John McCormack (14 June 1884 – 16 September 1945), was a world-famous Irish tenor and recording artist, celebrated for his performances of the operatic and popular song repertoires, and renowned for his flawless diction and superb breath control.
Brian Finnegan - from Armagh, a founder member of Upstairs in a Tent.
Sarah Allen - from London, a founder member of The Barely Works and BIGJIG.
Ed Boyd - from Bath, founder member of Kershaw faves Red Ciel.
John Joe Kelly - from Manchester, has played with Altan and Paul Brady, probably the best bodhran player in the world.
Kevin Burke, Christian LeMaitre, Andre Brunet: In a Celtic Fiddle Festival live performance, these traditional masters showcase their regional repertoires and conjure an experience of breathtaking performances. Kevin Burke, considered one of the finest Irish fiddlers of his time, is known for his inimitable feel and silky tone on the swiftly rolling music of County Sligo. Lemaítre brings his unerring control and the hypnotic, modal melodies of the Breton fest-noz or "night-dances." And newest member Brunet, tilting the band's sound with a Francophile flair, fires up the night with his exuberant smile and percussive, foot-stomping Quebeçois tunes, punctuated by an occasional yelp!
Karan Casey: One of the most influential – and most imitated – voices in folk music, Karan Casey is a natural innovator. More than a decade ago American audiences were introduced to Casey fronting the Irish “supergroup” Solas. Following their groundbreaking early releases Casey struck out on her own. That decision was based on an independent spirit determined to control her touring schedule and committed to maintaining a family life. That family has now grown (her second child, Áine, was born in May of 2006), as has her solo discography.
As well as touring constantly throughout North America and Europe with her own band, Karan has been involved in many other varied projects and collaborations. A frequent guest on Garrison Keillor’s ‘A Prairie Home Companion’, Casey joined their December 2006 broadcasts from New York’s Town Hall. 2006 also saw her spotlighted on the Solas “Reunion” CD, and as a guest vocalist for another well-known Irish group, Lunasa, as well as joining Peggy Seeger in a special “Songs of Conscience” program at Glasgow’s Celtic Connections Festival. In the first half of 2007 she has appeared with the legendary Liam Clancy and was involved in a DVD project in New York with Mick Moloney and Paul Wagner. Last summer saw more performances with Solas and Lunasa, as well as collaborations with pianist/composer Mícheál Ó Súilleabháin and with Breton guitarist Gilles le Bigot’s ‘Voix de la Terre’ project.
New ventures for 2008 include The Vallely Brother’s Big Band, Karan and Seamus Egan’s new project involving Aoife O’Donovan and Lau, and Niall Vallely’s “Turas na dTaoiseach/Flight of the Earl’s” event, which was premiered in Belfast’s Grand Opera House in November 2007 and is to be repeated during 2008 in Louvain, Belgium.
Casey began 2008 with critically acclaimed appearances at the renowned Celtic Connections festival in Glasgow and will be touring in the US throughout February and March.
Karan has just completed her fifth solo album entitled “Ships in the Forest”. Produced once again by Donald Shaw, the new album focuses largely on the traditional repertoire. The album was recorded at Karan’s home in County Cork and features the members of her current touring band, Caoimhín Vallely (piano), Kate Ellis (cello) and Robbie Overson (guitar) along with some special guests, including Kris Drever and Niall and Cillian Vallely. It will be released in the US on the 8th of May on the Compass Records label.
Johnny Cunningham: Johnny has been playing fiddle since the age of six, and is known for his lightning-fast reels and hauntingly beautiful Scottish airs. He delighted audiences worldwide with his wry humor and stories.
Born in Portobello, Scotland in 1957, at the young age of thirteen Johnny was a founding member of Silly Wizard, the group that spearheaded the Scot side of the Celtic revival in the 70’s and 80’s. He formed the Celtic "supergroup" Relativity, with his brother Phil Cunningham, and siblings Micheal O' Domhnaill and Triona Ni Dhomhnaill of The Bothy Band.
Johnny not only enjoyed a succcessful career as a solo performer but was greatly in demand as an award-winning record producer. Among other ventures, he toured with contemporary singer-songwriter and author, Bill Morrissey, and crossed over into the world of rock 'n roll, appearing with Hall & Oates.
His own alternative band, Raindogs, made two successful CD's for Atlantic/Atco Records, touring with artists such as Bob Dylan, Don Henley, and Warren Zevon. Collaborations included projects with Cherish the Ladies and Solas, leading to four CDs and three "National American Independent Music Awards," (N.A.I.R.D. for Best Album).
After completing a four-year stint with the international Windham Hill/BMG act Nightnoise, Johnny began working with acclaimed New York-based theater company, Mabou Mines, on the theatrical production, "Peter & Wendy." He composed the music and lyrics for this adaptation of J.M. Barrie's "Peter Pan," the winner of two OBIE Awards. The soundtrack album from this innovative production was released nationally in 1997.
Johnny devoted the summer of 1997 to a collaboration with Thomas Moore, best selling author of "Care Of The Soul." The result was a double CD set, "The Soul Of Christmas" released by Tommy Boy/Upaya, which, through the heart of Celtic culture and Thomas Moore's writings, explores a spiritual interpretation of traditional Christmas music and thought. A live concert version of this celebration was filmed for a PBS television special, which aired throughout the 1997 holiday season.
In fall 1997, Johnny toured throughout Scotland, Ireland, England, and Wales with The Celtic Fiddle Festival. Joined by fellow fiddlers Kevin Burke (Ireland) and Christian LeMaitre (Brittany), this tour was recorded and produced by Johnny for the Green Linnet label, and released in February 1998. The Celtic Fiddle Festival has since toured bi-annually, and recently played at the Peter Norton Symphony Space in New York, hosted by the World Music Institute, in October 2006.
A collaboration with Seamus Egan (Solas), Jeanne Butler Colin Dunn (Riverdance) and Harvey Goldsmith/Radio CIty Music Hall Enterprises, led to Johnny writing the text and lyrics for the show, "Dancing on Dangerous Ground." Johnny has since worked with producer and director, Renee McCormick, on a documentary feature about women who decide not to be mothers. Titled, "A Life Outside Convention," Johnny drew from both Jazz and American influences for its evocative soundtrack.
From 2000-2003, Johnny played with Susan McKeown and Aidan Brennan for the A Winter Talisman tour, and produced the album "A Winter Talisman" in 2001.
Even apart from work, Johnny lived a rich and busy life surrounded by friends. A skilled storyteller and comic, he shared his heart with strangers and loved ones. He resonates so powerfully that even those who did not know him felt inclined to wait in line for a hug after a concert. All too suddenly, Johnny passed away on December 15, 2003. He died at home in Trisha's arms.