Artist Bios 2019

The Friel SistersPauline ConneelyRandal BaysChristian "Junior" Stevens, Brian Miller

Local teaching artists: Dáithí Sproule, Mary Vanorny


The Friel Sisters

Sheila Friel - Uilleann pipes, Flute, Whistle, Song
Clare Friel -Fiddle, Whistle, Harmonica, Song
Anna Friel - Flute, Whistle, Song

Anna, Sheila and Clare Friel are 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.

Since the launch of their debut album, 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, Sharon Shannon, The Máirtín O’Connor Trio, Cherish the Ladies, Solas and Fidil. In 2016, the girls performed at Festival Interceltique de Lorient, and won the prestigious Trophée Loïc Raison.

2018 has been a very exciting time for the girls as they released their new album ‘Before the Sun’ with Hajime Takahashi and Cathal Ó Curráin, produced by Ciarán Ó Maonaigh and recorded by Jack Talty. This was launched to a sold out crowd at Celtic Connections 2018 in Glasgow.

In November 2017, Clare was announced as the recipient of TG4 Gradam Ceoil Ceoiltóir Óg/Young Musician of the Year 2018. She was very honoured to accept this award in February 2018, with other recipients for other awards on the night including Frankie Gavin (Musician of the Year), Patsy Hanly (Lifetime Achievement), Pádraigín Ní Uallacháin (Outstanding Contribution), Máire Ní Chéileachair (Traditional Singer) and a special once-off award to The Field Marshal Montgomery Pipe Band: in recognition of their excellence in piping. It was a huge achievement to be included in such an incredible line up for the night, and also to be added to a list of amazing past winners, as well as being the first person in Scotland to win the award.


Pauline Conneely - Banjo

Pauline was born in Bedford, England, the daughter of Irish parents from Connemara and Longford, raised in a family steeped in Irish music, dance and culture. As a young girl she achieved great success, becoming a champion Irish step dancer before turning her focus to music. Under the tutelage of legendary musician Brendan Mulkere, Pauline honed her love of the banjo, eventually earning her status as renowned banjo player. She founded the band Chicago Reel, who feature regularly at Irish festivals around the Midwest and East Coast. She frequently shares the stage with Grammy-nominated fiddler Liz Carroll, as well as many respected artists performing on the world stage today, including John Doyle, The Chieftains, Cherish the Ladies, Sean Keane, and Mick McGoldrick.


Randal Bays - Fiddle

Randal Bays is a self-taught US-born musician who's been playing Irish fiddle for more than thirty years; he's now widely recognized as a master of that complex, ancient art, in particular the traditional styles of Co. Clare and Co. Galway. He's "among the best Irish style fiddlers of his generation", according to Fiddler Magazine. Randal has toured and recorded with many of the great Irish musicians of the day, including James Keane and Daithi Sproule (in the band FINGAL), James Kelly, Martin Hayes, Michéal O'Domhnaill and many more. Randal has performed all over the US, Europe and Canada, and is in great demand as a teacher of Irish fiddle. He co-founded and served for ten years as Artistic Director of the Friday Harbor Irish Music Week, and is now Program Director of the Cascadia Irish Music Week on Whidey Island, Washington.


Christian "Junior" Stevens - Accordion, Concertina

One of the foremost exponents of the Concertina and Button Accordion in the Irish style, Christian “Junior” Stevens has spent two decades surrounded by the thriving Irish music community in America. He has studied with the legendary Noel Hill, and received a performance degree in Piano from the University of Massachusetts. In 2017, he was named a Master musician by the Maine Arts Commission, receiving an Artist Fellowship. He is a talented performer with a unique style, and has been featured on many recordings and stages from local dance halls to the Library of Congress. Also a highly regarded educator, he taught for many years as part of the faculty at the Hanafin-Cooley CCÉ Music School in Boston. He has been invited to some of the country’s prominent music camps and currently instructs a large body of private students.


Brian Miller - Guitar, Bouzouki

Brian Miller’s intricate yet driving guitar style has made him one of the most sought after accompanists in the North American Irish music scene. Esteemed Irish music critic Earle Hitchner writes: “The backing of Miller on guitar flexes not just muscle but a fully complementary style.” Also a renowned traditional singer, he is the founder of the Traditional Singers Club of the Twin Cities. Brian is also a master of the bouzouki, an instrument that has been adopted into the Irish tradition in recent decades. He has performed across North America and in Ireland with various groups including Bua, Chulrua, The Máirtín de Cógáin Project and the Two Tap Trio. He has been featured on MPR’s All Things Considered, CBC Radio’s Canada Live, and Ireland’s RTE television, RTE radio and TG4 television. He has been a guest lecturer on the Irish song tradition at University College Cork (Ireland) and he teaches at the St. Paul-based Center for Irish Music.

Local Teaching Artists

Dáithí Sproule

Originally from Derry in the North of Ireland, Dáithí is one of the pioneers of guitar in Irish music, with a wide repertoire of traditional songs in both English and Irish (Gaelic). He has toured the world with the band Altan, and has performed and recorded with many other great Irish musicians including Trian, Fingal, Skara Brae, Liz Carroll, Paddy O'Brien, James Kelly, and Tommy Peoples. As well as traditional music, Dáithí teaches Irish language, mythology, and Celtic culture.

Mary Vanorny

A Minnesota native, Mary performs with Barra, Laura MacKenzie, Two Tap Trio and many other groups in the Twin Cities. She has spent many hours absorbing Irish music through recordings and live at sessions and concerts, and credits the numerous and talented Irish musicians in the Twin Cities with helping her learn and giving her encouragement. She began playing the violin as a small child, and has been performing since then with various groups all over the Midwest and in Ireland. She was heavily influenced by Cape Breton music growing up in addition to the Suzuki method, which she has taught for several years. Today Mary is influenced by greats like Michael Coleman, Andy McGann, Brian Conway, Liz Carroll, and Tommy Peoples.

More local artists will be announced as registration opens