International scale.  The Chieftains were formed in Ireland in 1962 by Paddy Moloney, one of the top traditional folk musicians in Ireland and around the world. Their ability to transcend musical boundaries to blend tradition with modern music has notably hailed them as one of the most renowned and revered musical groups to this day. After more than fifty five years of making some of the most beautiful music in the world, The Chieftains’ music remains as fresh and relevant as when they first began. So now The Chieftains are set to embark on their  55th  Anniversary Tour in the US  beginning in Califonia on February 17th making their way across the US to the east coast with a final show on St. Patrick’s Day in Jacksonville, Florida.  Paddy Moloney says,“This tour will have all the musical force of what we’ve accumulated and achieved over the last 55 years, with a few extra gemsthrown in for good measure”.
LUNASA – MARCH 13TH at The City Winery – with singer Natalie Merchant – second show added due to popular demand! Tickets at
Music is one of Ireland’s most celebrated exports and Lúnasa, a band like no other, has been at the forefront of that musical migration. Since the release of their 1997 recording debut ‘LÚNASA’ and the band’s first tour of the U.S., when word-of-mouth led to SRO shows and rave reviews, “This is the hottest Irish acoustic group on the planet,” said The New York Times, the all-star quintet has become one of the most popular bands on the international Celtic music scene. In the years since those early concerts and albums catapulted the band to the forefront of traditional Irish music, the members of Lúnasa have gathered a long list of credits and honors in addition to the legion of fans that spans the globe, fitting achievements for a band that takes its name from the old Celtic harvest festival in honor of the god Lugh, patron of the arts.  Lúnasa have sold more than quarter of a million albums in the course of the band’s career and boast an impressive back catalogue of 9 highly acclaimed and award-winning studio albums.
Now Lúnasa is back with a new studio album “Cas” and a tour of the US starting this February to celebrate their 20thAnniversary.  It is their first studio album in seven years and it is also their first recording with vocals, including guest singers who are prominent artists in their own right, that the band has recorded and toured with over the years.  These include Natalie Merchant and Mary Chapin Carpenter, top bluegrass singer/songwriter Tim O’Brien, Blues recording artist Eric Bibb and Daoiri Farrell, a young Irish folk singer star who recently won the BBC Radio 2 Folk contest.  Band member   Cillian Vallely says, We took a break from the studio and when we came back, we wanted to do something a bit different.  We were becoming increasingly involved in live concert collaborations and from these projects we invited some of our favorite singers to guest on the album.”
CELTIC NIGHTS: OCEANS OF HOPE – 12 night run from March 27th- April 9th at The Sheen Center tickets at
Celtic Nights-Oceans of Hope is a production of Ireland’s GFD Promotions who have toured Irish musical shows in more than 30 countries worldwide since 1997.  GFD’s Executive Producer, Michael Durkan, says that Celtic Nights-Oceans of Hope departs from previous theatrical productions they have created, among them the successful Gaelforce Dance, by centering the production’s music, dance and narrative on the specific historical theme of the Irish who had to leave their homeland during the Great Hunger and seek out new homes in new lands. Celtic Nights-Oceans of Hope,  captures the very essence of who the Irish are and where they came from with their dreams of a finding their freedom in new lands. It’s the story of the Irish Diaspora in America, Australia, Canada and New Zealand.  It’s the story of people moving across oceans to free themselves from hunger, war and religious persecution to start anew.  Celtic Nights-Oceans of Hope expertly weaves together the lilting melodies and plaintive lyrics of the rich Celtic Heritage
to tell an epic story of a people through song, music, dance and narration.
CELTIC WOMAN – March 29th at The Tilles Center Long Island, tickets at
Since its debut, global musical sensation Celtic Woman’s concerts continue to touch the hearts of a huge audience that spans the globe. Both an accomplished recording ensemble and a world-class performing collective, Celtic Woman celebrates Ireland’s rich musical and cultural heritage, while continuing its remarkable legacy of introducing some of Ireland’s most talented singers and musicians onto the world stage.  Celtic Woman successfully melds the traditional and contemporary.
Following its debut on PBS in 2005, the group has achieved massive success encompassing twelve chart-topping albums, eight DVDs and nine public television specials leading to sales of over ten million albums, with platinum success in nine countries. Each of its CDs – including 2016’s Destiny, which was nominated for a Grammy in the World Music category,  has debuted at #1 on Billboard‘s World Albums chart. The group has been named Billboard Magazine’s #1 World Albums’ Artist six times.

