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. With Jackie Daly, he has recorded The Living Stream and most recently Rolling On. He is an authority on the music of Sliabh Luachra, and received a Ph.D. 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 has taught courses in Irish traditional music
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 Keeffe, a pupil of the renowned 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 through his performances and recordings. He has toured extensively and has also taught. In 2005, he received the TG4 Gradam Ceoil (National Music Award), and, in 2009, the Kanturk Arts Festival Award.
PAUL DE GRAE
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, Eoin Duignan, Paudie O’Connor and others. In 1989 he published "Traditional Irish Guitar", the first such tutor, re-issued by Ossian in 1996 with a companion CD. He wrote most of the entry on "guitar" in The Companion to Irish Traditional Music, edited by Fintan Vallely. 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 and the USA. 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.
Anita Best was born on the island of Merasheen in Placentia Bay on Newfoundland’s south coast the year before Newfoundland joined Canada. When she was a child, television had not yet taken over as the primary source of entertainment, and for many homes on the island, electricity was provided by gas-powered generators. Singing, dancing and storytelling were the main forms of recreation and when the nights grew longer and colder and the fishing season was over, people would gather in each others homes and keep heart in one another with tunes, songs and stories.
Anita performs the traditional songs and stories from her childhood, as well as ones she learned later from people in Bonavista Bay, Cape St. Georges and the communities in and around Gros Morne National Park. She also performs songs from Newfoundland’s beloved contemporary songwriters, Pamela Morgan and Ron Hynes. With her rich voice and warm personality she builds a marvellous bridge between old-time and contemporary Newfoundland song-making and storytelling traditions.
Anita has received several honours for her work in collecting and disseminating Newfoundland folksongs, including the Marius Barbeau award from the Folklore Studies Association of Canada; and, an Honourary Doctorate from Memorial University.
Sandy Morris - known to his musical friends as "the easternmost guitar player in North America," is an accomplished and multi-talented musician, producer, and engineer based in St. John’s, Newfoundland. Picking up his first guitar at the age of 15, Morris has made his living as a versatile and ingenious performer since 1965. An original member of the legendary Wonderful Grand Band, his more recent collaborations include Rasa (with Erin Best), and the Eight Track Favourites.
Sandy Morris has contributed his own compositions, his performances, and his musical expertise to film and television projects for more than 30 years. His credits include serving as musical director or producer for Land and Sea, Violet, Tommy, East Coast Music Awards, and Codco, among many other projects. In addition to his own projects and featured appearances, he continues to perform with numerous other musicians on their recordings and live performances.
EDWINA GUCKIAN & MICHAEL O’ROURKE
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.
Michael O’ Rourke hails from Castleisland in Co. Kerry. Over his 20 years of dancing he has experimented in many different styles of Irish dance. He first began with Irish step dancing and then moved on to set dancing which was enjoying a huge revival during his youth. He was greatly influenced by the local dancers and the music of Sliabh Luachra and West Kerry. He travelled with his family to ceilis and dancing festivals all over Ireland and it was at the Willie Clancy Summer School in his teens that he learned the Clare batter steps. Michael learned these steps and movements by watching the sean nós dancers perform and quickly developed his own unique style. In his 20 years of dancing he has won 11 All Ireland titles in set dancing and sean nós dancing and has performed on stage with Dervish, Cherish the Ladies, Martin Hayes, Seamus Begley and Frankie Gavin and De Danann. He now lives in Co. Leitrim where he and his wife Edwina Guckian teach at Sean Nós ar an tSionann Dance Club.
