the casey SisTers
máire Ní chathasaigh • nollaig casey • Mairéad Ní chathasaigh
"First-class musicianship... wonderfully atmospheric" * * * * The Daily Telegraph "Elegant and beguiling" RTÉ Lyric FM
"Stunning... a superb album" The Living Tradition "Ils sont toutes trois des stars... très romantique... magnifique sonorité!" Le Canard Folk
"Intimacy and intuition are at the heart of this radiant collection... a treat" * * * * The Irish Times "Superbe" Le Peuple Breton
"Blissfully beautiful... channelling mythology, nostalgia and geography to bewitching effect in heartfelt music" * * * * Songlines
"Shows the mastery that’s given them global reputations... High-end music-making, virtuosic yet presented (with) warmth and intimacy, rich, flowing, soulful expression... (and) sheer depth of feeling for the Irish tradition" The Herald Scotland
Welcome to our new website!
Exciting News! Máire has just been awarded Female Musician of the Year in the Live Ireland Music Awards 2016!!! - details here
Here you'll find biographical information about Máire, Nollaig and Mairéad, details of their new CD Sibling Revelry - released on October 19, 2015 - and contact details. You'll also find links to Máire and Nollaig's tour-dates, press reviews, features and interviews, information about recordings and books, and video and audio clips.
The new CD is now available from major retailers in Ireland, the UK and the USA (Amazon, CD Baby, Ossian USA, Bud's Records) - and of course from Old Bridge Music's online shop. (Old Bridge Music is our sister site.) The album is now also available on iTunes. Máire and Nollaig's previous CDs and books can also be ordered from the shop.
Co-produced, recorded and mixed by Chris Newman, the CD is one of The Daily Telegraph’s Albums of the Year, was "Caithreim Ciúil"s Album of the Week on BBC Radio nan Gaidheal (Scotland) and has already received some great reviews in The Irish Times * * * *, The Daily Telegraph * * * *, The Herald Scotland, Songlines * * * *, The Living Tradition, Le Canard Folk (Belgium), Le Peuple Breton, The Boston Irish Reporter, Folk Bulletin (Italy), The Ulster Herald, Fatea, FolkWords, Folking.com and Blogfoolk (Italy). Here they are:
"Sul fronte world, il BF Consigliato della settimana è “Sibling Revelry” delle irlandesi The Casey Sisters, squisita sintesi di raffinatezza e alta class musicale" - "Blogfoolk's CD of the week is 'Sibling Revelry' from the Casey Sisters, an exquisite synthesis of refinement and high class music."
"Spectacular..." Full article here.
SONGLINES * * * *, DECEMBER 2015
FOLK BULLETIN (ITALY), DECEMBER 2015
"E’ uscito il 15 ottobre 2015 ed è già tra i “Best Folk Albums” del 2015 per il britannico Daily Telegraph: “Sibling Revelry, il debutto discografico del brillante trio delle sorelle Casey (Ní Chathasaigh in Gaelico), ben rappresenta un sodalizio musicale di prima classe. La cantante e violinista Nollaig Casey (già coi Planxty e i Coolfin) suona meravigliosamente nell’incantevole Lament for General Monroe. Máire Ní Chathasaigh dimostra ancora una volta perché sia ritenuta una delle migliori suonatrici di arpa nel mondo. Mairéad Ní Chathasaigh ha una voce dolce, unita a un raffinato talento nel suonare il violino. In tre tracce del disco le sorelle sono accompagnate da Arty McGlynn alla chitarra acustica. Siamo di fronte a un’opera di splendida atmosfera, ancor più in Connamara, inedita composizione di Edward Bunting (1773–1843), ritrovata nella libreria della Belfast’s Queen’s University.” Originarie di Bandon, nella contea di Cork, le tre sorelle danno vita a un disco bellissimo, una delle perle del folk in Europa per questo 2015. Nollaig alla voce, al violino, alla viola e al thin whistle, Maire all’arpa, al pianoforte e alle tastiere e Mairead alla voce, al violino, al thin whistle e al low whistle sono accompagnate in alcuni brani, rimanendo sempre in famiglia, da due altre “star” del folk come Arty McGlynn alla chitarra e Chris Newman che si cimenta al basso. Nelle varie tracce dell’album si alternano brani provenienti da fonti scritte (dalle collezioni di Francis O’Neil a quelle di Ryan), per poi passare all’immancabile O’Carolan e passare poi ad esplorare il repertorio di trascrittori di musica per cornamusa come Canon James Goodman. Non mancano i brani provenienti dal repertorio di organetto e concertina, come “The Mealagh Valley Polkas” e Lament for “General Monroe”. Bella la composizione di Maire, “Harps in Bloom”, composta nel 2010 per il venticinquestimo anniversario del “Cairde na Cruite’s Cúirt Chruitireachta” (Festival Internazionale dell’arpa irlandese) ed eccellenti i due canti di derivazione familiare, imparati da Mareid e Nollaig dalla madre Una, rispettivamente “The Bonnie Boy in Blue” e “A Dhroimeann Donn Dílis” (un’allegorica canzone politica probabilmente del diciottesimo secolo, nella quale l’Irlanda viene raffigurata come una fedele mucca bruna). “Dark Lochnagar”, è una canone su parole di Lord Byron, la cui musica fu raccolta da Cecil Sharp da un irlandese residente a Londra; attualmente la melodia è maggiormente conosciuta come brano strumentale nell’attuale repertorio in terra d’Irlanda, mentre il canto è ancora in uso in Scozia, ma eseguito su una melodia differente. Una lunga suite intitolata “The Bandonbridge Suite” chiude il disco: si tratta di una rappresentazione in musica della storia della città di Bandon che raccoglie composizioni delle tre sorelle ed è stata eseguita per la prima volta nel 2014 alla settimana dell’arpa del Bandon Walled Town Festival La piccola perla del disco è infine rappresentata da “Connamara” (non ho sbagliato nel copiare, l’autore usava questo spelling!): grazie alla Biblioteca della Queen’s University di Belfast è stato possibile usare uno spartito manoscritto inedito di Edward Bunting. Ed è anche un brano molto bello. Così come questo disco è assolutamente imperdibile!"
