2017 Performers

The Friel Sisters

Anna, Sheila and Clare Friel are young traditional musicians born in Glasgow with their family roots firmly entrenched in the Donegal Gaeltacht (Derrynamansher). Being siblings, they achieve a close blend on fiddle, flute and uilleann pipes interspersed with songs sang in unison, many from their family and local repertoire.

They have performed in various venues and festivals across Europe, America and Asia and have appeared as guests on stage or toured with acts such as Altan, The Chieftains, Lúnasa, The Máirtín O’Connor Trio, Cherish the Ladies, Solas and Fidil. Summer 2013 saw the girls record their debut album at their home in Donegal with guest musicians Gearoid Mooney, Seamus O’Kane and Griogair Labhruidh. 2016 sees an exciting time ahead as they embark upon the process of recording album number two.


Rum Ragged

Formed by singer/guitarist Mark Manning and singer/accordion player Aaron Collis two years ago, Rum Ragged now includes Anthony Chafe on bodhran and Michael Boone on bass and banjo.  Hailing from four different outports around the island, Rum Ragged now represents some of the best that this province has to offer in the traditional genre. From spirited instrumentals to heartfelt ballads, they pay homage to those that came before them while carving out a fresh, unique sound of their own. While their pub shows have transformed into festival headlining gigs in a very short span of time, they are equally comfortable performing in both types of venues. Rum Ragged released their debut album in the summer of 2016, and already it has received widespread attention and acclaim with two Music NL nominations for Album of the Year and Folk Roots Recording. They are also the grand prize winners of the Lamb’s Rum theme song contest, from hundreds of Canada wide entries.


Matt Cranitch, Jackie Daly & Paul de Grae

The words ‘Button Accordion’ and ‘Jackie Daly’ are synonymous in the world of Irish traditional music. Described in the New York Times as “probably the best accordionist in Ireland”, Jackie was born in Kanturk, Co. Cork, where he grew up surrounded by the rich music tradition of Sliabh Luachra. One of the greatest influences on his early musical development was Ballydesmond fiddle-player, Jim O’Keeffe, a pupil of the famous Sliabh Luachra fiddle-master, Pádraig O’Keeffe. Over the years, Jackie’s lifelong affinity with fiddle- music has resulted in highly-acclaimed albums featuring fiddle and accordion – with the late Cork-based musician Séamus Creagh, with Kevin Burke, and now with Matt Cranitch. Jackie was a central figure in some of the most dominant groups playing Irish music in recent times. His performances with bands such as De Danann, Patrick Street, Buttons and Bows, Arcady, Reel Union and Kinvara all attest to his wonderful music and versatility. However, it is the style and repertoire of the Sliabh Luachra tradition that has made the most significant impression on his accordion-playing, a fact well exemplified by his performances and recordings. He has toured extensively throughout the world, and has also presented workshops and classes. In 2005, he received the TG4 Gradam Ceoil (National Music Award), and, in 2009, the Kanturk Arts Festival Award.

Matt Cranitch is renowned as a fiddle-player and teacher, both at home in Ireland and abroad. He has performed extensively at concerts and festivals, on radio and television, and has presented lectures, master-classes and workshops on various aspects of Irish music. He has won All-Ireland Fleadh Cheoil titles, as well as The Fiddler of Dooney and Oireachtas Crotty Cup. Author of The Irish Fiddle Book, first published in 1988 and now in its fourth edition, he has also contributed to other books on Irish traditional music. He has made various albums including three with Sliabh Notes, in addition to Éistigh Seal which consists entirely of slow airs. His most recent recording is The Living Stream with Jackie Daly. He is an authority on the music of Sliabh Luachra, and received a PhD from the University of Limerick for his study on the fiddle-playing tradition of this region. A long-time consultant for the Geantraí series on TG4, he is also an advisor to the Arts Council Deis scheme for the traditional arts, and has served on the board of the Irish Traditional Music Archive (2007–2010). In 2003, he received the Hall of Fame Award from University College Cork where he currently teaches a number of courses in Irish traditional music. 

