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Chieftains’ powerful music energizes campus

Sean Sweany | Monday, March 6, 2006

Young and old celebrated together when The Chieftains visited the Leighton Concert Hall in the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center (DPAC) Thursday night. The four decade old group understands the power of collaborative effort in music and included other musicians, dancers and even the audience to create a night of wonderful music and memories.

The Chieftains, under the lead of the energetic uilleann pipes and tin whistle player Paddy Moloney, combined their legendary talent with Irish harpist Triona Marshall, guitarist Jeff White and fiddle player/Irish dancer Jon Pilatzke. They were also joined by The Cottars, two young brother-sister pairs from Cape Breton, Nova Scotia and the Notre Dame Symphony Orchestra. This diverse group was led by Moloney, who was in his element performing and leading the toe tapping songs.

The concert began with The Chieftains playing some of their traditional songs from various albums. The group is renowned for it’s unique ability to combine Irish music with other forms of folk music and this was showcased when they performed the bluegrass song “Country Blues” with guitarist Jeff White. The group also played a lively song combining Oriental and Irish melodies called “Full of Joy” from The Chieftains’ tour of China.

When The Chieftains were joined by The Cottars, Moloney began telling jokes and the energy in the theater rose to a new level. The teenage group from Canada held their own sharing the stage with The Chieftains and won the audience with their remarkable talent for singing, dancing and playing their respective instruments at the same time. The most memorable song the two groups played was the Irish classic “The Rocky Road to Dublin,” complete with rock concert-like spotlights sweeping the theater.

After an intermission, The Chieftains were joined by the Notre Dame Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Daniel Stowe. Together, the groups performed several pieces written by Paddy Moloney. First was “Long Journey Home” a song about the Great Famine composed by Moloney for a television series about the Irish in America. The musicians were joined by the Notre Dame choral group Collegium Musicum, who added renditions of “Shenandoah” and “Anthem” to the moving song. Afterwards, Moloney listed this as one of the best performances of “Long Journey Home” ever.

Another of Moloney’s arrangements called “Planxty Mozart” was a humorous song where a French horn player, backed by the Orchestra, played a Mozart tune in a musical duel with an Irish jig performed by The Chieftains. After several minutes of back and forth competition, the two sides found a harmonium and were joined by Irish dancers to finish the rousing song.

After the main program, which will be performed again by all parties at New York City’s Carnegie Hall on St. Patrick’s Day, The Chieftains left the stage to thunderous applause. For an encore, Moloney asked that the house lights be brought up so that the audience could join in an Irish jig performed by the entire ensemble. Before long, nearly the entire audience, both young and old, was in the aisles of the theater, dancing to the driving rhythm of the Irish song. Perhaps no one enjoyed the festivity more than Paddy Moloney, who was grinning from ear to ear while playing his tin whistle. After the song ended and the musicians departed, the entire audience gave The Chieftains a standing ovation long after the band left the stage. As the audience filed out of the Leighton Concert Hall Thursday night, the energetic music of The Chieftains had performed its expected magic by bringing the same youthful enthusiasm to every spectator in a night that will not be forgotten for a long time.