"At the end of this meeting of arguably Irish music’s foremost family group there’s a suite giving a musical representation of their home town, Bandon in West Cork’s history. It could just as well be a depiction of the Casey Sisters themselves, having grown up as the only traditional music players in town, returning to show the mastery that’s given them global reputations. Thumbing of noses doesn’t sit with the warmth and intimacy that permeates Sibling Revelry, though. This is high-end music-making, virtuosic yet presented in a way that puts the music first, the arrangements geared towards clear melodicism and rich, flowing, soulful exprzession. Máire (harp, piano, keyboard), Nollaig (fiddle, viola, whistle) and Mairéad (fiddle, whistle, flute) complement each other brilliantly on beautiful airs and superbly measured tune sets and the latter pair’s singing – Nollaig’s slightly wary-sounding on The Bonnie Boy in Blue; Mairéad’s sweet and lovely on A Dhroimeann Donn Dílis – emphasises the sheer depth of feeling they have for the Irish tradition."
"Intimacy and intuition are at the heart of this radiant collection.
Máire Ní Chathasaigh, Nollaig Casey and Mairéad Ní Chathasaigh are already highly regarded, but together, the sum of their parts reveals a generosity of spirit, a shared delight in the tunes and an appetite for forensic musical excavations.
Máire’s harp is at its subtle best on O’Carolan’s Katherine O’More, its sotto voce conversation with the fiddle giving full voice to the tune’s delicacies.
The Bandon- bridge Suite, composed by the sisters, is a playful, meditative and sweeping reflection on a part of the country seldom referenced in the traditional music canon.
Máire’s vocals bring a rich dimension and the unveiling of Connamara, a previously unpublished tune from the Bunting collection, is a further treat."
"This has to be my favourite album title of the year. Sibling Revelry, the debut album from the distinguished Casey-Ní Chathasaigh sisters, is an album of first-class musicianship. Singer and fiddle-player Nollaig Casey (once of Planxty and Coolfin) plays beautifully on the haunting Lament for General Monroe. Máire Ní Chathasaigh shows throughout why she is hailed as one of the world's best harp players. Mairéad Ní Chathasaigh has a sweet voice as well as a fine talent on the fiddle. They are joined on three tracks by Arty McGlynn on acoustic guitar. This is a wonderfully atmospheric album, never more so than on Connamara, a previously unpublished composition by Edward Bunting (1773–1843), which was made available by Belfast's Queen's University library." * * * *
Review by Martin Chilton. Now in his list of best folk albums of 2015!
"There are times when it seems like certain families got more than their fair share of musical genes, when a whole load of them can display talent of the highest order. So it is for the three sisters Nollaig Casey (vocals, fiddle, viola, tin whistle), Máire Ní Chathasaigh (Irish harp, piano, keyboards) and Mairéad Ní Chathasaigh (vocals, fiddle, tin whistle, low flute). All three are known for their outstanding work in their respective interpretations of Irish music and song, but this is their first recording as a band of sisters, accompanied by Arty McGlynn on guitar and Chris Newman on bass.
Máire has rightly been described as “the doyenne of Irish harp players”, taking the instrument in new directions and acting as a generational influence. Nollaig has sung and played fiddle solo and with more musicians than you could list on the back of a ream of envelopes. Mairéad is a singer whose depth of knowledge and understanding of the Irish traditions is peerless. And they all are award-winning multi-instrumentalists as well. Not bad going for one family!
They have been so busy with their individual careers that you maybe can understand why they’ve not got together before, but after listening to this release, the only question is: “what took you so long?” The album brings together traditional songs and tunes, with a six-part Bandonbridge Suite, co-authored by the three siblings to finish off the CD. This comes at the end of a stunning mixture of songs which are as clearly sung as any I’ve heard, and the playing throughout is a masterclass in allowing restraint in playing to demonstrate the complexities of the tunes.
The punning title is well-chosen, as there is no rivalry here, rather musical co-operation in which none dominates and all contribute evenly. A superb album."
