A distinctive Donegal recital in Hammersmith

A distinctive Donegal recital in Hammersmith

T with the Maggies

Donegal supergroup T with the Maggies will be appearing at the Irish Cultural Centre Hammersmith on April 22 and April 23

Donegal music often seems markedly different from the main stem of Irish traditional music, and it's not surprising when you consider the county's geography. Apart from its proximity to Scotland to the north, it faces the Atlantic to the west, and is pressed against Britain's once very troubled branch office Northern Ireland on the east. The county's only physical connection to the rest of the Republic is its ten-mile border with County Leitrim to the south. This has created something of a divide.

Donegal has in the past been isolated politically, and in a sense emotionally, as well, and this has given its music a distinct tinge.

Even the pattern of emigration from Donegal, to some degree, was different from the rest of Ireland. Because of its proximity to Scotland, Donegal workers, along with those from Derry, tended to journey going backwards and forwards to work — unlike the rest of Ireland where people upped sticks and left for good.

There was consequently a constant exchange in music — something that is evident throughout the Donegal tradition. The fiddle tradition is energetic and vibrant, with influences from the Scottish bagpipes evident; Scottish tunes such as strathspeys and highlands (similar to highland flings and hornpipes) are also much more common in Donegal music than elsewhere in Ireland. In summary, it’s a unique, beautiful, vibrant music.

It is from this rich and distinctive musical background that T with the Maggies has emerged.

The band features Triona, Maighread, Mairéad and Moya features Moya Brennan (Clannad), Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh (Altan), Triona & Maighread Ní Dhomhnaill (The Bothy Band, Skara Brae).

About the musicians

Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh formed Altan with her husband Frankie Kennedy, a flute player from Belfast, in the late 1980s. They were influenced by traditional Irish language songs from Donegal — another strong strand in the Donegal tradition — and they soon co-opted some of the finest musicians in the locality into their number.

Frankie died in 1994 after suffering from cancer — he was 38.

Despite Frankie’s untimely death she has continued fronting the group as singer and exceptional fiddle player. In 1994 she was instrumental in founding the Frankie Kennedy Winter School. Her debut solo album Imeall was released in 2009. Her prolific career continued apace and in 2017 she was awarded Gradam Ceoil TG4 award for Traditional Musician of the Year. She also finds time to perform with her family band Na Mooneys and the Donegal women’s fiddler collective, The Sí Fiddlers

Triona Ní Dhomhnaill, traditional singer, pianist, and composer, performed with both Skara Brae and The Bothy Band. In the late 1970s she moved from Ireland to the USA where she formed Touchstone. When her brother, Mícheál, also emigrated they both enjoyed considerable acclaim with Relativity and Nightnoise. Triona released her solo album, The Key’s Within, in 2010 and received the Composition Award at TG4’s Gradam Cumadóir agus Comharcheoil in 2019.

Maighread Ní Dhomhnaill, also a member of Skara Brae, is renowned for her distinctive sean-nós style. Her father and aunt were avid collectors of traditional songs. Besides her numerous collaborations, including those with sister Triona and as a member of Dónal Lunny’s Coolfin, she has released a number of solo albums, including the pivotal No Dowry in 1991. She has recorded and performed with the West Ocean String Quartet.

Moya Brennan, singer and harp player, has fronted Clannad since the mid 1970s. With 19 albums, a Grammy and Ivor Novello award the family group pioneered Celtic music and brought the Irish language to a mass audience. Moya’s solo output includes 7 albums and she has performed and duetted with a wide range of artists, including Bono, Bruce Hornsby, Michael McDonald, Robert Plant, Paul Brady among others. She received the Lifetime Achievement award from the RTÉ Radio 1 Folk Awards in 2019 and was conferred with an honorary doctorate by Dublin City University in 2022.