The annual Celtic Colours International Festival has seen no shortage of distinguished performers join its ranks for internationally-renowned concerts and ceilidhs. The increasingly widespread interest in modern Celtic music owes much to the work of Moya Brennan, known also as the “First Lady of Celtic Music.” The Irish folk singer, songwriter, and harpist will perform during Celtic Colours as a part of T With the Maggies, a quartet comprised of her fellow songstresses Triona Ní Dhomhnaill, Maighread Ní Dhomhnaill, and Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh. All four members come from County Donegal in Ireland, where Irish Gaelic was the first language of many who live there.
While individuals like John Allan Cameron were encouraging a renewed interest in Celtic music in Cape Breton in the 1970s and onwards, Moya Brennan and her famed band Clannad were at the forefront of a Celtic folk revival in Ireland and the UK, along with other such heavyweights as Seán Ó Riada and the Chieftains.
In their early years, Clannad made a hefty impression at folk festivals in their native Ireland and elsewhere in Europe, bringing renewed interest to Irish language songs. Their self-titled first album had half its tracks in Irish, which was groundbreaking for a 1973 mainstream release.
A turning point in Clannad’s musical style and fame occurred when they recorded the theme song to Harry’s Game, a fictional miniseries for British Television based on The Troubles in Northern Ireland. The eerie, ethereal tune is one of Clannad’s most recognizable songs, co-written by Moya’s brothers Ciarán and Pól Brennan. It was released in 1982, received a nomination from the British Academy of Film and Television Arts, and gave Clannad exposure and popularity among a global audience. This coincided with the release of Magical Ring in 1983, which incorporated rock and world music sounds with Celtic Music in both traditional and original songs. Moya’s sister Enya was briefly a member of Clannad just before the recording of Magical Ring, and moved on to pursue what would become a wildly successful and prolific recording career of her own.
As Clannad continued its successes, Moya started to build for herself a solo career, carried by the force of her distinctive, haunting voice and spiritual sensibilities. She had her first solo release in 1992, self titled with the Irish spelling of her name, Máire. Throughout her career, Moya recorded 25 albums, collected an extensive list of collaborations with musicians such as Bono, the Chieftains, the Doobie Brothers, Ronan Keating, and many other international stars. She has performed for heads of state, Pope Benedict XVI, and has become an active philanthropist with Christian Blind Mission, charities focused on victims of drug addiction, and a variety of other causes such as environmental conservation in Ireland.
Although Moya wrote her autobiography in 2000, she continues to have an active recording and touring career, with an upcoming release of an album of hymns and an unplugged album with Clannad.
Celtic Colours festival-goers can catch T With The Maggies at four different shows, beginning with “Across an Ocean and a Sea: Thar Cuain is Mara” on October 11 at Union Presbyterian Church in Albert Bridge. The concert will explore the connections between the Irish and Cape Breton Gaelic songs, with Cape Breton Gaelic singer Mary Jane Lamond, Liz Doherty Connection, and Lewis MacKinnon.
The next appearance will be at Mabou’s Strathspey Place for “Making Songs: A’ Dèanadh Òran” on October 13. Also in performance will be Mary Jane Lamond, along with Goiridh Dòmhnallach, Meantime, Lewis MacKinnon, Chris Stout and Catriona McKay, North Shore Singers, and Rachel Davis.
On October 15, the group will be performing at Inverness Academy, together with energetic Celtic group Beòlach and a collection of their musical friends, including the Outside Track, Shelly Campbell and Allan Dewar, and Gabrielle MacLellan and Tom Daniels.
The last opportunity to hear T And The Maggies will be near the end of the festival, in Songs From Home at the Joan Harriss Cruise Pavillion on October 16. The night’s songs will feature tunes from Cape Breton, Scotland, Ireland, Newfoundland, and many other locations where the musical stewards of Celtic tradition refer to as home. Bruce Guthro, Mary Jane Lamond, Terry Kelly, Max MacDonald, the Cape Breton Chorale, and the Once will all be performing in a heartstrings-tugging finale.
Visit www.celtic-colours.com for more information and to purchase tickets online, or call 1.877.285.2321