Cherish the Ladies
When describing Cherish the Ladies – the critics say it best . . . “It is simply impossible to imagine an audience that wouldn’t enjoy what they do,” (the Boston Globe), “An astonishing array of virtuosity,” (the Washington Post), “Expands the annals of Irish music in America . . . the music is passionate, tender and rambunctious,” (The New York Times) and for the past 30 years, Cherish the Ladies have proven themselves worthy to live up to these accolades and in doing so have become one of the most engaging ensembles in the history of Irish music.
They have grown from a one-time concert concept to an Irish traditional music sensation, literally the most successful and sought-after Irish-American group in Celtic music. Organized by folklorist-musician Mick Moloney and sponsored by the Ethnic Folk Arts Center and the National Endowment for the Arts, they began as a concert series featuring the brightest lights in Irish traditional music. Taking their name from the name of a traditional Irish jig, the group initially won recognition as the first and only all-women traditional Irish band. In a relatively short time, they soon established themselves as musicians and performers without peer and have won many thousands of listeners and fans of their music. With their unique spectacular blend of virtuosi instrumental talents, beautiful vocals, captivating arrangements and stunning step dancing, this powerhouse group combines all the facets of Irish traditional culture and puts it forth in an immensely humorous and entertaining package.
The past years have seen the group traveling all over North and South America, the United Kingdom and Europe, Australia and New Zealand, performing in the finest concert halls and international festivals. They are equally at home in front of a symphony orchestra, a performing arts center, a folk festival or even the White House.
They have been named Best Musical Group of the Year by the BBC, Entertainment Group of the Year by the Irish Voice newspaper, received the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall's International Group of the Year Award at the Celtic Connections Festival in Scotland, and voted the top north american Celtic act by NPR Radio’s Thistle and Shamrock.
They have shared the stage with such noted entertainers as James Taylor, Joan Baez, Emmy Lou Harris, The Clancy Brothers, Tommy Makem, The Chieftains, and dozens of symphony orchestras. The Celtic Album, their collaboration with the Boston Pops Symphony, led to a 1999 Grammy nomination.
The Ladies have recorded ten highly acclaimed albums. Their quintessential holiday album On Christmas Night was released to rave reviews and was chosen as one of the top Christmas albums of the year by The New York Times, Washington Post, the Village Voice, and many other nationally syndicated newspapers.
Cherish the Ladies have appeared on CBS This Morning, Good Morning America, Evening at Pops, C-Span, PBS and National Public Radio in the United States and on BBC and RTE radio and television overseas. At the summer olympics in Atlanta, they were chosen to represent Irish music and culture at the official cultural olympiad.
The girls continue to blaze forward and continue to enchant audiences worldwide.
Meet Colin Aikins, the 16-year old baritone from Pittsburgh whose dream is to become an Opera star. Colin is a sophomore at Central Catholic High School. Colin is also a member of the Central Catholic Crew, the Swim Team, Honors Chamber Chorus, and the Liturgical Music Ministry. Colin started to sing at the age of 13, when he asked to take vocal lessons. It was an interesting request, as no one from his family even knew he could sing. His father told him he would entertain his plea for music lessons, but first he wanted to hear Colin sing. He announced that he would sing a song called Nessun Dorma. His parents were brought to tears, and agreed that he needed vocal lessons. Colin was fortunate to start his formal training at the age of 15 under the direction of Maria Spacagna, currently Chair of the Vocal Music Department at Carnegie Mellon University. Colin is her youngest student.
Colin has performed on stage for local events, fundraisers, and at his high school as soloist in his Christmas and spring choral concerts. He was even asked to perform for the Pittsburgh Opera as a guest at their board meeting. Colin was selected to attend VOICE Experience under the direction of legendary Metropolitan Opera baritone Sherill Milnes. He achieved first place in the prestigious Schmidt Vocal Competition and the Most Promising Sophomore Award at the National Opera Center in New York City. Recently, Colin performed a solo of Do You Hear What I Hear? with the River City Brass Band at Carnegie Hall. He was chosen by Smokey Robinson as the winner of the Pittsburgh First Night Sing Off and performed The Prayer at the Benedum Center on New Year’s Eve. Colin was the only vocalist to win the Pittsburgh Concert Society Young Artist Competition with adjudicator Fred Bronstein, Dean of the Peabody Institute. Colin was selected to participate in the Metropolitan Opera Guild’s High School Opera Singers Intensive Program this February in New York City. He was also a Regional finalist in the Classical Singer Vocal Competition and will compete in the final round in Boston. Colin looks forward to many more opportunities to develop his talent and share his gift on stage.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Mary Courtney & Morning Star
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.