After almost 40 years, Tickle Harbour is still having fun. A contemporary band with deep roots in Newfoundland's cultural heritage, Tickle Harbour is representative of the folk music revival in Newfoundland and Labrador. Indeed, like Figgy Duff before them, Tickle Harbour's songs resonate with the musical heritage of the first European settlers from Ireland and England. The band is acoustic, but doesn't shy away from fresh approaches to tunes, some familiar, some dug out of oblivion. Tickle Harbour has recorded three albums - The Hare's Ears, Brule Boys in Paris and Battery Included. The eight musicians in the band for this year's feile are some of the best traditional players in Newfoundland - Don Walsh (guitar), Gerry Strong (whistle, flute), Scott Schillereff (hammered dulcimer), Paddy Mackey (bodhran), Fergus O'Byrne (vocals, bodhran, concertina), Francesca Swann (cello) and Greg Walsh (fiddle) and Nadine Hollett (vocals). During his 5 year stay in Newfoundland Seamus was an integral part of the band.
Jimmy Crowley has been a central figure in the Irish folk scene since the enthusiastic reception of his debut album The Boys of Fairhill in 1977. With his band Stokers Lodge their mission was to present the street ballads of Cork city complimented by the ornate folk songs of the rural hinterland of Cork and Kerry in an exciting orchestration of uilleann pipes, concertina, autoharp, harmonium, mandolin, bouzouki and guitar in their native accent. The second album, Camphouse Ballads hurtled the band into the vortex of the folk scene; they were now performing at folk festivals and making tv appearances in Ireland, Britain and America .Both albums were produced by Micheál Ó Dómhnaill of the Bothy Band. Like Chris Twomey of Stokers Lodge, Micheál was a seminal influence in Jimmy’s musical education.
Singer and accordion player, Méabh Ní Bheaglaoich (Méabh Begley), was born in the Gaeltacht area of Corca Dhuibhne on the Dingle Peninsula, in County Kerry into a family of Irish traditional music greats, including father Séamus, aunts Máire, Eibhlín and Seosaimhín, and uncle Breanndán.
Méabh’s grounding is equally rich on the vocal and instrumental sides, with an emotive ornamental singing style and accordion playing rich in the slides and polkas of West Kerry. She is committed to passing on the tradition and has taught at festivals around the world such as the Minnesota Irish Music Weekend and performed at noted festivals such as the “I Love Ireland” festival in Tokyo and Celtic Connections in Glasgow alongside Irish music band, Solas.
She has toured in many countries such as Japan, Taiwan, USA and France with Irish band, Téada and “Irish Christmas in America”, as well as around Europe on the “Pure Irish Drops: The Women of Ireland - The Next Generation” tour. More recently, she performed as part of a four-piece group with twenty dancers in Moscow, Russia, for St. Patrick’s Day 2018 as part of “Irish Week” in collaboration with the Irish music and dance association in Moscow called, “Dance Irish”.
Méabh can be heard on the Children’s Christmas album “Amhrán is Fiche Don Nollaig" alongside Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh and Síle Denvir, as well as on several recordings with her father and Oisín Mac Diarmada such as, “An Irish Christmas Soundscape”.
She has also launched an album of West Kerry-style tunes and songs, entitled Cuisle with guitarist Matt Griffin and she more recently released a single in the Irish language entitled, Amhrán na nGael, written and composed by herself, calling on people to return to their roots.
Hailing from Appleton, Newfoundland, Aaron Collis is a multi-instrumentalist who is best known for his skills on the button accordion and mandolin. With humble beginnings on the Neil Murray Stage at the Newfoundland and Labrador Folk Festival and at Young Folk at the Hall, Aaron has made quite a name for himself since moving to St. John’s.
Shortly after becoming active on the local session scene, Aaron was asked to play the accordion as a member of folk group The Dardanelles. Since then, the ECMA-nominated group has released their self-titled debut album. His performances with The Dardanelles have brought him to such venues as the legendary Mariposa Folk Festival and the Folk Alliance International Conference in Memphis, Tennessee.
In addition, Aaron took part in a province wide tour with Daniel Payne and Matthew Byrne last summer after the release of their impromptu recording titled “Shed No Tears.” Aaron continues to perform on the St. John’s music scene and will be traveling throughout Canada this summer with the Dardanelles.
