Máire Ní Chathasaigh and Chris Newman:
Celtic Traditional, Baroque, Bluegrass, Swing
with Harp and Guitar
Thursday, November 2 at 7:00PM
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) is coming to “The Roots Music Palace of the Ozarks,” Harrison, Arkansas’s historic Lyric Theater, Thursday, November 2, at 7:00! 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.
The children of the neighborhood teased Máire Ní Chathasaigh and her sister as they walked down the street. Her family in Brandon, West Cork, Ireland was the only one playing traditional music, so they would be teased for being out of step with the times. “We used to be laughed at by other kids because they thought we were being old hat, she says. But that first Planxty album let people see that traditional music could be modern and sophisticated, that it wasn’t some sort of hick music.” (Quoted from “Harping in the Traditions,” by Rob Adams.)
Not only her name (pronounced, Moyruh Nee Kha-huuh-sig), but her upbringing was in keeping with the traditional ways of the Gaelic-speaking Irish, her family featuring generations of musicians and poets carrying forward the folklore of her heritage. She and her sister, fiddler Nollaig Casey (Casey being the Anglicised version of Chathasaigh), were trained in both classical and folk music, both instrumental and vocal. While many worked at bringing forward the old music in new forms for pipes and fiddle, Máire revitalized the harp tradition virtually all by herself. “Since then, there’ve been lots of young people playing traditional music on the harp but there wasn’t anybody else playing when I was coming up,” she says. “If you played the pipes there were loads of recordings and a whole tradition to learn from. But I had nobody, just my ears, and I created techniques and ornaments, ways of doing things, and it was all done by trial and error, by myself. So if I got a lot of attention, it was because I was the first to do it.” (Quotes from “Harping in the Traditions.”)
Having become the first harpist to record an album primarily off Irish dance music in 1985, Máire first teamed up with English guitarist Chris Newman two years later. Celebrating their thirtieth anniversary of collaboration with their current tour of the United States, Máire and Chris will bring their internationally-heralded mastery of styles from traditional Celtic to Baroque to Swing along with a penchant for inventive soloing and challenging interaction between the artists to Harrison’s Lyric Theater for a 7:00 performance on Thursday, November 2.
“When I met Chris, he liked, but didn’t know that much about, traditional music, so he spent a lot of time learning from me,” says Maire. “Then we started experimenting with things he was proficient in, like swing, which he played with Stephane Grappelli as a teenager. We’re completely open, if we hear something nice, we’ll just say, ‘let’s play that.’ It’s extremely enjoyable to experiment and see just what your instruments can do, and we never run out of things to play.” (Quotes from “Harping in the Traditions.”)
Máire won the Senior All-Ireland Fleadh Cheoil Harp Competition three times in succession, in 1975, 1976 and 1977—a record that is still unsurpassed. More recently, she was Female Musician of the Year in the Live Ireland Music Awards 2016, where she was described in the citation as “the greatest Celtic harper of our age”. This recognition is not confined to Ireland, though, as she also was named Female Musician of the Year in the Chicago Irish American News Top TIR Awards 2016.
She is the best harp player in Irish music. There are several great Irish harpists—we think of Michelle Mulcahy, Catriona McDonald, Ailie Robertson, and Emer Mallon. There are more. They are all uber-fab. But, then there is Maire. Her new album is called Sibling Revelry. Really, there are no words. Just know this.
Máire has also won awards with Chris Newman, including “Album of the Year” (Live Ireland) and also the “Best Celtic Instrumental Album” (JUST PLAIN FOLKS AWARDS Nashville, Tennessee), 2009 for their album FireWire, as well as “Folk Album of the Year” (The Daily Telegraph) for their 1987 album The Living Wood.
Traditional Celtic music, along with Baroque, Bluegrass, and Swing will be performed by Máire Ní Chathasaigh and Chris Newman at downtown Harrison’s historic Lyric Theater, Thursday, November 2, at 7:00. Tickets available now at our ticketing page or by calling (870) 319-3504.