last updated 18 February 2003
Set Dancing News home page: www.setdancingnews.net

Set Dancing News

Ceili Bands - Volume 1

Copyright © 2011 Bill Lynch
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Contents: See the most recent ceili band articles in Ceili Bands.
Set Dancing News publishes an article about a ceili band every two months in the magazine and on this page. Over time every kind of band will be included, large or small, international or local, famous or unknown, Ireland or elsewhere, as long as they play for set dancing. Anyone wishing to suggest a band can contact Bill Lynch. Thanks to Paddy Hanafin for the idea.

Sliabh Notes

Matt Cranitch, Donal Murphy and Tommy O’Sullivan at the Milwaukee Irish Fest in August 2001.
One of Ireland’s leading traditional concert and recording bands, Sliabh Notes specialise in playing the music of Sliabh Luachra and especially the polkas and slides that are a unique part of the repertoire. The members of the band, Matt Cranitch, Dónal Murphy and Tommy O’Sullivan, were brought up in the tradition of the area and convey their music with skill and feeling to audiences at home and abroad. While set dancers and the musicians themselves would never classify Sliabh Notes as a ceili band, when on rare occasions they play for a ceili the result is a perfect night of passionate and pleasurable dancing.

The band was formed after the three played together for the first time at a festival in Kerry in 1994. The next day Dónal suggested to Matt and Tommy that they should get together and record a CD. By the time the recording Sliabh Notes came out in 1995 they had been playing together in concerts and the studio for most of a year. Their second recording, Gleanntán, named after the Kerry home townland of fiddler and teacher Pádraig O’Keeffe, was received with mighty reviews on its release in 1999. Listeners around the world took notice of Sliabh Notes and they were invited to perform in Dallas, Milwaukee, Denmark and elsewhere. In April the band will launch their new album, Along Blackwater’s Banks, which is named after the river flowing through the centre of Sliabh Luachra.

Sliabh Notes are serious about Sliabh Luachra music. They carefully research the material they play to dig out lost or forgotten gems of tunes from older musicians. While polkas and slides feature prominently, the repertoire includes jigs, reels, barn dances and hornpipes - a wider variety of dance tune types than is found in other parts of Ireland. The music is different and should be treated on its own terms - it suits a small group and doesn’t translate to a regular ceili band. Dancing is important to the band because it puts the music in its correct context - polkas and slides are more than just tunes. When they play for sets they feel fully connected to the music.

Sliabh Notes’ fiddler is Matt Cranitch, originally from the townland of Rathduff between Mallow and Cork in County Cork. Matt’s parents were teachers in the local school. His father played accordion and fiddle and his grandfather played melodeon. Matt learned the fiddle at home from his father. From the age of eight he attended the Cork School of Music for classical training while continuing traditional music at home. He gave up classical music at fifteen and has played traditional ever since. Matt has performed and recorded with several notable groups over the years - Na Filí, the Lee Valley String Band, Any Old Time and the Phoenix Ceili Band.

Matt gained his first degree in electronic engineering which he teaches today at Cork Institute of Technology. Later he began to study music at University College Cork, researching the Sliabh Luachra tradition in pursuit of an MA and PhD. He also took five years to produce The Irish Fiddle Book, a textbook for those learning fiddle now in its fourth edition, and two accompanying albums, Take a Bow and Give it Shtick. Matt produced a highly regarded solo album, Éistigh Seal, consisting entirely of slow airs, another important aspect of Sliabh Luachra music. He is in great demand as a lecturer and teacher and offers fiddle workshops and seminars around the world.

Donal Murphy plays accordion with Sliabh Notes. He was born in Birmingham, England, and from the age of six was raised in Abbeyfeale, Co Limerick, in a strong musical environment. His father Dan Murphy moved from Kerry to England as a teenager, and after twenty years away returned to Abbeyfeale to run a pub. The Failte Bar had music three nights a week - many famous musicians performed and lodged in the house, including Kevin Burke, Jackie Daly, Frankie Gavin and Noel Hill. Donal began playing the tin whistle, and at the age of nine was delighted to receive a Hohner accordion from Santy Claus. He spent the whole of that Christmas Day learning to play tunes for mini-concert that night.

Donal took group lessons from Domhnall De Barra and private lessons from Celia Ryan, sister to Denis Ryan of Esker Riada. He won several All-Ireland solo, duet, trio and ceili band competitions. Donal picked up a strong feel for dance from his mother, Maureen who ran dancing schools in England and Abbeyfeale. Donal played at her weekly classes for many years. She still teaches on Monday nights in Templeglantine. At sixteen Donal went on a tour with the Dysert Tola Ceili Band from Clare. After a month in the States he came back hooked on travelling and subsequently joined Comhaltas tours of Ireland, England, Japan and Spain. He was one of the founding members of Four Men and a Dog, and still performs with them at reunion concerts. Apart from his musical side, Donal operates a busy ceramic tile business in Abbeyfeale.

The third member of Sliabh Notes is guitarist and singer Tommy O’Sullivan. He was born in London to a Kerry couple - his mother Mary was from Dingle and his father John L was from Lispole. Tommy’s earliest memories are of Saturday nights at home when he would sing for the Irish navvies who worked with his father. The songs James Connolly and McAlpine’s Fusiliers were already part of his repertoire by the age of six. Tommy began learning guitar at age ten from his sister Ann. When the family returned to West Kerry Tommy kept up the guitar and played his first gig at sixteen in the Star Inn, Dingle. He had regular gigs during his school holidays and gained inspiration from annual pilgrimages to the Lisdoonvarna Folk Festival.

When Tommy moved to London in 1982 he met and played with musicians from his father’s generation, such as Bobby Casey, Raymond Roland and Tommy McCarthy. He was much in demand in the London Irish music scene and also in English folk clubs. In the late eighties Tommy fell in love with Scandinavia and moved to Copenhagen. At first he performed as a solo artist and then eventually joined Ashplant, a popular band which combined Irish and Danish music and appeared at many European festivals. After moving back to Kerry in 1992 Tommy made an acclaimed solo recording called Legacy. Tommy has worked with many Irish musicians and groups, including Mairtín O’Connor, De Danann, Cathal Hayden, Seamus Begley, Steve Cooney and especially Paddy Keenan. Na Keen Affair, Paddy’s 1997 recording features contributions from Tommy, and since then they have made successful Irish and international tours and festival appearances. They launched their new duet album, The Long Grazing Acre, in Dublin on 27 February 2002.

Sliabh Notes are busiest in the spring and summer with tours and concerts. They are regular visitors to the North Texas Irish Festival in Dallas, which is part of a two-week tour every March. Contact Sliabh Notes to get in touch with the band.

Published February 2002.


Swallow's Tail Ceili Band

The
lads from Swallows Tail - Michael Hurley, Michael Sheridan, John McHugh, Tommy Doherty and Jim Curry. Have you ever seen a happier looking band? Thanks to the Michael Hurley for the photo.
Swallow’s Tail Ceili Band is well known to set dancers across Ireland for their bouncy rhythm, tight playing and sweet sound. They’re also familiar to dancers in England and America after many trips abroad in nearly ten years of playing. While the five band members are all strong musicians, Swallows Tail is famous for having been blessed with remarkable box players - first the legendary P J Hernon who was one of the founders of the band and now their new accordionist Tommy Doherty. Together they produce a unique Sligo-Mayo sound perfectly suited to all set dancers, always consistent and well paced, lively and joyful.

Swallow’s Tail was inspired by the Four Winds Ceili Band, which was formed to have a local band compete in the All-Ireland Fleadh in Sligo in 1992. The Four Winds was a ten-piece ceili band which placed third in the senior ceili band competition. Five of its members would play together for many years in Swallow’s Tail - P J Hernon, Michael Hurley, John McHugh, Jim Corry and Michael Sheridan. At first though P J, Michael and John formed the band accompanied by John’s wife Maria Lynn McHugh. Michael Sheridan joined as drummer after a year.

Swallow’s Tail was in great demand from the start, sometimes playing four nights a week for the entire summer. They were as popular abroad as they were at home, playing two or three times a year in London, Birmingham and Manchester, and on trips to New York, Washington and Milwaukee. When Maria left the band, Jim Corry joined the band in her place. This line-up continued until 2000 when P J Hernon left to concentrate on concert performing, and in his place came Tommy Doherty.

The Swallow’s Tail musicians are some of the most active and talented players in ceili bands.

Tommy Doherty is a superb and versatile addition to Swallow’s Tail who plays melodeon and both B-C and C#-D button accordion. He was born and raised in Foxford, Co Mayo, and lives there today. Tommy’s mother, grandmother and granduncle all influenced his interest in music. He started playing at the age of five in lessons from Martin Donoghue of Ballandine. He won a couple of All-Ireland medals, for concertina in the under-twelve competition and melodeon in the under-fifteen. He was a member of the Kilmovee Ceili Band in Foxford. In addition to Swallows Tail, Tommy plays with Céide, who have recently recorded an album called Like a Wild Thing. He’s a full time musician who teaches music in Mayo schools, evening classes and summer schools. He plays and teaches all traditional instruments, including fiddle, mandolin, banjo, whistle, flute and drums. Tommy can be heard regularly in session in Matt Molloy’s pub, Westport, Co Mayo, on Sunday nights.

Michael Hurley, Swallow’s Tail’s flute player, was born and raised in Leeds, Yorkshire, England, where there were a lot of musicians. His father came from Athenry, Co Galway, and his mother from Kilkelly, Co Mayo. Michael’s father played flute and started Michael and his brothers in music. Michael attended Comhaltas lessons when a branch was formed in Leeds, and these were given by his father. He and his brother Des recorded a taped called Over the Water, and they were members of the Leeds Junior Ceili Band. Michael and his wife Pat moved to Ballymote, Co Sligo, in 1987. In 1989 he won the All-Ireland senior trio competition with P J Hernon and Philip Duffy. He now chairs the local branch of Comhaltas and teaches fiddle, flute and whistle at classes in Ballymote, Tubbercurry and Gurteen, and also at several summer schools every year. He’s involved in two bands at the Coleman Irish Music Centre in Gurteen - the centre’s under-fifteen ceili band came second in competition last year, and he plays with John and Maria McHugh in Ceoltóirí Coleman. In summer the group plays weekly at an Irish show in the centre, and last March they toured America. Ceoltóirí Coleman has recorded a CD called The Killaville Sessions.

