Special Guests
Saturday, March 4, 2000

Niamh Parsons
Photo:John Kuczala
Niamh Parsons

NIAMH PARSONS is one of the freshest and most powerful voices out of Ireland today. The great Scottish balladeer Archie Fisher says of Niamh, "a voice like hers comes along once or twice a generation." Likened to such singers as Mary Black, Dolores Keane or the late Sandy Senny, Niamh's smoky, silken voice stands on its own on traditional Irish or contemporary pop songs.

Born and raised in Dublin, Niamh (pronounced "Neeve") was surrounded by music at an early age. She and her sister learned traditional Irish songs and harmonizing from their father, who instilled in them the joy of singing.

As a young woman, she came upon a tradition song session at Dublin's Brazen Head Pub, where she expanded her repertoire. She sang with the band Killera for two years and in 1989, was invited by Mike Scott of The Waterboys to sing with him at Dublin's Olympia Theatre.

Niamh's debut recording, Loosely Connected met with the highest of praise. A beautiful mix of traditional Irish and contemporary songs, it featured what would become Niamh's signature song, "Tinkerman's Daughter." In 1999, Niamh released Blackbirds and Thrushes, a collection of traditional Irish ballads.


Niamh Parsons
Cathal McConnell

CATHAL McCONNELL is one of of Ireland's best known and well loved musicians of Irish traditional music. He comes from County Fermanagh, an area rich in musicians, and he can trace the flute back through four generations in his family. By the time he was eleven years old he was playing the tin whistle, encouraged by his father and local teacher Peter Flanagan. At 15 he took up the flute and in 1962, at the age of 18, he became All-Ireland champion on both instruments.

Cathal is also a fine traditional singer with a large repertoire, including the long ballads and serious songs and also some more humorous pieces. Since 1974 he has been a principal member of the internationally acclaimed ensemble, The Boys of the Lough, and he continues to perform with them at major venues throughout the world. His naturally relaxed stage presence has endeared him to audiences wherever he has appeared. Cathal has produced an excellent set of instructional materials for the tin whistle, available on "Homespun Tapes."

Cathal McConnell has been featured on over twenty albums, and many of these have received top awards with nominations from "Grammy" (USA), "Deutschen Schallplatten" (Germany), and "Folk Albums of the Year" (Ireland). The McConnell/Graham duet album, "For the Sake of Old Decency" (Sage Arts, 220121) was nominated for the National Association of Independent Record Distributors and Manufacturers (NAIRD) as one of the top Celtic/British Isles releases.

FRANK HARTE is an architect born and reared in Dublin and living on the banks of the Liffey at Chapelizod. His introduction to traditional Irish songs came from a chance hearing of a tinker who was singing and selling his ballad sheets at a fair in the town of Boyle many years ago, and as he says himself he has been obsessed with the songs that tell stories ever since. Since the days when very few people were interested in listening to the songs let alone collecting them Frank has amassed a very large collection, he is a 'story teller in song whose knowledge and understanding of the Irish tradition and his vast repertoire of songs is second to none. As he says, "Those in power write the history, and those who suffer write the songs,... and we have an awful lot of songs." He has justly been described as one of the most important figures in the Irish song revival. Words and music flow together as Frank talks and sings of the place of the songs in Irish history, the expression of the Irish people through their songs, their national aspirations, their joys their sorrows and their laughter. Frank has traveled widely talking of his songs, as well as turning up at almost every singer's session in Ireland, he has appeared at clubs, seminars and festivals in France, Britain and America where he holds an annual seminar in the Appalachian mountains of West Virginia, he has issued several records and is heard almost anywhere where singers congregate. There are few singers who carry as many songs as Frank Harte, or who sing with such enthusiasm and enjoyment.

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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