"Now who had the brainwave to bring together these three musical sisters for an album of truly joyous music-making? … You’ll know the ladies individually, of course, as front-runners in their respective fields of musical endeavour: Nollaig Casey as fiddler and singer (she also plays viola and tin-whistle), Máire Ní Chathasaigh as harpist extraordinaire (also piano and keyboard player), and Máiread Ní Chathasaigh as singer and fiddler (who also plays tin-whistle and low flute). Unbelievably, the deliciously-titled Sibling Revelry is the sisters’ first recording together (mind you, they’ve all had busy and fruitful individual careers), and yet the teaming here reveals a further inspired level of musicianship that’s beyond the intuitive. They excel on their respective instruments, sure, but they also possess an innate grasp of internal dynamics (whereby felicities of balance are keenly observed) and an uncanny ability to listen to each other and respond in kind, rejoicing in spontaneity of expression.
The material chosen for this album is thoughtfully and impeccably arranged, and ideally sequenced for optimum listening pleasure. It comprises mainly instrumental items, with just three songs carefully interleaved; of these, two are sung by Mairéad and one by Nollaig, and both singers display both a constant purity of tone and an unassumingly accomplished clarity of diction. The instrumental repertoire is an enterprising selection of traditional tunes, largely from manuscript collections, with one by O’Carolan and one by Máire herself, while the ten-minute closing track, the six-part Bandonbridge Suite, has individual sections composed by individual sisters. Good use is made of the possibilities of both arrangement and studio facilities for imaginative presentation; sometimes, Nollaig doubles her fiddle parts or else creates a mini-string-section by adding the darker timbre of viola to the mix, while the colours of tin-whistle and low flute add further variety to five of the selections and Máire’s harpistry is as skilled and scintillating as ever. Arty McGlynn’s guitar accompanies deftly on three tracks, including the final movement of the Suite, and Chris Newman plays bass on one of the songs. Even so, one of the album’s standout tracks is Nollaig’s pindrop solo performance on her adaptation of Lament For General Monroe.
The entire album represents a glorious and wholly delectable celebration of expertise in sibling musicianship of the highest order, and proves a life-affirming experience, a joy from start to finish."
"The intriguingly titled ‘Sibling Revelry’, the debut album from the class act that is The Casey Sisters, exudes the highest levels of talented musicianship and without doubt manifest skill. The word ‘expressive’ could easily sum up this album as the sisters pour so much of themselves into the music it talks to the listener on so many levels. The lightest of airs rub shoulders with ‘soul-touching’ songs and ‘step-inducing’ dance tunes to conjure an experience that will simply sweep you away into its enveloping embrace.
From the first moments, with the entrancing energy of ‘The Humours Of Castlebernard/ From Shore To Shore’ through the soft gentleness of ‘Katherine O’More’ to the haunting ‘A Dhroimeann Donn Dílis’ this album will hold you rapt. Were it possible to pick favourites from this album because the whole is so good and everyone will find their own preferences, then for me the dramatic ‘Lament For General Monroe’, their wholly impressive take on ‘Dark Lochnagar’ and impressive expanse of the specially composed, six-part ‘The Bandonbridge Suite’ are the ones that I lean towards the most."
"Rich and lovely" Full review here.
A radio programme about us featuring an extended interview with Ellen Cranitch was broadcast on "Grace Notes" on RTÉ Lyric FM on Thursday October 8 and is now available to listen to on the RTÉ Player - click here and.then choose "Thursday 8th October" from the list on the right-hand side of the page.
Further nice reviews are shortly to be published (we'll post them here as soon as we can scan them!) The album has already been played on a number of BBC radio stations (including BBC Radio nan Gaidheal, where it was "Caithreim Ciúil"s Album of the Week from November 16 - 20, 2015), several NPR stations in the USA (including WGBH, KRVS, KUAR), on stations in Germany, France and Italy and on RTÉ Lyric FM, Raidio na Gaeltachta, Clare FM, Shannonside Radio, Midwest Radio, Tipp FM and LMFM - Máire was interviewed on LMFM about the album.
We'll add new pages as they become available, so please bookmark this site and come and see us again!
“If Máire wasn’t around, Irish harping would be so much the poorer: her work restores the harp to its true voice."
THE IRISH TIMES
Máire's Tour Schedule
Live Reviews of Máire
Features about & Interviews with Máire
Máire's recordings & books
Audio & video clips of Máire
Máire Ní Chathasaigh (pronounced Moira Nee Ha-ha-sig) is "the doyenne of Irish harp players" (The Scotsman) and one of Ireland’s most important and influential traditional musicians, described by the late Derek Bell as “the most interesting and original player of the Irish harp today”. She grew up in a well-known West Cork musical family who were active in the Cork Pipers' Club and was already proficient in a variety of other instruments by the time that she began to play the harp at the age of eleven. Using her knowledge of the idiom of the living oral Irish tradition, she developed a variety of new techniques, particularly in relation to ornamentation, with the aim of establishing an authentically traditional style of harping - “a single-handed reinvention of the harp”. Her originality was quickly recognised and she made a number of TV and radio broadcasts as a teenager, going on to win the All-Ireland and Pan-Celtic Harp Competitions on several occasions. Her live performances had been attracting attention internationally since 1978, when she first toured Germany as part of the hugely-influential and commercially-successful Irish Folk Festival tour. Her very first recording was made for the live compilation album released to commemorate that tour; other artists featured were Liam O'Flynn, Andy Irvine, Dolores Keane and John Faulkner, Mick Hanly and Máirtin O'Connor. In 1985 she recorded the first harp album ever to concentrate on traditional Irish dance music, The New-Strung Harp, described by The Irish Examiner as "an intensely passionate and intelligent record… a mile-stone in Irish harp music”. Her approach has had a profound influence on the new generation of Irish harpers and in 2001 she was awarded Gradam Cheoil TG4 - Irish Traditional Musician of the Year - in recognition of her pioneering work. She remains the sole harpist recipient of this prestigious award. (For details see here.)