Playing fiddle with Swallows Tail is John McHugh, from Rinnanney, Foxford, Co Mayo. Music has been in his family for generations, and was plentiful in his village and home, where his father played the fiddle. John didn’t begin playing till thirteen when the curate at school commanded him to play the whistle. He became part of the Foxford Ceili Band which came third in competition. It was enough to get him started and he soon learned to love the fleadh scene. In college in Dublin he concentrated on the fiddle when he should have been studying - mostly he was self taught with some help from his father. John does a small amount of teaching - he’s a full time school teacher and prefers not to teach in his free time as well. However, he spends his summers teaching at several summer schools, as well as playing at the Coleman Centre in Gurteen. John is also a member of Céide with Tommy, and plays with him in session at Matt Molloy’s pub on Sundays.

The band’s pianist is Jim Corry, who comes from Tulla, Co Clare, and has lived in Mayo since 1986. There was always a piano in Jim’s house, which was played by his mother. His only formal lessons took place in Ennis with Mrs Cotter, the mother of Eamon and Geraldine Cotter. He completed the first grade of the training, but the classical approach didn’t suit Jim. He “doodled” on the piano at home afterward, and vamped on occasion in a Tulla pub to box player Matty Ryan. In September 1982 he played temporarily with the Tulla Ceili Band for a tour of America. Georgie Byrt, the band’s regular pianist, didn’t want to fly abroad. After three or four rehearsals, Jim travelled with the Tulla on their first American tour since 1961. He became the main pianist for the Tulla Ceili Band in 1994 when Georgie retired and was fortunate to join in their fiftieth anniversary celebrations in 1996. Jim is also a member of the Lahawns, a Tulla group led by box player Andrew McNamara. They’ve made one recording, Live at Winkles, with a second on the way.

Michael Sheridan is Swallow’s Tail’s drummer from Lavally, Ballintogher, Co Sligo. His father played accordion in bands for many years, and his granduncle Michael Preston played flute with the Tulla Ceili Band. Michael had an early start in drumming at the age of eight when he joined his father in Josie McDermott’s band playing in pubs, ceilis and fleadhs. He didn’t have formal training in music but shared a strong interest in drumming with other lads in the area. At eleven he joined the Riverstown Marching Band which played for parades and athletic events. He also drummed with his uncle in a country and western band called the Blackberry Blossom. In 1987 he competed in the All-Ireland Fleadh and came first in the under fifteen age category. The next year he played with the Castle Ceili Band which came first in the same category. More recently he played and competed in Philip Duffy’s Dooney Rock Ceili Band.

Swallow’s Tail made a CD for Sound Records in Sligo in 1995 called Hell for Leather and there’s talk of producing a second one soon for their tenth anniversary. They’re also on a couple of CDs made by the Coleman Centre - The Sound of Coleman Country and A Musical Trip to Coleman Country. They’ve been heard on Ceili House a few times and have appeared in a television programme about the All-Ireland Fleadh in Ballina and a TG4 retrospective on P J Hernon. To get in touch with Swallow’s Tail, please contact John McHugh.


Greene's Ceili Band

The Greene's Ceili Band in Carrigaline, Co Cork - John Greene, Michael Greene, Mary Greene, Laurence Leahy, Davy Brereton, and Jerry Murphy.
The timeless traditional sound of the Greene's Ceili Band is one of the treats of dancing in and around Tipperary. The Greenes play dance music which sounds as if it could have come from any time in the past fifty years, and it's also perfectly suited to today's dancers. They've regularly accompanied set dancing competitions for many years, so their tempo is always correct, steady and ideal for set dancing, with a lift that keeps everyone moving effortlessly. They trace their musical style to some of the best tutors in Ireland, and today as a group enjoy playing in the traditional style which comes naturally to them. They have a unique way of encouraging dancers onto the floor after a set is called - a few bars of a lively march gets everyone in place without any false starts to the set.

Three of the Greene's Ceili Band share the surname Greene - Michael and John are brothers, and Mary is married to Michael. Laurence Leahy is Mary's brother. Davy Brereton is the fifth member and Jerry Murphy is the most recent person to join the band.

The original five have played together since the 1970s accompanying set and figure dancing groups for Scór and providing music for set competitions around the country. On occasion they were asked to play for Christmas and end-of-class parties for the set dancing club in Nenagh, Club Rince Aonagh Urmhumhan. Around 1990 they were persuaded by the club to play for one of their ceilis. Other bookings followed this ceili and the Greene's Ceili Band was up and running.

Michael Greene plays the two-row button accordion. He was born and raised in Moneygall, North Tipperary, and still lives there today. Continuing the family musical tradition, Michael took accordion lessons in Roscrea with the late Kieran McNamara, who travelled from Dublin to Thurles every Saturday for his classes. Later he studied with the well-known box player, the late Paddy O'Brien of Newtown, Nenagh, who taught in Toomevara. Michael was also a keen hurler during his school days.

John Greene plays the violin and was encouraged by his father, who himself played the violin. Like his brother, John was born and raised in Moneygall, where he lives in the family home and works the farm. John also went to classes with Kieran McNamara and Paddy O'Brien, both of whom taught all instruments.

Michael and John entered all the music competitions of the day and won numerous trophies. They have been involved with Scór every year since its inception in 1970, first as competitors in junior and senior music competitions, and later by playing music for figure and set dancing groups from many counties, some of whom achieved All-Ireland victories.

Mary Greene is the piano accompanist with the band. Originally from Clonmore, Templemore, Co Tipperary, she studied tin whistle and accordion, initially with a local teacher, and then under Kieran McNamara. During her early teenage years Mary was a keen step dancer. She took up set dancing and competed in competitions and senior Scór. She won numerous prizes for music, step and set dancing. She was also a member of a local group that competed in variety show competitions. Mary played the organ and directed the choir for many years in her home parish.

Davy Brereton plays the three-row button accordion with the Greenes. He comes from Clonakenny, Co Tipperary, and played the accordion since his childhood. His interest in music was nurtured by his parents who both played accordion. He took lessons from Willie Costigan, a local man. Like the Greenes, Davy played for set and figure dancing competitions in Scór and in local talent competitions. He first met Michael and John on the Scór scene in the early eighties, and has since travelled the length and breadth of Ireland with them.

Laurence Leahy is the band's drummer from Clonmore. His interest in music arose at home where both parents were dancers with a tradition of music on both sides of the family. He began dancing at four and appeared as part of a half-set on the Trom agus Eadrom programme hosted by Liam O'Murchu. In his school days he studied accordion with Paddy O'Brien. Laurence also had a great interest in drumming and studied under the Cooney brothers of Littleton, Co Tipperary. In later years he joined a local set dancing group which competed in Scór competitions and holds an All-Ireland and two Munster titles.

Jerry Murphy, from Kilcommon, Co Tipperary, plays the flute and tin whistle in the band. He is the newest member who joined the band in 1998. Playing since he was fifteen, Jerry took lessons from Willie Fogarty and Michael Hearty, both fine Tipperary musicians. He has played in group music competitions at Scór and Fleadh Ceoil na hÉireann over the years and won many prizes. There is no one better at being the life and soul of a music session, and he's inherited the wonderful art of storytelling from his father. Jerry is also a keen soccer player with the successful Kilcommon Football Club.

The Greenes play music as a hobby and are adamant about playing for pleasure! As a result they have not made any recordings and have no plans to do so. They have featured on several television broadcasts of the All-Ireland Scór finals and have been on Ceili House on RTÉ Radio twice. They give their best for every ceili and are rewarded by seeing dancers enjoy and respond to their music.

You'll have a night of traditional pleasure at any of their ceilis. To get in touch with the Greene's Ceili Band please contact Michael Greene.


Carousel

Johnny Corrigan, Kathleen Cahill and Davy Joe Fallon of Carousel, setting up for a ceili in Durrow Hall, near Tullamore, Co Offaly, in June.
Carousel is a popular three-piece ceili band in great demand across the Irish midlands for their classic traditional sound, superb collection of tunes and perfect dance tempo. They're a local band from Westmeath, but their local area stretches from Mayo all the way to Dublin and every place in between. Led by Davy Joe Fallon on box and accompanied by Kathleen Cahill on piano and Johnny Corrigan on drums, their sound is clear and uncluttered, with a lift that propels dancers through the sets with vigorous enthusiasm and plenty of spontaneous shouting. They like their music quick in Westmeath so there's never a dull moment with Carousel. There's no waiting either - when one figure ends you barely have time to blink your eyes before setting off again.

Davy Joe Fallon has been playing for ceilis for 46 years. He was born and reared in Castletown Geoghan, Co Westmeath, and lives there today. His interest in music was spotted at an early age by a workman thatching the family house - he gave Davy Joe an old melodeon and by the age of five he played at his first feis. At fourteen he formed the Uisneach Star Ceili Band which played for eight years. Davy Joe was their leader and the youngest of the nine members. The ceili scene went quiet in the sixties so Davey Joe formed the three-piece Carltones with Sean Carley and Johnny Corrigan to play country and western music. Ten years ago Davy and Johnny parted from the Carltones and formed Carousel. Joining them on guitar was Matt McCormack, and later Patsy Ennis. Kathleen Cahill joined them six years ago on piano. The Carltones are still playing today, and Sean Carley is now accompanied by his daughters.

Johnny Corrigan, also from Castletown Geoghan, plays the drums in Carousel and sings for waltzes and quicksteps. He has been playing music with Davy Joe for nearly 36 years, after meeting in a pub. Davy Joe persuaded him to join the Carltones as drummer even though he had no experience at it. He had an interest in music but had never drummed before. After much persuasion Johnny agreed and learned to drum on the job and has been playing exclusively with Davy Joe ever since.