Paul de Grae is a Dublin-born guitarist and occasional singer, living in Kerry for many years. He has recorded with Jackie Daly and Matt Cranitch, The Smoky Chimney, Aoife Ní Chaoimh & Paudie O'Connor, Eoin Duignan and others. In 1989 he published "Traditional Irish Guitar", the first such tutor, re-issued by Ossian in 1996 with a companion CD. He contributed several articles, including most of the entry on "guitar", to The Companion to Irish Traditional Music, edited by Fintan Vallely (1999, 2011). He has also written for An Píobaire (the journal of Na Píobairí Uilleann), Irish Music Magazine and other publications. He has a particular interest in the music of Sliabh Luachra, plays regularly at sessions, concerts and festivals throughout Ireland (particularly in Kerry, Cork and Clare) and teaches guitar workshops in Ireland, the USA and France. He is engaged in an ongoing research project on the music collector Francis O'Neill, and has written and lectured on the subject. He is a founder member of the North Kerry Traditional Music Archive. His latest project is the duo Amala, with harpist Reidun Schlesinger; their debut album, "resonance", was released in June 2016


Greg and Karla Walsh

Greg and Karla Walsh have been playing music together for as long as they have known each other. Both coming from musical families, their first gig together was by completely by accident - at a summer sea cadet band camp in 1993. Several years later, their paths crossed again and their relationship and sharing of music began in earnest. Now married for over 12 years and with two young children who also have a love of music and song, they continue connecting through playing music together and sharing it with others, this time with traditional instrumentation. (Greg - vocals, fiddle, bozouki, mandola, guitar, piano accordion and Karla - vocals, guitar, accordion). Favouring a mixture of traditional, folk and instrumental tunes, they have performed together with various versions of the Walsh Family Band over the years, as a duo at the NL Folk Festival, at Folk Night at The Ship Pub and have also blended their talents on numerous recording projects.


Cordeen

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Four centuries after the first Irish immigrants set foot on the shores of Newfoundland, a group of talented musicians came together under the name of their beloved instrument: Cordeen, from Irish cairdín, the native term for the button accordion those pioneering players brought with them from the old world to the new. Through a unique musical lens, Cordeen explores the legacy of the Irish in Newfoundland as they trace the story of traditional music, from songs of home to fresh new fusions. 

Each of the band’s members brings a unique style of playing deeply influenced by the rhythms of their towns and villages, echoing the journeys they have taken to mastery. Waterford’s Benny McCarthy, founding member of iconic traditional music group Danú, is a soft-spoken player with a dry wit and a twinkle in his eye. Hailing from the rich musical heartland of Sliabh Luachra, Conor Moriority is an All-Ireland Accordion champion who learned to play at the knees of great players like John Brosnan and Jimmy Doyle. Graham Wells, previously of the renowned band The Irish Descendants, is a true blue Newfoundlander from St John’s whose grandfather passed down the art of the box by taking him to play at parties and dances across the island. Also from Newfoundland is Billy Sutton of popular trad/rock group The Fables- not only a master accordionist but a prodigious talent on the bouzouki, fiddle and mandola!


Edwina Guckian

Sean Nós dancer Edwina Guckian hails from outside the village of Drumsna in Co. Leitrim. She learned her dancing from her mother and the local dancers of Leitrim and Roscommon. Her style is greatly influenced by the style of local music she grew up listening and dancing to. 

Music plays as much an important role as dancing does in Edwina’s life. “As much as I love dancing, it would be nothing without the music”. She began learning the fiddle from Irene Guckian and her grandfather Ned Lee at the age of 9. She then picked up the tin whistle learning from local man, Padraig Sweeney and Tipperary’s Seán Ryan and in recent years she has taken up the concertina. Edwina decided to further her love of music by studying it in St. Patrick’s College, Drumcondra where she later achieved a degree in Music, English and Education and graduated as a primary school teacher in 2010.

Having started teaching dancing at the age of 16, Edwina has now taught her steps and toured with shows and bands in every continent all over the world. She has shared the stage with some of Ireland’s most influential acts such as Altan, De Danann, Dervish, Mairtín O Connor, Frankie Gavin, Kíla, Martin Hayes, Séamus Begley, We Banjo 3 and Beoga to name a few.


