Thursday, 25 November 2010

DIT Traditional Music Ensemble

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

The best concert I barely saw

"As emcee and frequent backstage manager, I missed most of the concert tribute to Joe Derrane inside Stage One of the Fairfield Theatre Company in Fairfield, Conn. Despite massive traffic congestion on I-95 that caused a few patrons to arrive late, it was a wall-to-wall, cheek-by-jowl, overcapacity crowd in that theatre, and the e-mail and phone pleas for tickets to the sold-out event were especially intense during the last few days leading up to Nov. 13, the concert date.
The purpose of this “concert for the ages” was fourfold: (1) to pay homage to the life and music of 80-year-old button accordionist and composer Joe Derrane; (2) to celebrate his new recording, “Grove Lane” (Compass), which is his seventh overall since his fabled comeback in 1994 at Wolf Trap; (3) to raise money and recognition for the concert’s sponsor, the Shamrock Traditional Irish Music Society, a not-for-profit organization that has done yeoman work in promoting and presenting the best in Irish traditional music in southern Connecticut; and (4) to provide a surefire incentive for the extended family of Irish traditional performers and enthusiasts to come together in solidarity at one time and in one place."
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Music show brings Irish holiday traditions to U.S.

When Oisin Mac Diarmada leaves for the U.S. this week for his annual "Irish Christmas in America" tour (including a stop at AMSDconcerts on Dec. 1), one thing he'll leave behind on the Emerald Isle is his love of tea.
"I'm not thinking about tea, I'm thinking about coffee!" he said by phone last week from his home in County Sligo. When you've been spoiled by Barry's and Lyons one's whole life, Lipton's is kind of hard to accept.
And if most Americans would readily admit that we can't brew a decent pot of tea to save our lives, he pointed out that we Yanks do know how to make a nice pot of coffee.
Mac Diarmada should know; his full-time band, Teada, tours most of the year, and is a regular on the folk circuit in the States.
He said he started the annual "Irish Christmas in America" tour six years ago as an opportunity to share Irish holiday traditions with Americans.
"It's a more broad show; people come to it who don't normally come to a traditional Irish concert. We get a lot of families as well. It's a nice little mix."
The American holiday tour grew out of an European tour that he played on for a few years, and it offered the participants new artistic possibilities as well as holiday charm.
"I thought it would be fun to put something together in the United States using the resources of Teada. A lot of the guys in the band would also tour, and it was also an opportunity to bring in outside people.
"Teada is primarily an instrumental band, so we've really focused on bringing in vocalists."
Touring the United States so often has given Mac Diarmada an understanding of how differently Americans and Irish view Irish music.
"Musical tastes are quite broad in Ireland. If you say 'Irish music,' that could mean anything, even Irish musicians playing rock music.
"If you used the term 'Irish traditional music,' they would have the understanding that Americans have of Irish music."
While this year's Christmas production has yet to hold its first show, Mac Diarmada said he's already busy planning the 2011 edition.
"A lot of the good venues book up far ahead. When I go out this year, it's good to know what's ahead for next year."
He varies the lineup year to year (although his fiddle is obviously a constant) because the Christmas show often returns to the same venues.
"You don't want to go out with the same show every year," he said, explaining that regulars want to see something different, albeit along the same lines.
This year's featured singer is Seamus Begley (who also plays accordion) of County Kerry. Mac Diarmada said Begley has deep knowledge of some of the older Irish traditions that are being forgotten by younger generations.
"A guy like Seamus has lived through a lot of Christmas customs; he's not just some guy onstage playing music."
The other members of this year's cast are Grainne Hambly on harp, Tommy Martin on Uilleann pipes and whistles, narrator Tristan Rosenstock, dancer Brian Cunningham and guitarist Sean McElwain.
Personality is also an important consideration, Mac Diarmada said, when putting together each year's lineup.
"Only a little bit of time is spent onstage; most of it is spent on buses and in hotels."
But that time together offstage is also important in helping nurture the music.
"A great sharing of knowledge between the generations" is necessary to keep traditional Irish music alive, Mac Diarmada said. "Sometimes it takes a bit of tolerance and understanding."
But he said overall, traditional Irish music is very healthy, with young kids still falling for the music of earlier generations.
"It's a pretty broad church, really. You get people who are very happy to play the music as they learned it, and others who want to push it in new directions.
"There is a lot of room for creativity within traditional Irish music. You won't please everybody, but there's a sort of healthy vibrancy."
"Irish Christmas in America"
When: 7:30 p.m. Dec. 1
Where: AMSDconcerts, 4650 Mansfield St. (Normal Heights United Methodist C


Music show brings Irish holiday traditions to U.S.

