About the duo...
About the duo and some of their recent activities
An overview of their CDs
Some media apprearances and coverage
The celebrated virtuoso partnership of “the doyenne of Irish harpers” (SCOTLAND ON SUNDAY) and “one of the UK’s most staggering and influential acoustic guitarists” (fROOTS), has by now brought its special musical vision to venues large and small - from the tiniest of historic churches in England, Germany and Italy to palaces in Kyoto and Istanbul, London’s Barbican, Sydney Town Hall and the Philharmonie in Cologne – in twenty-two countries on five continents. Their performances - described by The Irish Times as “music of fire and brilliance from the high-wire act in traditional music” - are rooted but eclectic, emotional but adventurous: a breathtaking blend of traditional Irish music, hot jazz, bluegrass and baroque, coupled with striking new compositions and Chris’s delightfully subversive wit. They've made many appearances on TV and radio and their busy touring schedule has brought them to twenty-one countries on five continents.
Their 2017 schedule so far has included headlining appearances at festivals in New Zealand (Whare Flat Folk Festival), Ireland (The Gathering Festival) and the USA (North Texas Irish Festival), and extensive touring there and in the UK. In 2015 / 2016 they toured in Australia (twice), the USA (four times), Canada, Italy, Denmark, Sweden, Ireland and the UK, performing at thirty-seven festivals and giving four TV performances.
Máire and Chris made their début as a duo on the main stage at the 1987 Cambridge Folk Festival. Highlights fromtheir career since then include a 1988 tour of Australia as special guests of Siamsa Tíre - the Irish National `Folk Theatre - in celebration of Australia's Bicentennial, at the invitation of Bob Hawke, then Prime Minister of Australia; a concert in the Ottoman Çırağan Palace as part of the Istanbul Harp Encounter in 2010; a concert with revered Japanese percussionist Stomu Yamashta and Ensemble Kabul in Nijo Castle (the Shogun's Palace), Kyoto, Japan; many wonderful trips to Italy; a magical concert at the castle in Malcesine, Italy, overlooking a moonlit Lake Garda; four Irish Folk Festival tours of Germany in the late 80s and early 90s; four major tours of Australasia as part of the Guinness Celebration of Irish Music - Guinness Australia issued a special edition of their can for the Guinness Celebration of Irish Music tour of Australasia 1990, showing Máire and Chris’s names and listing all the very prestigious tour venues! So many great times...
Of their seven albums together, The Living Wood (1988) was the Daily Telegraph’s Folk Album of the Year, Out of Court (1991) was "stunning... one of the most refreshingly innovative releases in recent years" - Folk Roots, The Carolan Albums (1994) was “a masterpiece of virtuosity” - The Daily Telegraph, Live in the Highlands (1995) was “One of the best live albums I’ve heard for a long time... captures the essence of these remarkable performers in a rare and priceless way. Absolutely essential.“ - Folk Roots and Dialogues:Agallaimh (2001) was “Terrific: brilliant, beautiful, rich, virtuosic, delightful, classic, perfect!” Of their sixth CD, FireWire, the critics said:“An eclecticism and spirit of adventure that is quite thrilling... bewitching string fantasies and a wonderfully clear and expressive voice" THE TIMES “Dazzling virtuosity... delightful” THE DAILY TELEGRAPH "In a class of their own" THE GUARDIAN "Takes one of the most effete instruments in traditional music and breathes a fire into its belly" * * * * THE IRISH TIMES “Brilliant, innovative harping and guitar-playing of astonishing virtuosity and versatility” * * * * SONGLINES “Album of the Year” LIVE IRELAND “Best Celtic Instrumental Album” JUST PLAIN FOLKS AWARDS Nashville, Tennessee. Their new CD, Christmas Lights, is “A delightful... satisfyingly original, often refreshingly unpredictable take on festive favourites… Gorgeous and uplifting" THE LIVING TRADITION - and their annual Celtic Christmas Strings tours regularly play to sell-out audiences: “(Their) mastery and magic... produced a rapt response” THE GUARDIAN
Chris’s recent solo CD Still Getting Away with It, a celebration of his 40-year career, is “Astonishing - a joy-filled romp through blues, back-porch pickin', Quebec reels, Django swing jazz chordings, bluegrass, African high- life, ragtime, latin, Irish jigs and beyond, and a must-buy for any guitar player” * * * * SCOTLAND ON SUNDAY “Amazing... One of our greatest musicians” Mike Harding, BBC RADIO 2 "Beauty and virtuosity from a master craftsman at the peak of his abilities... I couldn’t recommend an album more highly" * * * * MAVERICK “A triumph... I'm fully conscious that I'm in the presence of greatness here... one of the top guitarists of his ilk anywhere” THE LIVING TRADITION “Precision-engineered, lovingly crafted tunes... Playful and incredibly dextrous” * * *THE IRISH TIMES “Dazzling... A genuinely uplifting album of some of the most remarkable - yet accessible - guitar playing you're going to hear all year” * * * * * ROCK N REEL
Heartstring Sessions, their quartet CD with two of the most important names in Irish music, legendary guitarist Arty McGlynn and Máire's sister, fiddler Nollaig Casey, is “Inspired -a contender for album of the year” fROOTS “Traditional music at its very best” * * * * THE IRISH TIMES "An amazingly eclectic mix... Astounding" THE ULSTER HERALD "Magnificent... Virtuosic... Outstanding" * * * * * SCOTLAND ON SUNDAY “World-class” IRISH MUSIC MAGAZINE “Two of the mightiest pairings in current folk combine to give a tour-de-force of breathtaking order. Classic.” THE LIVING TRADITION "Attention - chef d'œuvre! Bravo!!!” TRAD MAGAZINE (France) “A dream quartet - the sweetest and most exciting music to emerge for a long time. Amazing virtuosity matched with sheer good taste.” DIRTY LINEN (USA). After a very successful 2014 tour of Australia, the quartet (now called the Heartstring Quartet), returned there for a seven-week tour in February - April 2015 and plans to visit again in 2018.
