The web site for the O'Neill-Malcom Branch of
CCÉ Musical Arts and Dance (MAD) Week 2012
Kevin Burke, Fiddle
By 1980 Kevin had settled in the USA and was performing with Bothy Band colleague Micheal O Domhnaill. Their 2 albums, “Promenade” and “Portland”, became, and still are, very influential resources for many traditional musicians. In 1985 Kevin was a founding member of the group, “Patrick Street”, and this band, highly successful on both sides of the Atlantic, has recently released its 10th album.
Kevin spent much of the 90’s recording and performing in a series of highly successful concert tours with Johnny Cunningham from Scotland and Christian Lemaitre from Brittany, a trio of fiddle players known as “The Celtic Fiddle Festival” and he has also become a featured member of Tim O’Brien’s wonderful ‘crossover’ band, “The Crossing”.
Although Kevin has spent much of his life playing in a group context, he has never lost his love for solo fiddle music – the “naked fiddle” as he himself sometimes puts it. This is very evident in his live solo release, “In Concert”, a performance of mostly unaccompanied traditional pieces.
In 2002, The National Endowment for the Arts invited Kevin to Washington, D.C. to receive a National Heritage Fellowship, the country's highest honor in the folk and traditional arts. Previous National Heritage Fellows include B.B. King, "Pinetop" Perkins, Doc Watson, cowboy poet Wally McRae and Bill Monroe.
2005 saw the release of “In Tandem” with Kevin and guitarist Ged Foley. This highly regarded CD was released independently, without the aid of a record company, and the experience inspired Kevin to set up his own record company “Loftus Music”. Since then Kevin has released 4 CDs on the Loftus label, the latest of which is entitled “Suite”, an exciting collaboration with Oregon arranger/composer Cal Scott. “Suite” is the company’s major release of 2010 and features appearances from the members of “Beoga” one of Ireland’s hottest young bands. One of the highlights of the CD is “The Irish Session Suite”, ten traditional tunes arranged in four movements for String Quartet.
The New York Times describes Kevin as “a superior instrumentalist in any idiom......impressively virtuosic”, the Washington Post writes of his “lyrical style that is always emotionally electric”, and the Irish Times says that “Burke’s fiddling is one of the high spots of the current Irish musical scene”. Whether solo or accompanied, on record or in concert, Burke is an immensely engaging performer.
Tony DeMarco, Fiddle
Tony DeMarco: Irish fiddler. If that sounds slightly off, you have only to listen to the music on "The Sligo Indians", released in 2008 on the Smithsonian Folkways label to be cured of any preconceptions about the importance of ethnic purity in traditional music. There may have been a time when Irish music in New York City was played exclusively by Irish immigrants and their offspring, while their Italian neighbors strummed mandolins and sang opera. But the Big Apple really is a melting pot, at least for some of its disparate immigrant elements. Before World War II it really wasn’t very common for Italian and Irish Americans to marry each other. By the 1950s, however, this kind of ethnic mixing was fairly normal in Tony’s native Brooklyn, where the Italians and Irish lived side by side and attended the same parish churches.
Tony was born on May 20, 1955, the second of three children raised in East Flatbush by Paul DeMarco and his wife, the former Patricia Dempsey. Paul, a grandson of Italian immigrants, was a teenage lightweight boxing star who turned down an offer to turn pro and work with lightweight champ Paddy “Billygoat” DeMarco in order to pursue a more conventional career on Wall Street. Tony’s maternal grandfather Jimmy Dempsey was a New York City cop and a son of Irish immigrants who married Philomena “Minnie” Fenimore, one of several Italian-American siblings who married into Brooklyn Irish families.
Musical ability runs on both sides of Tony’s family. During the Prohibition years, Minnie Dempsey’s Italian immigrant father ran a speakeasy in East New York, where he played the piano and mandolin. Tony’s paternal uncle Louie DeMarco was a singer who performed with 1950s doo-wop groups, including “Dickie Dell and the Ding Dongs.” Tony’s cousin John Pattitucci, from the Fenimore side of the family, is a leading professional bass player who has recorded with jazz stars Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock, and Wayne Shorter. But Tony definitely found his way to Irish traditional music via a different path than the one trod by musicians raised in Irish immigrant households.