 There you go. See you soon. 0001452019
Kyle Carey’s The Art of Forgetting will haunt our musical memories.

Kyle Carey’s The Art of Forgetting will haunt our musical memories.

a0344602089_16A good singer knows how to use the voice to achieve an effect. She knows when to use nuance and her phrasing is always on point. Apart from that, a good singer possesses a good timbre. Although we know that our concept of ‘beauty’ varies from culture to culture, we do know a remarkable voice when we hear one. Kyle Carey is one example that deserves a mention. When you hear the way she sings, you respond to it right away-the way you respond to singers like Sarah McLachlan, Connie Dover, Janis Ian or Moya Brennan. It is not the fireworks and volume that count. It’s the intelligence on how such instrument-the voice- is used to tell a story or to express a sentiment.

Now in her third full-length album, The Art of Forgetting, the singer-songwriter and amazing interpreter of Gaelic songs continues to touch listeners with her unique art. Carey continues to tackle the Celtic influence in American music. There are twelve songs in the album. My current favorite is the jazzy Suil A Ruin. It reflects the mood of the early 20th century that gave rise to the Jazz babies among Irish and Scottish immigrants. I think it is a perfect song to describe that era. Her playful voice carries us through a not so distant past, but still has a very strong anchor to the present.

The Art of Forgetting is also a testament to the evolution of her musical style. Yes it is still the Celtic Americana artist that we have grown to love, but she added a sense of playfulness to her latest effort. A sort of exuberance that could only come from an artist that has developed both personal and aesthetic wisdom. She can easily incorporate jigs and other traditional forms in her ballads seamlessly. Like in the case of the poignant Opal Grey.

Vocally, she is great shape. In Sios Dan An Abhainn, she incorporates breathy passages while still maintaining the strength of her voice, highlighting the consonants of each line. I admire the clever use of a saxophone in this track which further intensifies the mood.  For Your Journey continues to showcase her vocal power. Yeah, two minutes if pure haunting bliss! She breathes a new life in the traditional Puirt a Beul, a track I first heard performed by Julie Fowlis. Her rendition stands on its own in b terms of beauty and gentleness. Trouble in the Fields closes the album. This is Carey going out of her comfort zone singing in a style that is upfront and fresh.

The Art of Forgetting is a joy to possess. There are many memorable moments here. This album makes us anticipate for more music to come from this lovely artist like no other. Big names that worked with her on this album are:

Rhiannon Giddens
Sam Broussard
Liz Simmons
John McCusker
Mike McGoldrick
James MacKintosh
Ron Janssen
Dirk Powell
Gillebrìde MacMillan
Kai Welch
Josh Scalf.

So you know what to expect 😉



Lúnasa: Hitting the right notes with Cas.

Lúnasa: Hitting the right notes with Cas.


It feels like being away for long time and the fondness if overwhelming. I am talking about Ireland’s hottest export, Lúnasa. They have a new album out called Cas. And this is not just like any of their past albums. Here, the have guest vocalists and I will talk about it later(and why I am giddy). Let’s talk about their music first. They released their self-titled debut in 1997. I did not discover them until I got my hands on Otherworld which really changed they way I feel and look at traditional music. They are purists in terms of staying true to their musical heritage but they also love innovation.