Her “celebrated virtuoso partnership” (The Daily Telegraph) with Chris Newman, “one of the UK’s most staggering & influential acoustic guitarists” (Folk Roots), made its début at the 1987 Cambridge Folk Festival. Their performances have been described as “music of fire and brilliance from the high-wire act in traditional music” by The Irish Times, they've made many appearances on TV and radio and their busy touring schedule has brought them to twenty-one countries on five continents. Click here for a list of some of their festival performances throughout the world and here for their latest news. Of their seven albums together, The Living Wood (1988) was the Daily Telegraph’s Folk Album of the Year, Out of Court (1991) was "stunning... one of the most refreshingly innovative releases in recent years" - Folk Roots, The Carolan Albums (1994) was “a masterpiece of virtuosity” - The Daily Telegraph, Live in the Highlands (1995) was “One of the best live albums I’ve heard for a long time... captures the essence of these remarkable performers in a rare and priceless way. Absolutely essential.“ - Folk Roots and Dialogues:Agallaimh (2001) was “Terrific: brilliant, beautiful, rich, virtuosic, delightful, classic, perfect!” Of their sixth CD, FireWire, the critics said: “An eclecticism and spirit of adventure that is quite thrilling… Virtuoso playing… bewitching string fantasies and a wonderfully clear and expressive voice" The Times "Maire... is in a class of her own" The Guardian "Takes one of the most effete instruments in traditional music and breathes a fire into its belly" The Irish Times “Brilliant, innovative harping and guitar-playing of astonishing virtuosity and versatility” Songlines “Dazzling virtuosity... guitar-playing to be marvelled at... delightful” The Daily Telegraph “Album of the Year” Live Ireland “Best Celtic Instrumental Album” 2009 Just Plain Folks Awards Nashville, Tennessee. Their new CD, Christmas Lights, was released in December - “A delightful... satisfyingly original, often refreshingly unpredictable take on festive favourites… Gorgeous and uplifting" THE LIVING TRADITION - and their associated new Christmas show played to sell-out audiences: “(Their) mastery and magic... produced a rapt response” THE GUARDIAN
In 2008 they recorded a quartet CD, Heartstring Sessions, with two of the most important names in Irish music, legendary guitarist Arty McGlynn and Máire's sister, virtuoso fiddler Nollaig Casey, and toured widely with it. “Inspired... a contender for album of the year” fROOTS “Traditional music at its very best” The Irish Times "An amazingly eclectic mix... Astounding" The Ulster Herald "Magnificent... Virtuosic... Outstanding" The Scotsman “World-class” Irish Music Magazine “Two of the mightiest pairings in current folk combine to give a tour-de-force of breathtaking order. Classic.” The Living Tradition "Exceptionnel… brillant…" Le Peuple Breton "Attention - chef d'œuvre! Bravo!!!” TRAD Magazine (France) “A dream quartet - the sweetest and most exciting music to emerge for a long time. Matching virtuosity with sheer good taste, this album of traditional and original music pours joyfully from the speakers... amazing, majestic, delightful.” Dirty Linen (USA)
The unique atmosphere of their live concerts as a duo continues to generate some extraordinary reviews. “Their virtuosity leads them on: Máire chomps on the bit of the harp's respectability, playing storming jigs & reels...” - The Irish Times “This celebrated duo took the place by storm. Stately Carolan tunes, jazzy Django-ish numbers, dazzling flat picking fliers, driving Irish dance tunes - this pair can nonchalantly do the lot. Guitar players applauded & went sadly home to burn their instruments!” - Belfast Telegraph “Their blinding technique and sizzling Irish reels brought an extended standing ovation...” - The West Australian “A truly electrifying combination" - The Stage "The audience were charmed and dazzled by the speed, the deftness, the emotional range of their playing... Máire's clear, warm and expressive voice... Their stagecraft was masterly and their introductions informative and funny..." - Christchurch Press (New Zealand) “Newman led us on death-defying sprints while Máire confirmed her status as one of the world’s greatest harpists” – Edinburgh Evening News "It isn't every day one gets to hear musicians whose playing and singing are so moving, so wonderfully executed with such technical brilliance and beauty, that they actually bring tears to one's eyes; they did to mine, and that evening in Tallaght will remain a lasting and unforgettable memory." - Irish Music Magazine “Managed to do things I have never heard a harp do before… The gasps from the audience, particularly from the other harp players, made one realise that here was a very special performer indeed… I was alternately astonished and delighted with the entire concert: the skills with which they interacted, and the beautiful music they performed left a lasting impression on me and surely anyone else who was privileged to witness this extraordinary event.” - Classical Guitar Magazine
Máire has perfomed at many harp festivals around the world. As the only Irish headline performer at the 11th World Harp Congress held in Vancouver in 2011, she represented both the Irish harp and Irish musical traditions. Other notable harp festival appearances have included the 2010 Istanbul Harp Encounter (part of that city’s European City of Culture celebrations), the 16e Festival "Harpe en Avesnois", (Maubeuge, France), the 7th European Harp Symposium (Cardiff, Wales), XIIes Journées de la Harpe, (Arles, France), Rencontres Internationales de la Harpe Celtique (Dinan, France), the International Festival for Irish Harp, Termonfechin, Co Louth, Ireland (on fourrteen occasions since 1985); the Edinburgh Harp Festival (on eight occasions); the O'Carolan Harp Festival, Nobber, Co. Meath, Ireland (on three occasions), the 9th World Harp Congress, Dublin, 2005 (opening concert in St Patrick's Cathedral and solo concert as part of Celtic Highlights series); the 5th World Harp Congress, Copenhagen 1993 (concert shared with Gráinne Yeats and Isobel Mieras - the first ever Congress event to feature the Irish harp); the World Harp Festival (Cardiff); HarpCon Bloomington, Indiana, the Highland Harp Festival, and Festivals held in Belfast, Dublin and Boston to commemorate the bicentennial of the 1792 Belfast Harp Festival. Recent harp event performances include concerts at the Welsh Harp School and the Cromarty Harp Village, Scotland.