As he puts it: “I never grew up with the competitive Comhaltas scene—I came through the hippie scene, the folkie scene.” His first exposure to Irish traditional music was through a Folkways recording of the County Sligo fiddler Michael Gorman. Tony had many other musical influences before this, and would have many more afterward, but for him the appeal of the Sligo fiddle style would never fade.
Tony has been performing and teaching Irish fiddle music for more than 30 years, and is now one of leading living exponents of the New York/Sligo fiddle style. The late Paddy Reynolds, Andy McGann and Martin Wynne were very influential on Tony’s playing, as was the music of New York/Sligo fiddlers of the generation prior, including Michael Coleman, James Morrison, Paddy Killoran, and James “Lad” O’Beirne. Tony’s album The Sligo Indians, released in 2008 on the Smithsonian Folkways label, is tribute to this style and the musicians that shaped his music. His landmark The Apple in Winter album with Brian Conway, now available on Compass Records, is a highly regarded example of the old Sligo-style twin fiddle music from New York. Tony’s popular A Trip to Sligo tutorial, co-authored with Miles Krassen, is scheduled to be re-issued soon.
Tony’s fiddling has been featured in music programs at New York University organized by Mick Moloney, as well as the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance at the University of Limerick headed by Mícheál Ó Súilleabháin.
Tony has performed and recorded with many traditional and modern players and bands, including The Flying Cloud, Black 47, Celtic Thunder, Wishbone Ash, and the Kips Bay Ceili Band, and has appeared on various compilations on Rounder Records. Tony has performed at Boston College Fiddle Festival, the Chicago Folk Fest, Sligo Live Fest, Return to Camden Fest and Ennis Trad Fest, to name a few.
Cleek Schrey, Fiddle
Cleek, an enthusiastic and experienced performer and teacher of Irish fiddling, has led classes for the Blue Ridge Irish Music School and has been on staff at the Augusta and Catskills Irish weeks.
As a teen in Virginia, he learned from Brendan Mulvihill, and also sought instruction from several musicians, notably Brian Conway, Marty Fahey, and Billy McComiskey.
Regular visits to the home of Paddy Reynolds, the great Longford fiddler who settled in New York, helped to intensify Cleek's interest in the fiddle playing of the 78 rpm era. In 2005, he co-produced of the release of archival recordings of the late Reynolds’ surviving work. Cleek performs regularly with his longtime friend, accordion player Sean McComiskey, and pianists Matt Mulqueen and Donna Long. Cleek was a featured musician on The Raw Bar, a documentary on Irish music that aired on RTE 1 in Ireland, and most recently on Féilte, a program on Irish music in America, on the Irish language station TG4. For sound clips and more information, please visit Cleek Schrey's Web Site
Donna Long, Fiddle
At the age of five Donna Long began taking piano lessons with her father, Byron Long, a jazz/classical pianist who instilled in Donna a love for music. As a child, Donna was exposed to many different genres of music, including players from the old and new jazz eras, and music from the classical, Scottish, Indian, and African traditions. In 1978, she moved to the Baltimore area and heard fiddler Brendan Mulvihill playing Irish music. He inspired her to pick up the fiddle and gave her a solid foundation in style and playing. As a former member of the internationally acclaimed Irish group Cherish the Ladies, the Smithsonian Institution asked Donna to represent Irish Music in the series, Piano Traditions, celebrating 300 years of the piano. Donna was also commissioned by the Library of Congress in to write a composition for fiddle and piano. Visit Donna's website..
Rose Flanagan, Fiddle?
Great New York fiddlers like Andy McGann and Paddy Reynolds were also frequent visitors to the Conway household, which was the Bronx version of a "teach ceoil" (house of music) in the best Irish tradition.
Rose currently has a large music school in her hometown of Pearl River where she is hard at work preparing the next generation of great traditional musicians, which include several All-Ireland winners and medalists.
Rose has been an instructor at the Alaska fiddle camp, The Catskills Irish Arts week, The Swannanoa Celtic Gathering and the O’Flaherty Irish Music Retreat in the US, DeDannan Dance Camp in Vancouver, British Columbia and Scoile Eigse in Cavan, Ireland. She has taught workshops at the Northeast Tional , CCÉ conventions, and in Nashville Tn. at the Fiddle and Pick. Rose also runs various sessions, and plays with her group the Green Gates Ceili Band in the tri-state area.
