World renown traditional Irish music group, Altan, brings their unique brand of musical creativity to Pruis Hall on the Campus of Ball State University, in Muncie, Indiana 47306, on Tuesday, March 1st, 2016, at 7:30pm. Tickets are available online at Ticketmaster.com.
In the last dozen years, no traditional Irish band has had a wider impact on audiences and music lovers throughout the world than Altan. They have moved audiences from Donegal to Tokyo to Seattle with their heartwarming, dynamic live performances and with their exquisitely produced, award-winning recordings that range from the most touching old Irish songs to hard-hitting reels and jigs. Throughout their career, Altan has shown unwavering commitment to bringing the beauty of traditional music to contemporary audiences, particularly that of the Donegal fiddlers and singers.
With a career at the pinnacle of Irish music for nearly 35 years, Altan has achieved legendary status in a genre that has been equally shaped by the band’s influence and genius. The seeds of Altan lie in the music and spontaneity of sessions in kitchens and pubs in their hometown of Donegal, where their music was heard in an atmosphere of respect and intimacy. It is there that the band’s heart still lies, whether they are performing on TV in Australia or jamming with Ricky Skaggs on the west coast of the United States.
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.
On Altan’s most recent recording, “The Widening Gyre“, released in 2014, the band explored the musical relationship between American roots music and the traditional music of Ireland. It’s the first full project Altan recorded in Nashville, and working under the guiding hand of producer and Compass co-founder Garry West, the album paired these Irish masters with some of the leading lights of American folk and bluegrass music, many of whom the members of Altan have known for years. The resulting music was completely engaging, simultaneously breaking new ground and reminding listeners of the ancient bond between Irish and Appalachian music.
Stand out tracks included “White Birds” featuring Mary Chapin Carpenter on a lush, meditative re-imagining of the W.B. Yeats poem about being a bird on the sea, an appropriate metaphor for a band who has musically and physically crossed the Atlantic in the making of the album. Eddi Reader, “an amazing singer and very generous person,” says founding member Mairéad Ni Mhaonaigh, offers her angelic backing vocals to “Far Beyond Carrickfinn.” Altan borrowed the mournful waltz “No Ash Will Burn” from the legendary Nashville songwriter Walt Aldridge. Mairead’s crystalline vocals unlock the Celtic undertones of the song and contrast the plaintive baritone of Bruce Molsky, a longstanding friend of Altan and an old-time fiddler and singer of great renown. The bluegrass presence shows itself on “Buffalo Gals” and “Thomasino (Thomas Tourish’s Tune),” a lively fiddle song written by Altan’s own Ciaran Tourish which features bluegrass giants Darol Anger, Alison Brown, Sam Bush, Jerry Douglas, Todd Phillips and Bryan Sutton. Tim O’Brien provides a duet vocal on “The House Carpenter (Gypsy Davy),” a track which spotlights the shared musical roots of Irish and Appalachian music with references to both of these historical songs.
“The music on “The Widening Gyre” album,” explains lead vocalist, fiddler, and founding member Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh, “examines the lifecycle of Altan by exploring the influence of Appalachian music on Irish music. Producer Garry West steered the band in the studio to open up musically while somehow managing to help us keep the integrity of Altan intact. We’ve made lifelong friends through music. The circle has expanded over the years, and our new album celebrates those relationships. The band was totally overwhelmed by our friends’ endless variety of contributions.” [from Altan biography]
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Tuesday, March 1st, 2016
Pruis Hall on the campus of Ball State University
Muncie, Indiana 47306