Kathleen Cahill, Carousel's pianist and singer, was born and raised in Abbeyshrule, Co Longford, and lives there today with her own family. She was reared in a musical family - her father is box player Packie Campbell who ran a house which was always open to musical visitors. Kathleen and her brothers and sisters learned to play at home and in the family band which played country music locally. She stopped playing when she married, but Davy Joe occasionally asked her to fill in for their regular accompanist in Carousel. After the accompanist left this became more regular and she's now been playing with the band for six years. Her father Packie no longer has a family band but he still plays regularly.

Carousel play music up and down the country for the love of it. They have no recordings to sell and have never been on radio or television. They were asked to America years ago but have never travelled abroad. Davy Joe, Johnny and Kathleen are only interested in playing music. Their loyalty is to the dancers in the small halls across the country from Dublin to Mayo where they're booked solidly throughout the year. They provide a valuable service at a good price and they're well able to give dancers exactly what they want.

Carousel is surely one of the great treasures of Westmeath. To get in touch with the band, contact Davy Joe Fallon.

Published July 2001.


Mort Kelleher Ceili Band

The Kellehers - (standing) Colin, Fintan, Mort, Kenneth, (seated) Kirsten, Noreen and Karena, at the Four Provinces, Rathallen, Co Roscommon, in April 2001.
It's unusual enough to find a seven-piece band playing for set dancing, but what makes the Mort Kelleher Ceili Band from Macroom in County Cork unique is that the seven musicians form a complete family! Mort, his wife, three sons and two daughters are all accomplished life-long musicians who produce a harmonious sound that almost seems orchestral at times, especially when there are three accordions and three fiddles going at once-the fiddles are even bowed in perfect unison. They produce music with that bright, rhythmic Cork style that results in a fabulous night of dancing which you hope will never end. The band also takes pride in their waltzes, many of which are classical and European pieces performed in an appropriate style.

While Mort has been playing in bands with members of his family for years, the full family ceili band has started only recently. They debuted in July 1999 in Ballyvourney after encouragement by Larry Creed, the dance master at the Abbey Hotel. They play most of their ceilis close to home, including the Abbey Hotel and Castle Ahan in Enniskeane. They also make an annual Easter tour farther north with stops in Sligo and Roscommon.

Mort Kelleher is from Clondrohid, near Macroom. His parents both played melodeon, and they held regular dances at home for young people. His grandmother was a big influence-she played her concertina like her mother before her. At ten Mort began to play the accordion, mostly self-taught, but he learned to cross the rows from the late David Forde, father to Liam Forde of the Abbey Ceili Band. Another influence was the local parish priest Father Barry who was an excellent music and dance teacher-Mort used to play for dances held in the parochial house.

Mort had on-going success with his music while studying at university in Cork. He won the annual talent competition there two years in a row, beating the music students even though he was a science student. After this Mort was asked to form a band for a regular broadcast on Radio Éireann in Cork-the Sullane Trio played for three years until Mort left university. Together with his wife Noreen, Mort ran the Kelleher Accordion School-some of their well known students were Tim Joe O'Riordan, Ger Murphy of the Abbey Ceili Band, Christy Leahy of North Cregg and Tadhg (Tony) Kearney who regularly plays in London. Their pupils won many All-Ireland titles. Mort and Noreen also directed several traditional accordion bands which marched in parades and gave recitals, playing Irish traditional music and German compositions.

The Mort Kelleher Ceili Band played for a demonstration by the Elphin Set Dancers at the Four Provinces, Co Roscommon, April 2001. Mort played in various groups over the years, and formed a duo with singer Mitchell McSweeney in the seventies. Noreen eventually joined them and when Mitchell retired, the eldest two Kelleher sons, Kenneth and Colin, joined their parents at the ages of thirteen and twelve. All the Kellehers are multi-instrumentalists and play the accordion, though Mort as the main accordionist in the family now plays the piano accompaniment in the band. He's also responsible for the musical arrangements and writes out the sheet music they use when playing-all of them are skilled readers of music notation.

Noreen Kelleher is from Derrylahan, Dunmanway, Co Cork. She learnt classical violin at school from the age of seven and played in the school orchestra. She also developed a keen interest in the accordion and traditional music. After marriage she continued her violin playing and studied classical with Declan Townsend at the Cork School of Music and traditional with Gary Cronin. While the fiddle is her main instrument, Noreen is known throughout Cork as an exceptional button accordion teacher, giving classes five nights a week to students from five to 85.

Noreen started all her children on the violin at an early age, but the three lads didn't take to it, and started the accordion at around five or six years. Kenneth also became skilled at the piano accordion, but today concentrates on the button accordion in the band. He also plays guitar and sings country and western songs. As a set dancer himself, Kenneth knows the style and speed of the music. Colin divides his playing in the band between the accordion and banjo. He also plays guitar and piano, performs in pop bands and writes songs. He's won several competitions playing his compositions in bands. Fintan was the last arrival to the band on accordion. He didn't play for their first couple of ceilis, but quickly caught up on his tunes and never misses one now.

The Kelleher daughters, Kirsten and Karena, had classical violin training in the Cork School of Music with Eithne Willis and are accomplished orchestral players. They also played box from the age of five and studied piano. Kirsten plays both fiddle and accordion in the band. She has won competitions in classical music and toured with the National Youth Orchestra in Denmark. She also plays classical piano and performs lead singing roles in musicals in Macroom. Karena is the youngest member of the ceili band on fiddle, and also plays classical violin in three orchestras. This year she is touring Ireland and Scotland with the National Junior Youth Orchestra, and next year she's in Italy with the Cork Youth Orchestra. She also won a classical competition this year at the Ringaskiddy Youth Festival.

This year's big event for the Mort Kelleher Ceili Band is the Fleadh in Listowel, Co Kerry, where they play twice, at a fior ceili on Saturday night August 25th in the Boys School, and the farewell ceili on Monday night August 27th in the Arms Hotel. You can also hear them in the Bellfield GAA Centre, Enniscorthy, Co Wexford, on Saturday, August 11th.

The Mort Kelleher Ceili Band is still a new band, even if there is a lot of musical experience among its members. The sound is already superbly suited to set dancing, but Mort is always striving to develop and improve their music and repertoire. Contact Mort Kelleher to get in touch with the band.

Thanks to the Kellehers for their help and hospitality. Published May 2001.


Sean Norman Ceili Band

Frank and Mary Brennan, Sean Norman, Catríona Lott and Nicky Bermingham at the Grand Nevele Hotel, Ellenville, New York, in November 2000.
The enjoyment supplied by Sean Norman and his band is highly contagious. Not only is the music full of fun, brilliant tunes and an inspiring lift, but the musicians themselves love playing so much that they infect the dancers with an extra dose of pleasure. When everyone in the hall is having the time of their lives, the person having the best time of all is Sean himself. It's easy to tell when he's in a good mood - he drops his box and lilts away into the microphone, electrifying the dancers who respond by filling the room with cheers!

Sean started his band as the Sean Norman Ceili, Old-Time and Country and Western Orchestra, which first played in 1965 at the Town Hall in Edenderry, Co Offaly. On the night the seven musicians including Sean and a singer dressed themselves in second hand jackets purchased for a pound each from another band and had an "absolute ball". At that time sets weren't danced in the halls, and the band played ceili dances and waltzes at some events and country and western music at others. As well as ceilis they played for a lot of weddings. The band's first set dancing ceili was in Tipperary in the seventies - Sean was amazed to see the hall full of enthusiastic and energetic dancers. Eventually Sean decided to separate the C&W side of the band and he continued with the ceili and old-time, which has always been his favourite music.

Sean Norman was born and raised in Edenderry and still lives there today on the same street. His family were grocers and for four decades Sean distributed milk to nearly 2000 homes in town. Sean had an early love of music, and started to play when he was twelve. A shop assistant brought in a melodeon for him to try - after he tried playing, his mother took it and started to play. Sean was astounded - he never knew she could play music. She taught him to play Pop Goes the Weasel and after that there was no stopping him. A member of St Mary's Ceili Band in Edenderry offered him an accordion - Sean offered £25, but the owner said he'd get a better price in Dublin. Sean travelled to Dublin and found that accordion on sale at £16. Suitably equipped, Sean sat in on practices with the band and started performing with them at 17. Sean still values what he learned with St Mary's Ceili Band. Marie Tyrell, the leader said, "If only three people come to hear you at five shillings into the hall, they were entitled to your best, not your second best!" Today Sean is widowed and retired, and operates a new and second hand furniture shop with his daughter when he's not busy playing music.

The band's drummer is Nicky Bermingham, from Ballyfore, Edenderry. He came from a musical house - his father played fiddle, his mother the melodeon, and he and his brothers learned to play at home. Nicky was living in London when he took up the drums. His brother Bill lived there too and needed a drummer for his band. He tried to persuade Nicky to do it but Nicky hadn't ever played drums and refused. After three weeks of persuasion and the gift of a drum kit, Nicky finally agreed. His first night was the best because the drumsticks moved automatically - he was so nervous his hands were shaking! He returned home in 1974 and was soon playing with Sean's band and still enjoys it today. Nicky also played in a family band called the Ballyfore Five with brothers Bill and Benny, nephew Liam and Joe Smullen.

Frank Brennan from Tipperary town plays fiddle with the band. His grandfather played melodeon and concertina, and his brother Micheál plays flute. Frank took up classical violin in secondary school, and learned to play traditional fiddle at the age of 19 with Comhaltas in Moate, Co Westmeath, while working there as a newly qualified teacher. He was soon playing in three or four sessions a week. He first joined the ceili band in 1977 when Sean needed extra players for a competition, and has been with them ever since.

Mary Brennan, from Tullamore, Co Offaly, has played flute with the band since 1980. Her father, Peter Kilroe, played flute with the Ballinamere Ceili Band, one of the leading bands in the midlands, and also with Sean for many years. Her father and his uncle, Dan Cleary, taught Mary from the age of five. She played with the Longridge Ceili Band which won two All-Irelands in 1977 and '78. Mary is responsible for the band's musical arrangements which she records in a black book that they always carry with them. She's married to Frank Brennan and together they teach traditional music classes at home in Tullamore.