Patrick Mangan, Fiddle
Fiddle virtuoso Patrick Mangan is held in very high esteem in the world of Irish traditional music. Earle Hitchner, music critic of the Wall Street Journal, wrote that Patrick “embodies all that is admirable and durable about the Irish tradition in America."
Born in Brooklyn, NY, Patrick studied with renowned fiddler Brian Conway. He was also mentored by the late Sligo fiddle legends Andy McGann and Paddy Reynolds. His deep respect for traditional music and his gift of playing with fluidity and fire twice earned him the coveted All-Ireland fiddle championship – there is no higher honor for a traditional musician. And Patrick is no ordinary traditional musician.
At sixteen, he was invited to appear in Riverdance on Broadway, becoming the youngest fiddle player in the show’s history. Since that auspicious beginning, he went on to dazzle audiences across the US, Canada, Mexico, Ireland, Germany, France, South Africa, Japan, China, and Taiwan as the show’s featured soloist.
In addition to the demands of full time touring with Riverdance, he also released a critically acclaimed CD, “Farewell to Ireland,” composed the awarding winning instrumental “September Sky,” and has performed with Irish music luminaries such as John Whelan and Cathie Ryan. “Farewell to Ireland” is available on his website.
Kevin Crawford, Flute
Born in Birmingham, England, Kevin Crawford’s early life was one long journey into Irish music and Co. Clare, to where he eventually moved while in his 20’s. He was a founding member of Moving Cloud, the Clare-based band who recorded such critically-acclaimed albums as Moving Cloud and Foxglove, and he has also recorded with Grianan, Raise the Rafters, Joe Derrane,Natalie Merchant,Susan McKeown and Sean Tyrrell. Kevin also appears on the 1992 recording, The Maiden Voyage recorded live at Peppers Bar, Feakle, Co Clare and The 1994 recording, The Sanctuary Sessions recorded live in Cruises Bar, Ennis, Co Clare. Kevin now tours the world with Ireland’s cutting-edge traditional band, Lúnasa, called by some the “Bothy Band of the 21st Century,”with eight ground-breaking albums to their credit: Lúnasa, Otherworld, The Merry Sisters of Fate, Redwood, The Kinnity Sessions, Sé, The Story So Far and La Nua. A virtuoso flute player, Kevin has also recorded several solo albums including The ‘D’ Flute Album, In Good Company, and his most recent, On Common Ground a duet recording with piper Cillian Vallely.
Laura Byrne, Flute and Pennywhistle
Laura Byrne is highly regarded on both sides of the Atlantic for her mastery of the Irish traditional flute and whistle. Laura began studying flute at age 9 in her native Vermont, continued her studies at the Peabody Conservatory of Music in Baltimore where she earned Bachelor’s degrees in both flute performance and music education in 1995. Though classically trained, she chose to devote her musical career to Irish traditional music.
Laura has committed herself to the playing of the older generation of flute players through countless trips to Ireland and from close study of the immigrants to the United States. Her mentors and influences are many and include East Galway flute player Mike Rafferty, Sligo/Roscommon style flute player Catherine McEvoy, Matt Molloy of Chieftain’s fame, and East Galway style button accordionist Billy McComiskey. Through her direct study of this unbroken musical lineage and because of her devotion to the teaching and promulgation of all aspects of Irish musical culture, Laura is a well-known mainstay in Maryland’s vibrant Irish music scene.
Laura has performed at countless festivals, ceilis, and concerts in the U.S., Canada, and Ireland. She is a three-time 1st place winner in solo flute, duets, and slow airs at the North American eastern Fleadh competition. In 2001, Laura was a featured performer in the Emmy nominated Christmas with Choral Arts concert. She has played with Touchstone for their 2004 reunion tour, performed on the Irish Festival Carribean Cruise in 2006, and was featured on the Eva Cassidy remix album Wonderful World. In 2005 Laura released her first solo album Tune for the Road which received great reviews, was highly praised by Irish Music Magazine, and is played on radio stations across the U.S. and in Ireland. She was a 2008 Maryland Traditions Apprenticeship grant recipient and recently was awarded a Maryland State Arts Council grant for solo performance.
