2021 Artist Bios
Mary Bergin · Bríd Harper · Nell Ní Chróinín · Edel Fox · Conor Connolly · Páraic Mac Donnchadha · Tommy Fitzharris · Michelle Mulcahy · Macdara Ó Faoláin · Dáithí Sproule · Nathan Gourley · Laura Feddersen
‘Just about the best Tin Whistle player this century’ is how the Irish Times referred to Mary Bergin in a recent interview. Born into a musical family, Mary was exposed to the music of many renowned musicians growing up. She began playing whistle at a young age, and went on to win many awards in Oireachtas and Fleadh Ceoil competitions, including the All-Ireland Championships at Junior and Senior level.
Mary’s two virtuosic solo recordings, Feadóga Stáin (1979) and Feadóga Stáin 2 (1993), aided the popularization of traditional Irish tin whistle playing and have been critically cited as "outstanding and unequalled". In 1989, Mary, together with musicians Kathleen Loughnane and Dearbhaill Standun, formed the group ‘Dordan’, whose particular and distinctive mix of traditional Irish and European baroque music achieved wide acclaim, receiving the National Entertainment Award in 1993. Dordan has released four albums: Ceol Traidisiunta agus Baroc (1991), Oíche Nollag/Christmas Capers (1996), The Night Before … A Celtic Christmas (1997), and Celtic Aire (1999).
Mary has toured extensively in Europe, America and in Australia, playing in concerts and festivals, teaching masterclasses in Universities, and giving workshops and seminars to whistle students of all ages. She tutors BA and MA music students at the University of Limerick, and has published a three-volume tin whistle tutorial (volumes 1 and 2 are currently available; volume 3 is forthcoming).
In 2000, Mary was awarded the prestigious ‘Traditional Musician of the Year' Award. She was the first female traditional Irish musician to receive this award.
Mary's playing has been characterized as having great feeling, technical virtuosity and a deep respect for the music. Music scholar Fintan Vallely has described her playing as "brightly ornamented but uncluttered", with "crisp articulation". Writer and flute player Grey Larsen uses similar terms, describing her playing as "precise", "elegant", and "streamlined".
Bríd Harper is an Irish traditional fiddle player from Castlefinn, Co. Donegal and now living near Dungannon, Co. Tyrone. Encouraged by her parents, she grew up learning and playing Irish traditional music with her sisters in the Finn Valley area. With music on both sides of the family, she is carrying on the tradition of fiddle playing. She won numerous youth All Ireland titles and other prestigious fiddle awards including the Senior All Ireland in 1988, Oireachtas na Gaeilge and Fiddler of Dooney.
Bríd, an MA graduate of the Irish World Academy of Music & Dance at University of Limerick, has toured widely and has performed with many great musicians including Dermot Byrne, Steve Cooney, Donogh Hennessy, Danny O’Mahony, Arty McGlynn, Harry Bradley, Tony O’Connell, and Cyril O’Donoghue. She has been hailed as one of the leading exponents of traditional fiddle playing of our time. Bríd is highly respected as a teacher and has tutored at many summer schools and workshops throughout Ireland and in France, Holland and the USA. Her solo CD Brid Harper, released in 2015, was described by Trad-Connect.com as “solo fiddle of the most exquisite kind”, and “one of this year’s best traditional albums”.
Bríd teaches fiddle at all levels and has extensive experience over many years both in class and one-on-one scenarios. Past teaching venues include Fiddle Week Glencolmcille, Co. Donegal; Scoil Éigse (CCE); Irish Arts Week, Catskills, NY; Fiddlers Farm, Niedorp, Holland; Joe Mooney Summer School, Drumshambo, Co Leitrim; Café Concert, Toucouleur, Brittany, France.
Nell Ní Chróinín hails from the Múscraí Gaeltacht of West Cork, where she grew up in the small village of Béal Áthá’n Ghaorthaidh. The Múscraí area is historically linked with a strong heritage of song and music, and Nell was exposed to these traditions from a young age. Her interest in traditional singing blossomed at age 10, when she attended classes that aimed to preserve local songs by teaching them to the younger generations of the area. She was particularly influenced by local singers such as Máire Ní Chéilleachair and Eoiní Maidhcí Ó Suilleabháin.
Nell began to sing publicly from the age of 11 at local festivals or sessions. As a teenager, she won prestigious sean-nós singing prizes from various Irish festival competitions such as Oireachtas na Samhna and the Fleadh Cheoil. In 2008, she won a medal at the Oireachtas na Gaeilge competition, second place amongst the female singers under 35 years of age. She returned in 2010 to win first place in the same category. In 2012 she was the youngest ever recipient of the TG4 Gradam Ceoil Amhránaí na Bliana award to which she believes is one of her highest honours and achievements to date. In 2014, Ní Chróinín won the Corn Uí Riada competition, and was both the youngest person ever to win it and the first winner from Seán Ó Riada's home place of Múscraí.