Backing the band on piano is Catríona Lott from Kilkeaskin, Carbury, Co Kildare. She had good musical influences at home from her father who plays accordion and fiddle, and her mother who sings and dances. Her two sisters play flute and fiddle. As a child Catríona became interested in piano from her aunt, who showed her the basics. She's had no formal training in the instrument and was most influenced by listening to Liam Bermingham, Nicky's nephew, who used to play in the band. Catríona has been playing for the band for ten years and also fills in on occasion for Esker Riada. She also loves to dance - she did Irish dancing from the age of four and has been teaching set dancing for ten years in Edenderry.

A host of other musicians have also played with Sean over the years. The midlands of Ireland have a strong musical tradition and many fine musicians. The town of Edenderry is home to three ceili bands, Sean's, Esker Riada and the Four Provinces and they often help each other out. When Sean launched his second recording, Ship in Full Sail, in 1995 to celebrate the band's thirtieth anniversary he invited all the musicians who had ever played with him - 78 were invited and over sixty attended. Sean's first recording, Mighty Ceili Night, was made in 1988. This year he's working on three new recordings. One of them will be his first recording of music arranged for set dancing with a full ten-piece band to be released in the next couple of months. He's making another with the travelling band - just the five musicians who are on the road performing at ceilis. On the third recording Sean plays accordion and melodeon with members of his family. Sean and the band are also featured on a video, Take the Floor.

The band has been on the Ceili House programme several times, and even played for a singles ceili broadcast on Gay Byrne's morning radio show. They were on the Late Late Show, Bibi Baskin's show, the Bon Voyage travel show and even on Sky News. They also travel abroad regularly, with several trips to the States, most recently for St Patrick's Day in Connecticut where they had a fabulous time. Sean and members of the band have been to England, Brussels and three times to Estonia.

Sean and the band regularly play in Dublin for weekend ceilis at GAA halls and can be heard in other parts of the country as well. Study the events on the Ireland page on this site to find out where the band is playing.

Sean says that a night of music "shoves your troubles to the back of your mind. When the night's over, when your troubles come back, they're never as bad." Sean and his band's love for music is clear to everyone who listens to them and watches them play. Their enjoyment is strong enough to inspire a hall of dancers to their very best. For band bookings, contact Sean Norman himself in Edenderry.

Thanks to Sean, Mary, Frank, Catríona and Nicky for their help. Published March 2001.


Fodhla Ceili Band

Members of the Fodhla Ceili Band - Brendan McCabe, Darragh O'Kane, Pat O'Kane, Mairéad Farrell, Donal Fitzpatrick and Brian O'Kane. Since this picture was taken at the Connemara Coast Hotel in November 2000 Mairéad has left the band and Don O'Kane has taken her place.
The Fodhla Ceili Band is one of the few ceili bands which counts its playing time in decades and not merely years. Their long involvement with set dancing coincides with the very start of the set dancing revival and continues to this day. Their music appeals to all - it's steady and graceful enough for serious dancers while having all the lift and life that inspires the greatest enjoyment. Their high standards in music are matched by their stylish appearance on stage, which evokes an earlier era. Everyone dresses in matching red jackets with an embroidered Celtic F, white shirts with ties for the gents, and even illuminated Fodhla signs on their music stands.

Brian and Pat O'Kane formed the Fodhla in 1973 as a five-piece band to play for ceilis around Dublin. They're named after one of the three mythical princesses of the Tuath de Dannan, a short name which represents Ireland. Set dancing was rare at that time and there was still strong interest in ceili dancing. The Fodhla played regularly at na Fianna GAA Club in Mobhi Road, Glasnevin, which was the most popular venue at the time. In the late 1970s set dancing began its re-emergence, and it was in the Rathcarn Gaeltacht in Co Meath where the Fodhla played for their first set dancing ceili. Once the revival began other GAA clubs regularly booked the Fodhla, including St Michael's, St Mark's, St Bridget's and Colmcille's. Dublin dancers still regularly attend ceilis in GAA halls and the Fodhla Ceili Band is still playing for them.

The most influential figure in the set dancing revival was Connie Ryan, who had a long association with the Fodhla Ceili Band. When Connie took off every weekend to hold workshops across Ireland, the Fodhla were often invited along and as a result they gained a national reputation. Some of their biggest ceilis were played in the Seapoint Ballroom, Salthill, during the Galway International Set Dancing Festival, where eighty or more sets crowded the floor at once. In Connie's day, his weekend at the Green Isle Hotel was the biggest event for the band in Dublin. The Fodhla are also regular favourites at the All-Ireland Fleadh where they play in the Dome (a huge marquee) for nearly a hundred sets.

Most of the members of the Fodhla were experienced ceili band musicians before the band was formed.

Brian O'Kane is the Fodhla's leader and plays piano accordion. Born in Newry and raised in Ballybay, Co Monaghan, Brian's musical education began at seven on piano, and he taught himself to play piano accordion when his father bought him one. On the day he went to stay in Dublin to attend college, he heard music near his digs and met Donal Fitzpatrick, the Fodhla's drummer, who played regularly in bands and sessions. Brian joined the Kincora Ceili Band, and later joined the Siamsa Ceili Band, a ten-piece band based in Dundalk, Co Louth. The Siamsa were the second band ever to win three All-Ireland ceili band competitions in a row, in '67, '68 and '69, and they once played at the White House in Washington on a US tour.

The band's fiddler Pat O'Kane was born and raised in Dundalk. Her father, John Joe Gardiner, was a renowned Sligo fiddler and contemporary of Michael Coleman. He made 78 rpm records as part of the Gardiner Trio, and his sister Kathleen Harrington led the Kincora Ceili Band. Pat played in the Siamsa Ceili Band and after Pat and Brian met at a fleadh, he joined her in the band. After marrying they moved to Dublin, and played in the Siamsa even after forming the Fodhla.

Donal Fitzpatrick is a self-taught drummer from a musical family from Terenure in Dublin. His mother Nancy was a pianist who was a strong influence on Donal's music. At the age of 14 he started playing for Michael Moran's Shamrock Ceili Band which played for Céilí House on RTÉ many years ago. Donal also played in Dublin's Irish Club on Parnell Square, which was a popular dance venue with many of the city's residents who were from the country. The drums were quiet for a while when Brian asked Donal to take them out of the attic and join him for a ceili. He's been playing in the Fodhla ever since.

On flute in the Fodhla is Brendan McCabe, from Castlebaldwin in Co Sligo. Brendan began the flute at the late age of 14 and is self taught on that instrument. He played in Sligo bands including the Carrigeenrow Ceili Band and Sonny Flynn's Ceili Band. Brendan met Brian at a competition when both discovered they were working for the same employer in Dublin, and he joined the Fodhla soon after. Brendan's playing is featured on a recent recording with Patsy Downey (button accordion) and Mairéad Farrell (piano) called The Chestnut Tree. He teaches flute at the Scoil Naithí branch of Comhaltas.

Mairéad Farrell is the band's pianist Greenore, Co Louth. She's a life-long member of the Pipers Club who played for years at their Saturday night sessions. She also taught piano. After 27 years with the band, Mairead retired from the Fodhla in January 2001 at the age of 78. Brian and Pat's son Don O'Kane has taken over from Mairéad as the band's accompanist. He's played piano since the age of seven and has received an excellent traditional music education at home.

Darragh O'Kane was only a gleam in his father's eye when the Fodhla Ceili Band began. Twelve years ago he joined his parents in the band and became the Fodhla's sixth member and second piano accordionist. As a child he showed a strong interest in piano accordion and learnt to play from his father. His sister Niamh O'Kane also plays with the band on occasion, filling in on whistle or piano. All four O'Kane children are dancers themselves, having attended Connie Ryan's classes from a young age. With the next generation already in place in the band, the Fodhla will surely be with us for many more years to come.

The Fodhla Ceili Band played on Céilí House many times between 1974 and 2000, and we surely won't have long to wait before they're heard on the programme again. They made a recording for Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann in 1980 called Beirte Eile which was a pair of tapes of music for ceili dances. With Tom Quinn they made a video called Set Dancing Made Easy and a matching CD of the music for the dances taught on it. The band also played in three videos with instruction by Connie Ryan which were part of the series The Magic of Irish Set Dancing. Greater fame in the film world eluded them when a scene they recorded for Neil Jordan's The Butcher Boy was left on the cutting room floor.

In addition to the Fodhla Ceili Band's ceilis listed on this site under Ireland, members of the band often play on Monday nights in Katie Gallagher's on the seafront in Bray. They're also at Comhaltas headquarters in Monkstown once a month for the Friday night ceili.

In all their years playing they've never broken an engagement. To make a booking with the band, contact Brian O'Kane.

Thanks to Brian for his help with the article. Published January 2001.


Pete Kelly Premier Ceili Band

The Pete Kelly Premier Ceili Band - (seated) Pete Kelly, Martin Mulhaire, (standing) Tommy Brady and Hugh O'Neill, photographed after a ceili at the Nevele Grand Hotel, Ellenville, New York, November 2000.
Dancers in Ireland are spoiled for choice with a great abundance of ceilis and superb bands playing for all of them. There's a similar situation in the USA in and around New York City where there's a good choice of ceilis most weekends. One of the most popular bands there is Pete Kelly's Premier Ceili Band. At any of their ceilis you could be forgiven for thinking you were dancing in Ireland. Their music has the sound of a classic Clare or Galway band, which is not surprising considering that two of the musicians were raised in Galway.

Pete Kelly, the band's powerful fiddler, comes from near Ballymoe in Galway. His father was a farmer who had a great love for music. Each week when he went to market he brought home a new gramophone record. Young Pete listened to these records regularly and before long knew the names of a large number of tunes. At twelve Pete took up an old violin in the house and joined the Williamstown Children's Ceili Band under the direction of Leo Byrnes. When he was fifteen he joined a show band called the Ivy Castle Dance Band. Two years later he went to England to continue his education where he learned to play light classical music and joined a 26-piece ballroom orchestra. On returning to Ireland he joined another show band, the Premier Aces, playing trumpet as well as fiddle.