A versatile ensemble player, Laura has had the opportunity to perform with many of the great masters of Irish music including: fiddlers James Kelly, Brian Conway, Tony DeMarco, Brendan Mulvihill, and Patrick Ourceau, accordionists Paddy O’Brien and John Whelan, pianists Felix Dolan, Zan McLeod, piper Michael Cooney, and folklorist Mick Moloney. She performs regularly with world-renowned fellow Baltimoreans Billy McComiskey, pianist and fiddler Donna Long (formerly of Cherish the Ladies), and guitarist and singer Pat Egan, as a member of The Hedge Band. She runs a weekly session on Sundays at Ryan’s Daughter and also plays regularly with fiddler Jim Eagan (of O’Malley’s March) with whom she has led a weekly session Tuesdays at J.Patrick’s for nearly 10 years.
A sought-after flute and tin whistle instructor, Laura maintains an active private teaching studio and has taught at numerous festivals and workshops, including the 2009 CCÉ Mad Week and the Catskills Irish Arts Week in East Durham, NY. She teaches Irish flute at Goucher College in Towson, MD, and founded and directs the Baltimore Irish Arts Center. Laura currently lives in Baltimore, MD, where she is working on her next solo project to be released in July 2010.
Billy and Sean McComiskey, Button Accordion
Sean McComiskey is among the most innovative young performers on the button accordion, with a unique harmonic style that has earned him a spot in the pantheon of Irish accordionists far beyond his native Baltimore. As the son of legendary button accordion player Billy McComiskey, Sean has been surrounded by Irish Traditional music his entire life and has developed a deep appreciation for the rich tradition of which he is a part. This has helped Sean establish a reputation as a highly regarded teacher and promulgator of Irish music and earned him teaching positions with the Catskills Irish Arts Week, Augusta Heritage Center’s Irish Arts Week, and the Baltimore Irish Arts Center.
In addition, Sean's music has been recognized in various prestigious venues throughout his musical career—among them, the Washington Irish Festival, the Baltimore Irish Festival, the Kennedy Center Millennium Stage, the Mansion at Strathmore, the Glucksman Ireland House at New York University, the Hippodrome Theatre, the National Press Club, and the White House St. Patrick's Day Celebration. He performs regularly with O'Malley's March, Corner House with fiddler Cleek Schrey and pianist Matt Mulqueen, and is a member of the Old Bay Ceili Band from Baltimore, Maryland.
Sean has been featured on numerous recordings to date, including Billy McComiskey’s highly anticipated second solo album, Outside The Box, and is currently collaborating with fiddler Cleek Schrey and Sean Nós dancers Shannon Dunne and Kieran Jordan on a traditional Irish music and dance performance group called the Kitchen Quartet.
Joshua Dukes, Guitar
Josh Dukes is an All Ireland champion accompanist and a highly sought after music teacher in the Baltimore/Washington D.C. area. A multi-instrumentalist whose talents embrace the guitar, bouzouki, bodhran, flute, and tin whistle, Josh has established a reputation for providing sensitive, tasteful support for traditional Irish music.
As a young high school student, Josh studied the oboe, tenor/alto saxophone, drum set and baritone horn. Outside of the classroom, he learned the art of ancient rudimental drumming under the tutelage of Dominick Cuccia, a widely respected instructor/performer in the fife and drum community. In 1997, Josh enlisted in the Army and has since earned the rank of Master Sergeant , currently serving as one of three Drum Majors for the Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps, "The Official Escort to the President," the only military unit of its kind.
Josh continues to perform Irish music, having shared the stage with such renowned musicians including John Doyle, Paddy Keenan, Billy and Sean McComiskey, Brendan Mulvihill, Skip Healy, Zan McLeod, and Myron Bretholz, and he can be seen performing regularly with The Old Bay Ceili Band. Josh lives in Northern Virginia with his wife Judy and two daughters, Mya and Olivia.
Shannon Dunne - Sean-nos Step Dancing
Shannon Dunne has performed and taught Sean-nos Dance all over the US and in Ireland. Recent performances as a solo artist include: the Kennedy Center, ICONS Festival (Boston), UMW Sean-nos Festival, Potomac Celtic Festival and Bethel College Irish Dance Intensive.
She currently tours nationally with Footworks Percussive Dance Ensemble, and her recent brainchild, the Slán Abhaile Dance Project, is dedicated to teaching dance styles that encourage freedom of personal style, and creating class situations in which students of all ages dance together.