Celtic Thunder's Global Appeal

As I sit down in Radio City Music Hall, I think I know exactly what I’m getting myself into. I’m here on a Friday night to see Celtic Thunder, yet another Irish musical export that has exploded in popularity across the United States. Since their formation in 2006 by creator-producer Sharon Browne and composer Phil Coulter, Celtic Thunder has released four extremely successful albums and appeared on numerous PBS specials. Like their female counterparts Celtic Woman, they seem to have particularly captivated the Irish-American audience, with their careful balance of Irish traditional songs and updated classics."

Sound Choice: Lindsays release colorful CD

"Catch some of the joy of the Irish at the Lindsays' CD release concert for “From the Green to the Blue” at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at the Navigator Coffeehouse, 55 Ashumet Road, Falmouth.

The husband-and-wife Celtic duo has been making music together for 10 years and performs an eclectic fusion of Irish ballads and traditional jigs and reels with contemporary rock and folk. Susan Gedutis Lindsay plays saxophone, Irish flute and whistle, and Dublin native Stephen Lindsay plays guitar and sings.

Their music is inspired by the Dublin ballad tradition, but is blended with world percussion instruments, from Middle Eastern frame drums to African water drums."

The fabulous brand of the Emerald Isle

By Ilkka Malmberg

Finns like the Irish (in much the same way that they like the Greeks, as it happens). You know, those jolly fellows of the Emerald Isle with their red hair and freckles, and their moustaches white with Guinness foam - people with whom you can sing in a pub, nursing some inexplicable yearning for something.
Who would have anything bad to say about the Irish?
Who could be so heartless, listening to a tin whistle over a dewy heath, while watching a flock of sheep, with the aftertaste of whiskey lingering in the mouth?
But what happens after these half-dozen or so clichés of Ireland run out?
What comes after St. Patrick, the shamrocks, and the sacred potato?

Familiar Irish brands include Guinness, Jameson, Bushmills and Baileys, but if we leave out the booze, no Irish products come to mind immediately, unless we throw in U2 and Bono.
Yes, and then there is the cut-rate airline Ryanair, which caused an upheaval in air transport throughout Europe, and later threatened to charge people for using their loos.
For a few years, people flocked to Ireland to work and study, especially from the poor countries of Eastern Europe. The edges of Europe curled up toward each other.

Now that seems to be over. But the Irish brand will certainly prevail.
An Irish pub is as important a fixture in a small Finnish town as a kebab restaurant run by a Kurd, but the only part of Irish cuisine to have reached Finland is the relatively modern invention of Irish Coffee, and that is also an alcoholic beverage.
An Irish breakfast refers to a solid bacon breakfast with oatmeal added.
And what about an “Irish table” or "Irish bench"?
Many do not know this one. It is part of an obstacle course for military athletics: a table two metres high, which the competitor must climb over somehow.
Quite why it is associated with Ireland is somewhat unclear.

Irish terriers and Irish wolfhounds are familiar breeds of dog, and two unfortunate dogs - Lola and Tessa - who made news recently when they were thrown off a balcony in Finland following a domestic dispute - were Irish setters.
An “Irish kiss” is a word for a smack in the face.
It is interesting that a laid-back and relaxed attitude, rather than terrorists, predominates in the image that people have of the Irish.
The men with the bombs are not the same people with whom we link arms to sing Dirty Old Town.

The Irish are Catholic and their families are large. With that in mind, it is surprising that the population of Ireland is smaller than that of Finland. So many have emigrated.
Many famous people have their roots in the small nation. The best-known person of Irish origin would seem to have been John F. Kennedy, or might it have been Bono after all?

There is no point in even trying to list all of the Irish musicians and bands. This is a country that has won the Eurovision Song Contest no fewer than seven times.
There have been countless writers, even after we round up James Joyce, Samuel Beckett, and William Butler Yeats.