Solo performances by Máire happen quite rarely, though there have been an increasing number in recent years: at the Samhain Festival, Stockholm, the 21st Swiss Harp Festival, the International Harp School, Wells, B.C., Canada, the 7th Rio Harp Festival, Brazil, the Mission Folk Festival, B.C., Canada, Harfen in Schwaben, Germany, the Conservatorio della Svizzera Italiana, Lugano, Switzerland; the London Irish Centre; the International Festival for Irish Harp, Termonfechin, Co Louth, Ireland; the University of Leeds; the Southeastern Harp Weekend, Asheville, N.C., USA, and the Birmingham Early Music Festival - and of course, as mentioned above, at the 11th World Harp Congress, Vancouver.
Máire holds an honours B.A. degree in Celtic Studies from University College Cork. Two books of her harp arrangements, The Irish Harper Voume I and The Irish Harper Voume II have been published by Old Bridge Music.
Máire contributed two articles about the Irish harp and modes in Irish music to the Companion to Irish Traditional Music (Cork University Press) & is profiled in Celtic Women in Music (Mairéad Sullivan, Quarry Music Books, Canada). She's also profiled in the Rough Guide to Irish Music.
Máire now concentrates primarily on performance. However, she’s always placed a high priority on passing on her knowledge and techniques to the next generation, with the aim – now largely achieved - of re-integrating the Irish harp into the mainstream of the living oral Irish tradition. She has been giving masterclasses in Europe and the USA since the mid-1970s with the result that her ideas and techniques are now very widely disseminated. 2013 was her twenty-eighth year as a tutor at An Chúirt Chruitireachta, the Summer School/Festival organised by Cairde na Cruite (The Irish Harp Society) in Termonfeckin, Co Louth, the pre-eminent such festival, attracting harpers from all over the world. (See www.cairdenacruite.com or contact the Festival Director, Áine Ní Dhubhghaill, at email@example.com for further details.) She has taught in the past at the Cork Municipal School of Music (where she developed the first ever examination syllabus for non-pedal harp) and at the Leeds College of Music. Her arrangements have been featured on the Syllabus of the Royal Irish Academy of Music for a number of years. She has been a visiting harp tutor at Newcastle University, Limerick University, the University of Ulster and the Conservatorio della Svizzera Italiana.
Chris and Máire are featured on the major BBC 2 TV series on Irish music Bringing it All Back Home - the associated BBC book features a large photograph of Máire on the front cover – and on Polygram USA’s major 1998 Celtic harp album and associated PBS TV special Celtic Harpestry. They’re also featured on Irish rock legend Rory Gallagher’s posthumous 2003 album on BMG, Wheels within Wheels. Máire is harp and voice soloist with the New English Chamber Orchestra and the Choir of New College Oxford on John Cameron's major work Missa Celtica, released by Erato Disques, Paris. (Further information at www.johncameronmusic.com) The Goldcrest film Driftwood features her singing, and her harping and compositions feature with Dónal Lunny, Sharon Shannon, Máire's sister Nollaig Casey and other luminaries of the Celtic music world on Dan ar Braz's Gold Disc-awarded album for Sony France Finisterres.
Máire has played for many dignitaries over the years, including Pope John Paul II and the King and Queen of Spain.
Máire plays an Aberdeen harp made by William Rees Harps of Rising Sun, Indiana www.traditionalharps.com and an electro-acoustic Mélusine harp made by Camac Harps, France www.camac-harps.com: she's grateful to both companies for the sponsorship which enables her to play their wonderful, sweet-toned but powerful instruments.
"Exquisite fiddle-playing and superb vocals” THE IRISH TIMES
Nollaig is one of Ireland's most gifted musicians, with her own unique way of playing traditional Irish music on the fiddle and such a distinctive sound that it would be impossible to mistake it for that of anyone else. This “sound” is so attractive to other musicians that there exists hardly any major Irish artist of the last thirty years with whom she has not worked - and many international artists have been equally entranced.