In America since 1959, Pete spent time in the US Army, worked on Wall Street in New York and stopped playing for some years. He began again after being asked to teach fiddle to youngsters and within a year had so many students he gave up his job and has been a full time musician since. He also played for step dancing feisanna along the East Coast, toured Ireland seven times with a group of his students called the Shannonaires, played in his own show band and even played for dancers on the Ed Sullivan Show. After a bad fall thirteen years ago, Pete worked hard to recover from some severe injuries and keep fiddling. During the recovery he started playing in sessions in a Long Island Irish club together with Martin Mulhaire. Their styles work well together and eventually they were invited to play gigs. In 1997 the band was formed, named after the Premier Aces Show Band. Today Pete walks slowly as a result of his accident, but his fiddling is strong, lively and popular with dancers.

Martin Mulhaire, who plays button accordion with the band, has an impeccable musical pedigree. He comes from a farming background near Eyrecourt, Co Galway, an area with a strong musical tradition. His father, Tommy, played accordion, fiddle and flute and was one of the first to broadcast traditional music over the radio in Ireland in the thirties. There was always music in the house and his father encouraged Martin to play. The music bug took firm hold at the age of twelve when he started playing day and night. At fourteen he joined the Aughrim Slopes Ceili Band and filled in with the Killimer and other ceili bands. In 1955 he also won the All-Ireland Championship for button accordion in the 14-18 age group.

He started travelling to Clare in search of new tunes and played in sessions with Paddy Canny and P J Hayes. They asked him to sit in with the Tulla Ceili Band on a tour of England, and then in 1958 on a tour of the States. The band played Carnegie Hall and recorded their first LP, which included a solo by Martin. When the Tulla band returned home, Martin stayed behind in the States where he has lived ever since. When audiences for traditional music were scarce he learned the guitar and played with the Majestic Show Band. Today he still plays with the Mike Sheahan Show Band. All the while he's been playing traditional music in sessions at home and in clubs, which is how he came to play with Pete Kelly. He is delighted with the popularity of traditional music and dance today.

Hugh O'Neill backs up the band on Duovox, which is an electronic piano accordion and bass. He was born in Boston from Kerry parents. His father and uncle played violin and Hugh tried it in junior high school but it wasn't his instrument. The accordion became his instrument after moving to Killorglin in Kerry at sixteen. He played with a couple of local bands, the Star Dance Band and the Rhythm Aces with Noel Kingston. Later he went to England where he played accordion in pubs and for weddings. In 1962 he was back in the States and played in numerous bands over the years as a 'side man', someone who was called when needed, with Paddy and Barney McNellis, Frank McKenna and the Hibernians, Sean McVeigh and the High Spots. For around 25 years he's played with Pete Kelly and has been involved with the ceili band from it's beginning in 1997.

The newest member of the band is the drummer, Tommy Brady, who's played with them a year and a half. Tommy was born in Manhattan and raised in the Bronx of a German father and Irish mother. His Irish grandmother was an important musical influence on him. At the age of four Tommy went with her to a vaudeville show where he sat beside the orchestra pit directly in front of the drummer. He was so impressed by the drummer that he went home and began practicing using curtain rods and furniture. Before long 'Little Tommy Brady' was drumming on radio programmes and vaudeville stages in the thirties with Paul Whiteman, Rudy Vallee, Cab Calloway, Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy, and many others. Occasionally he played with Irish performers, like the McNulty family, and picked up the rhythms of traditional music. WWII interrupted his drumming, but afterward he continued playing with Joe Madden, Jesse Owens, Andy Kerrigan, Gus Hayes and others. He joined Pete Kelly around ten years ago to play American music for weddings and socials, but when he recently started playing for set dancing the traditional drumming came naturally to him after his long experience.

There have been numerous requests for a recording by the Premier Ceili Band, but there are no plans for one yet. Individually, the members of the band have made several recordings. Pete Kelly himself made one with his group the Shannonaires and another of his own songs, The Man from Galway. In addition to the LP with the Tulla Ceili Band, Martin Mulhaire has made two CDs - Warming Up with Seamus Connolly, Jack Coen and Felix Dolan, and Fathers and Daughters with his daughters Sheila and Laura, which will also appear as a programme on PBS and RTÉ. Hugh O'Neill has played on recordings with the Sean McVeigh and Barney McNellis bands.

The Pete Kelly Premier Ceili Band play most often at venues in New York but are sometimes found in New Jersey, Connecticut and Massachusetts. Pete is also contemplating a tour of Ireland in 2001, and if it takes place will be good news for music lovers and set dancers on this side of the pond. The dancers of New York and surrounding area can consider themselves very fortunate to have such an excellent Irish band close to hand.

To get in touch with the band, contact Pete Kelly himself.

Thanks to the band for their friendly help. Published November 2000.


Tim Joe and Anne O'Riordan

Tim Joe and Anne before the ceili at the Cashel Community Centre in Fermanagh, just over the border from Kiltyclogher, Co Leitrim, during the Michael Shanley Traditional Weekend, August 2000.
Tim Joe and Anne are a popular two-piece band well-known to dancers in Co Cork, and becoming more widely known across Ireland. Tim Joe plays button accordion backed by Anne on keyboards. As you'd expect from a Cork band, they play brilliant polkas and slides, and the same energy and lift comes across in the jigs, reels and hornpipes as well. Their playing is beautifully responsive to the dancers and sets - in the Cashel hop, for example, they insert a couple of bars of silence at the right moment to emphasise the clap clap clap stamp stamp stamp. A set dancer himself, Tim Joe also has the remarkable ability to call the dances while playing, when required.

Tim Joe and Anne O'Riordan are from Clondrohid, near Macroom in Co Cork, and have been playing together since 1993. At that time they both played in a four-piece band called the Breakaways, which played in lounges and for weddings. They were invited to play for a dance competition and decided to give it a bash. It went well enough that ever since they've been playing regularly for competitions - every year they're at the Gleneagle Hotel in Killarney, the Fleadh Nua in Ennis and the Fleadh Cheoil. They also were asked to play for ceilis and have played at the many regular weekly and monthly ceilis in the area - including Ballyvourney, Aubane, Boherbue, Carrigaline and others.

Tim Joe and Anne with Gerard Butler at a ceili in the Community Centre, Cashel, Co Fermanagh, August 2000. More recently they've been venturing farther north and east, to Roscommon, Fermanagh and Meath. Last summer they were very pleased to be invited to the Armada where they played for a ceili in the Lower Deck. RTÉ's recent television series on the 1999 Fleadh in Enniscorthy showed Tim Joe and Anne playing for the Gleneagle set in competition. In 1997 they released their first recording together, The Reel Thing, with music for the Sliabh Luachra and Plain sets. They're interested in making more recordings in the future.

Tim Joe O'Riordan was born and raised in Clondrohid and still lives there today. He traces his musical background to his grandmother's family, but neither of his parents played music. Tim Joe has the greatest respect for his teachers, Mort and Noreen Kelleher from Macroom, who began teaching him the accordion from the age of five until he was twenty. Mort has a ceili band of his own, and sometimes helps out Tim Joe if Anne is unavailable. Tim Joe produced a cassette in 1991 called Full Polka Set, with music for the Sliabh Luachra, waltzes and other dances. He has travelled with performing and competition groups to France, Germany and Seattle in the States.

Anne O'Riordan is from Gloun, Dunmanway, Co Cork. She also had musical grandparents, and at the age of eight was sent to piano lessons. She studied piano for many years under Annette Spillane, and while she passed exams, Anne always preferred to play for her own pleasure. In her teens and early twenties she played for ceilis, dances and weddings with a friend. Anne also sang in the church choir, and she acted, sang and played for musicals and light entertainment with the local Macra na Feirme groups, the young farmers' organisation. Anne hadn't been playing regularly for a while when Tim Joe persuaded her to join him in the Breakaways to replace their departing keyboard player. She wasn't long with them before she and Tim Joe began playing on their own. Tim Joe claims they played together for the first time in their teens, but Anne doesn't recall the occasion. They were married at the end of 1995.

For a great night's dancing, look out for Tim Joe and Anne O'Riordan when they play regularly at the following venues in and near Co Cork - every first Thursday of the month in the Abbey Hotel, Ballyvourney; every month or two and on Good Friday in the Rambling House, Boherbue; an occasional Monday night in the old National School in Aubane near Millstreet; in Carrigaline; St Stephen's Day in Tralee; and the Christmas party for the West Limerick dancers in Abbeyfeale. They play for competitions at the Fleadh Nua in Ennis and Gleneagle Hotel, both in May, and at the All-Ireland Fleadh. This year they were well received at their first appearance in Miltown Malbay and are expected to play for some ceilis at the Armada next year. They also play occasionally at the Four Provinces in Rathallen, Co Roscommon.

Tim Joe and Anne wish to thank their many friends and supporters around the country for the generous support they've received, and in particular Gerard Butler who invited them to play in places they've never been before. If you'd like to hear some brilliant Cork music someplace near you, contact Tim Joe and Anne O'Riordan.

Thanks to Tim Joe and Anne for their help and hospitality. Published September 2000.


Heather Breeze Ceili Band

The members of Heather Breeze - Pat Friel, Pádraig Morrell, Liam Grealis, Maria Lynn McHugh and Sean Burke, phoctographed in Abbeyfeale, Co Limerick, in July 2000.
The music of Heather Breeze Ceili Band has a steady, even pace, an inspirational lift and a timeless, traditional sound with a great collection of tunes. Dancing to Heather Breeze you'll find yourself relaxed, confident and comfortable, moving at a tempo that suits young and old, beginning and experienced dancers. They play reels that aren't too fast and polkas that aren't too slow, familiar tunes to hum along with and less familiar ones to keep you on your toes. The band plays sets as they've been played for decades with all the lift you need for the best dancing.