No branding committee of the sort Finland has put together could match this achievement.
For a brief moment, the Europeans will grumble at Ireland and its humungous debts and how we have to shoulder them, and then - hey presto! - a little green man, a leprechaun, peeks from behind the tree, and all the cares end up like snowflakes that melt in the black waves of the Shannon Estuary.


Helsingin Sanomat / First published in print 21.11.2010

Helsingin Sanomat - International Edition - Foreign

Saturday, 20 November 2010

Give a little whistle at traditional music workshops

Bught Park, Inverness. Taken at 9.15 in the ev...Image via Wikipedia"YOUNGSTERS were hitting all the right notes at musical workshops held to celebrate an international sporting competition in Inverness.

More than 20 children from primary five to seven, attended the free sessions at Inverness Ice Rink on Saturday before Scotland and Ireland faced off in the shinty and hurling match at Bught Park.

The children were given the chance to learn traditional songs on the accordion and tin whistle and play a game of shinty.

The events were organised by Feis Ros in partnership with the Camanachd Association. David Nisbet, a science teacher at Kingussie High School, took the accordion workshops."
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Review: 'Dancing at Lughnasa' captures the music of memory

Lough Anna. In the Brian Friel play, Dancing a...Image via Wikipedia"t's been an Irish autumn on Seattle stages. Both Seattle Repertory Theatre and ACT Theatre have mounted plays from the heart of the Emerald Isle by lauded Irish dramatists.

But the gentle, rural Mundy sisters in Brian Friel's award-winning 'Dancing at Lughnasa' at the Rep are from a different planet, let alone another era, than the thick-as-planks, trigger-happy desperadoes in Martin McDonagh's 'The Lieutenant of Inishmore' (which just closed at ACT).

The Friel play (previously seen at the Rep in 1995) is a far more sentimental portrait of humble Irish country folk, yet a more intentionally realistic one, too. Director Sheila Daniels and her fine ensemble have given it a fond, wistful patina, with stabs of sharp anguish and fleeting exhilaration."
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Benaroya Hall Welcomes Untraditional Celtic Artists 2/4/2011 2010/11/18

"t's one of the finest assemblages of world class Scottish performing artists ever, and Benaroya Hall may never be the same. Spines shiver at this annual event as the sound of pipes drums and fiddles fill the breathtaking 2,500-seat hall in unimaginable ways.

Watching piping virtuoso Fred Morrison RAWK OUT Meatloaf-style on his Scottish smallpipes with a basic nine note range is truly a thing of wonder. His free-flowing expressive pomp on the Scottish Borderpipes shatters all perception of what a bagpiper can do. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6fRWNxqNyNk By 30 seconds into the piece, he is generally physically incapable of sitting still. And 2 minutes later his passionate delivery reaches a level that, many times, results in the accidental and uncontrollable pipe spit!

In contrast, Dr. Gary West, award-winning piper and host of BBC Radio Scotland's show Pipeline, brings a very different version of the Scottish smallpipes to the hall along with his impressive knowledge of Celtic folk music and bagpiping history. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-0QorXZGGmw"

Battlefield Band plays musical chairs

After more than 40 years of music-making, Battlefield Band has become one of the most respected, influential units in Scotland's folk establishment. The band has reinvented itself more than once, and fans get a chance to catch them in the midst of another personnel change this weekend.

When Battlefield Band plays Festival Place today, it will have five instead of the usual four musicians, reflecting an impending switch of musical chairs. The group's only remaining original member, Alan Reid, 60, is leaving at the end of this year, but the veteran keyboard, accordion and synth player, singer and chief songwriter is still on board for one last tour, along with new member Ewen Henderson, 23, who sings and plays fiddle, bagpipes, whistles and piano.

They've made one final album as a quintet, and you'll hear tunes from that new disc, Zama Zama ... Try Your Luck (Temple Records).

"Having a few generations involved in the band has always enriched what we do," observes Mike Katz, 41. A master of the large and small pipes, bass and guitar, he's been with Battlefield Band since 1997, along with other current members, Alasdair White (fiddle, banjo, bouzouki and bodhran), and Irish-born Sean O'Donnell (vocals, guitar). Katz feels the age range has also given them wider audience appeal and a more versatile sound.