Awards for the duo:
“Album of the Year” (Live Ireland) for their 2007 album FireWire.
“Best Celtic Instrumental Album” (JUST PLAIN FOLKS AWARDS Nashville, Tennessee), 2009 for their album FireWire.
"Folk Album of the Year" (The Daily Telegraph) for their 1987 album The Living Wood.
Awards for the quartet:
BRAVO! Award for CD of the Year 2008 (TRAD Magazine, France) for their quartet CD, Heartstring Sessions.
Awards for Chris as a composer:
Chris composed the tune for Fred Wedlock's 1981 hit The Oldest Swinger in Town, which reached No 4 in the charts in the UK and No 1 in several other countries. He was awarded a silver disc for producing the record, which sold over 330,000 copies in the UK alone. As Fred’s Musical Director and bandleader, appearances on such iconic national UK TV progammes as the BBC's Top of the Pops, Pebble Mill, Tiswas and That's Life, followed.
Awards for Chris as a guitarist:
Male Musician of the Year in the Live Ireland Music Awards 2009.
Awards for Máire as a harper:
Gradam Ceoil TG4, the national Irish-language TV station’s Award for Irish Traditional Musician of the Year, was presented to Máire in 2001 “for the excellence and pioneering force of her music, the remarkable growth she has brought to the music of the harp and the positive influence she has had on the young generation of harpers” at a televised ceremony in the Cork Opera House. The Gradam is the highest, most prestigious honour for a traditional Irish musician and Máire is the sole harpist recipient to date (and one of only three women recipients, the others being Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh of Altan and whistle-player Mary Bergin).
She received a specially-commissioned sculpture by John Coll (pictured above) plus £4000. Other recipients since the awards were instituted have included Chieftains flautist Matt Molloy, Chieftains fiddler Seán Keane, fiddler Tommy Peoples, whistle-player Mary Bergin and pipers Liam O'Flynn and Paddy Keenan—all of whom are considered to be the leading exponents of their instruments within the Irish tradition. Irish national newspaoer THE SUNDAY TRIBUNE said “Her acceptance of this major award marks her intelligent, brilliant exploration of the potential of harp. It also celebrates the creation and pursual of a heraldic professional life in music within which she plays a core traditional repertoire, but mixes in sympathetic genres.”
Senior All-Ireland Fleadh Cheoil Harp Competition: Máire won this prestigious competition three times in succession, in 1975, 1976 and 1977 - a record that is still unsurpassed.
Female Musician of the Year in the Live Ireland Music Awards 2016 (details here). Máire was described in the citation as “the greatest Celtic harper of our age”.
Female Musician of the Year in the Chicago Irish American News Top TIR Awards 2016.
Awards for Máire as a composer:
Pan-Celtic Song Contest 1974 - 2nd place, for a song co-written with her father Seán Ó Cathasaigh. The song was performed by Máire in the televised concert with her sister Nollaig Casey and brother Greagóir Ó Cathasaigh, billed as "Na Draoithe". A photo taken by RTÉ prior to the broadcast and used to publicise the event can be seen here on the RTÉ Stills Library website!
Hymn for Knock Competition 1982 - 2nd place, for a hymn co-written with her father Seán Ó Cathasaigh.