Marilyn Moore - Set Dancing
She organized the evening dance program at the Augusta Heritage Center's Irish Week for more than 10 years, taught the dance portion of the Elderhostel program at Augusta, and has assisted the dance instructors at the Augusta and Swannanoa summer schools. She has also organized performance groups for a variety of venues, most notably working with the Chieftains on the 2003 4th of July concert on the National Mall in Washington. Marilyn enjoys helping non-dancers of all ages learn a few easy movements so that they can participate at festivals, ceilis, birthday and holiday parties, wedding receptions, and other events featuring Irish dance music.
She has worked with schools, churches, civic associations and scout groups. Marilyn has traveled throughout the United States and Canada, as well as to Ireland, to work and study with internationally-known Irish dance teachers, including Pat Murphy, Timmy McCarthy, Larry Lynch, Mick Mulkerrin, Patrick O'Dea, Padraig and Roisin McIneany, Seamus O'Mealoid, Aidan Vaughan, and the late Connie Ryan, as well as master musician and folklorist, Mick Moloney.
Marilyn has served on a number of boards and committees of various Irish music and dance organizations in the Washington area, participating in the management and operation of festivals, feisanna (step dance competitions), concerts, and social dances.
Karen Ashbrook - Celtic Crafts and Pennywhistle
In 1976, Karen Ashbrook built her first hammered dulcimer as a high school project. She attended the Eastman Preparatory School in Rochester, NY. In search of Irish music, she went overseas and spent five years playing in Europe and Asia, traversing the globe twice.
With her delicate touch, trademark shimmering lilt, and ear for authentic ornamentation, Karen Ashbrook is considered one of the finest Irish hammered dulcimer players anywhere. Add her wooden flute and pennywhistle playing, and you have the consummate Irish musician. Irish reviewer John O'Regan calls her recordings "Celtic music for the mind and body."
Based in the Washington, DC area, Karen teaches and performs Celtic, contra dance, and Jewish music. These days she primarily performs as a duo with her husband Paul Oorts, playing his native Belgian and French music and as a trio in Pavilion 3 with percussionist Steve Bloom added. She has several recordings, both solo and with the group Ceoltoiri, on the Maggie's Music label. Karen plays the hammered dulcimer in the rish Tradition book/CD set from Oak Publications, a standard text in dulcimer literature. She appears at numerous folk music camps and festivals around the country. Performance highlights include RTE 1-Irish National Television, the Smithsonian Institution, National Geographic, and playing at the White House for President Bill Clinton. Karen also plays with Cabaret Sauvignon. Check out her 4/13/01 performance at the Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage.
Karen's newest CD, Spring Will Come, is a live recording marking her 30th anniversary as a dulcimer player, teacher, and advocate, and celebrates her rich musical partnerships with Ceoltoiri, David Scheim (King David's Harp, Hills of Erin), and Pavilion 3.
In addition to her performing and recording career, Karen has done much to promote traditional Irish music and arts to the next generation of Irish musicians. Karen has taught and coached two-time All-Ireland winner Arjuna Balaranjan (miscellaneous Instrument, 2 different age groups). Karen compiled The Hedge School Tune Book, the compendium of traditional Irish dance tunes that is used by children’s sessions throughout the area. Karen runs a series of “Hedge School” summer camps for children of all ages each summer. She also ran a children’s session for ten years at various venues in the DC area. For details about summer camps as well as a downloadable version of The Hedge School Tune Book, please visit her website.
Myron Bretholz, Bodhran
Myron has taught bodhran and rhythm bones at many workshops throughout the United States and Canada over the past 20 years, including Boston College's Gaelic Roots, Gaelic College in Cape Breton, and the Catskills Irish Arts Week in East Durham, New York. In March 2000, Myron was privileged to receive a Maryland State Arts Council grant for solo instrumental performance, and he also was honored to play at the White House on four occasions during the late 1990s.
He received early inspiration and instruction in bodhran from Jesse Winch and in rhythm bones from Karen Seime Singleton, and also counts among his influences the playing of Robin Morton, Peadar Mercier, Jim Sutherland, and Johnny McDonagh. And although not a dancer himself, he also draws inspiration from Irish step dancers, and he reckons that the ideal percussionist should be able to do with his or her hands what dancers do with their feet. Myron's relaxed and humorous teaching style has made him an in-demand workshop leader and instructor, and he is always willing to encourage novice players.