Her powerful presence graced Dónal Lunny’s ground-breaking band Coolfin, with whom she had a busy international touring schedule. One highlight was their performance in a special concert celebrating the Irish roots of American country music for Island: A Festival of the Arts in Ireland held at the John F. Kennedy Centre in Washington DC which was broadcast coast to coast on network television: they shared the stage with Ricky Skaggs, Emmy Lou Harris and Steve Earle. Nollaig has worked with Dónal off and on for many years: she joined the legendary band Planxty (of which he was a founder member) in 1980, touring all over Europe with them.
A television programme about Nollaig’s life and music was recently broadcast on Ireland’s TG4 as part of its “Fuaimrian mo Shaoil” series.She can als be seen in the current series of BBC TV’s Transatlantic Sessions playing with Alison Krauss and Aly Bain.
Nollaig’s prodigious technique and her unique ability to play both classical and traditional music with equal proficiency, coupled with her exceptional expressive gifts has inspired a number of composers to write orchestral pieces for her. In 2003 she performed in front of millions as soloist with the RTÉ Concert Orchestra in a work by Shaun Davey commissioned by the Special Olympics held in Dublin. With the same orchestra she performed a piece by Dónal Lunny, commissioned in 1997 to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Great Irish Famine, on several occasions, most recently at Expo 2000 in Hanover. In 1999 she gave the first performance in New York of a Concerto for Violin and Irish Fiddle by Evan Chambers, which had been commissioned by the Albany Symphony Orchestra and in 2006 made her Carnegie Hall début as soloist in the same concerto.
She is herself a prolific composer: she arranged several of her own compositions for fiddle soloist and string orchestra and played these, together with some by Shaun Davey, at a special gala St Patrick’s Day concert in The Athenaeum, Bucharest in 2005. “Twins on a Swing” was used as a signature tune for the RTÉ / TG4 TV series ‘Sult’ for several years.
She enjoys an unrivalled popularity among composers of film- music with an Irish tinge and has been the featured soloist on over twenty feature-films – including the acclaimed Dancing at Lughnasa and Waking Ned. She was of course seen as well as heard world-wide in the1992 Hear My Song (about the life of singer Josef Locke). She is herself a prolific composer, writing for Coolfin, television documentaries and for her own recording projects.
Nollaig has recorded and worked with Enya, Van Morrison, Sinéad O’Connor, Nanci Griffith, Ricky Skaggs, Rod Stewart, Dónal Lunny, Mary Black, Tommy Makem and Liam Clancy, Carlos Nuñez, Jim Rooney, Andy Irvine, Moving Hearts, The Indigo Girls, Spandau Ballet, Christy Moore, Liam O'Flynn, Dan ar Bras, Sharon Shannon, Maura O'Connell, Dick Gaughan, Paddy Keenan, Máirtín O'Connor and her sister, the innovative and influential harper Máire Ní Chathasaigh, among many others. She was a star performer in Dan ar Bras’ massively successful Héritage des Celtes project: both albums (released by Sony France) received Gold Discs in France. She has made two duo albums, Lead The Knave and Causeway, with legendary guitarist Arty McGlynn; a solo album, The Music of What Happened, in 2005; and a quartet album, Heartstring Sessions, with her sister Máire Ní Chathasaigh, Arty McGlynn and Chris Newman in late 2008 – all to great critical acclaim.
Further biographical information
Born into a well-known West Cork musical family, by the time Nollaig began to play the violin at the age of eleven she was already proficient in a variety of instruments - notably piano, tin-whistle and uilleann pipes. Throughout her teens she developed her talents both in the fields of classical and traditional music, winning several All-Ireland titles for fiddle-playing (Oireachtas and Fleadh Cheoil na h-Éireann) and traditional singing (Oireachtas) culminating in the award to her of the Bonn Éigse agus Ceoil at Slógadh Náisiúnta na h-Éireann 1972 for the best all-round performer, in consequence of having won first prizes for fiddle, tin-whistle, traditional singing, dancing, solo dramatic scene and poetry-writing! She had already begun to compose and in 1972 won an RTÉ Radio Young Composer of the Year Competition for newly-composed tunes in the traditional idiom. As a student of the Royal Irish Academy of Music she won the Vandeleur Scholarship and was awarded the prestigious Arthur Darley Memorial Prize at the Dublin Feis Ceoil for the playing of unaccompanied Bach Sonatas and Partitas.
Having graduated from University College Cork with a B. Mus. degree at the exceptionally early age of nineteen, she embarked upon a professional career, firstly with the RTÉ Symphony Orchestra where she remained for three years until she joined Planxty in 1980. When Ireland hosted the Eurovision Song Contest in 1981 Planxty made a guest appearance, playing Timedance, a piece specially written by fellow band-member Bill Whelan and later released as a single, in which Nollaig's distinctive playing was heavily featured. Bill of course went on to write the music for Riverdance - which also started life as a piece of Eurovision interval music: the rest, as they say, is history! Nollaig makes occasional guest appearances in Riverdance, thus completing the circle.
