A Prairie Home Companion with Garrison Keillor
Guests for March 10, 2001 (Dublin)


ALTAN had its beginnings in the late ’70s as a partnership between Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh and the late Frankie Kennedy, an expert flute player from Belfast. The duo made their recording debut as accompanists on Albert Fry’s 1979 self-titled album (Gael-Linn Records). Two years later, Ní Mhaonaigh and Kennedy formed the band Ragaime with bouzouki player Donal O’Hanlan and Mairéad’s brother, Gearoid O’Maoinaigh, who played guitar. Although they recorded for RTE, the group had disbanded by the time Ní Maoinaigh and Kennedy released their debut album, Ceol Adualigh (Gael-Linn) in December of 1983. Their second album as a duo, recorded in 1987, was named Altan, after a lake in northwest Donegal. It featured accompaniment by Ciarán Curran on bouzouki, Mark Kelly on guitar, and Mairéad’s sister, Anna Ní Mhaoinaigh. After completing the album, the musicians agreed to continue working together. In 1989, the band released its first album, Horse With A Heart (Green Linnet). They have since released a total of nine records, the latest of which is Another Sky (Narada). The band’s line-up has changed over the years, but their sound remains the same. Their music reflects the music of its namesake area. The traditional Irish sound has a distinctive Scottish flavor brought home by Donegal natives who did seasonal work in the potato fields of Scotland. Performing tonight are: Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh (fiddle), Dermot Byrne (button accordion, melodeon), Ciarán Tourish (fiddle, tin whistle), Mark Kelly (guitar), Ciarán Curran (bouzouki, bouzouki guitar). (www.altan.ie)


Frank Harte

FRANK HARTE was born, raised, and still lives in Chapelizod on the banks of the Liffey, where his family ran The Tap pub. He was introduced to traditional Irish songs at the age of fourteen, when he heard a tinker singing and selling ballad sheets at a fair in Boyle. After receiving his secondary education in Blackrock College, Harte earned his professional qualification as an architect from The Dublin Institute of Technology. He emigrated to the US in 1958 and worked as an architect in Boston before returning to Ireland in 1961. Since his teens, Harte has been obsessed with songs that tell stories and has been an avid collector for many years. He has amassed over 20,000 songs, some purchased from a man who sold them by the sheet at the side of the Adelphi Cinema. He has lectured extensively on the rebellion of 1798 and the songs it inspired, some of which are included on his latest recording, 1798 - The First Year of Liberty (Hummingbird Records). It contains many of the traditional songs of ’98, including "Henry Joy," "Roddy McCorley," and "General Munro." Harte was a regular at the Sunday morning sessions in the Brazen Head pub along with the late Liam Weldon. He is also an enthusiastic supporter of the Goilin Singers Club, now in its 21st year, which meets in the Trinity Inn on Friday nights. A regular at singers’ sessions in Ireland, he has appeared at clubs, seminars and festivals in France, Britain, and the US, where he holds an annual seminar in the Appalachian mountains of West Virginia.


Deirdre Monaghan

DEIRDRE MONAGHAN was born in Dublin and started her career there at the Gate Theatre. She has worked on over 300 radio dramas with Radio Telefis Eireann, and has also worked with the BBC and ABC. Among her favorite radio roles are Viktoria in Ingmar Bergman’s A Matter of Soul, Mary in W.B. Yeats’ The Land of Heart’s Desire, and Linda Loman in Arthur Miller’s Death of Salesman. One of her most challenging radio engagements was the live RTE series Midnight Court, for which she read through the Old and New Testaments of the Bible, with interjections from garrulous and heated theologians. She has also participated in reenactments of the current and long-running Irish tribunals investigation into political corruption. Her most current project is playing the mother of a dysfunctional family on the BBC television series Custer’s Last Stand Up.

Sisters MAIGHRÉAD AND TRÍONA NÍ DHOMHNAILL were born in Rann na Feireste (Rannafast), County Donegal, and were raised in Kells, County Meath. Music played an essential role in their early family life. From their mother Bríd came a love of song


Maighréad and Tríona Ní Dhomhnaill

of all kinds. Their emphasis on the music of Rannafast came from their father Aodh, and from his sister Neili, who contributed over 300 folk songs to the folklore collection of Dublin University. While still teenagers, Maighréad and Tríona formed the band Skara Brae with their brother Michael and multi-instrumentalist Daithe Sproule. The Gaelic-language group existed formally for just two years, and their only recording, a self-titled album, was reissued by Gael-Linn in 1998. Tríona recorded a solo album on Gael-Linn in 1975, then joined The Bothy Band. After the group broke up in 1979, she moved to the US and played with the bands Touchstone, Relativity, and Nightnoise. Maighréad maintained a low profile in the ’80s, and released a solo album, Gan Dhá Phingin Spré (No Dowry) (Gael Linn), in 1999. Tríona has now returned to Ireland, and she and Maighréad are working together again. Their latest CD, Idir an Dá Sholas (Green Linnet Records), represents a return to the source for both sisters.

Old Sweet Songs: A Prairie Home Companion 1974-1976

Old Sweet Songs

Lovingly selected from the earliest archives of A Prairie Home Companion, this heirloom collection represents the music from earliest years of the now legendary show: 1974–1976. With songs and tunes from jazz pianist Butch Thompson, mandolin maestro Peter Ostroushko, Dakota Dave Hull and the first house band, The Powdermilk Biscuit Band (Adam Granger, Bob Douglas and Mary DuShane).

Available now»

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