Jerry O'Sullivan has been widely hailed as America's premier uilleann piper. His reputation for technical and melodic mastery of the instrument, an Irish bagpipe known for its subtlety and expression, is unsurpassed in the United States, and is demanding considerable attention overseas. Jerry is also widely recorded on the tin whistle, the low whistle, the Highland bagpipes, and the Scottish smallpipes.
Jerry has appeared on more than 90 albums and has performed or recorded with artists such as The Boston Pops, Don Henley, Paul Winter, James Galway, Dolly Parton, The Colorado Symphony Orchestra, The Nashville Symphony Orchestra, Eileen Ivers, and many others. He was a featured soloist on Paul Winter's GRAMMY winning album, Celtic Solstice (Living Music, 1999). His first two solo albums, The Gift (Shanachie,1998), and The Invasion (Green Linnet, 1987) have both received critical acclaim, quickly finding their way to the top of a number of "best albums of the year" lists. Jerry has just recently released a new solo album, O'Sullivan Meets O'Farrell (Jerry O'Sullivan Music, 2005), which features music from the 200 year old O'Farrell tutor and tune collections. Jerry has also recorded a number of film soundtracks including From Shore to Shore, The Long Journey Home, Far and Away, Africans in America, and Out of Ireland, and has appeared on numerous television commercials.
Jerry has toured extensively in the United States and Europe and has even played as far afield as Japan and Israel. He has been a featured performer and instructor in numerous Folk Festivals, including: the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, the Milwaukee Irish Festival, the Catskills Irish Arts Week in East Durham, Boston's Gaelic Roots Festival, the Philadelphia Folk Festival, the National Council for Traditional Arts National Folk Festival, and the Swannanoa Gathering in Asheville, North Carolina. He has performed at such reputable venues as New York's Lincoln Center, St. Patrick's Cathedral, and on the mall in Washington D.C. His symphonic concerts have included selections from John Williams Far and Away (performed and recorded with the Boston Pops), O'Sullivan's March from Rob Roy, Main Title Theme from Braveheart (both performed and recorded with the Boston Pops) Patrick Cassidy's The Famine Symphony (performed at the world debut at St. Patrick's Cathedral), Paul Winter's Pipes Peace (performed with the Colorado Symphony Orchestra), and excerpts from Titanic (performed with the Nashville Symphony Orchestra).
Born in New York City to an Irish-American mother and a father from Dublin, Ireland, Jerry first learned to play the Scottish highland pipes. During summer visits to family in Dublin, he learned the uilleann pipes from listening and asking questions to experienced players such as Peter Carberry, Matt Kiernan, Dan Dowd, Peter McKenna, Fergus Finnegan, Mick O'Brien, Gay McKeon, and others. In New York, uilleann piper Bill Ochs was a major help and inspiration to Jerry.
Jerry O'Sullivan is a gifted ambassador of the Irish uilleann pipes, maintaining the historic traditions and melodies of the instrument while expanding its range into new genres of music and media. His mastery of the instrument, traditional knowledge, versatility, and dedication to education truly make him America's premier uilleann piper.
Jesse Winch, Ceili Band and Irish Drumming
Jesse Winch is the Bronx-born son of Bridie (Flynn) and Patrick Winch, Irish immigrants who met and married in New York City in the early 1930s. Paddy Winch played the tenor banjo and encouraged all of his five children to play the Irish music he loved so much. As a 10-year-old, Jesse took up the drums and two years later started playing with his father and button-accordion player P.J. Conway for house parties and parish dances. He played in his first ceili band in the late 1950s under the tutelage of the legendary Felix Dolan. He went on to play drums with the Joe Nellany Band, Paddy Noonan, Paulie Ryan, and several other Irish dance bands in New York in the early 1960s, playing such historic venues as the New York City Center, The Yorkville Casino, The Jaeger House, and others.
Keith Carr - Tenor Banjo
Keith Carr is a multi-instrumentalist who performs as half of the Irish traditional music duo "Lilt" (with Tina Eck). He plays the tenor banjo, and is also proficient on ten-string cittern (bouzouki) and mandolin. His musical background includes many years as a performing guitarist, plus extensive classical training in trumpet and piano.
In addition to performing, he teaches bouzouki, banjo, and mandolin, and is on the faculty of the Washington Conservatory of Music program at Glen Echo Park. He is a graduate of the State University of New York at Albany and the University of Oregon, and earned bachelor's and graduate degrees in geography. He is a specialist in the areas of biodiversity informatics and species conservation, and is currently working with the Biological Informatics Program at the US Geological Survey.