On June 2th Máire was thrilled to lead over 70 harpers in playing her composition, Harps in Bloom (Termonfechin Times), at the 32nd International Festival for Irish Harp (An Chúirt Chruitireachta) held in Termonfechin, Co. Louth - such an exciting and powerful sound! The performance was televised by RTÉ and broadcast on three news programmes and on RTÉ 2's news2day programme that day. Here's the programme - the harp segment starts right away.
In February 2017, Máire was interviewed by Cork's Evening Echo newspaper (click here to read) and she and her sisters were interviewed by one of Ireland's national daily newspapers, The Irish Examiner (click here to read).
Recent Irish TV programmes featuring Máire and Chris still available on the TG4 server include Part I of the TV programme "Mná an Cheoil" (Women in traditional Music) on TG4, Máire's live TV performance with Anne-Marie O'Farrell and Cormac de Barra on “Gradam Ceoil TG4 2016”.
"Celtic Connections", the US public radio programme hosted by Bryan Kelso Crow for WSIU and widely syndicated (to stations in Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania and Texas), broadcast a whole hour-long show about Máire and Chris on 10 November 2016. It incorporated a lengthy interview with them, an overview of their career and a selection of tracks from their recordings. The programme is no longer on the WSIU server, but information about it can still be accessed here and a playlist can be accessed here.
A televised duo performance was broadcast on the TV programme "Hup" on TG4 on October 11, 2015.
Máire's CD with her sisters, Sibling Revelry, was one of The Daily Telegraph’s Albums of the Year in 2015 and was "Caithreim Ciúil"s Album of the Week from November 16 - 20 on BBC Radio nan Gaidheal (Scotland).
An hour-long interview with the sisters by Ellen Cranitch was broadcast on "Grace Notes" on RTÉ Lyric FM on Thursday October 8, 2015 to coincide with the CD release.
Cerys Matthews played Máire's version of 'Carolan's Farewell to Music' on her iconic BBC 6 Music show on Sep 6 and again on Sep 20, 2015. She said “I adore this track. This was one of the tracks that Dónal Gallagher picked to play when we were enjoying the record collection that his brother Rory Gallagher had collected throughout his too-short life and this was the tune that Rory requested be played at his funeral. Absolutely tremendous stuff. It’s 'Carolan’s Farewell to Music' by Máire Ní Chathasaigh”.
Máire and Chris performed and were interviewed on BBC Radio 4's "Woman's Hour" in February 2005.
A Christmas 2005 concert of theirs in Brindisi, Italy, was broadcast by Italian national TV station Rai Uno.
A 2007 concert in the Ramor Theatre, Virginia, Co. Cavan was televised by the national Irish-language TV station TG4.
Máire is featured in Bringing It All Back Home, the major 1991 BBC series about the influence of Irish music, and a photo of her appears on the cover of the associated BBC book.
Other broadcasts include TV appearances on RTÉ, BBC, S4C, HTV, WDR, ABC, France 3, PBS (the TV special associated with the Polygram USA CD release Celtic Harpestry) and countless radio performances world-wide.
Máire and Chris guest on Irish rock legend Rory Gallagher’s posthumous Wheels within Wheels (BMG); Máire is harp/voice soloist with the New English Chamber Orchestra and the Choir of New College Oxford on John Cameron's Missa Celtica (Erato Disques); her singing features on the Goldcrest film Driftwood and her harping on Dan ar Braz's Gold Disc-awarded CD Finisterres (Sony).
Scroll down for more about Máire and more about Chris...
“Music of fire and brilliance from the
high-wire act in traditional music”
- THE IRISH TIMES (Ireland)
“Did things I have never heard a harp do before... Astonishing... an extraordinary event”
- CLASSICAL GUITAR (UK)
“Their blinding technique, sizzling Irish reels and hot jazz improvisation brought an extended standing ovation... Newman has the great gift of being informative and hilarious simultaneously”
- THE WEST AUSTRALIAN
“This celebrated duo took the place by storm. Stately Carolan tunes, jazzy Django-ish numbers, dazzling Doc Watson style flat picking fliers, driving Irish dance tunes - this pair can nonchalantly do the lot. Guitar players applauded and went sadly home to burn their instruments!”
