2020 Artist Bios
Matt Cranitch · Conal Ó Gráda · Benny McCarthy · Pauline Conneely · Danny Diamond · Seán Gavin · Brían Ó hAirt
Matt Cranitch grew up in a musical family in County Cork in the south of Ireland. From a young age, he displayed a particular aptitude and talent for music, and went on to establish a significant reputation as a traditional fiddle-player. He has won All-Ireland Fleadh Cheoil titles, The Fiddler of Dooney and Oireachtas Crotty Cup. He has performed in many parts of the world, at concerts and festivals, as well as on radio and television.
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. Among his recordings are Give it Shtick and Take a Bow with tunes from the book, Éistigh Seal which consists entirely of slow airs, and The Living Stream, a highly-acclaimed recording with Jackie Daly, with whom he plays and tours regularly. Matt has also been involved in various performing groups, including Na Filí and Any Old Time, with each of whom he made a number of recordings, as well as Sliabh Notes, who have recorded three albums.
He has presented many master-classes and workshops on various aspects of Irish traditional music, particularly fiddle-playing. An authority on the Sliabh Luachra fiddle style, he was awarded a ‘Government of Ireland Senior Research Scholarship’ in 2002 for his work on the music of this region. He received a PhD from the University of Limerick in 2006 for his study, ‘Pádraig O’Keeffe and The Sliabh Luachra Fiddle Tradition’. In 2003, he received the ‘University College Cork Hall of Fame Award’ in recognition of his contribution to Irish traditional music. “An exceptional musician and an authority on Irish fiddle-playing, Matt Cranitch has been a major force in Irish music since the early 1970s.” – The Rough Guide to Irish Music. https://www.mattcranitch.com
Born in Cork in 1961, Conal Ó Gráda has long been at the forefront of traditional Irish flute-playing and truly has one of its most distinctive sounds. A multiple All Ireland winner in his youth, Conal’s debut recording ‘The Top of Coom’ in 1990 is still regarded as a seminal recording of flute-playing. Conal takes the basic elements of traditional music and forges them into a personal style which, once heard is unforgettable. His fast, rhythmically precise flute-playing has an earthy raucous tone reminiscent of the saxophone and is driven by a spirit from the true heart of traditional music. His second solo recording ’Cnoc Buí’ was released in 2008 to widespread critical acclaim.
Conal teaches flute privately in his native Cork and is a regular teacher at summer schools worldwide, including The Willie Clancy Summer School, Catskills Irish Arts Week and Blas. In 2012, Conal published a book on flute technique and styles called 'An Fheadóg Mhór…Irish Traditional Flute Technique'. Conal also teaches from home via Skype and has students of all levels from beginner to advanced all around the world. He is a co-founder of the community flute band ‘Banna Fliúit Loch a’Bhogaigh’. He is a member of the band Raw Bar Collective, with whom he released a new CD in February 2011 called ‘millhouse measure’s’. Conal is also active in theatre and is co-founder of Nóta Stóta who are currently working on bringing a major Irish musical to the stage. https://www.conalograda.com
Benny McCarthy is from Deelish, County Waterford. He started playing at 13 and All-Ireland Oireachtas champion on both button accordion and 10-key melodeon in 1994. In 1995 he teamed up with some friends to form the now iconic band ‘Danú’ with whom he still performs and manages today. Benny also plays with the bands ‘Cordeen’ and ‘Raw Bar Collective’. Benny has been featured on over 30 albums since he began his professional career and is regularly featured with his various groups on Irish TV and radio including RTE, RnaG, and TG4, as well as international radio & TV broadcasts for BBC and CBC among others. He has performed and recorded with many leading internationally known artists over the years and has also taught and performed as part of Ireland delegations to USA, Japan, India, and Europe including a state visit to Bulgaria with Ireland's President in 2009. Benny has recorded and produced many albums and theatre soundtracks over the years in his own studio in Co.Waterford. https://boxbenny.com
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. http://www.paulineconneely.com/
Danny Diamond is a musician from Ireland, who plays fiddle, sings, composes music, and works as a recording engineer/producer. He comes from a renowned family of traditional musicians with a deep cultural heritage in the North of Ireland. Danny has toured worldwide, playing venues such as the Sydney Opera House, The Southbank Centre (London) and National Concert Hall (Ireland); and has shared the stage with artists such as The National and Justin Vernon (Bon Iver).
Danny is currently based between Minneapolis, USA and Ireland. He tours internationally as fiddle player and Music Co-Ordinator with Teac Damsa’s multi award-winning dance theatre show Swan Lake /Loch na hEala, for which he also co-wrote and arranged the score. Other collaborations include the traditional fiddle duo NORTH (with Conor Caldwell) and What To Bring When We Leave, a two-man show with poet Tom French.
Danny's debut recording Fiddle Music (2014) and follow-up NORTH (2016, with Conor Caldwell) were both hailed as contemporary classics, with NORTH being nominated for The Irish Times Traditional Album of the Year 2016. Elbow Room, a solo unaccompanied fiddle recording was released in October 2017. Danny is currently working on a new solo album of fiddle music and songs, new and old, for release in 2020. From 2006-2016 Danny worked with the Irish Traditional Music Archive (ITMA), managing ITMA's collections of historic and contemporary field recordings, while also conducting recordings in the field and in ITMA's Dublin studio. During the same period Danny worked with the acclaimed Irish traditional band Mórga, with whom he recorded two albums and toured in Europe & North America. https://dannydiamond.ie
Seán Gavin’s playing on the flute, whistle and uilleann pipes reflects his lifelong love for Irish traditional music. Growing up in Detroit, Michigan he was first encouraged to take up Irish music by his father, Clare-born fiddle player Mick Gavin. Sean played a variety of instruments before settling on the flute at the age of eleven with the help of flute-player Leo Mac Namara, a native of Scariff, Co. Clare. Not long after, he began work on the uilleann pipes with teacher Al Purcell—himself a student of famed Dublin-born piper Leo Rowsome. He and his family continue to lend much of their energies to the promotion of Irish traditional music in the Detroit area. In more recent years, Sean has been fortunate to cultivate a friendship with Sligo-born flute legend Kevin Henry and others of the older generation of musicians living in Chicago, Illinois where he lived for some time.
