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BiOGRAPHY

Máire Breatnach


Photo of Maire Breatnach, author Tim Jarvis

"The centuries-old strains of Celtic music are suddenly in vogue," proclaimed music industry trade magazine Billboard in an April, 1995 front-page story. And nobody understands and inhabits those centuries-old strains with more authority and grace than Máire Breatnach (pronounced My-ra Bran-nah). Breatnach, who was introduced to U.S. Celtic music fans as the virtuoso fiddle player in Mary Black's backing band, has now begun to cut her own distinguished path with the release of Angels Candles on the Blix Street Records label. Proving herself not only a talented musician but a provocative writer as well, Máire shows with Angels Candles her seamless ability to marry traditional, contemporary and classical music.

Wrapped around the often-favored Celtic topics of myth and fable, Angels Candles is a tour de force that has already received praise in Europe. "Utterly splendid contemporary tunes, firmly rooted in traditional music," says Folk Roots. "Memorably beautiful tunes," according to the Irish Times. "Astonishing in both concept and scope. It is quite simply in a class apart," raved the Evening Echo.

Those are powerful words to live up to, but, although a new name to many, Máire Breatnach is a familiar face in Celtic circles and is herself steeped in tradition. She's an evocative and emotive musician with a scholarly understanding of the roots and history of Celtic music.

Máire began studying piano and violin at the Dublin College of Music at age six. She won the Eamon Ceannt Scholarship for outstanding achievement in music and Irish. She went on to study both at University College of Dublin where she earned several degrees and was awarded a post-graduate scholarship by the Department of Irish Folklore Archives. Máire lectured at the College of Music while pursuing a Ph.D. in Ethnomusicology. She has written a weekly column on traditional folk music for Anois, the Irish language newspaper.

But Máire has also put the esoterica to practical and artistic use. In addition to Mary Black, she's toured with Sharon Shannon, played on records by Mary Black, Frances Black, Capercaille, Sinéad O'Connor, Christy Moore, Delores Keane and others, and on the soundtracks of In The Name Of The Father and The Secret of Roan Inish. Along with Angels Candles, Máire currently has an album out on Atlantic's Celtic Heartbeat label and is featured on two commercially impressive compilations, Atlantic's Celtic Heartbeat Collection and Narada's Celtic Legacy: A Global Celtic Journey. She was also a featured artist in the April PBS-TV program, A Celtic Celebration.

Máire is a highly honored musician in her native Ireland, where she's won numerous awards and a sterling reputation not only in traditional circles, but in the classical, jazz, and rock genres as well. Now, with Angels Candles in particular, Máire begins to create a place distinctively her own, where a loving nod to tradition meets a personal contemporary vision. Blended together, they make a unique, thoroughly satisfying approach to Celtic music that's winning more fans everyday. And Blix Street Records will spread the news even further with the release of Angels Candles in North America.

In the words of Irish music critic John O'Regan: "Angels Candles is [a] lovingly woven tapestry of personal Celtic-influenced music. Richly satisfying and intensely moving, this is an album to drink deep from and gain the insight of Máire Breatnach's attachment to the Celtic tradition and her pioneering spirit. Angels Candles is a work of genius that begs to be heard by every discerning fan of Celtic music in all its forms."

On fiddle, viola, whistles, piano and keyboards, guitar and vocals, Maire has performed and recorded with Riverdance, Christy Moore, Alan Stivell, Phil Chevron, Sinead O' Connor, Altan, Sharon Shannon, Mary Black, Mike Oldfield, Donovan, Dave Gilmour, Sarah Brightman, Gavin Friday, Nigel Kennedy, Donal Lunny, Dolores Keane, Ronnie Drew, Liam O' Maonlai, Ronan Hardiman and Bill Whelan.

As a record producer, she has worked with Sonny Condell, Johnny McEvoy, Jim McCann, The Black Family and Keith Donald.

TV and film credits include Glenroe, Tintean, and Voyage (RTE), A Freezing Summer (Japan), Angela Mooney Dies Again, In The Name of the Father, The Secret of Roan Inish, Rob Roy and Moondance.

In 1999, Maire was featured on the two chart-topping albums, Tears of Stone (The Chieftains) and Eist, for which she wrote the title song, a duet with Brian Kennedy.

Maire has composed and recorded two other solo albums: The Voyage of Bran and Celtic Lovers and in 1999 was working on her fourth album.