- THE BELFAST TELEGRAPH (Ireland)
“So moving - technical brilliance and beauty
that brings tears to the eyes"
- IRISH MUSIC MAGAZINE
"The mood is ever changing - sometimes haunting, sometimes boisterous but always magical. The pair's imaginations know no bounds..." - THE BRISBANE COURIER-MAIL
"Spectacularly good and technically brilliant guitar and traditional Irish harp duo at the forefront of the renaissance of Celtic music. Simply stunning" - TIME OUT
"I watched (with a mixture of fascination, awe and sheer delight) as their fingers danced on the strings, weaving strands of melody together like ivory spiders on speed. Their introductions to the various pieces were every bit as delightful in their own right as the music itself. I found myself wishing they could stay, and not for musical reasons; their personalities are every bit as charming off stage as on. I think they took a bit of my heart with them when they left. May they return with it soon." - HARP BEAT (San Francisco)
Australian Guinness can showing Máire and Chris's names
- special Australian limited edition of Guinness cans issued to coincide with the Guinness Celebration of Irish Music Tour of Australasia 1990
MÁIRE is one of Ireland’s most important and influential traditional musicians , in 2001 receiving Irish music's most prestigious award, that of TRADITIONAL MUSICIAN OF THE YEAR - GRADAM CHEOIL TG4 - "for the excellence and pioneering force of her music, the remarkable growth she has brought to the music of the harp and for the positive influence she has had on the young generation of harpers". She began to play the harp at the age of eleven. A West Cork background steeped in the oral tradition led her, while still a teenager, to develop new techniques that made it possible for the first time to play traditional music on the harp in a stylistically accurate way. She won the All-Ireland and Pan-Celtic Harp Competitions several times and in 1985 recorded the first harp album ever to concentrate on traditional Irish dance music, The New-Strung Harp - "an intensely passionate and intelligent record and a milestone in Irish harp music" THE IRISH EXAMINER. Her approach has been profoundly influential wherever lever harps are played - “a single-handed reinvention of the harp”. Recent harp festival performances world-wide have included a solo concert at the 11th World Harp Congress, Vancouver; Swiss Harp Festival, International Harp School, Wells, B.C., Canada, and VII Rio Harp Festival, Rio de Janeiro. Two volumes of her arrangements have been published: The Irish Harper Vols. I and II. She contributed two articles about the Irish harp and modes in Irish music to the Companion to Irish Traditional Music (Cork University Press) and is profiled there, in Celtic Women in Music (Quarry Books, Canada) and in the Rough Guide to Irish Music. "Her work restores the harp to its true voice" THE IRISH TIMES. For further information visit Máire's personal website.
CHRIS is a "brilliant English master of the acoustic guitar" (THE DAILY TELEGRAPH), a "dazzling player” (ACOUSTIC GUITAR, USA) whose work is "nothing short of brilliant" (DIRTY LINEN, USA). He began to play guitar at the age of four and at fourteen played his first paid gig in a folk club. A prolific composer, arranger and record producer, he's played with luminaries of many musical worlds: folk (harper Máire Ní Chathasaigh, Boys of the Lough, Aly Bain, Kathryn Tickell, Danny Thompson), jazz (Stéphane Grappelli, Diz Disley and Danny Thompson again) and comedy (Fred Wedlock, the Pigsty Hill Light Orchestra) - receiving a silver disc for producing Fred's international hit The Oldest Swinger in Town, to which he also composed the tune and which reached No 2 in the charts in the UK and No 1 in several other countries. As Fred’s Musical Director and bandleader, appearances on such iconic national TV progammes as BBC’s Top of the Pops followed. One day in 1985 he decided he'd really rather play interesting music than pursue interesting paychecks, so turned his back on the commercial world and returned to his folk and improvisational roots. He has since concentrated on composition, the traditional music of these islands and beyond, and bluegrass and its intersection with the cutting edge of swing jazz - he and Beppe Gambetta are probably the most highly-regarded American-style flatpickers in the world who are not from the US, and he has shared the stage on a number of occasions with Beppe, Dan Crary, Mark Cosgrove and many other such luminaries. He is a regular flatpick guitar instructor and performer at Steve Kaufman's Acoustic Kamp, held annually in Maryville, TN - here are links to Chris performing there with Dan Crary and with Mark Cosgrove. In addition to his work with Máire, Chris toured until 1997 as a member of Boys of the Lough in North America, Sweden, Finland, Norway, Estonia, Denmark, China and Italy. He has been principal guitar tutor for Newcastle University’s Folk B.Mus course since its inception. His book of guitar compositions and arrangements Adventures with a Flatpick was published in 2001. His 1998 solo CD Fretwork was “a stunning and stylistically-varied album, heaving with good tunes, from one of the UK’s most staggering and influential acoustic guitarists” FOLK ROOTS (UK) “Dazzling” ACOUSTIC GUITAR (USA) “Revered” TAPLAS (Wales) “Spectacular” TIME OUT. His fourth solo CD Still Getting Away with It was released to critical acclaim in 2010 - see above. For further information visit Chris's personal website.
“Their stagecraft was masterly and their introductions informative and funny”
- THE CHRISTCHURCH PRESS (New Zealand)
“Their virtuosity leads them on... Máire chomps on the bit of the harp's respectability, playing
storming jigs and reels"
- THE IRISH TIMES (Ireland)