Album Review - Kathleen Conneely / The Coming of Spring

There's a strongly predominant school of Irish tin whistle playing these days, and Kathleen Conneely is not a part of it. And that's a good thing. The main way of playing the whistle these days, as perfected by the fine folks in Lunasa, is a near-constant stream of ornaments designed to smooth out any of the rough edges of a tune and sound like a quietly burbling brook. It's beautiful and amazingly dextrous, don't get me wrong, but there's a real kind of beauty in the older way of playing too. The stately slow tunes of Micho Russell and the clearly enunciated ornamentation of Mary Bergin are hallmarks of the older style. And of course, that's not counting the regional whistle styles, of which I confess I don't know too much.

But what Kathleen's doing on her new album, The Coming of Spring, is delving into the heart of the tune, perhaps the most sacred duty of any Irish traditional instrumentalist. Her ornaments never obscure the melody and never homogenize the sound of a tune, instead drawing out new facets and directions for the melody. Her phrasing of each tune is a thing of wonder, employing all kinds of stops and starts in the breathing, and breath rhythms that I rarely hear from whistle players, again all in the employ of better expressing the beauty of these tunes. It's a masterful album. In fact, it could easily be a master class in Irish tin whistle playing and perhaps a much needed lesson for some of the folks in the Lunasa school who love to obscure the tune by flooding it with cascades of ornaments. Special mention should be made too for the other players on the album, all current De Danann members: Mick Conneely (her brother) on bouzouki, Brian McGrath on piano, and Johnny 'Ringo' McDonagh on bodhran. They help this album attain the true-drop Irish trad sound I've come to love from the old recordings.

Kathleen Conneely. The Coming of Spring.
2012. self-released.
Kathleen Conneely: Imelda Roland's/Master Crowley's/The Limestone Rock


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Comment by Bernard Keilty on May 12, 2014 at 20:07

Again this year I went to Kathleen Conneely's house concert and whistle workshop May 9th & 10th 2014. This year during the house concert Kathleen was accompanied by Dylan Foley on guitar mostly, along with some fiddlin'. Yes, that Dylan from the band "The Yanks" fame. For me, Kathleen's whistle playing is simply intriguing. While in the whistle workshop Kathleen broke down her playing style into the phrases and rhythms for closer listening to allow one to listen for the nuances and subtle variations that keep the melody fresh.

Yes, I too will be learning Kathleen's version of 'The Kilmovee Jig' and patiently awaiting any future albums. And yes, I had to pick up a few more copies of the CD as it was Mother's Day weekend. Thank you for the music! Cheers.

Comment by Chuck Sabol on May 10, 2014 at 23:34

I enjoyed the house concert featuring Kathleen Conneely and her tin whistle workshop. I found her encouragement and patience beyond anything I could have expected.  I will practice "The Kilmovee Jig" tune until it becomes second nature. Of course, I added "The Coming of Spring" CD to my growing collection.

Comment by Bernard Keilty on March 24, 2013 at 17:44

Just went to a house concert featuring Kathleen Conneely and then finished a tin whistle workshop with Kathleen and highly recommend for everyone. The tunes are lovely. I had to purchase multiple more copies of Kathleen's CD 'The Coming of Spring' for gift giving.

Comment by Bernard Keilty on February 11, 2013 at 19:55

Purchased the album after the release at Catskill Irish Arts Week last summer and have enjoyed the whistling of Kathleen ever since. Tunes stick with you.


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