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Famed Irish performers pay second visit to Notre Dame

Observer Scene | Thursday, March 2, 2006

Since 1962, traditional Irish musicians The Chieftains have been performing for audiences around the world, including Pope John Paul II. Tonight, the group will play in the Leighton Concert Hall of the DeBartolo Center for the Performing Arts (DPAC) for the second consecutive year. A highlight of last year’s DPAC season, the 2006 concert promises to be more of the same.

Irish musician Paddy Moloney formed The Chieftains from several of the top folk musicians in Ireland. The group performed together occasionally until 1975, when its members began playing together full time. Since then, band members have come and gone, but The Chieftains have continued to push the boundaries of Irish music with their rich and varied melodies.

Using traditional Irish instruments including the Uilleann pipes, tin whistle, flute fiddle and a special drum called a bodhrán, The Chieftains have promoted the appeal of Celtic music worldwide. The band’s lively Irish music is often mixed with influences of Spanish and Bluegrass music to create a distinctive, energetic melody that emerges in each of its 41 albums.

During their four decades together, The Chieftains have received numerous awards and accolades – including six Grammy awards, the distinction of being named Ireland’s Musical Ambassadors and a performance in front of 135,000,000 people during the Pope’s visit to Ireland in 1979. Additionally, The Chieftains have collaborated with many of the world’s top musicians, including Willie Nelson, Van Morrison and Mick Jagger.

This world-renowned band is playing at Notre Dame in large part because of the efforts of DPAC executive director John Haynes. Haynes arranged the concerts for both last year and this year and believes that The Chieftains “should play at Notre Dame every year for as long as possible.” Last year’s concert was immensely popular and this year’s looks to be no different, as tickets sold out within three days of the sale date.

As a special treat during the concert, The Chieftains will be performing jointly with the University’s Symphony Orchestra.

The Notre Dame Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Daniel Stowe, is comprised of more than 60 undergraduates, graduate students and faculty. The Symphony Orchestra performs several concerts on campus each year and traveled to California last winter for several well received performances.

The opportunity for The Chieftains and the University Symphony Orchestra to play together was again facilitated by Haynes when he heard that Moloney had created several orchestral compositions that he was eager to perform in concert. The availability of the University Symphony Orchestra and its relatively low cost compared to other Symphony orchestras made the joint production possible.

The two groups will play together again at a St. Patrick’s Day concert in New York City’s prestigious Carnegie Hall in two weeks.

“The Chieftains and the Notre Dame Symphony Orchestra at Carnegie Hall on St. Patrick’s Day – that phrase speaks for itself,” Haynes said.

For those who will be in New York City for St. Patrick’s Day, tickets are still available for the joint performance.

Tonight, the two groups plan to play a variety of other songs in addition to Maloney’s orchestral compositions. The Chieftains also like surprises, and the appearance of Irish dancers is not uncommon at their toe-tapping concerts. What is for certain is that The Chieftains and the Notre Dame Symphony Orchestra will create an electric Celtic atmosphere in the Leighton Concert Hall for all to enjoy.