She has subsequently toured with a wide variety of artists in Ireland, the UK., France, Germany, Holland, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Hungary, Libya, Switzerland, Austria, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Estonia, Japan, the U.S.A., Australia and New Zealand.
She is a frequent broadcaster: her countless RTE television appearances have included several on the prime-time Late Late Show, Nighthawks, Saturday Live and Sult as well as on specialist traditional music programmes such as The Pure Drop. She featured in a Late Late Show Special on prominent Irish women musicians. She made frequent appearances on the major 1991 BBC TV series Bringing it All Back Home with members of U2, Dónal Lunny and Arty, and performed on the prestigious Good Morning America TV show when the series was launched in the US.
Praise for Nollaig
"The highlight of the Festival was the exquisite and dignified playing of Nollaig Ní Chathasaigh... Strong and elegant on stage, her instrument appears almost to be an extension of her own body" - The Irish Times
" I would happily sit all night in a cold theatre to listen to Nollaig Casey..." - Fortnight (Belfast)
"Nollaig Casey played wondrous fiddle before singing unaccompanied with such feeling it brought tears to the eyes..." - The Subiaco Post (Western Australia)
“Nollaig’s performance was stunning for its sheer musical artistry, seducing some into quiet amazement and inducing others to insist on encore after encore...”
- The Irish Times
“...brewed up a storm on the main stage, the crowd roaring their appreciation. Nollaig Casey held centre spotlight with the ease and grace of a natural born artist”
– The Southern Star
“A colourful, resonant voice and richly expressive fiddle-playing”
- The Hot Press
Multiple All-Ireland, Oireachtas- and Pan-Celtic-winning Mairéad Ní Chathasaigh‘s sweet soaring voice and subtle, very traditional fiddle-playing ground the music deeply in its roots. Mairéad has a deep knowledge of the Irish singing tradition and a special interest in the Sliabh Luachra fiddle repertoire and style. She has toured in the USA, Canada, Italy, Belgium and France, given traditional singing workshops in Ireland and the UK and is a regular adjudicator at Fleadhanna Cheoil throughout Ireland and at Fleadh Cheoil na h-Éireann.
the sisters' début recording as a trio!
About the new CD, Sibling Revelry
Sibling Revelry is the début album from the Casey / Ní Chathasaigh sisters, who grew up in a West Cork household steeped in traditional music and song. Having carved very different careers, they have come together for this special project to mine the musical riches of their family, neighbourhood, county and country, while at the same time creating new melodies from the same deep spring and a unique and heartfelt sound.
The recording showcases their exceptional expressive gifts and is a bewitching mixture of sparkling Irish dance-music, rare and meltingly beautiful airs (some never before recorded), lovely songs and memorable new compositions.
About the Tracks:
extended sleeve notes written by the sisters, plus track timings and instrumentation details:
1. The Humours of Castlebernard / From Shore to Shore 2.58
A hornpipe from Francis O’Neill’s Music of Ireland and a reel from Ryan’s Mammoth Collection. O’Neill was from the parish of Caheragh in West Cork – where, incidentally, our father Seán also grew up – and many of his tune titles feature Cork placenames. The first tune celebrates the imposing Castlebernard (now ruined), situated in our home town of Bandon, Co. Cork.
Nollaig: fiddle Mairéad: fiddle Máire: piano
2. Katherine O’More 2.35
Composed by Turlough O’Carolan (1670 – 1738) on the occasion of the marriage of Katherine O’More of Ballyna House, Co. Kildare, to Charles O’Donnell of Co. Mayo, a great-great-grandson of Niall Garbh O’Donnell. The latter, a cousin of Red Hugh O’Donnell, though promised the Earldom of Tyrconnell both by Elizabeth I and by James I, ended his days in the Tower of London. In the associated poem Charles is dubbed the Hawk of the Erne and of Ballyshannon, in tribute to his descent from Niall Garbh.
A number of variants are to be found in various printed and manuscript sources. The version that we play here is an amalgam of the tune featured in Vol. III of Edward Bunting’s Ancient Music of Ireland as “The Hawk of Ballyshannon” and that noted by William Forde from Hugh O’Beirne and published by P. W. Joyce in Old Irish Folk Music and Songs.
Máire: harp Nollaig: fiddles, viola
3. A Dhroimeann Donn Dílis 3.45
An allegorical political song (probably eighteenth century) in which Ireland is personified as a loyal brown cow, the finest of her kind. Mairéad learned this song from our mother, Úna.
Mairéad: voice Máire: harp Nollaig: violins, viola
4. Slip Silver / The Surround 2.32
The first of these slip-jigs (from a MS collection) is untitled, so we’ve called it “Slip Silver”. The second was collected by Canon James Goodman (1828–1896), piper, Church of Ireland clergyman and Professor of Irish at Trinity College, Dublin, who spent most of his life in West Cork.
Nollaig: fiddle Mairéad: fiddle, tin-whistle Máire: harp
5. Connamara 2.54
We’re very grateful to the Library of Queen’s University, Belfast for permission to record this wonderful tune from the unpublished MSS of Edward Bunting. The title retains Bunting’s spelling.