Gavin is one of the most highly regarded Irish musicians of his generation. In 2016 he became the first and only musician born outside Ireland to win the prestigious Seán Ó Riada gold medal. His most recent recording, Music from the Lost Continent, a collaboration with fiddler Jesse Smith, accompanist John Blake, and bodhran player Johnny “Ringo” McDonagh, was hailed by The Irish Echo as “traditional music at its best!” Seán has also recorded with Nicgaviskey and tours regularly with the groups Bua and Téada, both of which have gleaned top praise from Irish music critics around the globe. Currently a resident of the Twin Cities where he teaches at the Center for Irish Music, he also serves as the musical director for the sean-nós dancing performance ensemble Atlantic Steps and teaches and performs throughout North America. https://www.facebook.com/Seangavinmusic
Born in Saint Louis, Missouri, Brian grew up exposed to the older dance music and songs of the Upland South and the lower Ohio. A natural singer from very early on, this exposure inspired him to venture deeper into the singing traditions of Ireland later in his youth. Along with songs, Brian learned old-style step dance and dance tunes on the tin whistle, button accordion, and concertina in his late teens while involved with a cultural organization whose aim was to promote the pairing of Irish traditional music with dance.
It was also during these years that Brian was introduced to Áine Meenaghan (Nan Chamuis), a native Irish speaker and singer from the Conamara region of western Co. Galway now residing in Chicago, Illinois. Brian learned many songs from her repertoire and in so doing enriched his singing style and elevated his Irish language skills. Given his affinity to West Galway, his instrumental style on accordion and concertina is rightly influenced by the melodeon music and rhythmic patterns associated with the sean-nós dancing of this region. The culmination of his early dedication to these traditions came when Brian became the first American to ever win the coveted Sgiath Uí Dhálaigh shield at the 2002 Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann in Listowel, Co. Kerry; adding his name to the award's long list of noted All-Ireland Champion singers including Joe Heaney, Frank Harte, Paddy Berry and Len Graham. Since 2002, Brian has gone on to collaborate and record with Chicago-based ensemble Bua and singing legend Len Graham of Glenarm, Co. Antrim. Proficient on concertina, accordion, and tin whistle, his understated musical style is full of lift and subtlety. His singing and playing have been featured on radio programs across the United States, Canada, and Ireland and he has toured extensively, teaching and performing at many of the most prestigious festivals in North America. Brian was recently a master mentor for two Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Program grantees from the states of Oregon and Ohio and is the currently principal educator for Capital Irish Arts in Washington, D.C. https://www.brianohairt.com
Danielle is the only performer/practitioner/researcher in the country who has a background in modern Irish step dance, old-style Irish step dance, and sean-nos dance who also practices North American forms of traditional percussive dance. As a trained Waldorf teacher and seasoned educator, Danielle has worked extensively with adults and children. The integration of intellectual, practical, and creative processes are key foundations of her approach. www.danielleenblom.com
Known for her sensitive and lyrical accompaniment of songs as well as her syncopated and rhythmic accompaniment of dance tunes, Hannah enjoys exploring the full depth of traditional Irish music and song. She holds a B.A. in music and an active performing career across the Midwest including performances at the Milwaukee Irish Fest, La Crosse Irish Fest, Minnesota Irish Fair, Minnesota Renaissance Festival, IMDA St. Patrick’s Celebration, and the Celtic Junction Arts Center. She is one of the youngest recipients of the MRAC “Next Steps Fund” grant, and has just received a Fulbright scholarship to complete a masters degree in harp performance at the University of Maynouth in the Fall of 2020. www.hannahflowersharp.com
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, a year-round instructor at the Center for Irish Music and the Director of the Eoin McKiernan Library at the Celtic Junction Arts Center. www.evergreentrad.com
A two-time Midwest Fleadh Cheoil champion on the bodhrán, Amy Richter has gone on to compete in the All-Ireland Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann in Letterkenny (2006) and Cavan (2012), Ireland. She’s been performing Irish music since 2003 and teaching since 2007. Amy has been touring the states since 2017 with world renowned trad super group, Danú. She can be found on two of Danú’s albums, Ten Thousand Miles and An Emerald Isle Christmas. www.amyrichter.com
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. www.daithisproule.com
A Minnesota native, Mary performs with Brass Lassie, Twin Cities Ceili Band, Two Tap Trio and many other groups in the Twin Cities. She was heavily influenced by Cape Breton music growing up in addition to the Suzuki method, which she taught for several years. Mary continues to be a sought after teacher and performer, and has been a guest artist/lecturer for the Minnesota Irish Music Weekend, Minnesota Celtic Fiddlers, Pint of Irish Celtic Music retreat, and in schools. Her first solo fiddle album, First Light of Day, was released in 2018. www.fiddlermary.com