Mary Courtney grew up in a musical family in the parish of Castlegregory, near the sea in County Kerry, a likely beginning for this remarkable singer and guitarist. Whether accompanying herself, or holding the rhythm line with her trad band, Morning Star, she is a consummate musician. Her music is an engaging collaboration of traditional Irish music and a progressive social conscience born of a political education in the United States. Her bodhrán (Irish hand-held drum) playing offers another dimension to her exceptional performance. Courtney has used her music to spread Irish culture and to educate her audience about the struggles of the Irish people. From rock ‘n’ roll to the ethereal strains of some ancient Celtic bard, Mary can sing anything, and sing it unforgettably.
Mary Courtney formed Morning Star in 1982 in the Bronx. Since then they have recorded several albums, and played at a variety of festivals across the USA. Morning Star is a stellar lineup of gifted musicians. Kerry-born Mary Courtney possesses a voice with a beauty, depth, and clarity of tone that few can equal.
John Redmond on button accordion is the driving force in a joyous cascade of jigs and reels that leave you breathless. He left County Wexford with 4 All-Ireland titles, and for years has played with the finest musicians in New York City, in a variety of genres. One of the great box players of our day, with a bright and lively waterfall of sound, flawlessly melodic on tunes, subtle and sensitive in his backing of Mary’s songs, John is a brilliant and powerful musician.
A key element in the high energy of Morning Star is Donie Ryan on tenor banjo. Born and raised in County Tipperary, now settled in Queens, he is an integral part of the New York trad scene, a rock solid player who is always note for note, with a deft and lyrical touch that blends perfectly with John’s accordion and Mary’s guitar. Morning Star beguiles the listener with compelling grace and boundless energy, certain to lift your feet and your spirit.
Guaranteed Irish is an Irish folk-ballad group that has performed in the Pittsburgh area for more than 20 years. Combining accordion, whistle, guitar, bass and vals, Paddy Folan, Jimmy Lamb and Bruce Foley create a uniquely personal sound combining the traditional and contemporary elements of Irish and American music. The group has recorded three CDs and has opened for the Irish Rovers and appeared in many festivals, concerts and dances in Detroit, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Annapolis, Rochester, Boston, and many towns in Connemara, Co. Galway, Ireland. Please visit their web site for more information and a schedule of their appearances.
Bruce Foley—Bruce Foley was born and raised in upstate New York and is the sixth of 12 children. After two years at college he dropped out to travel on the road with three musicians from Ireland known as Carolan's Kind. He continued to tour for more than five years with various Irish musicians throughout the northeastern United States, gaining a broad repertoire of tunes and ballads along the way.
In 1980 he married Maggie Folan from Pittsburgh. She and Bruce then moved from Massachusetts to Pennsylvania where he earned engineering degrees from Penn State and Carnegie Mellon University. Their son Brendan was born in 1981 and daughter Emma in 1990.
Bruce first became familiar with the uilleann pipes in 1975 in Chicago with the legendary piper Joe Shannon. It would be 13 years before he was able to secure a full set due to the scarcity of pipe-makers and the high cost of having a set made. He was able to get a beautiful full set in 1988 from Kerry pipe-maker Alain Froment. Bruce is self-taught on guitar and whistle. He has performed on stage with Paddy Reilly, Paddy Keenan, James Kelly, Tommy Sands and other notable traditional musicians. He has played on a number of recordings supporting Gordon Bok, Cathal Dunne, Mike Gallagher, Anne Feeney, Heather Kroft and Denys Candy as well as music for several WQED special broadcasts.
Bruce regularly travels to Ireland and takes pleasure in performing with local musicians in Connemara. He has been regularly featured at the Summerfest festival in Roundstone, Co. Galway, and recently performed live with Liz Kane on Connemara community radio.
Paddy Folan—Accordion. Paddy started playing with Bruce in the late '70s when Bruce met his sister Maggie. Guaranteed Irish made a couple of trips to Ireland where the people seemed happy to hear three Yanks playing Irish music. Paddy got his first accordion, a single row Hohner, for Christmas when he was 10. An Irish priest that was visiting his grandmother taught him two songs. He played those two songs until the family finally told him to please play something else. He started practicing right after dinner every night. and by doing so, got out of doing the dishes. He is married for 25 years to Bridget Minnock, and they have three children, Claire, Brian (Central '02), and Annie.