Máire: harp Nollaig: fiddle, viola Mairéad: fiddle, low flute
6. Fan mar a bhfuil tú, a chladhaire (“Stay where you are, you rogue”) / 4.36
The House Keeper / Petticoat Loose
These jigs were collected by the great Canon James Goodman (1828–1896), piper, Church of Ireland Rector of Ardgroom, Beara, Co. Cork and later Canon of the Diocese of Ross in West Cork and Professor of Irish at Trinity College, Dublin.
Nollaig: fiddle Mairéad: fiddle, tin-whistle Máire: harp
7. Lament for General Monroe 3.40
Nollaig’s adaptation of a tune she found in an old family MS given to her many years ago by Ashley Wholihan, an accordeon player from Beara, Co. Cork.
8. The Men from Mallow / McCarthy’s Hornpipe 3.16
Both hornpipes are to be found in Francis O’Neill’s Dance Music of Ireland: 1001 Gems. Mairéad first heard McCarthy’s Hornpipe played by Michael Hourihan of Dunmanway.
Mairéad: fiddle Nollaig: fiddle and harmony fiddle Máire: harp
9. The Bonnie Boy in Blue 3.30
Nollaig learned this song from our mother Úna, who is from Allihies, Beara, Co. Cork. She in turn learned it as a child from her mother Margaret Dwyer, who was from Scrahan, Urhan, Beara, Co. Cork.
Nollaig: voice, fiddles Máire: harp, keyboards (accordeon sound) Arty McGlynn: guitar Chris Newman: bass
10. Miss Fahey’s Fancy / I have no Money / Jerry Hayes 3.20
Three reels, again from Francis O’Neill’s Dance Music of Ireland: 1001 Gems.
Nollaig: fiddle Mairéad: fiddle Máire: harp Arty McGlynn: guitar
11. Dark Lochnagar 3.20
This setting of the poem by Lord Byron (in praise of Lochnagar in his native Aberdeenshire) to a beautiful Irish air, was collected by Cecil Sharp from John Murphy, an Irishman resident in the Marylebone Workhouse, London, in 1908, and published in the Journal of the Folk-Song Society, Vol. 5, No. 18 (1914). P.W. Joyce (1827 – 1914) published a variant in his Old Irish Folk Music and Songs that was popular in his youth on the borders of counties Limerick and Cork. The song has dropped out of the current repertoire in Ireland and the tune is now best known in the instrumental version (in a markedly different mode) recorded by the eminent piper, Willie Clancy. In Scotland the poem is still sung, but to a completely different melody.
Mairéad: voice Máire: keyboards
12. Harps in Bloom 2.26
Máire composed this tune in 2010 for the 25th anniversary of Cairde na Cruite’s Cúirt Chruitireachta (International Festival for Irish Harp), held annually in Termonfeckin, Co. Louth.
Máire: harp Nollaig: fiddle, viola Mairéad: fiddle, tin-whistle
13. The Mealagh Valley Polkas 2.51
The Mealagh Valley is near Bantry, Co. Cork. Mairéad learned these tunes from concertina-player Mary Tisdall from Bantry.
Mairéad: fiddle Nollaig: fiddle Máire: harp
14. The Bandonbridge Suite:
This specially-composed Suite - a musical representation of the history of the town of Bandon - was premièred at the 2014 Harp Weekend at Bandon Walled Town Festival.
a) Dreams of Castlemahon – composed by Máire 2.29
b) The Bandon River Flows – composed by Nollaig 2.31
Nollaig: fiddles, tin-whistle Máire: harp
c) The Earl of Cork’s Allemand – composed by Máire and Nollaig 1.37
Nollaig: fiddles Máire: harp
d) The March from Irishtown ·– composed by Máire 2.07
Máire: harp Nollaig: fiddles Mairéad: tin-whistle
e) The Bandonbridge Hornpipe – composed by Mairéad 1.43
Mairéad: fiddle Nollaig: fiddle and harmony fiddles Máire: harp
f) The Gates are Open – composed by Nollaig 1.25
Nollaig: fiddle Mairéad: fiddle Máire: harp Arty McGlynn: guitar
at the 3rd harp & heritage weekend at bandon walled Town festival August 29
About the concert in St Peter's Church, Bandon
You can get an exclusive preview of material from the sisters' soon-to-be-released CD Sibling Revelry at the gala concert of the 3rd Harp and Heritage Weekend at the Walled Town Festival in their native town of Bandon, Co Cork on August 29th! The album (available from the Old Bridge Music webshop shortly after that, with a full release to follow) includes their specially-composed Bandonbridge Suite - a musical representation of the history of the town, premièred at the 2014 festival. The concert will also feature internationally acclaimed harper Kathleen Loughnane, who will play the gorgeous music of the 17th and 18th century Irish harpers.
Máire, Nollaig and Mairéad, together with Kathleen Loughnane and Damhnait Nic Suibhne, will also lead workshops in harp, fiddle and traditional Irish singing on August 30th and eminent Irish harp expert and advocate Aibhlín McCrann will open the festival with her illustrated lecture exploring the fascinating history of the Irish harp and its music in the Town Hall on Friday 28th at 8pm. For full details, visit the Festival's website.
For further information and bookings, email Maria McLaughlin or contact her at Bandon Walled Town Festival, c/o Bandon Craft Centre, Bridge Street, Bandon, Co. Cork, Ireland. Tel: + 353 87 310 4354.
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