Since their modest start in the Glasgow suburb of Battlefield in 1969 and a decade or so of searching for their own identity, the band has become a proud example of how to update the folk tradition, using fresh combinations of old and new instruments, mixing vocal and instrumental tunes, and traditional pieces with their own compositions. The themes in their songs are also often in step with the times. A continuing thread on Zama Zama concerns the pursuit of wealth.

"We came up with the idea of collecting songs about gold and gold mining, but it grew into something bigger. Luckily or unluckily, the whole banking debacle happened at the same time, and all kinds of crazy stories started coming out."

Over 14 tunes, the group covers a lot of history. For instance, a number about the robber barons of old is followed by Bernie's Welcome To Butner, a song about New York financial scam artist Bernie Madoff going to prison.

The title Zama Zama is a reference to pirate gold miners in South Africa.

Katz says few groups have been as important as Battlefield Band in focusing Scots back toward their own folk history, starting with the way they brought bagpipes into a concert-band context around 1979.

"Thirty years ago almost everyone was looking out to America and other places, rather than paying attention to their own music. I think the Irish bands like Bothy Band and Planxty, and then the Scottish bands like Battlefield Band and Tannahill Weavers made young people realize there was this huge richness of culture. We showed them that it's culturally valid."

Tonight's show at Sherwood Park's Festival Place is at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $30, $34 or $36, from the box office (780-449-3378), or online at festivalplace.ab.ca.

BLUES UPDATE

Saskatchewan's rocking Rattle Snake Romeo pulls in this weekend at the Commercial Hotel's Blues On Whyte room, Sunday through Tuesday. Edmonton's own Big Hank and his Fist Full Of Blues take over the same venue Nov. 24 to 27.

Meanwhile, over at Rusty Reed's House of Blues at 124th Street and 118th Avenue, you can catch The Rault Brothers Friday and Saturday. Alberta's great guitar ace Amos Garrett plays there Nov. 26 and 27.

Garrett is also set to lead his jazz trio at the Yardbird Suite Dec. 4., while Chicago blues singer Shirley Johnson will head up two nights at the Yardbird Dec. 10 and 11.

© Copyright (c) The Edmonton Journal
Battlefield Band plays musical chairs

Friday, 12 November 2010

Masters Bill Whelan and Athena Tergis for IAC series

It was another very successful musician who decreed that “the times they are a changing” over four decades ago, and when it comes to Irish music today that is certainly the case.
One of the biggest catalysts in changing the landscape and the prism in which Irish music is seen and heard is composer Bill Whelan of Riverdance fame. While the success of the popular dance show scored by his musical genius has been unparalleled, this Limerick man prefers to work in solitude and not directly under the spotlight of center stage.
So it will certainly be intriguing to see him come out of the shadows in his first performing role in a few years as he engages fiddler Athena Tergis in the fourth edition of the Irish Arts Center’s Masters in Collaboration from November 17-21.
As in the previous series initiated by the IAC in 2008, a veteran artist with a long string of achievements is matched up with a promising artist whose resume may run a bit shorter.
Whelan, best known for his Riverdance music, has also had great success composing for film, theater and producing music for other artists.
Tergis is a very familiar figure around the IAC in recent years, appearing in a super-sized version of Green Fields of America that was turned into the PBS and DVD video production called Absolutely Irish. She also appears at the annual Christmas shows, and she finds the IAC a very creative environment for the arts.
Whelan and Tergis have crossed creative paths before through Riverdance when she performed in the Broadway production in 1999.
And even more recently Tergis toured with the Dublin Philharmonic Orchestra and along with Cora Venus Lunny, a classical violinist, interpreted Whelan’s composition “Inishlacken” from his Connemara Suite that will be part of the IAC program.
They will compose other material together and perform with a nine string ensemble, a percussionist (Robbie Harris) and Irish dancer Mick Donegan.
One of the critical aspects of a joint effort like this is daring to be different and innovative when working closely with another artist in a confined space and time frame.
Whelan, whose traditional lineage goes back to Planxty, doesn’t fear innovation, and actually embraces it.
“The music can’t be kept in a box only to be opened at holidays or just repeated over and over. Playing on your own in a cottage in Clare or on a Saturday night at the local pub long ago isn’t the same for the young people now who are exposed to so much on the Internet. The music has to change or it will cease being interesting and will die,” Whelan told me in a phone interview.
The Masters in Collaboration series will follow the same pattern as the others, with a behind the scenes midweek interview with both Whelan and Tergis by Dr. Mick Moloney, who has shepherded this project he initiated with IAC executive director Aidan Connolly, on Wednesday, November 17 at 8 p.m.
No one is more skillful and knowledgeable at drawing out his subjects and helping to put their respective accomplishments in perspective and perhaps shed light on the direction that the end performances might take. It remains one of the more novel approaches to witnessing art in creation while maintaining some suspense about what we will witness in the finished product in the weekend performances.
The Donaghy Theatre at the IAC is an intimate laboratory for this type of observation, and there will be two final performances on Saturday and Sunday at 8 p.m. Seats are limited and higher than the usual prices, but these pairings have the potential to be history making.
Visit www.irishartscenter.org or for tickets www.smarttix.com or 212-868-4444.

