Coverage of Celtic Note gig

Mairead's Official Site

Lord of the Dance Website

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The CD can be found, among other places, at:

It is also becoming available in more and more "brick and mortar" stores such as Saturn, WOM, and HMV.

raining up

Artwork by
Caroline Nesbitt @Acrobat Design

Mairead. I thank you for the opportunity to talk to you about
your new CD and your musical career in general.

Thank you, it's a pleasure.

Your new CD is entitled "Raining Up", you told me. Is there a
story behind that, a particular interpretation?

Well, "Raining Up" is the name of the CD and the title track of
the album written by my brother Karl. He was at the Cliffs of
Moher one day. While walking along one notices evaporation from
the water in the distance. This looks like drops of water going
upwards into the sky, this is where he got the name.

I am certain that your musical training began, as so often the
case, at home within your family. That's correct, isn't it?

Yes, that's correct. My parents John and Kathleen are well known
music teachers and all my family are musicians. They never
pushed music on any of us, but with them playing all the time it
was natural that we'd want to join in! We learnt a lot at home
listening to them and to tapes, records and CDs of great

I know that Irish musicians generally begin learning very
early, just as do Irish dancers. At what age did you begin
and what did you first begin to play?

We all started playing at an early age. I started the piano at 4
years and fiddle at 6, playing both traditional Irish music and
classical. I played the whistle a lot at that time and tried
other instruments, the flute and pipes, but didn't keep them up!

And where did you continue after that training at home?

I carried on at College with a degree, H. Dip. and post graduate
studies at Waterford, Cork and London with the fiddle and piano,
studying mainly classical music.

I know of course, that you took part in competitions, but the
question only now occurs to me - does that normally take place
shortly after completion of formal training, or does one first
gather experience in playing with various groups?

That's a good question. For me, I played in competition from a
very young age in solo and group competitions. I have to say,
even though it can be nerve wracking, that you gather great
experience and confidence as a child doing this.

You meet, interact and work with kids your own age and that's
great fun! If you're lucky, you get to play with them and, more
importantly, the more mature players in sessions. You listen and
learn how they play the tunes and get to know the different

You told me one day after my return from a stay in Co. Clare,
when I enthused about the music sessions I had experienced in
the pubs there, that you used to play in Doolin. Were you a
member of a certain group, or were those sessions in which the
musicians come and go all evening? Have you taken part in
both sorts?

Like a lot of musicians in Ireland and abroad, I do visit Doolin
to have the few tunes and visit people there. Whether or not
you're a member of a band or whatever else wouldn't be an
issue. You'd listen, have respect for the music and for who's
playing it. If it is okay with the musicians, you join in and
contribute in a positive way. It's very spontaneous, the best
sessions are usually not organised, they just happen!

I know that Doolin is often called the music capitol of
Ireland (I DO wonder what the rest of Ireland thinks of
that!). Have you participated in such sessions in other
places as well?

There are sessions like this happening all over the country, not
just in the well-known places. People of all ages join in, most
of them of a very high standard with tunes one wouldn't hear very
often. These are the sessions that happen consistently.

Then there are the festivals, e.g. the Willy Clancy week (or
two!) in Miltown, the All-Ireland Fleadh, the Fiddle Weeks in
Donegal, etc. The sessions are always great at these and you
bump into people you haven't seen in ages!

I've also had good sessions in Paris, Melbourne, Manchester and
the US, so there are great musicians and sessions everywhere.

Did your participation in such sessions precede your
engagement with more formal organizations, orchestras, other
groups, etc.?

Yes, they preceded and then also ran concurrently with the more
formal work. While working with other bands, with the R.T.E
Concert Orchestra and doing formal session work in studios, it
was and is good to keep playing other music, both solos and in
sessions. It keeps your playing up and and keeps you in touch
with new tunes.

You participated in the original soundtrack of Riverdance.
Did that lead to your engagement with Lord of the Dance, or
was there no direct connection.

I did participate in the original soundtrack but there was no
connection between that and Lord of the Dance.

It seems very certain that the lion's share of visitors to the
CelticCafe web site are familiar with you because of your
engagement with Lord of the Dance and Feet of Flames. You and
Cora Smyth have been called Rock Stars in that connection,
which was undoubtedly meant as a compliment. Is that a
direction which you had followed or engaged in, before you
joined Lord of the Dance.

God, Rockstars! We're just glad that people enjoy the show and
our contribution to it!

To answer your question, I did do gigs and studio session work
with a lot of Rock musicians and musicians of different styles
and I hope to keep doing that when I can because it's great to play with people from different genres of music, and it's good fun also!

Quite apart from Lord of the Dance and Feet of Flames, you do
find time and opportunity to engage in several other projects.
Please tell me about those you are currently engaged in.

Yes, the shows are a priority as they are busy all the time.
Over the past two years. I was lucky enough to do different
things also.

And now we have your new solo CD, Mairead! Please tell us
about it and about the content.

It's called "Raining Up" and it's mainly instrumental, there's
one vocal track. It has a strong leaning towards Irish and
Scottish music. There are some newly composed tracks also that
have a slightly Latin feel and have string arrangements.

"Raining Up" conveys to an extent the different styles that I've
been involved in, so I hope there's something there for everyone!

Manus Lunny and Colm Ó Foghlú are involved, I've been told.
When did you begin it and how long has it taken to complete?

Yes, it was fantastic having Manus Lunny and Colm Ó Foghlú
involved. Manus produced nine tracks and Colm five; Colm also composed four of those tracks. We began in October 2000 recording at Secret Music Studios in Glasgow and Solitaire Recording Studios in Dublin. It took about three months to complete.

Mairead, there are members of your family playing with you on
the album, aren't there?

Yes, two of my brothers, Seán and Karl, my mother Kathleen and
sister Frances.

I'll have to rope in my father and my other two brothers for the
next one! My sister-in-law Caroline did the artwork and design.
So there was great involvement and support from my family.

Your mother Kathleen has also been busy with her own project
at the same time as yours.

That's right, she has written and recorded her fiddle tutor of
Irish traditional music. It's called "fidil" and consists of
the book and the double CD. It is expected to be released in October.

And finally - can you give ordering information, beyond the
title "Raining Up", for those of us who live far from the
pulsebeat of Irish music?

Yes, the CD will be available on the 'Net through and at record shops also.

Thank you very much Mairead, for the chance to chat with you;
always to my great pleasure!

Interview with Máiréad Nesbitt

by Bruce Somers

Photo by Colm Henry