The world’s top female traditional fiddle ensemble, The String Sisters, will include a Donegal performance next month, as part of their short, three date concert tour. After headlining appearances at Glasgow’s Royal Concert Hall, as part of the Celtic Connections Festival, and at the prestiguous Sage Gateshead venue (Newcastle), the String Sisters will perform a special concert at An Grianán Theatre, Letterkenny, on Saturday, January 21st. as part of the 4th. annual Letterkenny Trad Week.
Featuring the superb fiddle playing and singing talents of our own Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh, alongside Grammy nominated Chicago artist Liz Carroll, Shetland virtuoso Catriona MacDonald, Scandinavian ‘hardanger’ exponent Annbjørg Lien, Swedish singer and fiddle player Emma Härdelin and Kentucky-born former Riverdance lead, Liz Knowles, the richness and diversity of the programme on offer ensures that there will be few, if any, better traditional concerts to be enjoyed anywhere in Ireland this New Year.
Liz Carroll grew up in an Irish American household steeped in traditional music and song. In 1973, the Carroll family travelled to Ireland to watch Liz take second place in the All Ireland Fleadh Ceoil Under 18 Fiddle Championship. The winner that year was one Frankie Gavin. Undeterred, Liz returned to the competition the following year and won it outright. The next year, while still only 18, she won the Senior All Ireland Fiddle title. Since then, Liz Carroll has enjoyed a stellar international career both as a perfomer and a composer. Her recent, extremely well recieved recordings with guitarist John Doyle, led to performances at the John F. Kennedy Centre for the Performing Arts in Washington and at the White House at the request of former president, Barack Obama. She has composed over 200 original tunes, many of which have become modern standards. In 2010, her ‘Double Play’ recording was nominated for a Grammy Award, making Liz Carroll the first American-born Irish traditional musician to be so honoured.
Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh
Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh, the current TG4 Gradam Ceoil Traditional Musician of the Year, will need no introduction to Irish audiences. The hugely respected traditional singer and musician from Gaoth Dobhair is a founder member of Ireland’s foremost traditional band, Altan. She has a great store of songs as Gaeilge from the Donegal Gaeltacht and her fiddle playing owes much to the influence of her late father Prionsias Ó Maonaigh as well as to that of many others among the greats of Donegal fiddle playing, including John Doherty, Con Cassidy, the Campbells, Neilidh Boyle, James Byrne and Danny Meehan.
Mairéad has also established a strong solo career in recent years, releasing a debut CD, ‘Imeall’, in 2009, the same year in which she was accorded the honour of Donegal Person of the Year. Last year, she formed a very successful family band, Na Mooneys, with her brother Gearóid, sister Anna, daughter Nia and nephew Ciarán.
Virtuoso Shetland fiddler Catriona MacDonald is credited with bringing the formidable String Sisters group together in the first instance, when she was commissioned in 2001 by Glasgow’s Celtic Connections Festival to create an ensemble of the world’s finest female fiddle players. The former BBC 2 Young Tradition Award winner now divides her time between teaching Music Degree courses at Newcastle University – as well as at Stirling University and the University of Limerick (UL) – and performing with hugely popular Scottish folk bands, Blazin’ Fiddles and The Unusual Suspects. Her own debut solo recording, ‘Bold’ in 2001, was Album of the Year in many folk and traditional music End of Year Polls.
Emma Härdelin was born into a family of nationally acclaimed musicians as the daughter of acclaimed Swedish traditional fiddle player, Thore Härdelin. She grew up in Hälsingland in the North East of Sweden, a region rich in folklore and music, dominated by the landscape of the Taiga forest and the Blue Mountains. A hugley accomplished singer and fiddle player, Emma performs with a number of Swedish ensembles, including as lead singer with both the folk trio Triakle and the band, Garmarna.
Norwegian traditional ‘hardanger’ fiddle player Annbjørg Lien will be familiar to many Irish audiences through her work with Altan’s Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh, the Chieftans and seminal Irish folk singer Andy Irvine. She enjoys an enviable profile across the Nordic countries for her innovative, collaborative approach to traditional music which has seen her work with musicians from many parts of the world, over the course of some 13 highly successful recordings.
Completing the sextet, Kentucky-born fiddle and viola player Liz Knowles is presently enjoying high pofile exposure as a member of the new Martin Hayes Quartet, an ensemble which has grown out of the Clare maestro’s current Residency at the National Concert Hall. The Quartet launched their debut CD, ‘The Blue Room’, with a performance there in October. Liz Knowles trained as a classical musician and once introduced to Irish traditional music, she mastered the idiom to such an extent that she was soon touring the world with Riverdance and performing with the hugely popular Irish-American traditional band, Cherish The Ladies.
The six Sisters will be accompanied on the night by the stellar Scottish / Norwegian quartet of Dave Milligan on piano, Tore Bruvoll on guitar, Conrad Molleson on bass and James Mackintosh on percussion.
Tickets for The String Sisters at An Grianán Theatre on Saturday, January 21st, as part of Letterkenny Trad Week, are Now Booking from the Theatre Box Office T: 074 9120777 and On-Line at www.angrianan.com
Further information on the complete Trad Week Programme (January 20-27) is now avaialble on W: www.regionalculturalcentre.com Booking for all Trad Week Concert Events is via the An Grianán Theatre Box Office, and On-Line, as above.
Letterkenny Trad Week is organised by the Regional Cultural Centre Letterkenny and An Grianán Theatre, in association with Earagail Arts Festival, Donegal County Council Arts Office, Donegal Music Education Partnership, Music Network and Kinnegar Brewery . The media partner is the Donegal News and the accommodation partner is Station House Hotel.