Previously he was the Director of Conservation Systems for the Nature Conservancy, and was a co-founder of the NatureServe organization. During a recent career sabbatical he was on the staff of the House of Musical Traditions in Takoma Park, MD, where he was the “Irish music guy”. He lives in Falls Church, VA.
Robbie O'Connell - Singing/Songwriting
Robbie O'Connell was born in Waterford, Ireland and grew up in Carrick-on-Suir, County Tipperary, where his parents had a small hotel. He began to play guitar and sing at age thirteen and soon became a regular performer at the hotel’s weekly folk concerts. He spent a year touring the folk clubs in England before enrolling at University College Dublin where he studied Literature and Philosophy. During school vacations Robbie worked as an Irish entertainer in the U.S.A. A nephew of the Clancy Brothers, he began touring with his uncles in 1977 and recorded 3 albums with them. In 1979 he moved to Franklin, Massachusetts.
With the release, in 1982, of his first solo album, "Close to the Bone," Robbie emerged as an artist of major stature. Soon after, he began touring extensively with Mick Moloney and Jimmy Keane, and also with Eileen Ivers and Seamus Egan in the Green Fields of America. In 1985, the trio's first album, "There were Roses," was released. Robbie also participated in The Festival of Mountain Music and Dance on a five-nation tour of Latin America. In 1987, the trio followed up their very successful first release with the album, "Kilkelly," the title track of which was voted "Best Album Track of the Year" in Ireland. 1989 saw the release of a live concert recording of the Green Fields of America.
Robbie has taught songwriting at the Augusta Heritage Arts Workshop in Elkins, West Virginia, Gaelic Roots Week at Boston College, Catskills Irish Arts Week, The Swannanoa Gathering and at the Summer Acoustic Music Week in Boston. His album of original compositions, Love of the Land, was voted the #1 acoustic album of 1989 by WUMB in Boston. In 1991, he won a prestigious Boston Music Award as Outstanding Celtic Act and was also featured in the highly acclaimed TV series "Bringing It All Back Home." In 1992 he performed at Carnegie Hall with the Clancy Brothers and was also seen by an estimated 500 million people worldwide on the telecast of a live tribute to Bob Dylan at Madison Square Garden, a performance that Rolling Stone magazine described as "breathtaking.”
"Never Learned to Dance," his 1993 album of original songs, was critically acclaimed on both sides of the Atlantic. In 1994 he headlined a celebration of Boston based Irish Music at the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts. "Older But No Wiser," his last CD with the Clancy Brothers was released on Vanguard in 1995, followed in 1997 by the "Clancy, O'Connell and Clancy CD and in 1998 by "The Wild and Wasteful Ocean" CD with Liam and Dónal Clancy. "Robbie O'Connell, Live, Humorous Songs" and "All on a Christmas Morning" with the group Aengus, were released in 1998. "Recollections," a twenty-year retrospective collection album was released in 2001. In 2009, the second Green Fields of America was released. In 2006 he began an ongoing collaboration with his cousins Aoife and Donal Clancy. The Clancy Legacy, their first CD together was released in 2010. He is currently working on a new solo CD of his own compositions.
Mitch Fanning, Director
Mitch Fanning, Director of CCÉ Musical Arts and Dance Week (formerly CCÉ FiddleWeek) is a violinist and fiddler based in Silver Spring, Maryland. He earned a Bachelor of Music degree (1982) in violin performance from Catholic University of America, where he studied with Jody Gatwood and Robert Gerle. He has studied Suzuki violin pedagogy with John Kendall and Ronda Cole and traditional Irish fiddling with Brendan Mulvihill. He teaches violin and fiddle out of his home studio in the Forest Glen area of Silver Spring and at the Washington Waldorf School in Bethesda.