Heather Breeze are based in Westport, Co Mayo, and play regularly at venues in Mayo and occasionally in Galway. The band's leader and accordionist is Pat Friel, and he's played in sessions with fiddler Liam Grealis for many years in Matt Malloy's Pub in Westport. Pat, Liam and pianist Maria Lynn McHugh played for several years in a Comhaltas seisiún group every July and August which entertained visiting tourists. When the set dancing revival started in Mayo and they were asked to play for ceilis, Sean Burke and Pádraig Merrill would join them on drums and banjo. They perform as a three, four or five piece band, depending on the requirements of the hall and dancers. They took their name from the reel called Heather Breeze, but also for the connection with the heather-covered mountain nearby, Croagh Patrick.

Heather Breeze playing for a ceili in Convent Hall, Abbeyfeale, Co Limerick, in July 2000. They played for the outdoor ceili at the Fleadh Cheoil when it was held in Ballina in 1997 and 1998, and were shown in RTÉ's television coverage. They also played on the Ceili House radio programme, most recently from Omagh. Following the bombing there, the Comhaltas groups in Ballina and Omagh have exchanged visits. When the Ballina group visited Omagh last year, Heather Breeze was invited along and played live on Ceili House.

The members of Heather Breeze all have long experience of playing traditional music.

Pat Friel learned to play the box at home from his mother Julia, who came from Letterbrock, eight miles west of Westport. His was a musical family and four of his five brothers also play the box. Pat had no formal music training so he doesn't read music. He played occasionally for house dances, especially after the stations, when the priest said Mass in the house. In the showband era of the sixties, Pat had a band called the Frielmen which played pop and country and western-he played bass guitar then. Pat started the local Comhaltas group twenty years ago and was three times Connaught champion on button accordion. Pat's two daughters are musicians and teachers, one in classical music, and Sandra in piano, piano accordion and concertina, sometimes filling in with Heather Breeze.

Liam Grealis is the band's powerful fiddler from Old Head near Louisburgh, and now living in Westport. His father was a step dancer and his mother was a singer. Liam was given a fiddle by a neighbour at 14 and learned from William O'Brien. By 18 he developed a serious interest in music and won competitions in Mayo. In the sixties he played drums for a band called the Beat Minstrels, who played ceili, old time and modern music. He knew Pat Friel from his youth and the two have always played in sessions together. They've played every Thursday together in Matt Molloy's since the pub was opened and if they're not playing elsewhere can be heard on Friday or Saturday night in Hoban's Pub where sets are sometimes danced. They also competed together in a duet and won first prize in Connaught. Liam's daughter has a degree in music and teaches in Sligo. She recently gave birth to Liam's first granddaughter so he expects another musician in the family.

Maria Lynn McHugh is the band's pianist, originally from Westport but now living in Foxford. Her father played accordion and both her brother and sister are musicians. She took piano lessons, received a diploma in music and now teaches piano. She has also taught herself to play bazouki. Maria's husband John McHugh is the fiddler with the Swallows Tail Ceili Band-she sometimes plays with them and also with the Tulla Ceili Band. Last year she taught piano at the Milwaukee Irish Fest Summer School when Swallows Tail were invited to play there. She plays regularly in sessions at Rice's Pub in Swinford and Matt Molloy's, Westport. Her daughter Síofra, 10, plays fiddle and concertina.

Sean Burke is the band's versatile drummer. He's a self-taught musician born and raised in Castlebar and still living there today. He played in showbands in the sixties and seventies, and was a member of Pat Friel's showband. He's been with Heather Breeze for four years and also plays in a rock band, an orchestra and a brass band in Castlebar.

Pádraig Morrell is from Ballina and lives nearby in Sligo now. He first learned tin whistle at school from a Marist brother and from a priest. He tried mandolin and banjo in his late teens and stuck with the banjo ever since, and is self-taught. He was a member of a group called Rógha Dubh that played for ceilis and on Ceili House. He plays gigs at Matt Molloy's on weekends and met Pat Friel there. Pat invited him to join Heather Breeze and he's been playing with them since March. Pádraig can also be heard in session on Monday nights in the Old Shebeen in Ballina.

Heather Breeze haven't made a recording yet but hope to do so in the future. You can experience beautiful music and dancing when they play at their ceilis. To contact Heather Breeze get in touch with Pat Friel.

Thanks to all the band for their help. Published August 2000.


Gleann an Iolair Ceili Band

The members of the Gleann an Iolair Ceili Band at the Southern Hotel, Sligo, in April 2000 - (standing) Fran Meehan, Ruairí Boylan, Thomas Close, (seated) Joanne O'Connor, Clóda Boylan and Maeve Close. Síle Boylan and Liam Bradley weren't present, and Fran and Thomas sat in on whistle and piano.
The Gleann an Iolair Ceili Band have been a special treat for dancers in the north of Ireland for around twelve years. Their first class music has an immediate and irresistible appeal to dancers, always bright and lively, perfectly suited to sets from Clare, Kerry and anywhere else.

The Boylans are a talented family of musicians from Glenullin, a valley near Garvagh in Co Derry. The Irish name of the place is Gleann an Iolair which means Glen of the Eagle. Brendan and Rose Boylan raised seven children, all of whom play traditional music. Five of them, Clóda, Síle, Maeve, Ruairí and Caitriona, on piano, fiddle, piano accordion, flute and banjo, got together with Denis Sweeney, also on fiddle, in 1986 to play for their first ceili. Denis, from Randalstown, Co Antrim, taught fiddle to Clóda and Síle and it was under his influence that they first formed a band to play for a ceili at the Derry county fleadh.

In the following years the band played regularly in Garvagh, Derry, Dungiven, Draperstown, Ballymena, Belfast, Hilltown, Letterkenny and elsewhere around the north. At the time they were known as the Boylans. When Catriona moved to England, Joanne O'Connor from Tournafulla, Co Limerick, replaced her on bajo. She became a friend of the family after meeting them at the All-Ireland Fleadh in Kilkenny. Denis Sweeney was involved in another group and when he left, the Boylans became the Gleann an Iolair Ceili Band. When Clóda went to study in Dublin, Liam Bradley began playing piano for the band.

The Gleann an Iolair Ceili Band in action at the Southern Hotel, Sligo, in April 2000. The Gleann an Iolair was a young band when it was formed and the musicians were aware that as they got older they wouldn't necessarily be able to keep playing together. Today, with some of the group in Dublin, travelling abroad or raising a family, their appearances at ceilis are difficult to arrange and increasingly rare. Fortunately they can be heard at their best in a CD they produced in 1998 called The Derry Boat. They recorded it for themselves as a way of preserving their music for the future, but all set dancers can benefit from the four lovely sets on it. Pat Murphy rates the Gleann an Iolair version of the Cashel Set as one of the best available.

Brendan and Rose Boylan gave a great love of music to all their children, who all studied piano and traditional music. They attended the Scoil Eigse and All-Ireland Fleadh every year as a summer holiday. In Kilkenny in 1988 the Boylans were closely followed by RTÉ cameras as they attended summer school and competitions. The entire programme on the Fleadh was about the family and concentrated on three of the younger children, Clóda, Síle and Ruairí, who were competing as a trio on concertina, fiddle and flute.

Maeve Boylan plays piano accordion for the band and leads them musically by selecting the tunes. After learning piano from Mary Mullholland, Ahoghill, Co Antrim, she took quickly to the accordion at the age of eleven. She studied with Patsy Kelly, who taught in Moneyglass, Co Antrim, and has been immensely influenced by Seamus Meehan of the Templehouse Ceili Band. She won All-Ireland awards in piano and piano accordion. Maeve is married to Thomas Close, who teaches set dancing in Magherafelt and Garvagh, and they have a ten-month-old son.

Síle and Clóda Boylan both play fiddle, and Clóda was the band's pianist for years. They learnt fiddle from Denis Sweeney, who was the inspiration behind the band, and from Martin McGinley, who helped their fiddle technique. Clóda won first prizes in piano and fiddle competitions. Today Síle has been granted leave from her work for a year to perform with a Riverdance-style show in Germany called Magic of the Dance. Clóda has recently qualified as a doctor in Dublin but is taking a year off before she starts practicing to play with a group called Providence.

The band's flute player is Ruairí Boylan. His greatest influence was the teacher John Kennedy of Cullybacky, Co Antrim, who plays fife with Protestant marching bands but has a great love of traditional music and song. Ruairí won competitions for flute and slow airs. He participated in Comhaltas tours of Ireland and in the music and dance group, Planxty O'Rourke. Ruairí is married in Derry, and is a keen Gaelic footballer.

Playing banjo is Joanne O'Connor from Tournafulla, Co Limerick. From the age of six she took lessons with Domhnall De Barra of Athea, Co Limerick. She's played with Planxty O'Rourke, Shannonside Ceili Band and Taylors Cross. Today she lives in Ashbourne, Co Meath, and can often be heard in sessions on Thursdays in the Dowling Pub. She's married to Fran Meehan, who teaches lively dancing classes in Dublin with Shay McGovern, plays pipes and whistle, and is brother to Seamus Meehan of the Templehouse Ceili Band.

Backing up the band is Liam Bradley from Tobermore, Co Derry. As well as a superb pianist, he's an accomplished step dancer. Most weekends he plays solo piano for feiseanna (step dancing competitions). He's equally adept at playing melodies on his own and at vamping the chords in a band. He's recently been writing music for a show called 100% Pure Irish Dance which showcases step dancing pupils and teachers from Ireland. When Liam's other activities prevent him from playing with the Gleann an Iolair, Thomas Close steps in on piano.

The band pays special tribute to Brendan Boylan who has served as driver, soundman, roadie and manager, and to Turlach, the eldest of the Boylan offspring, who plays flute but left home before the band started.

As all the members of the Gleann an Iolair Ceili Band are busy with a variety of other pursuits, be sure to make special notice of their all-too-infrequent ceilis. For information on booking the band and on obtaining their CD please contact Brendan Boylan.

Many thanks to Maeve Close, Brendan Boylan and Joanne O'Connor for their help. Published in June 2000.