Over the years, Nell has made several television appearances as a guest singer, appearing on traditional music shows such as Geanntraí and Anam an Amhrán. She was also the subject of an episode of Amhráin is Ansa Liom in 2010, a program where a chosen traditional Irish singer sings and discusses four of their favourite pieces.
Nell has performed with and appeared on albums by the Irish traditional band Raw Bar Collective. In 2016 she became the lead singer with the highly renowned traditional band, Danú, and was featured on their album ‘Ten Thousand Miles’, released in April 2018. She regularly tours with the group in the USA.
Edel Fox is one of the most accomplished Irish musicians of her generation, with a musical resume that boasts a wide array of accolades. In 2004, Edel was awarded one of the highest honours for a traditional musician in Ireland – the TG4 Young Musician of the Year award. She is a regular performer on Irish National Radio and the BBC, and has performed at festivals and in concert halls around the world with celebrated musicians like Jackie Daly, Cherish the Ladies, and The Kane Sisters.
In 2006, Edel released an album to critical acclaim with Galway fiddler Ronan O’Flaherty, followed by a very well-received solo album entitled “Chords and Beryls” in 2010. Her 2013 recording “The Sunny Banks”, featuring Waterford fiddler Neill Byrne, was named Tradconnect CD of the Year. Edel is also a member of the prestigious group The Irish Concertina Ensemble, and their debut recording “Zero” (2015) has garnered excellent reviews.
In addition to being an engaging performer, Edel is also an insightful and patient teacher, specializing in the repertoire of her native soil. Over the years she has taught at the prestigious Willie Clancy Summer School in her hometown, Miltown Malbay, Co. Clare. Other festivals include the German Concertina Meeting in Wendland, Germany, the Northeast Concertina Workshop in Amherst MA, Catskills Irish Arts Week in NY and Elkins Irish Arts Week, WV to name a few. Edel has a BA in Irish Music and Dance, a MA in Music Therapy from the University of Limerick as well as a H.Dip. in Television Production. Edel currently works in the TV industry as a producer, specializing in arts and cultural programming for broadcasters such as TG4, RTE, BBC and Sky Arts.
Conor Connolly is a button accordion player and singer from Clarinbridge in South Galway. Very conscious of the musicians and music gone before him, he holds a great appreciation for the recordings of traditional Irish music from the 78 r.p.m era and beyond.
Conor is deeply influenced by the rich Irish music tradition of South Galway, particularly that of the button accordion, which was popularised by the late Joe Cooley of Peterswell. Other big influences include Charlie Harris, Tony MacMahon and Andrew McNamara and the music of East Galway and Clare. He also holds great interest in music of the 1920s and 30s, namely melodion player P.J Conlon and fiddle virtuoso James Morrison. The influence of the uilleann pipes and fiddle traditions is discernible in his music.
Conor was named TG4 Ceoltóir Óg na Bliana (Young Musician of the Year) for 2019. Conor has played and taught the accordion at many festivals at home and abroad including, Scoil Samhradh Willie Clancy, Feakle International Music Festival, Cooley-Collins Traditional Music weekend and Scoil Cheoil an Earraigh.
Páraic Mac Donnchadha comes from a family tradition steeped in traditional music and singing. His father was acclaimed sean-nós singer Seán ‘Ac Dhonncha, and his brothers and sister are also musicians. During Páraic’s childhood years, his family home in Ahascragh, Co. Galway became a ‘Mecca’ for musicians from all over Ireland to visit and and stay, enjoying the late night and early morning warm hospitality provided by Páraic’s parents, Seán agus Bríd.
Páraic’s musical style and repertoire has been hugely influenced by the opportunity to learn from Paddy Kelly and Paddy Fahey, both outstanding fiddle-players and composers of great traditional tunes from “East Galway”, as this more relaxed, perhaps lonesome ( ‘music for the ear, rather than music for the feet’) regional style is known. Páraic has played for many years with East Galway luminaries Paddy Carty and Conor Tully, with whom he recorded on a ‘Bring Down the Lamp’ RTE television programme in 1982. Páraic is regarded as having a particularly rhythmic style and sensitive interpretation of East Galway music, deriving from this treasured exposure to East Galway musical exemplars.
In August of 2018, he released his distinctive, highly-regarded Banjo CD called “Thar Am”/"Not Before Time... 39 Years in the Making". Páraic also played with Kevin Crawford and with Andrew McNamara on a live CD entitled ‘Maiden Voyage’, recorded during the late eighties at Pepper’s Bar in Feakle. He also plays with Cormac Begley on the “Tunes in the Church” CD.
