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The Musicians

Mike Schaeffer (Tin Whistles/Uilleann Pipes):  “My entry into Irish traditional music started with picking up the pennywhistle in the late 1970s as traditional music experienced its rebirth on both sides of the ocean.  Prior to that time, I was a most serious fan of modern jazz, particularly the Dave Brubeck Quartet.  In addition to the unusual time signatures present in Irish music (why would I like that?), I was taken by the driving sounds and rhythms of the Bothy Band, Planxty and the Chieftains.  It was no surprise that being influenced by the pipers, I also took up the Uilleann Pipes and the low whistles, later on.  For many years, I played as an itinerant musician at pick-up sessions, Irish gatherings, and hoolies of all kinds, and sometimes have been known to fuse in a touch of modern jazz into tunes (thanks, Dave).  I still take in sessions locally and when I travel.”

Stuart Neel (Fiddle/Mandolin):  “I began playing old time fiddle music as a teenager living in Utah.  After hearing Irish music as played by the Chieftains, Planxty, and the Bothy Band, I was hooked and have been playing it ever since.  I’ve played in Irish bands in Utah (Tenpenny), New York (Genessee River Band), Colorado (Jigs Up), and Virginia (Spudduggery).  My main influences are the great Kevin Burke and Liz Carroll."

Ray Sheehan (Guitar/Vocals):  “I grew up with this music in the “Hungry Hill” section of Springfield, Mass., but was too busy playing music by the Beatles, Byrds, and Crosby, Stills & Nash.  It was after hearing the Bothy Band in 1978, and the energy of Michael O’Donnell’s guitar work, that I saw “the light.”  In a world of melody instruments, a guitarist can have a field day painting emotional pictures through rhythms and chord selection. I decided that if ever I had the chance to play this music, I’d drop everything else.  That chance came in 2000 and I’ve loved it ever since.  As a guitarist, I tend to favor those groups with solid guitar rhythms, like the Ireland’s Bothy Band, Altan (Daithi Sproule), Lunasa (Donough Hennessey), Solas with John Doyle, and Cape Breton’s Beolach (Pat Gillis), though I still find some of my earlier heroes, such as Stephen Stills, very relevant.  Aint that a hoot?”

Deirdre McQuade (Bodhran/Vocals):  "Despite my name, I didn't grow up with traditional Irish music. My first exposure was during the late 90s at sessions in South Bend, Indiana. All-Ireland hammer dulcimer winner, David James, noticed me enjoying the intergenerational scene and asked why I wasn't playing. Having no good answer, I took him up on his offer of drum lessons. I love playing rhythm, as it's the pulse of life from the heartbeat to footsteps and, of course, dance. I've since taken up singing, too. After moving to Washington, DC in 2002, I became a regular at the Monday night session at Nanny O'Brien's where I met Mike and Steve. The Irish are always close to crying or laughing, it seems to me. Trading off between drum and voice, I hope to help everyone get in touch with their Irish side. Someday soon I'll add sean-nos (old-style) percussive dance to my repertoire."

Kate Kane (Vocals/Bodhran):  “When I was growing up, I began singing at home with my father and sister.  I never stopped.  I became enchanted with Irish tunes and rhythms.  After attending the Glen Echo Irish Festival, I also joined in with the Ceili dancing – and never stopped dancing, either.”