Mitch’s passion for traditional Irish music ignited after five of his violin students at the Washington Waldorf School approached him about starting a fiddle club and learning traditional Irish dance music. This fiddle club very soon thereafter became “Pete Moss and The Bog Boys” and began to make a name for themselves by performing in school events and various local music festivals. Shortly after producing “Got Bog” a CD celebrating some of their favorite trad tunes, the Bog Boys expanded and became more than a group of fiddlers. “Pete Moss and The Bog Band” as the group is now known, continues to grow and now features the work of aspiring young men and women and features a larger number of traditional instruments, including guitar, mandolin, flute, pipes, bodhran and feet (Irish dance). The group produced “On Their Own Turf”, a session-like CD inspired in large measure by “Maiden Voyage” a classic traditional Irish CD featuring trad musicians at Pepper’s Bar in Martin Hayes’ home of Feakle, County Clare. The Bog Band continues to perform at venues and festivals throughout the region and this past December served as musical entertainment for the annual Christmas party at the Embassy of Ireland in Washington, DC.
Mitch’s work with young people led him to establish two new “next-gen” sessions on second and fourth Sundays (McGinty’s, Silver Spring andThe Limerick Pub, Wheaton respectively, (both from 5-6:30 p.m.), as opportunities for younger players to gain experience playing in a fun traditional session environment. Mitch also is the founding director of “CCÉ FiddleWeek 2006”, a summer camp he initiated for students to learn traditional Irish fiddle from other local and international performers and teachers of stature – the Kane Sisters, Brendan Mulvihill, Brian Conway, Tony DeMarco and a host of local talent. In 2009, FiddleWeek expanded to become “CCÉ Musical Arts and Dance (MAD) Week” and began to provide instruction in flute, guitar, and dance in addition to fiddle.
Mitch continues to travel to Ireland every summer and participates in music festivals and sessions there, and performs at festivals and venues throughout the Washington metro area. Mitch can be heard every Monday night with his fellow “Inn Mates” (Tina Eck, Jesse Winch, Betsy O’Malley) at the Irish Inn at Glen Echo. Come on out sometime and give the Inn Mates a listen.
Robert Spates - Fiddle
In a world of shameless web based self promotion, Robert Spates remains modestly out of the limelight. A full time performer and educator, his role is usually anonymous--backing famous pop stars or invisibly enhancing commercials and film or tv scores with his fiddle. He doesn't need a website.He stays busy enough. Like his colleague Kevin Burke, he also toured with Arlo Guthrie but has also accompanied Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles, Barry White, Ray Price, Christina Aguilera, Jewel, Clay Aiken, Vince Gill, Trisha Yearwood,and too many other famous figures to mention. Here at home, he performs and records with many of the finest Irish musicians like Kerryman Brian Gaffney, Danny Doyle and Ronan Kavanaugh from Dublin,Seamus Kennedy from Belfast,and Conor Malone from County Clare, as well as fellow Americans Zan McLeod and Billy McComiskey.
An accomplished violinist, he brings unusual control and technique to a wide range of styles,and can delight with either refined or raucous playing. He attended school in Scotland as a young teen, and its influence is evident in his predilection for hard-driving, energetic northern Irish fiddle tunes.In fact, he makes an annual pilgrimage to Donegal, where he has traded tunes with some of the Ireland's greatest fiddlers: Siobhan Peoples, Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh, Vincent and Jimmy Campbell,and the late great James Byrne.
He has been on the fiddle faculty here since the program began, and teaches at the Landon school during the year.
JOE DEZARN - Fiddle
Fiddler Joe DeZarn, like many who play traditional music, comes from a very musical family. His grandfather, Bill DeZarn was a noted fiddler in his native Kentucky before the family migrated to Virginia, where Joe was born. Joe believes that those with the good fortune to have traditional music in their lives know a path to a deep well of fun, self-expression, and connection to culture. He plays the fiddle for the love of these things.
His chief interest is traditional dance music, with a particular focus on Irish music: reels, jigs, slip jigs, slides, polkas, hornpipes and waltzes. He also has an impressive repertoire of American fiddle tunes and traditional music from Quebec.
Joe plays with the dance band Rambling House for ceilis and New England-style contra dances and is a charter member of the renowned Boston-based fiddle orchestra, Childsplay.
Sue Richards - Celtic Harp
Sue Richards studied classical harp as a child, but did not enjoy it. When she turned to traditional Irish and Scottish music, she discovered small harps intended for fun, and never looked back. Sue plays primarily with Ensemble Galilei, a group that leans more and more into Celtic music, producing shows that incorporate slides, spoken word, and music. She has composed tunes, written books of arrangements, recorded many CD's, and played for presidents and the queen, and sat in with the Chieftains. She teaches at her home in Rockville.
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