Cas is na album driven by rhythm and texture. Each track is like sparkling wine-smooth and seasoned with age and experience. I suppose that after two decades of devoting their lives of the perfection of their craft, they can teach newbies how surf the winds of our ever-changing musical fads. But some fads come and go. Only the ones distilled with intelligence maintain their effervescence and thus remain precious.

It’s been seven years since their last studio album. And perhaps this is why Cas sounds so different. That time apart may have created the gestation process that resulted to a birth of .a new sound. I admire artists who have the patience of staying away from the musical spotlight in order to come up with something fresh. It takes a draconian kind of patience and control to achieve that. Sometimes it is our fear of being forgotten by the community that drives us to work tirelessly to maintain that following. But very few can take the challenges of art over ego.

So in this album we are blessed with guest voices: five vocal tracks from Natalie Merchant, Tim O’Brien, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Daoiri Farrell and Eric Bibb. I am familiar with the works of each of these artists, most notably that of Natalie Merchant. The album got its world premier via LiveIreland.

Cas is a joy to have. Lúnasa can still deliver tradition the way you love it, but they have added a new  layer of musical approach, one that will take us to a new journey-and our lovely relationship with their music for years to come.

Kevin Crawford – Flutes and Whistles, Trevor Hutchinson – Stand-up Bass, Cillian Vallely – Uilleann Pipes and Whistles, Colin Farrell – Fiddle, Ed Boyd – Guitar

Thirsty for Irish traditional music? Listen to Music In The Glen!

Thirsty for Irish traditional music? Listen to Music In The Glen!


Take a fish out of the water and it will struggle to find its way back. This is what Traditional Irish music is like to true lovers of the genre-we thirst when we have been deprived for so long!

Music in the Glen is a new album by the trio of Brendan Mulholland (flute) and founding Réalta members Conor Lamb (uilleann pipes, whistles) and Deirdre Galway (guitar). Check out the album liner notes for more info about the background of each track and also the contributing artists.

I admire the clarity of each instrument and the passion that all contributing artists have put forth in this project. You have fast and slow tracks creating a balance of mood all throughout this recording. I’ve already featured these musicians previously, Brendan Mulholland (with Jen’s Hill and Tuned Up), Conor Lamb  and Deirdre Galway (for Réalta). So you see, I expect nothing less and my excitement has been rewarded with a grand listening experience which makes me smile track by track.

Music in the Glen has eleven tracks.  Reels, waltzes, jigs and airs all featured with creative twists and turns that make traditional music such an exciting experience to listen to. My personal faves are The Sweetheart (because I am writing this on a Valentine’s day), Lament for Limerick (because it is not often to hear a piano in a trad recording), My Sister’s Cat(listen to the instrumental duel between Mulholland and Lamb starting at 2:13, and how I held my breath until Deirdre Galway resolved in with her guitar, I think I died there!) and many more.

If you are a purist or just new to Traditional Irish music- or just trying to learn how to play the instruments; then get this album! I assure you that you will enjoy it.


Watch this stunning video and check out that fantastic duel I was talking about.


The Cultural Book of Celtic Music: Wide Waters by Hibernia

The Cultural Book of Celtic Music: Wide Waters by Hibernia

If you are an avid fan of Celtic music then songs in Wide Waters by Hibernia will sound familiar to you. Susan Toman (Celtic Harp) and Ellen MacIsaac (Voice) have captured the ‘great Celtic songbook’ in this album. Comprising of 14 tracks from Ireland and Scotland,  they are sung in Gaelic and in English.

Beautiful in its clarity and simplicity, Wide Waters captures the essence of how these songs were supposedly performed hundreds of years ago. Aroundhibernia every art, I think it’s the sentiment that’s the very foundation of every creation. The aesthetics may change with time, but the raw emotions around these songs remain untamed across centuries.