Davey Ceili Band

The Davey Ceili Band at St Boniface Social Club, Tooting, London, in February 2000 - Lorna, John, Amanda and Nigel.
The Daveys of Dunderry, Co Meath, are a remarkable family of musicians. Four of them play together in the Davey Ceili Band - Nigel, the virtuoso on the button accordion, his sisters Amanda and Lorna on flute and fiddle and their father John backing everyone up on keyboard. The Daveys play bright, lively music which is never too slow and just as fast and steady as the dancers like it, with a stimulating collection of tunes.

The Daveys play regularly for ceilis, competitions, weddings and other events in Ireland, north and south, in England and even annually in Spain and Cypress. They have a strong following in Ulster and are often heard in Hilltown, Carrickcruppin, Kilcoo, Draperstown, Belcoo, Belfast, Portrush and elsewhere. They travel to Manchester and London several times a year to give dancers in England a good taste of Irish music and have been one of the featured bands of the Spanish Fleadh, a week-long set dancing holiday in Spain, since it began. And the small but keen Irish community in Cypress invite the Daveys to play for them every St Patrick's Day.

The band formed gradually as John's children became old enough to play music with him. Nigel is the eldest and started playing with his father around the age of thirteen for cabarets, set dancers and competitions. In 1992 they were booked for a ceili without realising it! When they arrived at the venue they weren't sure whether it was a cabaret or not, but it was a set dancing ceili which turned out to be a successful night for everyone.

The next year Frank Keenan, a teacher from Co Meath, was taking set dancers on a trip to Scotland and asked John to come along to play for them. John brought Nigel and Amanda and again they were quite successful. Frank gave them great encouragement to play for ceilis and helped promote them locally.

John soon met Pat Evans from Carrickcruppin, Co Down, who introduced the Davey family to the ceili scene in Northern Ireland. They became popular across the six counties in the north and in Meath, Kildare and Dublin. When Sean Dempsey met John at dancing competitions in Warrenpoint in 1995, he introduced the band to England. Every year since then they have played at Sean's own October weekend of competitions in Manchester.

The current line-up of the band was completed in 1997 when they were invited to play for a ceili at the Leinster Fleadh in Trim, Co Meath, by Bobbie Keenan, Frank's wife. She advised John to bring along a fourth player and so his daughter Lorna joined them. Lorna was seventeen at the time.

In the same year they also played for the first time in London for Michael Keane and Marion Cooper. On this occasion John and Lorna drove to London while Nigel and Amanda went by air. John and Lorna arrived at the venue for the ceili in good time, but Nigel and Amanda were delayed. John and Lorna began playing for the ceili on their own with Lorna playing the box - she's equally adept on fiddle and button accordion. Finally when Nigel and Amanda arrived, Lorna took up the fiddle and let her brother continue on the box.

John Davey was raised in Carracastle, Co Mayo, in the family pub. There he heard great local musicians including Peter Horan, Fred Finn and Seamus Tansey. He picked up an accordion when young and tried to teach himself to play, but he didn't learn correctly and gave it up. Later he played guitar in a pub group. Electric organs were popular with bands at the time, so John taught himself to play one and has continued with keyboards since. Carmel, John's wife, is also a musician from Mayo, and after they married they played together as a two-piece band - Carmel played fiddle and sang. They played pubs, weddings and small social events. Carmel stopped playing when her children were born, but John continued as a one-piece band.

Nigel Davey started music with the tin whistle at seven, but had an early interest in the accordion. He began learning on his father's old button accordion when he was nine and took lessons from Vincent Tighe from Co Cavan. He also studied classical piano to grade seven and is a drummer. He has two recordings, a cassette made in 1989 when he was fourteen and a CD released last year - both have sold well. Nigel now works for RTÉ as a sound engineer and cameraman. He regularly plays in sessions in Dublin - the Merchant on Friday night and the Barn Owl, James Street, on Sunday night.

Amanda Davey started music with the tin whistle and learned to play from a young Co Meath teacher, Aidan Finnegan. She always had the desire to play the flute, so after obtaining one from Brendan McMahon in Ennis she taught herself to play it. She also plays piano.

The band's fiddler, Lorna Davey first learnt to play button accordion from Vincent Tighe. She started teaching herself the fiddle in 1995, but kept a strong interest in the box, especially as she recently took delivery of a new Cairdín, an Irish made box. She'll play it in a session, but if there are too many already playing she'll get out the fiddle. Like her brother and sister she also studied piano. Now she's at university in Coleraine, Co Derry, but comes home on weekends to play with the band and in a session in Swords on Sunday afternoon.

There's a younger daughter, Séana, who's not yet in the band. She plays the harp, learning from the Meath Harp School in Nobber. She won the All-Ireland in 1998 and the Oireachtas. The harp isn't suitable for the ceili band so she's contemplating taking up a more portable instrument. It won't be long before the Davey Ceili Band is a five-piece band!

The Daveys have been heard on local radio and on RTÉ's Ceili House programme, live from St Vincent's GAA Club in Dublin. They also played on television in 1996 during the People in Need telethon hosted by Gay Byrne. A national set dancing competition was organised by Comhaltas and the finals took place during the telethon. The Daveys played for the Ulster team from Cavan which won the competition. The band is also talking about issuing a recording of music for set dancing, something they should be strongly encouraged to do.

The Davey Ceili Band plays for ceilis, weddings, parties and other events. Contact John Davey for information about bookings.

Thanks to John and Carmel Davey for their help with the article. Published in April 2000.


Abbey Ceili Band

The Abbey Ceili Band - Ger Murphy, Micheál Creedon, Andrew O'Connell and Liam Forde after a ceili in the Grand Hotel, Fermoy, Co Cork, November 1999.
At just about the time we were starting to think that maybe there was no longer anything new and exciting about set dancing, along came the Abbey Ceili Band from Co Cork and we rediscovered the joy that got us all involved in the first place. The Abbey may have been around only a short while but already they've made a huge impression in the minds of dancers, due entirely to their remarkable music. It's so full of lift and fun that the dancers are having the time of their life, but amazingly, the band always seems to be having an even better time than we are! For all their musical impact you might expect a big band, but they're only four musicians.

The band started out in 1995 with just two musicians, Ger Murphy on box and Micheál Creedon on keyboard, playing on Thursday nights for a set dancing session in the Abbey Hotel, Ballyvourney, Co Cork. A few months later Liam Forde visited the session with his banjo and impressed the others enough to be invited to join. On another Thursday night Andrew O'Connell showed up with his fiddle and was invited to complete the foursome. They blend so well together you'd think they were quadruplets playing together from their first breath.

They were invited to play at the Rambling House, Boherbue, Co Cork, in January 1996, their first gig out of the Abbey Hotel. The organisers asked them the name of the band and they weren't sure what to call themselves. They thought the Abbey Hotel Ceili Band was too long, so decided to shorten it to the Abbey Ceili Band - the name stuck and has served them well since.

They continued playing in Ballyvourney weekly for a few months longer, but when they became busy with weekend ceilis they only played there occasionally. Their reputation grew from ceilis in Millstreet, Cill na Martra, Dunmanway, Templeglantine and other places. They made a big impression on the dancing public when they crossed over into Clare at the Dan Furey weekend in Labasheeda and especially during the summer school in Miltown Malbay. Now they can be found as far away as Dublin and recently have even ventured into the north for ceilis.

Listeners to RTÉ's Ceili House have already heard the Abbey Ceili Band twice, from O'Connell's Pub, Ballyvourney, in September 1998, then from Ballylickey near Bantry in a programme honouring singer and friend Seán Ó Sé last November. The Abbey have yet to respond to the many requests for a recording of their music, but 2000 may see it yet!

The four members of the Abbey Ceili Band are all experienced traditional musicians who have been playing since childhood.

Ger Murphy, from Ballygarvan, Co Cork, began learning accordion at the age of ten after a few years of learning tin whistle in primary school. His father played a Hohner accordion and taught Ger a few tunes, and he took lesson from Murt and Noreen Kelleher, teachers with a great love for music. Ger was a member of a group which won Scor and Slógadh competitions three years in a row. In his teens he started travelling to Europe regularly playing music for Cork dance groups, visiting France, Germany and Finland. Before the Abbey Ceili Band, Ger and John White formed a band which often played in Irish clubs in London.

Playing tenor banjo for the band is Liam Forde, originally from Ballyvourney but now living in Farran, Co Cork. Liam was raised in a musical house where his father David played accordion and where he was influenced by recordings of the Dubliners' Barney McKenna. He learned the basics of the banjo with Donal 'Sledge' McCarthy from the age of ten. Liam and his father travelled into Cork City to meet up with the Dunne Brothers, from whom he learned different plucking styles. He played regularly in sessions in Ballyvourney, and with Jackie Daly, Seamus Creagh and others. These days he can be heard every Thursday in the Farran Well Pub, Farran, together with Ger Murphy.

Andrew O'Connell is one of the strongest fiddlers to play in a ceili band. He's from Cill na Martra, Co Cork, where he began music on the tin whistle at an early age and learned fiddle from twelve with Connie O'Connell. He also plays accordion, mandolin and banjo. He used to play in the Coolavookig Ceili Band, a local group of teenage musicians, and won Fleadh Cheoil and Slógadh competitions. Andrew is also a member of other bands and groups.

Micheál Creedon is the band's keyboard player, and backs up the band with such flair that you can't help noticing and enjoying his playing. Micheál is from Ballyvourney, and his family own the Abbey Hotel there which gave the band its start. He studied piano from twelve and passed several exams in it. He regularly played in local sessions and for functions. Micheál and Ger Murphy were the first to play for set dancing sessions in the Abbey Hotel, so they were the founding members of the Abbey Ceili Band. They still play occasionally for dances on their own.

If you're looking for a good band you can't get much better than the Abbey Ceili Band. Contact Ger Murphy for bookings.

Thanks to Ger Murphy for his help with the article. First published February 2000.


Templehouse Ceili Band

A perfectly gender balanced ceili band - Paul Roche, Aidan Vaughan, Seamus Meehan, Mary Corcoran, Bernie Conneeley and Roma Casey in the Connemara Coast Hotel, Furbo, Co Galway, November 1999.
The Templehouse Ceili Band has been around just about as long as the set dancing revival, and they have maintained their popularity with dancers for more than ten years. Its team of six highly experienced musicians deliver the best dance music there is. An international crowd of dancers enjoy them annually in Miltown Malbay during the Willie Clancy Summer School and their two classic recordings have been in regular use around the world for nine years.