Jimmy Lamb—Jimmy Lamb has long been entertaining Pittsburgh audiences with his own style of Irish folk music. He started his professional music career on the coffee house and bar circuits at Penn State in 1981. By 1984 Jimmy had acquired a great affinity for Irish music and a significant song list of Pittsburgh Irish favorites, which he performed in various venues locally. He joined Bruce and Paddy in 1987 and has been part of Guaranteed Irish ever since, playing bass and acoustic guitar and providing vocals to much of their repertoire. By day, Jimmy manages the Ireland Institute of Pittsburgh, a non-profit organization dedicated to peace, reconciliation, and economic development in Ireland. He lives in Dormont with his wife Ann and their son Ciaran.
Deke Kincade—Drums, percussion, vocals. A Beaver County native, Deke has been a regular with Guaranteed Irish for several years. He has performed from New York to Atlanta with people as diverse as Earl Scruggs, the Temptations, and Dr. John. Deke was the drummer backing all the bands in the Roots of Rock and Roll shows at the Benedum. He is also a much sought after session drummer in studios in the Pittsburgh area. Deke plays blues with Black Cat Otis, facilitates drum circles through the area, and is music director of the Treehouse Foundation.
A piper with nearly thirty years of performing experience, George plays the Great Highland Pipes and/or smallpipes for weddings, concerts, festivals, funerals, birthday celebrations, and other special events. George also performs with Irish and Scottish dancers and teaches Scottish and Irish pipe music on the Great Highland Bagpipe and various types of smallpipes.
He has performed as a soloist at the Metropolitan Museum in New York City, at Carnegie Music Hall in Pittsburgh, and four times as a guest artist with the Pittsburgh Symphony at Heinz Hall. He has also appeared in concert with Tom Chapin and John McCutcheon, The River City Brass Band, Brigadoon with Point Park College, the Civic Light Opera at the Benedum, among others. A New York Times reviewer described George as having a "virtuoso's gift" and in the words of another he is a "virtuosic piper." His many competitive successes include winning the MacCrimmon Quaich for Grade One piping four times.
His piping has been recorded on H.K. Hilner's Dream Cathedral, The Dewar's Bagpipe Festival recording, A Celtic Christmas on the KRB label, as well as his own recording, Bagpipe Music Selections: Great Highland Pipes and Smallpipes. He is also a featured artist on the video Road to the Isles.
In 1978 George founded and continues to instruct and serve as Director of the Balmoral School of Highland Piping, a nonprofit corporation that produces piping instructional sessions at four or five universities across the USA each summer. In 1981 George was awarded the Senior Certificate in Piping from the College of Piping in Glasgow, Scotland. George currently serves as a Trustee of the Clan Donald Educational and Charitable Trust, and since 1989 has been a member of the Governor of Pennsylvania's Heritage Affairs Commission's Traditional and Ethnic Arts Touring Program.
Called one of Celtic music's most gifted singers and arguably the best songwriter in the entire folk tradition, Andy M. Stewart has been delighting audiences with his music and humor for three decades.
Born in Perthshire, Scotland, Andy grew up in a family noted for its fine traditional singing. He first drew the attention of the music world with his work as lead singer and instrumentalist for Silly Wizard, with whom he toured until their break-up in 1988. It was while Andy was with Silly Wizard that he gained much recognition for his beautiful interpretations of the traditional songs of Scotland and Ireland and also became known as a master of songwriting in the traditional style.
Self-penned gems such as "The Ramblin' Rover", "Golden, Golden", "The Queen of Argyll", and "Where are You Tonight, I Wonder", have become almost instant classics, and have been recorded by June Tabor, The Dubliners, and Deanta, to name a few. As an accomplished banjo player, his ear for a good tune has been displayed in his arranging and composing abilities, a style that set the precedent for many an up-and-coming band in the ever-expanding world of Celtic music.
