“Bua evokes the good times that Irish traditional music so often celebrates ,” playing in a manner “largely forgotten in today’s overly polished Irish music world .” With “a precision and intensity that is rarely heard on this side of the Atlantic,” their sound stands out among modern bands in the genre by “keeping the music down the path of tradition” while still being able to “raise the rafters with their playing, charm with their singing, and delight with their contemporary energy.” Based in Chicago, Illinois—a long-celebrated center of Irish traditional music—Bua “has established itself individually and as a group in the eyes and ears of the traditional community,” and their 2011 release, Down the Green Fields, finds Bua exploring the forgotten sounds from the heyday of Irish music in the City of Big Shoulders with a blend of enchantingly stark song arrangements and bold, pulsing dance tunes. Lauded by The Bluegrass Situation as being the top Irish album of the past five years, Down the Green Fields stands as “a testament, from beginning to end, of the lasting essentials of the Irish tradition”.
Bua has performed and taught at many popular Irish music festivals in North America including the Milwaukee Irish Festival, Dublin Irish Festival, Goderich Celtic Roots Festival, Bethlehem Celtic Classic, and Catskills Irish Arts Week. They have also been honored representatives of the Irish tradition at some of the top folk festivals in the US including the Old Songs Festival, Great Lakes Folk Festival, Lowell Folk Festival, City Folk Festival, University of Chicago Folk Festival and the National Folk Festival. This exposure and ensuing popularity afforded them the title ‘Top Traditional Group’ of 2009, a distinction awarded them by the Irish Music Association.
Brian Ó hAirt
(vocals, sean-nós dance, concertina)
Brian Ó hAirt is the only American to have won the coveted senior title in traditional singing at the All-Ireland Fleadh Cheoil in Listowel, Co. Kerry in 2002. In his teens, Brian’s introduction to Chicago’s Irish-speaking community allowed him to cultivate a rich understanding of the sean-nós singing tradition even before his immersion in the language while living in the Connemara region of western Co. Galway. This experience has left him with a vast repertoire of song and rich store of language that continues to inform and inspire his singing. Since 2007, Brian has also recorded and toured extensively with famed Co. Antrim singer Len Graham, cultivating considerable knowledge about the Ulster tradition through this collaboration. He has performed and taught extensively in North America and Ireland and has been featured on various NPR and RTÉ radio programs. Brian is also an award-winning sean-nós dancer (Cruinniú na mBád, 2003) and accomplished instrumentalist on concertina, accordion, and whistle. He currently lives in Portland, Oregon where he teaches Irish and helps develop language learning games for Language Hunters, a non-profit organization.
(flute, uilleann pipes, whistle)
Sean Gavin’s playing on the flute, whistle and uilleann pipes reflects his lifelong love for Irish traditional music. Growing up in Detroit, Michigan he was first encouraged to take up Irish music by his father, Clare-born fiddle player Mick Gavin. Sean played a variety of instruments before settling on the flute at the age of eleven with the help of flute-player Leo Mac Namara, a native of Scariff, Co. Clare. Not long after, he began work on the uilleann pipes with teacher Al Purcell—himself a student of famed Dublin-born piper Leo Rowsome. He and his family continue to lend much of their energies to the promotion of Irish traditional music in the Detroit area. In more recent years, Sean has been fortunate to cultivate a friendship with Sligo-born flute legend Kevin Henry and others of the older generation of musicians living in Chicago, Illinois where he currently lives. He is a member of another critically acclaimed group NicGaviskey and performs often with the Irish band Téada. He enjoys teaching and performing throughout North America and currently serves as the musical director for the sean-nós dancing performance ensemble Atlantic Steps.
Devin Shepherd began learning the fiddle at an early age and soon became enamored with Irish music, which was nurtured by his mother who immersed him in the deep-rooted Irish music scene of his hometown of Chicago, Illinois. Devin was awarded an Illinois Arts Council Master- Apprentice grant to study with famed Liz Carroll when he was only twelve years of age. During this formative period he won first prize in the Midwest Fleadh Cheoil fiddle competition for nine consecutive years—another testament to his dedication to the tradition. Shepherd learned much about the styles and repertoire of Chicago by playing with many native born musicians including Phil Durkin, Frank Burke, Albert Neary, Pat Cloonin, and Úna McGlew. Most recently he has enriched his style through the recordings of legendary fiddlers Bobby Casey, Michael Coleman, and John Doherty, as well as living legends James Kelly and Paddy Cronin. Since 2000, Devin has been a full-time teacher and performer of Irish music throughout the US and abroad and currently resides in New York City—another highly respected community for Irish traditional music.
Brian Miller has been accompanying songs and dance music from the Irish tradition for over 15 years and is one of the most sought-after guitarists in North American’s Irish music scene. Esteemed music critic Earle Hitchner remarks that “…the backing of Miller on guitar flexes not just muscle but a fully complementary style.” The same can be said of Brian’s playing on the Greek bouzouki, an instrument that has been adopted into the Irish tradition in recent decades. He has performed across North America and in Ireland with various groups including Chulrua, The Máirtín de Cógáin Project, and the Two Tap Trio; and in duo with Randy Gosa performing songs from the lumber camps of the North Woods. He has been featured on NPR’s All Things Considered, CBC Radio’s Canada Live, and on various RTÉ television and radio programs in Ireland. Brian is a two-time recipient of the Artist Initiative grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board and was recently awarded the Parsons Award from the American Folklife Center for his research into field recordings of traditional singers from Minnesota. He currently lives in St. Paul, Minnesota where he teaches flute, whistle and guitar at the Center for Irish Music.