Dave Penny

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Dave Penny has been a steady presence on the local folk scene as an accordion player and composer of songs that are truly unique to Newfoundland and Labrador.  He has been a key figure in resurgence in popularity of Newfoundland recitations, along the way contributing popular pieces like A Townie Courted a Bayman’s Daughter to the local folk repertoire.

Dave’s most recent recording—All Turned Around—further strengthens his position as one of Newfoundland and Labradors most fun and diverse entertainers, with its razor-sharp commentary on songs like Chase The Ace and #darkNL and driving accordion tunes.


Conor Moriarty

Conor Moriarty is an all Ireland Champion accordion and melodeon player steeped in the musical traditions of his native Sliabh Luachra homestead. Conor began his musical journey at the tender age of 7 learning from many of the great local musicians such as John Brosnan and Jimmy Doyle just to mention a few. In 2009, he became all Ireland 10 key melodeon champion and the following year he was crowned with the much coveted all Ireland senior accordion title. In the same year he completed his masters in Traditional Irish Music Performance in University of Limerick under the guidance of one of his biggest influences, Derek Hickey. Conor’s debut solo recording ‘All in a day’s play’ was released in 2012 to great critical acclaim. He has toured extensively at home and all over the world including America, Australia, China and Europe.


Fergus O'Byrne & Fergus Brown-O'Byrne

Fergus O'Byrne became a familiar voice on radio and television in Newfoundland from 1971 to 1983 as a member of the renowned folk group, Ryan's Fancy. He has since followed a busy solo and freelance career, touring nationally and internationally with Jim Payne and A Crowd Of Bold Sharemen. He was also a regular fixture on the local scene performing for many years with Dermot O’Reilly. In February 2004, Fergus, as part of Ryan’s Fancy, was awarded the ECMA Dr. Helen Creighton Lifetime Achievement Award. This award recognizes an individual or group who has had a profound and lasting effect on the Atlantic Canadian music industry. In April 2005, along with Jim Payne, he was the recipient of the inaugural Arts in Education Award presented by the Newfoundland and Labrador Arts Council. In 2010, he was recognized as Music Educator of the year by MUSICNL and in August 2011 he was awarded the annual Lifetime Achievement Award from the Folk Arts Society of Newfoundland and Labrador. Most recently, in 2016, he was the recipient of the Newfoundland and Labrador Arts Council Arts in Education Award.

Fergus Brown-O'Byrne is recognized as one of the foremost traditional instrumentalists of Newfoundland and Labrador. He is equally adept on anglo-concertina, accordion, and fiddle. He is a regular at traditional sessions in St. John’s and for the last five years he’s hosted the Sunday afternoon session at O’Reilly’s Pub. He has also both produced and performed at many different functions and in a variety of settings. Besides performing as a solo artist, he is a member, co-manager and co-producer of The Freels, a well known traditional Newfoundland band. Fergus frequently appears with various other artists including Mike Hanrahan, and Danny Mills and teaches traditional fiddle, concertina and accordion in St. John's.


Benny McCarthy

Benny McCarthy is from Deelish in West Waterford and is one of the two original members of the band DANÚ. He began playing at the age of 13 and after some years under the tuition of Bobby Gardiner, he continued on to be influenced by others such as Jackie Daly, Joe Derrane and Máirtín O' Connor. His love for the melodeon was instilled in him by his teacher Bobby, himself a maestro of the instrument.

Over the years, Benny has developed his own individual style which is strongly influenced by his melodeon playing, winning the Oireachtas Competition in 1994 on both melodeon and accordeon. He has fully integrated that style with his button accordeon playing and has adapted beautifully to his preferred Saltarelle accordions.  There is nothing Benny likes more than to sit down with his former teacher and mentor Bobby Gardiner (who has great respect for him) and play, comparing notes on new tunes and the many accordions they both possess. They are to be seen every summer at the Willy Clancy Week in Milltown Malbay, Co. Clare, playing in pubs and (weather permitting) on the streets, entertaining the many students of music that visit every year.