Ceol Aduaidh (Frankie Kennedy e Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh) - 1983
Altan - 1987
Horse with a Heart - 1989
The Red Crow - 1990
Harvest Storm - 1992
Island Angel - 1993
The First Ten Years - 1995
Runaway Sunday - 1997
Celtic Collections - 1997
Celtic Colours - 1999
Another Sky - 2000
The Blue Idol - 2002
Local Ground - 2005
Altan are an Irish folk and traditional music group, who formed in Ireland in 1987. The popular outfit, who are led by the world-renowned fiddler and vocalist Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh, have been driven by many critically acclaimed albums and a relentless touring schedule. They emerged during the 1990s as one of Ireland’s premiere traditional musical groups and have since sold millions of records worldwide
A young musician from Belfast by the name Frankie Kennedy used to travel to County Donegal in his summer holidays, learning Irish and playing traditional Irish music. There he met native Irish-speaker and musician Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh, the daughter of famed musician Proinsias Ó Maonaigh from Gweedore, County Donegal. Ní Mhaonaigh learned the Donegal-style of fiddle-playing from her father, however, Donegal music was little known outside of the county at the time. Kennedy’s repertoire included a number of obscure northern flute tunes drawn from his travels in County Tyrone and County Fermanagh. The pair married in 1981, when Mairéad was only 19. 
Ní Mhaonaigh and Kennedy featured on the first three albums of the well-known Belfast singer and Irish language enthusiast Albert Fry. Two years later they made their first album together, Ceol Aduaidh. This record featured, a then un-known musician from Gweedore, Eithne Ní Bhraonáin or now known as Enya. It was a collection of Gaelic songs and Ulster jigs and reels.
Green Linnet Records
A major factor owing to the success of the album was Mairéad’s soprano voice, the work caused an immediate stir within the traditional scene. Spurred on by the success of their début effort, Ní Mhaonaigh and Kennedy began to work on a new group of ballads and jigs from the north. The result was 1987’s Altan, which features many of the musicians who would later join the band under that same name. Altan was a major success in Ireland and once again elevated Ní Mhaonaigh and Kennedy’s reputation in the music community. In 1987, they decided to form a band, Altan, named after a lake in Gweedore, Co. Donegal which sits in the shadow or Mount Errigal. They included bouzouki player Ciarán Curran and guitarist Mark Kelly. This became the official birth of the band. In 1989, they released Horse With a Heart, a well-received album that featured the fiddle-playing of Dublin’s Paul O’Shaughnessy.
After signing on to the record label Green Linnet Records in 1990, they released The Red Crow, which became the first of three Altan albums to win the prestigious “Celtic/British Isles Album of the Year” award from the National Association of Independent Record Distributors and Manufactures (NAIRD). By this time the band, which was touring around the world to sold-out audiences, was enjoying both critical and commercial success. The year 1992 brought about a new member, Dáithí Sproule from Derry, and the release of Harvest Storm. Another selection of jigs, reels and ballads that received further critical praise. Critics repeatedly mentioned Mairéad’s voice, the musicians’ playing, and the band’s musical abilities - all positively.
In 2002, Altan (along with other artists signed to Green Linnet such as Cherish the Ladies) sued for unpaid royalties. Most artists were paid and most claims were settled in 2006 as Compass Records (who would later sign Altan) bought the company.
The, now, world-famous ensemble released Island Angel, an album that Britain’s Q Magazine described as a “combination of headspinning drive and pure melancholy”. They review continued to remark that these qualities gave the band “a one-two punch that is unmatched in contemporary folk circles.” Billboard cited Island Angel as the fourth-best-selling album of world music in 1994, which cemented in Altan’s reputation as not only a great touring act, but also as a headliner for music festivals from Europe to the United States. In 1994, the band performed for US president Bill Clinton at the White House in Saint Patrick’s Day, 1994.
Death of Frankie Kennedy
In June of 1992 Frankie Kennedy learned that he had Ewing’s sarcoma, a vicious type of cancer that attacks bone structure. He endured surgery, radiotherapy, and chemotherapy in an effort to cure himself while simultaneously continuing his work with Altan. However, Kennedy died in September of 1994. After a period of mourning, the band resumed their touring as was requested by Kennedy himself before he passed away.
After the release of their first greatest-hits package in 1995, entitled The First Ten Years, they were signed by Virgin Records. The band line-up at the time was Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh (vocals, fiddle), Ciarán Tourish (fiddle), Ciarán Curran (bouzouki), Dáithí Sproule (guitar) and Dermot Byrne (accordion). The first album they released under Virgin was Blackwater, an album that continued the band’s unbroken string of critical and popular successes. People reviewer Lyndon Stambler summed up the critical reaction to the record when he wrote that “the band’s first album on a major label is a heartfelt collection of stirring jigs, reels and hornpipes and of soulful folk ballads. It is sure to strengthen its reputation as one of the finest traditional bands in Ireland and solidify its growing following in the U.S.”
Their next venture in 1997, an album called Runaway Sunday, would garner the quintet even more rave reviews. However, it received a lukewarm response from Thom Owens of Allmusic who called it “typically tasteful and pleasant,” but without “much to distinguish the album from its predecessors.”
2000 – present
On the Narada label, the group released Another Sky in 2000. The album achieved a mix of traditional and modern sounds, energetic dance songs and ballads, and two languages (Irish and English) that created a blend that has become the unmistakable Altan sound. The 2002 album The Blue Idol featured the vocals of American singer Dolly Parton, who became close friends with the group after she invited them to play on her 2001 album Little Sparrow. Sing Out! Writer R. Weir called the group’s effort on the album “just what you’d expect form Altan’s seasoned lineup: mature, sophisticated and qualitative.” The album garnered them the award for Best Group at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards. In 2003, they released another greatest hits compilation CD called The Best of Altan: The Songs. In 2005, they recorded their latest studio album Local Ground. Like almost every other Altan offering, it was met with positive and enthusiastic reviews. The band’s singer, Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh also released her début album, Imeall, at Scoil Gheimridh Frankie Kennedy in December 2008.
Altan are now recording an album with an orchestra, due for release next year.
A winter school of music is now held in Gweedore, County Donegal each year in honour of co-founder Frankie Kennedy, The Frankie Kennedy Winter Music School. Altan remain as one of the most successful proponents of traditional Gaelic song and Donegal fiddle-playing and are arguably one of the world’s most popular traditional Irish groups. Ni Mhaonaigh is regarded as one of the great female singers of Ireland, standing alongside the likes of Mary Black, Moya Brennan and Sinéad O’Connor.
Autore modifica: fokus666 (data: Feb 5 2009, 15:39)
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