Billy Sutton is a Multi-Instrumentalist/Producer/Arranger, from Harbour Grace, Newfoundland, but has made his home in St. John’s for some 15 years. Throughout the last 15 years, his musical versatility has taken him to different parts of the globe, and he’s played a major role in the development and success of the multi-award winning, Celtic fusion band, The Fables.
His musical ability is evident in the impressive roster of musicians with whom he has performed, and still performs with, from time to time. A regular, as a bass player with world-renowned singer/songwriter, Ron Hynes, he occasionally works with such artists as Graham Wells, The Ennis Sisters, The Catch, and The Accessories.
His work as a producer on By The Hush by Chris Andrews, received both ECMA and MIANL award nominations; and also worked as a producer/arranger/musician on the 2008 MUSICNL Folk/Roots Album of the year, Traditional Music From Newfoundland, by Graham Wells. Add to that, many Producer/Co-Producer/Arranger projects, Billy has become a much sought after session musician in studio, radio, and television, for his many different styles of music, and his accomplished skills in a variety of instruments.
Bryan Poirier is an Acadian multi-instrumentalist and singer, from Moncton New-Brunswick, now residing in St John’s Newfoundland. A folklorist and historian, Bryan is a fiddle player and singer in New Brunswick’s Pays de la Sagouine’s, house band, Corde de Bois, and is a highly regarded Bluegrass and Country musician playing in bands including Eddy Poirier and Grassline, and Jannet McGarry and Wild Wood. Bryan’s fluency in various styles on instruments including, mandolin, guitar, banjo, dobro and bass have led Bryan to becoming a sought-after festival and session musician throughout Eastern Canada. Bryan is currently recording his second album of traditional Acadian fiddle music titled Henri à Vital: la music de mes ancêtres, an album that explores the different Acadian fiddle stylings of the Eastern Provinces.
Kiersten Fage is and Australian-Canadian multi-instrumentalist and singer currently residing in St John’s Newfoundland. A graduate of McGill University’s historical performance program, and Ethnomusicology PhD Candidate and Memorial University of Newfoundland, Kiersten specialises in the folk cello stylings of Scotland, Ireland and North America. Kiersten is accomplished in a broad array of fiddle genres, fluent in both cello accompaniment and techniques for playing tunes on the cello, as well as other instruments including, mandolin, banjo and low whistles. She is a sought-after festival and session musician and singer, having performed and recorded with bands in both Canada and Australia. Joining forces with partner, Bryan Poirier, she has gone back to her Acadian roots, playing and accompanying traditional Acadian fiddle music and songs.
Rob Slaney is from Marystown on the Burin Peninsula and now lives in Witless Bay with his wife, Lenora, and two children, Isaac and Sarah. Rob is a talented multi-instrumentalist and a beautiful ballad singer. He first took to the guitar and soon followed with mandolin in his early teens. Recently he has a new favourite instrument, an octave mandola, that was handcrafted by his father, Carlo.
Niamh Varian-Barry, former lead singer of “Solas”, is a singer and instrumentalist from Cork City. Her powerful vocals have been praised world-wide. She is a trained viola and fiddle player and holds a Masters in Music Performance from the Royal Irish Academy of Music. Niamh has performed at highly prestigious venues including New York’s Carnegie Hall.
She is currently the leader of Dave Flynn’s Irish Memory Orchestra and the Kerry Scotia Ensemble, both of which she was a founder member of. She has had the pleasure of sharing the stage with music giants such as Lúnasa, Dick Gaughan, Natalie Haas, Dirk Powell, Josh Ritter, Máirtín O’Connor, Martin Hayes. She is also the featured soloist in the groundbreaking dance music project SuperCéilí.
Her debut solo album, “Wings”, released in February 2018, is made up of mostly self-composed songs and tunes. It is a marriage of heart-felt passion, creative imagination, and technical skill. From intimate vocals to cinematic orchestral arrangements, this is an album is where ‘her musical genius really does take wings’ - Irish Music Magazine.