Andy M. Stewart
Called one of Celtic music's most gifted singers and arguably the best songwriter in the entire folk tradition, Andy M. Stewart delighted audiences with his music and humor for more than 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 rates 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 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.
Tommy Sands with Moya & Fionán Sands
Tommy Sands' reputation as a folk performer of Ireland's greatest musical traditions is never clearer than with his Irish Band. This ensemble takes the spirit of Tommy's solo work and adds to it a fuller and more dynamic sound. The band's traditional folk artistry takes on the charming character of a true Irish ceili, where musicians and friends are offered an open door and kitchen table music sessions can last well into the wee hours. The band features Tommy's children and accomplished musicians, Moya and Fionán Sands.
Tommy Sands—Enchanting. Irresistible. Charming. Three words out of many that describe Ireland's acclaimed County Down performer, Tommy Sands, who has achieved something akin to legendary status in his own lifetime.
A rare combination of singer, songwriter, storyteller, author, and social activist, Tommy's praise comes from the press and fellow musicians as well as major authors and politicians. Practicing his craft for more than 35 years, Tommy has become an integral part of the Irish folk music revival and a one-of-a kind North Ireland native, whose music often speaks louder than violence.
Since his pioneering days with The Sands Family, who brought Irish music from New York's Carnegie Hall to Moscow's Olympic Stadium, Tommy has developed into one of the most powerful songwriters and captivating performers in Ireland. His song writing, which draws the admiration of Nobel Poet Laureate Seamus Heaney and father of folk music, Pete Seeger, prompts respected US magazine Sing Out to regard him as "the most powerful songwriter in Ireland, if not the rest of the world."
Although the author of music masterful enough to reach a global stage, Sands' work carries a special focus: to reach the people in his own country and affect the world. Songs including, "There were Roses," and "Daughters and Sons," covered by Joan Baez, Kathy Matthea, Dolores Keane, Sean Keane, Frank Patterson, Dick Gaughan, The Dubliners and many others, have certainly attracted the desired audience, and then some.
From children to politicians, more than just Sands' fans have recognized the power of his music to impact the spirit by focusing on peace. An exceptional artist Sands' performance extends through his music and draws the audience into the rhythmic tales of Ireland's great loves, conflicts and its playful and unbreakable spirit.
Moya Sands—Moya's sensitivity to music developed early in life. Born in 1981, it wasn't long before she began to play the tin whistle, play the fiddle, and sing. As a child, Moya performed with a school choir and was featured on numerous records with her father, Tommy Sands. In 2004, Moya graduated from Queen's University in Belfast with an honors degree in languages and ethnomusicology. Moya had contentedly refrained from publicly performing music until October 2004 when suddenly she discovered that her father needed a fiddle player for a festival in Calcutta, India. Having a love of travel and adventure, she soon realized that the fiddle she had temporarily set aside was the best passport of all to fulfill her ambitions. Since then, her flair for performance and arrangements have been enjoyed by audiences in India, Switzerland, Denmark and America. Moya's passion for music is fed by a study of the classics. Her research of traditional Irish singers and musicians, like Myra Niscolai, often brings new material for her father's performances.
Fionán Sands—Born in 1980 into the Sands traditional music household, Fionán Sands was immersed in the sounds of his Irish heritage. His father Tommy Sands and fiddle-playing grandfather Mick "The Chief" Sands, along with many uncles and aunts from The Sands Family, were constant sources of musical inspiration. From a very early age Fionán experienced musicians from all over Ireland visiting the Sands house, playing and talking music from morning until the wee hours. Often young Fionán had to give up his bed to accommodate such wandering troubadours. In fact, humorous creative letters Fionán wrote at the age of eight outlining his bedless plight are still fondly kept by various wellknown performers. Now traveling the world and getting a glimpse of life from the other side of music, Fionán has moved from teeny beginnings on tin whistle to teenage electric guitar and recently to banjo and mandolin. His uncle, Ben Sands, has influenced his mandolin playing. Nearly all of Fionán's musical achievements can be traced to a family influence, for example, his first composition, "Papy's Bicycle," was dedicated to his French grandfather whose bike he borrowed during apple picking days in Normandy. Before joining his father's tour, Fionán toured with famed artist Sinead O'Connor as a guitar tech. With musical influences that include nearly everything from Bob Marley to The Chieftans, Fionán provides eclectic inspiration to the concerts, adding a fresh edge.
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.