Traditional Irish Music
Over those years they have established themselves as one of the most important live acts to play traditional Irish music in Ireland and on the World stage. The Boston Globe has described them as “The hottest group in the Celtic realm!” Altan have toured all over the USA and Europe. They also enjoy popularity in Japan where they frequently tour and have hosted Altan festivals in the middle of Tokyo to thousands of enthusiastic fans.
Founding members, the late Frankie Kennedy and his partner Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh, lead singer and fiddler with the band, began their musical career whilst teaching in a school in Malahide in North County Dublin, playing music for fun and enjoyment not knowing that it would end up as their main way of life and bring them all over the world! Frankie and Mairead started out by playing with and meeting older musicians from the Donegal tradition, like John Doherty, Con Cassidy, James Byrne, Dinny McLaughlin,Vincent Campbell and Mairéad’s own father Francie, who shared their music with them and most importantly, their friendship. The pair learned their music, tried to emulate their style and listened to their general philosophy of life, which, in retrospect was just as important as the music. Later it would be Francie who translated the beautiful Gaelic songs into English on all of the Altan recordings to date. Francie was also responsible for the translations of ‘Barbara Allen’ and ‘In the Sweet Bye and Bye’ on two projects with the legendary Dolly Parton which Altan were involved with. Frankie and Mairead made their first forays into live shows in the USA in 1985, releasing two albums together as a duo; 1983’s “Ceol Aduaidh” (Music of the North) and the self-titled “Altan” in 1987.
Altan as a band began as a quartet with Frankie on flute, Mairéad on fiddle and songs, joined by Ciaran Curran on bouzouki and Mark Kelly and Dáithí Sproule sharing the role of guitar player, Mark touring with the band in Europe and Dáithí in the States. Later Paul O’Shaughnessy on fiddle joined, augmenting and driving the sound of the band to new levels on Green Linnet recordings “Horse with a Heart” (1989), “The Red Crow” (1990), “Harvest Storm” (1991) and “Island Angel” (1993). “The Red Crow” became the first of three Altan albums to win the prestigious “Celtic/British Isles Album of the Year” award from the National Association of Independent Record Distributors and Manufacturers (NAIRD).
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