Saturday, 6 November 2010

Joe Derrane plays at his own pace

"It remains one of the most compelling and fascinating stories in traditional Irish music that rises to the surface every time there is the occasion to trumpet the achievements of Joe Derrane, one of the finest accordion players to ever play Irish music.

And since his stunning return to prominence in Irish traditional music circles in 1994 at the Washington D.C. Irish Folk Festival at Wolf Trap, those occasions have been numerous thanks to the prolific and technical brilliance of the native Boston musician."

Friday, 5 November 2010

Experiments in musical texture

Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh has earned acclaim for his eclectic musical collaborations, but the fiddler and composer says his goal is to let the music do its own talking

BOUNDARIES CAN serve a raft of purposes. For some, they give licence to conform to the limits they pose. For others, they’re the fodder that lure individuals to taste of what life can offer on both sides of the divide. Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh is a fiddler, a composer, a multimedia artist – and if he had the time or inclination, a theoretical physicist, who’s most at home when crossing, straddling and often simply ignoring boundaries.

On the face of it, Ó Raghallaigh is a fiddler whose roots can be traced to the world of traditional music. He’s worked as an uilleann pipe maker and as a traditional music archivist; he’s in his element when sharing a tune with former TG4 Traditional Musician of the Year Paddy Cronin or Breanndán Begley, but he’s equally comfortable collaborating with saxophonist Seán Óg, US dancer Nic Gareiss and Swedish percussionist Petter Berndalen on his Dublin Fringe Festival showcase, Four on the Fringes of Folk . In between, he can be found noodling with Icelandic avant gardists Amiina, delving into the fiddle style of Norwegian Hardanger fiddler Nils Økland or trading tunes with Martin Hayes and Peadar Ó Riada, with whom he released an album of newly composed Ó Riada tunes titled 3/Triúr earlier this year.

Ó Raghallaigh’s music has attracted the attention of many listeners who would not consider themselves fans of traditional music. Uncle Earl’s Kristin Andreassen counts herself among that mix of listeners in thrall of Ó Raghallaigh’s highly energised work.

“It’s like if you untangled an Irish session and hung up the choicest bits each in front of its own glowing Christmas light and viewed through 3D glasses made of paper and cellophane,” she says.

His earliest memory of listening intently to Irish music was hearing The Marino Waltz , composed by The Dubliners’ John Sheahan (and used extensively to soundtrack a Bórd na Móna TV ad in the 80s). Later, he heard Martin Hayes play, and for Ó Raghallaigh, “it was the first window into the magic of music”. It’s the fizz of collaboration that often sets his music alight, he admits.

“Music is communication,” he says. “With Breanndán , either he or I throw something at the other, and we’re off! We immediately respond, amplifying whatever the other has played. It’s so dynamic playing with him. There’s no fear. We can go to crazy loud places or incredibly quiet places. It’s all an adventure.”

He and Begley have just released an unfettered album, Le Gealaigh/A Moment Of Madness , recorded over the past few years whenever the mood took them.

“I don’t really subscribe to this sterilised studio thing at all,” Ó Raghallaigh says. “I don’t think it offers us as humans what we need. What I need from music is the rough edges. I need to feel the grain in the wood. I need to see the dirt under the finger nails. And that’s the approach Breanndán and I took on the record.”

