Music

Altan ‘Donegal’ UK Album Launch

Join us for the UK launch of Altan's new album - Donegal.

“THE HOTTEST BAND IN THE CELTIC REALM” – The Boston Globe 

“A MATCH MADE IN HEAVEN WITH THE BEST TRADITIONAL IRISH BAND”  Dolly Parton on her collaboration with Altan on two of her albums Heartsongs (1994) and Little Sparrow (2001) 

No Irish traditional band in the last thirty years has had a wider impact on audiences and music lovers throughout the world than Altan.

Altan are an Irish folk music band formed in County Donegal in 1987 by lead vocalist Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh and her husband Frankie Kennedy. The group were primarily influenced by traditional Irish language songs from Donegal and have sold over a million records.

Fri 16 August 2024

Doors: 7.30pm, Band on stage 8.00pm

Tickets: £27.50, £40 for ticket and CD

The spirit and sound of Altan comes from the deep and rich musical tradition of their native Co. Donegal. On one of his many visits to the Donegal Gaeltacht of Gaoth Dobhair, Belfast born flute  player Frankie Kennedy met fiddler and singer Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh, sparking off a deep musical connection, marriage in 1981, and a journey that took them all over the world. Their vision was  to bring the unique repertoire of Donegal music to the world and that mission is still as strong as  ever. 

In the mid 80s, Mairéad and Frankie recruited bouzouki player Ciaran Curran from Fermanagh, whose intricate counterpoint is at the centre of the Altan sound, and guitarist Mark Kelly from Dublin, whose mastery of a wide palette of guitar styles and harmonic vocabulary add a breadth  and depth of colour. As a band, Altan played their first concert on June 1st 1985, in St. John’s Church in Listowel, Co. Kerry at the famous Listowel Writers Week.

Their first album, simply titled Altan was released in 1987 and quickly followed by Horse with A  Heart, which saw the inclusion of Paul O’Saughnessy on fiddle. Paul had joined the band on its  first US tours, lending his stunning virtuosity and in-depth knowledge of the Donegal style. He  performed on the subsequent three albums. In 1992, the album Harvest Storm brought with it Dáithí Sproule on guitar, himself one of the pioneers of guitar in Irish traditional and folk music, having played with the wonderful Skara Brae with the O’Domhnaill family and Buncrana native Ciaran Tourish who excelled in fiery counterpoint fiddle. 

One of the band’s finest hours came with the release of Island Angel in 1993, which was recognized by Billboard World Music Charts as the second biggest selling world music album globally  in 1994 and in the same year, Altan performed for Bill Clinton at the White House. The band would  play for US Presidents over the course of their career as well as accompanying Irish Presidents on  their state visits. Shortly after the release of this album, the legendary accordionist Dermot Byrne joined the band. 

Sadly, on September 19th, 1994, the band and wider world of music was dealt a devastating blow  with the death of founding member Frankie Kennedy. His vision, artistry and sense of fun is still at  the heart of Altan and his legacy is carried and celebrated in every note. 

A record deal with Virgin Records followed in 1996, which catapulted the band on an extensive  touring schedule over the subsequent decade. This period saw them working with many of the  great American performers such as Dolly Parton, recording on her album Heartsongs (1994) and its follow up, Little Sparrow 2001; she returned the favour on the band’s record The Blue Idol in  2002 by dieting with Mairéad on the song The Pretty Young Girl. 

The band have travelled with President Mary MacAleese and President Michael D. Higgins on state visits abroad to Japan, North Korea and Italy.  

President Higgins invited them to join him in his residence, Áras an Uachtaráin in 2018 to cele brate their 30 years as a band. The Donegal County Council held a civic reception in their offices  to mark the occasion in May 2018. 

In 2006 the Irish Government also honoured Altan by putting them on an official postal stamp to  celebrate their contribution to the Irish culture one of the highest honours to be bestowed on an  Irish citizen . 

Martin Tourish a past TG4 Young Musician of the Year, took the accordion seat in late 2013 and  the band recorded their album The Widening Gyre in Nashville with many of the great Bluegrass  and American performers, such as Mary Chapin Carpenter, Jerry Douglas and Alison Brown. This  album explored the connections between Irish and Bluegrass music, a particularly special moment of which was performing at The Grand Ole Opry with Ricky Skaggs in 2016.  In 2017, the band released their first book, Altan: The Tunes, based on a collection of 222 melodies that they collected recorded over their 30 year history. Martin Tourish transcribed the dance music and meticulously interviewed all the band members for additional stories and back ground information. 

Containing a detailed commentary on each of the tunes, it is the only collection of Donegal music currently in print. 

Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh was awarded Donegal Person of the Year in 2008 and the coveted TG4- Traditional Musician of the Year Gradaim Ceoil (Music Award) 2017, for her musicianship and  singing. The highest accolade which a traditional musician can receive in Ireland. Altan are currently working on a new album which should be launched by 2024. 

The band will feature the newest member of the band, Clare Friel, fiddler and singer who was awarded ‘Young Traditional Musician of the Year’ by TG4 in 2018. 

The band have toured the world extensively from the USA, UK, Australia , Europe and Asia where  they have a growing audience.

 

 

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