Songs like Bothan Àirigh Am Bràigh Raithneach, The Water is Wide, An Coisir and the captivating ‘s Toigh Leam Fhìn Buntàta ‘s Ìm / Tha Fionnlagh Ag Innearadh / Hùg Oiridh Hiridh will always remain as my favorites in this album.

Here’s a brief bio of the artists from their CD Baby profile:

Susan Toman – Based in Ottawa, Ontario, Susan Toman enjoys a diverse freelance career as a harpsichordist, Celtic harpist, and music instructor. She holds a Doctorate in Music from McGill University and is an Associate Faculty member at Carleton University. Susan came to the Celtic harp (as many do) with a background in keyboard instruments and a love of Irish & Scottish music. Having first studied with Annabelle Renzo, she then continued her studies with Grainne Hambly in Ireland. In addition to giving solo and collaborative concerts, she frequently performs at weddings and other events. Upcoming performances include the NAC’s Fourth Stage, and the Irish Ambassador’s residence.

Ellen MacIsaac – Ellen specializes in the Irish traditional singing style and repertoire in Irish Gaelic and English. Since 2000, she has been involved in traditional singing in Ottawa, giving guest lectures on sean-nós (old style) Irish singing, and performing at local céilís and sessions and further afield. In 2012, she won first place in the sean-nós competition at Canada’s first Irish-language festival and competition, Oireachtas Gaeilge Cheanada, and represented Canada at the 2012 Oireachtas na Samhna, Ireland’s Gaelic-speaking festival. Ellen lectures at the University of Ottawa in the Modern Languages Department as part of the Minor in Celtic Studies and is an associate vocal instructor in the Celtic Music Performance option at Carleton University’s Music Department. She created the Ottawa Celtic Choir in 2007, and acts as its musical director and musical arranger.

Gentle As Morning Dew: Listen to Orla Fallon’s New Album.

Gentle As Morning Dew: Listen to Orla Fallon’s New Album.

Orla Fallon’s newest album Sweet By and By dropped around March last year and it is making its way into international ears. I highly recommend it for those who are following the Nashville music scene because this album is very much close to that flavour of music. What strikes me as interesting is that, although Celtic Woman is a show that showcases the powerful vocals of Irish singers, Orla Fallon took the different route in her solo effort. I was intrigued if she’s going the Sarah Brightman path of grand operatic style or the Moya Brennan path. I am glad she took the latter and added her own twist to the soft rendition of classics and new songs.

My personal favourite is her version of Love Me Tender by Elvis Prestley. I think she really delivered the songs how it is meant to be sang- gentle as morning dew.

Sweet By and By has twelve tracks and these tunes will take you on a journey from Ireland to Old America. Feet Of A Dancer is a potential single. That is one track that like playing again and again because it is so beautiful. Everything about the album sparkles with superb production. Her harp skills are always present and this album is a joy to listen to.

Get your copy of Sweet By and By here:



Celtic Woman: The Best of Christmas

Celtic Woman: The Best of Christmas


I love obscure tunes and the history behind them. For example I learned that Coventry Carol has a long history that dates all the way to the 16th century. And learning about one song will also encourage you to look at the wide vast of knowledge that covers holiday tunes.

Once in Royal David’s City is not something you get to hear in mainstream recordings(of pop and non pop singers). But Celtic Woman took the chance to pin this wonderful gem. So and I learned something about this Christmas carol. Here’s an interesting info from Wikipedia:

Originally written as a poem by Cecil Frances Alexander. The carol was first published in 1848 in Miss Cecil Humphreys’ hymnbookHymns for little Children. A year later, the English organist Henry John Gauntlett discovered the poem and set it to music.[1] Cecil Humphreys, meanwhile, married the AnglicanclergymanWilliam Alexander in 1848 and upon her husband’s consecration became a bishop’s wife in 1867.[1] She is also remembered for her hymn All Things Bright and Beautiful.

