Clayton Crown Hotel (Galtymore Suite) – Noel Hill, The Mulcahy Family, Eileen O’Brien, Johnny Óg Connolly and Clíodhna Costello, Conor Connolly – Saturday 26th October – 7.30pm
Noel Hill, the doyen of the Irish concertina, hails from Caherea, in West Claire. His parents and grandparents were all concertina players and his playing was particularly influenced by that of his uncle, Padraig A Chnoic (Paddy Hill). The Hill family home was the last house in the area to hold traditional Irish house dances, where musicians were always welcomed. Noel was fortunate in being able to learn from many distinguished guests, includiing Willie Clancy, Paddy Canny, Peter O’Loughlin, Paddy Murphy and Micky Hanrahan. Much of his repertoire today derives from the playing of these great musicians.
He has played professionally since the late 1970s and his discography is extensive. His most celebrated album is Noel Hill and Tony Linane (1979), a collaboration with fiddler Tony Linane, which also features Matt Molloy (flute), Alec Finn (bouzouki and mandocello) and Micheal O’Domhnaill (harmonium).
His most notable recordings are Í gCnoc Na Graí (In Knocknagree – 1985), with celebrated accordionist Tony MacMahon, The Irish Concertina One (1988 and voted Irish Folk Album of the Year), Aislingí Céoil (Music of Dreams – 1993), with Tony MacMahon and Iarla Ó Lionáird and The Irish Concertina Two (2005) with Alec Finn, Arty McGlynn, Brian McGrath, Liam O’Connor and Steve Cooney. These albums are all recognized as classics.
Noel tours extensively and has played throughout Europe, the USA, Canada, China, Hong Kong and Australia. He teaches at his own Noel Hill Irish Concertina Schools in Ireland and the United States and lives with his family in Connemara in the south west Galway Gaeltacht. He is accompanied by this evening by Fermanagh multi-instrumentalist, Brian McGrath.
Musical families are often the backbone of Irish music. In earlier times, when traditional music was not always as widely regarded as it is today, they played a vital role in preserving and handing it down the generations. One of the most noteworthy is the Mulcahy Family of Abbeyfeale, West Limerick, who are making a welcome return to our festival (they last visited us in 2016).
Mick Mulcahy is one of the legendary living Irish accordion players. He won the All-Ireland senior title in 1972 and released his first solo album in 1976. In 1990, Gael-Linn released Mick Mulcahy agus Cairde, which Mick recorded with London banjoist Mick O’Connor, his longtime playing partner.
In more recent years, he and his daughters, Louise (flute, uilleann pipes and whistle) and Michelle (harp, concertina, piano and fiddle) have performed together as the Mulcahy Family. In addition to playing in the family band, Louise and Michelle are formidable musicians in their own right. Michelle was TG4 Young Traditional Musician of the Year in 2006. She featured on Riverdance composer Bill Whelan’s album, The Connemara Suite, on a piece for harp and orchestra which he wrote for her. Her solo harp album, Suaimhneas, has received deserved critical acclaim.
Louise is regarded as one of the finest pipes and flute players of her generation. She was Live Ireland female musician of the year 2015 and is a noted teacher – she is a pipes tutor at the Willie Clancy Festival in Milltown Malbay and at Scoil Cheoil Westport. Her solo flute album, Tuning the Road, has been extremely well received since its release in 2014.
Scion of another famous Irish musical family, Tipperary fiddle player Eileen O’ Brien is the daughter of the great Paddy O’Brien. One of the most prolific composers of traditional music, Paddy was instrumental in establishing the B/C style of button accordion playing as we know it today. Eileen’s mother, Eileen Seery, was a noted singer and her uncle, piper Sean Seery and grandfather, fiddler Jim Seery, were both founder members of Comhaltas Ceoltoiri Eireann.
She is an All-Ireland champion and, like her father, a composer. She is a highly respected teacher and a tutor at the Irish World Academy of Dance and Music at the University of Limerick, where she teaches students undertaking both undergraduate and postgraduate programmes. She has performed with many great musicians over the years, including Bobby Gardiner, Joe Burke, Ann Conroy- Burke, Martin Connolly, Jimmy McGreevy, Deirdre McSherry, Martin & Seamus Connolly, Mary & Andrew McNamara, Geraldine & Eamon Cotter and Catherine McEvoy.
Eileen has recorded three albums to date – Newtown Bridge, The Fiddler’s Choice and Aon le h’Aon – and has produced two books of music, The Compositions of Paddy O’Brien and The Definitive Collection of the Music of Paddy O’Brien.
Johnny Óg Connolly, son of the great melodeon player, Johnny Connolly, began playing the accordion at the age of nine. He learned from his father and from Micheál Ó Coistealbha, winning his first All-Ireland title just two years later. A prodigy, he joined Na h-Ancairí, fronted by the legendary Conamara singer, John Beag Ó Flatharta, at the age of fourteen, spending eight years with the band and touring in England and America. In 1990, he recorded the first traditional album released by Cló Iar-Chonnacht, The Bees’ Wing. In 1994, he joined the Sean Keane Band and performed widely with them Europe and North America.
In 1998 he recorded the acclaimed Dreaming up the Tunes, an album of banjo and accordion duets with Brian McGrath. During the same year toured with Michael Flatley’s Lord of the Dance in Europe and the Middle and Far East. In 2003 he settled permanently in Conamara, where he recorded a second duet album, Dusk Till Dawn, with Charlie Lennon in 2005.
He is a prolific composer; his recording, Aisling Yoshua (Joshua’s Dream), featuring five new compositions, was released in April 2011. In 2012, he and fellow musician and composer Mary Bergin were commissioned by the Arts Council in Ireland to compose a 40-minute suite, Sruth. He recorded Siar, an album of his own compositions, in 2016 and in December 2018, he released a melodeon album, Fear Inis Bearachin in honour of his father.
Cliodhna Costello, from North Tipperary, began learning piano and whistle at the age of six and progressed to the banjo shortly thereafter. She learned much from players such as John Morrow, Jody Moran, John Carty and Brian McGrath and was also heavily influenced by older fiddle and accordion music of Sligo and East Galway. She presently lives in Galway, where she plays and teaches regularly. She recently recorded with Johnny Óg Connolly’s on his album, Fear Inis Bearachin.
Pádraig O Dubhghaill was born in Inverin, in the Connemara Gaeltacht. He initially learned the tin-whistle from Mary Bergin and took up the guitar at the age of 17. He holds an MA in Irish Music Performance from the University of Limerick and is much in demand as an accompanist and sound engineer.
Accordionist Conor Connolly was born in 1993. From Clarinbridge, in South Galway, he is the youngest of three brothers. Although none of his family played music, his parents were keen listeners and traditional music was always playing on the radio and television in the family home. He has performed live and on radio with Frankie Gavin, taught at Feakle International Music Festival and is a regular at sessions on the Irish festival circuit. His playing is heavily influenced by legendary local musicians, Joe Cooley and Charlie Harris and the American recordings of P J Conlon. This year, Conor was named TG4 Gradam Ceoil Young Musician of the Year.