One of the most distinguishing features of Ó Raghallaigh’s music is its ability to transcend genres, to exist outside the boxes which can often corral a musician.

“One of my favourite records is Tony McMahon’s I gCnoc Na Graí/In Knocknagree ,” he says; recounting a conversation he had with MacMahon many years ago. “What’s the difference between playing a tune with heart and without? I remember asking Tony about that, and what he told me was that it has to come from living. You have to live the highs and the lows, and then you put them into your music. That was a huge step: my transition from thinking of great musicians just as musicians, to thinking of great musicians as people, and that the music comes from the entire way they look out of the lenses of their eyes at the world. It’s not just the way they think about music.”

Ultimately, Ó Raghallaigh’s goal is to transcend the emotions, to let the music do its own talking.

“A lot of artists see the music coming from something beyond themselves,” he says. “For me, that’s even more interesting than harnessing emotions. It’s when you actually subtract yourself from the equation altogether and you’re just trying to let the music flow, without any filters.”

Ó Raghallaigh plays the Norwegian Hardanger fiddle, whose distinctive double notes and deep tones have almost become his trademark. Sound worlds and textures are what he trades in, rather than simple notes and melodies.

“You can take the bow off the strings and the sound continues. I love silence and I love space so that’s a huge attraction for me. It’s as if you send a note out, and then you sit, and wait for the next one. As a solo instrument, that’s a huge plus.”

Ó Raghallaigh’s music is distinctively his, and not a facsimile of what he’s heard before. For him, that’s at the heart of his approach to playing and making music.

“The material has to be yours,” he enthuses. “If the material isn’t yours, then why are you playing it? The notion of music preservation isn’t interesting to me. You have to be at that point where new ideas are brought into existence. That’s the whole idea behind creativity. For any artist, you want to be at the coalface, the cutting edge where ideas are being formed in music. Where the sparks are coming out of the pick at the face of the rock. That’s the only interesting place to be.”

Ó Raghallaigh’s ability to stretch and bend music so that it doesn’t conform to any conventional notion of rhythm coincides with his alternative perspective on time itself.

“Instead of time being a metronome, think of time as a reaction to gravity,” he suggests. “For Breanndán , time is what happens when you’re dancing sets. So it’s not a straight line. It’s rotating. Centrifugal time is completely different to linear time. The second is a completely arbitrary division. It’s fine if you want to make a business meeting, but for walking in the mountains or playing music it’s not very relevant.”

Experiments in musical texture - The Irish Times - Mon, Oct 25, 2010

Limerick Hosts WinterSolas Series

"WinterSolas features free concerts and other shows by some Ireland’s best known traditional performance artists, including choral group Anuna, poet Eileen Sheehan, uilleann piper Maire NiGhrada and singer Noirin NiRiain.

Arts Officer Joan MacKernan explained: “WinterSolas is a programme of concerts and heart warming events which are organised and funded by Limerick County Council Arts Office. These Sunday afternoon events are free to the general public and feature musicians, singers, poets and actors, all who have forged a national and sometimes an international reputation.”

The WinterSolas series commences on Sunday 7 November with an event entitled “The Poet, The Piper and The Singer”, which will be held in All Saints Church Castleconnell. The event will feature performances from poet Jo Slade, uilleann piper Maire NiGhrada and singer Roisin Elsafty.

On Sunday 14 November the series continues with a performance by Fidil 3 in the Desmond Complex, Newcastle West. This group of three traditional fiddlers has taken the music world by storm and is in huge demand in America and Europe."

De Dannan launch WonderWaltz with no looking back in anger

"WonderWaltz, the new offering from de Dannan is being launched this week.

This is the de Dannan that boasts two founders of the original group, Alec Finn on bouzouki and Johnny ‘Ringo’ McDonagh on bodhr�n, as well as Derek Hickey on accordion, Brian McGrath on banjo and piano, and Eleanor Shanley on vocals – all three were members of the band at different stages. The fiddle player is Mick Conneely, who frequently served as the group’s replacement fiddle player in years past and “knows more about the band than any of us”, according to Alec Finn.

The third co-founder of the original band, Frankie Gavin is not part of this line up, having set up his own group, Frankie Gavin and de Dannan last year."

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