Since 1919, the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols at the King’s College ChapelCambridge has begun its Christmas Eve service, with Dr Arthur Henry Mann‘s arrangement of “Once in Royal David’s City” as the Processional hymn.[1] Mann was organist at King’s between 1876 and 1929.[2]In his arrangement, the first verse is sung by a boy chorister of the Choir of King’s Chapel as a solo. The second verse is sung by the choir, and the congregation joins in the third verse. Excluding the first verse, the hymn is accompanied by the organ. This carol was the first recording that the King’s College Choir under Boris Ord made for EMI in 1948.[3] Among others who have recorded it are Mary Chapin Carpenter, The Chieftains, Daniel O’Donnell, The Seekers, The Mormon Tabernacle Choir, Petula Clark, Jethro Tull, Sinéad O’Connor and Sufjan Stevens, St. Paul’s Choir School and most recently by the Irish group Celtic Woman in their album Voices of Angels.

Now this blog is not just about that one song but about an album that contains twenty Christmas tunes from Celtic Woman. I think this is also a ‘practical’ approach because when we are hosting a party, we don’t want an album to end too soon and then we are forced to put a new album in (I am an albums kind of guy as opposed to playlist) and this is it!

The Best of Christmas has a more Classical Pop appeal than Celtic. For Jazz lovers there are swinging songs like Let it Snow. I love this song so much as I always associate Christmas with something Jazzy.

Yes twenty songs will not disappoint you. Better grab this album while it is hot!

Celtic Music for Millenials

Celtic Music for Millenials

November 17, 2017


Ryan MacNeil has that keen ear for tradition and mainstream smarts.

Chill-out, party music, these are the terms that evade Celtic music genre for a long time. But multi-instrumentalist Ryan MacNeil has become a mediator between the great divide, and I am talking about tradition and mainstream music. If you think about it, most of the things out there are marketed in disposable pop. You know, tunes geared towards the 20-something working crowd with too much stuff in their playlist, they forget most of the artists in the morning after.

Shuffle(as the title implies) will feel at home in any playlist or genre that you might (mis)place it. It has that oomph and verve associated with Jazz music but also the sweetness of Pop that will not alienate even avid listeners of the podcast generation. I like his cover of Wild Mountain Thyme. He has a knack for arranging each song with appropriate grooves like Reggae, Folk, or an occasional dip of Electronica. Though his music is rooted in Folk, he knows what is going on out there and he is attuned to the vibe of the young generation.

There are introspective numbers here that begs to remain in one’s playlist for a long time, like the instrumental track Summer Evening. Here, he pours his gift of playing exquisite notes without sounding too New Age.  Shuffle is an artfully crafted album that will sound good (albeit stylish) anywhere, anytime and it deserves more attention!

You can get your copy of Shuffle here:

The Dead Kings song by Irish poet Francis Ledwidge (performed by Lorcán Mac Mathúna)

The Dead Kings song by Irish poet Francis Ledwidge (performed by Lorcán Mac Mathúna)


Screen Shot 2017-11-07 at 2.20.37 PM

The Dead Kings artwork. 

I always think that the soul of Irish music is in the sean-nós style of singing. Why? Because it is a sound not like any other. It has that stillness that is both ancient and haunting. For someone to sing that, one has to embody the the atmosphere of the old Ireland. One song came to my attention recently and it is called The Dead Kings. Here’s a brief background provided by performer Lorcán Mac Mathúna. According to him, it’s a recently (live) recorded song by the Irish poet Francis Ledwidge, who died in 1917.

Complete soundcloud link-

Ledwidge was known as the poet of the Blackbird. He was killed in the First World War in Paschendael on July 31 1917.

It is such an inspiration to see artists continue to perfect and pay homage to this wonderful musical art form. I would like to hear more of these.

Additional info: Recorded live at Musictown2017 during The Book of the Dead at The Chester Beatty Library. Written by Francis Ledwidge, music composed by Lorcán Mac Mathúna and Eamonn Galldubh. Performed by Lorcán, Éamonn, and Martin Tourish