Páraic has hosted a ‘Geantraí’ programme on RTE television and is a regular contributor to the Feakle and ‘Scoil Cheoil an Earraigh’ and “Féile Cois Cuain” (Louisburgh, Co. Mayo) music Festivals as well as having played at ‘Féile Joe Éiniú’ and at the ‘Masters of Tradition’ Festival in Bantry. In his younger days, Páraic toured in Europe and across Australia and New Zealand and he continues to deliver Banjo workshops when invited.
Multi-instrumentalist Tommy Fitzharris hails from Stradbally, Co Laois, and is self-taught on the flute, concertina and whistle. Tommy was the first from his county to win the Senior Concertina Title in the All-Ireland Fleadh in 2009. In 2012, he then triumphed in the All-Ireland Senior Flute Competition in Cavan.
Tommy has been a tutor at University of Limerick’s BA in Irish Music and Dance and MA in Traditional Irish Music Performance programs from 2009 to present. He holds an MA in Irish Traditional Music Performance and a Grad Dip in Music Education, attained from The Irish World Academy of Music and Dance at the University of Limerick.
Tommy is in demand as a tutor and performer and he gives workshops and concerts at various traditional music festivals nationally and internationally. Tommy has toured Europe, the United States and Asia extensively with the band Ciorras, which was formed as part of the Lorg Lunny programme on TG4. He has featured on the Fleadh programmes, BBC Alba and its annual coverage of the famous Celtic Connections festival in Glasgow, Beijing TV, Geantraí, Ceilí House and The Tubridy Show. He has performed in some the world’s most prestigious music venues, including The Forbidden City Concert Hall Beijing, The National Concert Hall in Dublin, and the Munich Philharmonie Concert Hall
In 2018, Tommy and Dónal McCague released their critically acclaimed flute and fiddle duet album entitled ‘The Bank of Turf’, which was described by Frankie Gavin as “One of my all-time favorites; one I can leave on repeat for hours!”
Michelle Mulcahy is one of Ireland’s most talented and gifted multi-instrumentalists in Irish traditional music today. She is considered to be one of Ireland’s most adroit and creative harpers. “Her revolutionary style on the harp is scintillating-played with power and panache, no concession to the complexity of the instrument, confirming her as one of the most significant musicians redefining harp at present’- The Living Tradition. She is a regular performer and tutor worldwide and has toured extensively in Europe, United States, Canada, China, Australia and Vietnam. Michelle has three highly acclaimed albums recorded by American record label Shanachie and Irish record label Chlo- Iar Chonnachta. She was awarded the prestigious TG4 Young Musician of the Year in 2006 and was also awarded Female Musician of the Year in 2005 at the Live-Ireland awards in the United States and also in 2013 for her solo album Suaimhneas. She has also recorded with Bill Whelan and the Irish Chamber Orchestra on his highly acclaimed Connemara suite album on which she was a lead soloist. Michelle’s solo harp debut album “Suaimhneas” was released under the Clo Iar Chonnacht label in 2012 and has been receiving worldwide acclaim as one of the top harp albums in Irish Traditional Music.
Macdara comes from a musical family in An Rinn, County Waterford. He started learning the tin whistle and the fiddle at the age of 5. After becoming obsessed with the music of Andy Irvine and Planxty, he quickly progressed on to the mandolin. He received a bouzouki for Christmas when he was 8 years old and it quickly took over as his main-instrument, after getting lessons from Seán Ó Fearghail. He started taking music very seriously in his early teens and was playing every night of the week in gigs and sessions by the age of 15. He is a founding member of the group Nuadán and has recorded and performed with musicians such as Páraic MacDonnchadha, Derek Hickey, Liam O’Brien and The Friel Sisters. He is also a maker of handcrafted bouzoukis and mandolins, which he plays himself.
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 former member of Chulrua, the Doon Ceili Band, the Two Tap Trio, and the Máirtín de Cógáin Project, fiddler and guitarist Nathan Gourley started playing music at age five. While living in Minnesota he had the opportunity to collaborate with such renowned players as Paddy O’Brien of Chulrua, Daithi Sproule of Altan, Brian Miller of Bua, and Norah Rendell of The Outside Track.
Nathan was a finalist in the Sean O Riada fiddle competition in 2014 and winner of Boston’s Fiddler of Dooney competition in 2013. Nathan can be seen playing at concerts, ceilis, sessions and festivals in Boston and throughout the United States and Ireland.
Laura Feddersen grew up in a musical family in Bloomington, Indiana. After spending much of her childhood asleep in her father’s bass case at dances and music parties, she took up the fiddle herself, playing for the square and set dances in her hometown.
Laura has since traveled extensively throughout the country playing and teaching fiddle, and is renowned for her unique and skillful interpretation of Irish, American, and Irish-American traditional music. She now resides in Boston where she plays the pubs, parties, and park benches with some of the best traditional musicians in the country.