The band was formed in 1989 after a sudden inspiration by Kieran Hanrahan, the banjo player who's best known today for presenting Ceili House on RTÉ radio. Kieran had just married his wife Pat in America and on the couple's return to Dublin there was a wedding party with a mighty session. Kieran played was a member of Stockton's Wing and some of the others were there, including Paul Roche, flute, as well two musicians who played for dancers in the Merchant Pub, Seamus Meehan on piano accordion and Mary Corcoran on piano. Kieran was so delighted with the music that night that he wanted to form a ceili band to play for set dancing, which was enjoying great popularity at the time.

Within days Kieran was on the phone making plans. In addition to Paul, Seamus, Mary and himself, they wanted to complete the band with a drummer and a singer. Mick Gaynor agreed to play the drums and Maureen Fahy joined both to sing and play the fiddle. The seven met in Dublin pubs to practise selections of tunes for the sets.

The first gig was at a charity concert in Dublin and they played regularly at the Garda Club in Harrington Street, Dublin, for a couple of months. They made an appearance on Bibi Baskin's television program - Bibi featured Stockton's Wing and the Templehouse Ceili Band showed viewers another side of the musicians.

The band has always done a lot of travelling. They were invited to Moscow by Aer Rianta for the opening of a shop there and were joined by Irish dancers and Russian musicians. Aer Rianta were already familiar with Templehouse as they used to hold ceilis twice a year in Shannon Airport. Templehouse also played at festivals in Copenhagen, Washington, New York, Milwaukee and the Catskills. They're also regular visitors to Manchester, Leeds, Birmingham and London.

The band is named after the Templehouse Reel. They were unaware that there is a Templehouse in Co Sligo until the owner of that house met them after a gig and brought them to his 18th century mansion.

Templehouse are probably the first ceili band to make recordings for set dancing. They produced two recordings soon after they started playing, Music for Sets, Volumes 1 and 2. Connie Ryan had quickly taken an interest in the band and assisted with the recordings. They have a limited availability today, but the band is considering producing a new recording in the new year. They also made a video in Ballyvourney called Irish Hooley, another in Dublin called Take the Floor and third made in Monkstown. They have also worked with Olive Hurley to make videos of step and ceili dancing.

Today, two of the original band members are still playing with Templehouse, Seamus Meehan and Mary Corcoran. Kieran Hanrahan's new career at RTÉ left him with too many weekend commitments to play regularly with the band. Bernie Conneeley has taken his place on banjo. Roma Casey now plays fiddle - Maureen Fahy has been with Riverdance for three years. Ciarán Dunne has always been Paul Roche's substitute on flute when Paul's other commitments prevented him playing. Ciarán is now the main flute player, but Paul still plays occasionally. Mick Gaynor retired last summer and Aidan Vaughan, the noted set and sean nós dancer, took his place.

Despite these changes, the band has maintained its high standards as all the members are accomplished and versatile performers.

Piano accordionist Seamus Meehan has won All-Ireland firsts in both piano accordion and pipes. He comes from Cabra in Dublin where he grew up next door to pipemaker Matt Kiernan. He was involved with Comhaltas and played with the Clontarf Ceili Band, which still gives young musicians good training in traditional music. Seamus met Mary Corcoran in Gort and they formed a duo which played for dances in the Merchant Pub and Pipers Club for years before Templehouse was formed.

The band's pianist, Mary Corcoran, from Inchicore, Dublin, began her musical career at on fiddle and piano the age of seven, gaining experience in the Piper's Club Ceili Band and by entering competitions. She won All-Ireland firsts in piano and piano accordion. Mary's entire family is musical but she's the only traditional player among them. Today she's in demand as an accompanist for many well known musicians and groups, including John Regan, Macalla, Gay McKeown (her husband), Joe Burke and Brendan McGlinchey, and has recently played with the Chieftains for a new album. Mary is the Templehouse Ceili Band's manager.

Flute player Ciarán Dunne grew up in a musical family in Lucan, Co Dublin, where his father played the accordion and brother played the pipes. He grew up in the Dublin musical scene, and even though he now lives in Limerick, he travels back often to play in the capital. He also plays for regular gigs in Mick Dolan's pub in Limerick.

Roma Casey from Palmerstown in Dublin plays fiddle for the band. She was taught by Sean Keane of the Chieftains and has won All-Ireland firsts in fiddle and tin whistle. She was a member of the group Blasket Sound, which toured the world, and today she can be heard in Dublin sessions at Noones, Hughes and the Barn Owl when the band isn't performing.

Bernie Conneeley comes from a well known musical family in Bedford in England. Her father is a noted fiddler from Connemara and ran a traditional home where musicians were always welcome and the entire family played. She moved to Ireland twelve years ago and has been with Templehouse for nearly three years. She's engaged to Peter Gallagher, an accordion player from Co Mayo.

The band's newest member is drummer Aidan Vaughan, a familiar figure to set dancers from his dance workshops at the Willie Clancy Summer School and in the States and Japan. Aidan, from Miltown Malbay in Co Clare, is even more experienced at the drums than dancing. He played in a junior ceili band in Miltown which also included Michael Sexton, in the Lachtín Naofa Ceili Band with Junior Crehan and as relief drummer for the Kilfenora and Tulla ceili bands. While in London for more than eight years he played with Martin and Teresa McMahon's ceili band (now playing in London and Clare as the Caravelles). In Dublin he was a member of the Sheelin Ceili Band for around ten years. Aidan has won an All-Ireland first in drums and an Oireachtas set dancing competition.

If you're interested in having Templehouse play at a ceili, phone Mary Corcoran - you're guaranteed a night of great music and dance!

Thanks to Mary Corcoran and Aidan Vaughan for their help with this article. Published December 1999.


The Emerald Ceili Band

The Emerald Ceili Band on a fine summer's day after their first and very successful appearance at the All-Ireland Fleadh in Enniscorthy, Co Wexford - Matthew McGranaghan, Gerald Durnin, Janette Durnin, Paul Mongan, Michael McGurk and P J Loughran. Absent from the photograph - Cora McGee.
The Emerald Ceili Band made a great impression at the All-Ireland Fleadh in Enniscorthy in August 1999. Most of the dancers who went to the outdoor ceili on Saturday afternoon had never heard the band but from the first set we knew it was great music and by the end of an afternoon of superb dancing we were eager for more and were making plans to go to their ceili on Sunday night. Listening to them play you'd think they were all veteran musicians, but it's a remarkably young band with most of its members still in their teens.

This was the Emerald Ceili Band's first time playing at the Fleadh, but the band has been playing for ceilis for many years. Two brothers, Gerard and Paul Mongan from Omagh, Co Tyrone, started the band in 1991 with Jim Colgan and Kevin Morris, who studied music from Sean Nugent of the Pride of Erin Ceili Band. The instruments were piano accordion piano, fiddle and drums. At that time they played for local weekly fior ceilis and picked up a good following among ceili dancers.

The band expanded to six members in 1992 with the addition of P J Loughran and Seamus Brogan from Co Tyrone on flute and banjo. They played for their first set dancing workshop that year in Omagh and were regularly busy on weekends as a four piece band for ceili dances and the full band for set dances.

The Emerald Ceili Band made their first recording, Ceili House, in 1995, which was well received. They played at festivals including the Mary of Dungloe Festival in Donegal and the Ulster Fleadh in Armagh. On the eve of the Dublin-Tyrone match of the All-Ireland football final they made their first appearance on RTE's Ceili House radio programme. The second appearance on the same programme was later the same year for a set dance in Armagh. A second recording, The Emerald Ceili Band and Friends, was produced in 1996. The band made a third appearance on Ceili House in November 1999, when they recorded a programme at St Joseph's Hall, Carryduff, Co Down.

The outdoor ceili at the Fleadh in Enniscorthy with music by the Emerald Ceili Band. Over the years, most of the original members moved on, including one of the founders, Gerard Mongan (piano accordion) who left to study for the priesthood in Maynooth. At the time, he was replaced by two accordion players, one for ceili dances and another for sets. In the summer of 1998 the Emerald Ceili Band the membership of the band changed to the line-up it has today.

The two newest members are a brother and sister from Ederney, Co Fermanagh. Gerald Durnin, 15, plays button accordion and Janette Durnin, 16, plays fiddle. Both have been trained by Sean Nugent who played with the Pride of Erin Ceili Band.

Cora McGee, 16, Emyvale, Co Monaghan, plays banjo, guitar and sings. She's a student of Gerry O'Connor.

Matthew McGranaghan, 17, from Castlefinn, Co Donegal, is a talented fiddler. He was filmed at the Fleadh in August by RTE.

Michael McGurk from Plumbridge, Co Tyrone, has played drums since he was a teenager. He's a versatile musician as he also drums with a rock band.

P J Loughran, Pomoroy, Co Tyrone, has played flute since the age of eleven. Ceili bands run in his family as both his father and uncle played in one.

Paul Mongan, Omagh, Co Tyrone, founded the band with his brother. He's the pianist and has played traditional music since he was 13. He also does the band's sound work and manages it with P J.

In spring of this year, the Emerald Ceili Band released their third recording, Clear the Dresser and Take the Floor. Like the previous ones, it has been well received, is selling well and has been broadcast on RTE and many local radio stations.

The band regularly play in venues in the north of Ireland, including Hilltown in Co Down; Omagh, Dungannon and Carrickmore, Co Tyrone; Forkill in Co Armagh; Irvinestown in Fermanagh; and Ballybofey, Co Donegal.

If you're interested in booking the band, please contact, Paul Mongan or P J Loughran. The Emerald are available as a four or seven piece band depending on the size of the hall and are equally experienced at playing for sets and ceili dances. All dancers will be pleasantly surprised by the music from this expert band of young musicians.

Thanks to P J Loughran for his help with this article. Originally published October 1999.

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