Known for his wicked wit and sterling live performances, Andy M. Stewart is among the finest singers in the Scottish and Irish traditional genre, with a voice that "conveys more emotion in one line than most singers do in a lifetime" (Beacon Herald).
Andy has recorded four solo albums: By the Hush, Songs of Robert Burns, Man in the Moon, and his most recent release, Donegal Rain. He has also recorded three albums with Manus Lunny: Fire in the Glen (also featuring Phil Cunningham of Silly Wizard), Dublin Lady, and At It Again.
Together for over a decade, Hooley is Pittsburgh's first and now longstanding traditional Irish music group. Performing often at folk venues, concert halls, colleges, ceilis and Irish festivals, Hooley has also opened for Altan, for Steeleye Span and has performed with Cathal McConnell of Boys of the Lough fame.
Oliver Browne—fiddle. Dublin born and bred in a rich musical tradition (his brother Peter is a respected uilleann piper, along with his cousin Ronan), Ollie has earned the reputation as one of the finest fiddlers playing today and he has played with the best. His session playing in Clare, Donegal and especially Belfast decades ago is still revered.
Bruce Foley—Uilleann pipes, tinwhistle, guitar, vocals. A gifted singer, musician and regarded by many to be one of the best in the United States, Bruce has performed with The Irish Tradition, Paddy Reilly, James and Kelly and regularly with Guaranteed Irish. The resident expert on uilleann pipes, Bruce has twice hosted the East Coast Tionol (annual gathering of pipers).
Les Getchell—bodhran, bones, other percussion. Flat out, one of the best traditional players in the east, Les has studied and played with the best and is a frequent member of the Irish Week staff at the Augusta Heritage Center in Elkins, West Virginia.
Bruce Molyneaux—mandolin, banjo, bouzouki. An authority on Irish traditional music, Bruce is a sought-after banjo and mandolin player. His grandmother was a concertina player from County Kerry, and introduced him to Irish music. So, it's Bruce who usually slips in a fine polka or slide.
Ray Werner—concertina, vocals. Ray has been hooked on this music ever since he stumbled upon The Willie Clancy Festival some years ago. With a particular affection for the sean-nos style, Ray is occasionally Hooley's songwriter, when they have a bent for the original.
Richard Withers—flute, tinwhistle. Richard has earned quite a reputation for his remarkable flute playing and for his repertoire of tunes. He plays a beautiful flute given to him by the late Mike Gallagher, the very gifted flute and tinwhistle player from Co. Sligo. Richard, in many ways was Mike's protégé.
Known primarily for performing Irish and Scottish folk, this native Pittsburgher has been a constant musical presence throughout the tri-state area. Mike also specializes in contemporary acoustic music and performs a number of original selections, backing his clear tenor voice with sensitivity and versatility on the 12-string guitar. Mike comes from a musical background. His father was a professional singer on Pittsburgh radio during the depression. Mike started playing guitar at age 11 and his seven brothers and sisters are also gifted musicians.
Conor Coleman started dancing with the internationally renowned Burke-Conroy School of Irish Dance 13 years ago. Conor has been Mid-American champion of his age group seven times and has placed in the top four at the North American Championships numerous times. In international competition, such as All-Irelands and World Championships, Conor has consistently placed in the top 10, securing a spot on the podium in fifth place at the World Championships of 2005. In addition to his accomplishments on the competitive circuit, Conor has performed with popular Irish bands such as The Chieftains, Cherish the Ladies, Eileen Ivers of Riverdance fame, and Titanic's steerage band, Gaelic Storm. Conor also enjoys drawing and playing the bodhran.
The Pittsburgh Irish Reelers, a Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, based Irish step dancing group, was established over 30 years ago as a way to promote and preserve the Irish cultural tradition. Currently led by Sally Folan-Grab, Claire Folan Carmack and Adrienne Wrabley Zink, lessons are taught weekly throughout the school year to children ages 5 and older. This non-competitive group performs at festivals, nursing homes and other venues around the area. Brendan Foley performed with the Reelers his whole life. The group is honored to dance in his memory at Irish Night each year.