RTÉ: A salute to Andy Irvine

Updated / Monday, 22 Oct 2018 09:21

Andy Irvine performing at Imagining Ireland at the Royal Festival Hall, London in April 2016. Photo: Amy T. Zielinski/ Redferns/Getty Images
Andy Irvine performing at Imagining Ireland at the Royal Festival Hall, London in April 2016. Photo: Amy T. Zielinski/ Redferns/Getty Images
Analysis: throughout his remarkable career, Andy Irvine has remained a consummate singer, storyteller and interpreter of songsSince arriving in Dublin in 1962, Andy Irvine has been an ever-present figure on the Irish music scene, and is a worthy recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award at the inaugural RTÉ Radio 1 Folk Awards next week. Highly respected across the traditional and folk spectrum, the singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist is celebrated both for his solo work and for his contribution to a succession of ground-breaking ensembles, most notably Sweeney’s Men and Planxty.


From RTÉ Radio One’s Second Captains, an interview with Andy Irvine (starts 4:03)

To understand his contribution to music in Ireland, and his influence on later musicians, it is helpful to look at how Irvine encountered this music for the first time. Born in London in 1942, his Irish mother and Scottish father had both been involved in music, and he found early success in film and TV as a child actor. Like many of his generation, his first involvement with folk or vernacular music came through the skiffle boom of the mid-1950s. He had already been studying classical guitar, but after hearing some of Lonnie Donegan’s recordings Irvine abandoned this to set up a skiffle group; a common step for many budding musicians in this period.

Skiffle’s eclectic repertoire introduced these young British and Irish musicians to a heady brew of American folk and blues sources, and it was through this that Irvine first encountered Woody Guthrie, who has served as a touchstone throughout his career. The attractions of the road, the identification with workers and the oppressed, and the potential power of protest song all stem from his relationship with Guthrie. Right from the outset, then, Irvine helped shape perceptions of Irish folk music in the 1960s and 1970s as having a political dimension, even if this wasn’t always the primary focus of his groups.


From RTÉ Radio One’s Arena, Andy Irvine remembers the life and career of Woody Guthrie 

After some time in rep as an actor, Irvine moved to Dublin, where he became involved in the city’s burgeoning folk scene, and was caught up in the intensity and fervour of the folk revival. For Irvine and many others, this was a period of restless exploration and learning, whether from older singers, peers, recordings or books. The energy, camaraderie and the characters of the period are wonderfully captured in Irvine’s song “O’Donoghue’s”, named for the Merrion Row pub which was the hub of the 1960s revival.

While the folk clubs and pubs provided many opportunities for singing, there was little money in the scene, and a life of bohemian precariousness was punctuated with sometimes chaotic domestic and European tours. In 1966, Irvine joined with two of his regular partners, Joe Dolan (later replaced by Terry Woods) and the Dublin singer Johnny Moynihan, in the group Sweeney’s Men.

Sweeney’s Men – Johnny Moynihan, Andy Irvine and Terry Woods – in London in 1968. Photo: Brian Shuel/Redferns/Getty Images


Coinciding with the high point of the ballad boom, they had success with the singles “The Waxie’s Dargle” and “The Old Maid in the Garrett”, although the bulk of their material was more diverse and more exploratory in its blend of English, Scottish and American folk songs. The possibilities afforded by the combination of guitar, mandolin, and bouzouki laid the foundations for many other subsequent groups, and the occasional dance tunes pointed towards the more integrated approach of later bands, most notably Planxty.

Prior to the group coming together in the early 1970s, Irvine left Sweeney’s Men to travel and play in Eastern Europe, learning and bringing back tunes in distinctive Bulgarian asymmetrical rhythms. This encounter has left a significant imprint on Irish music, from Irvine’s own “Blacksmith/Blacksmithereens”, Bill Whelan’s Timedance” (1981), the “East Wind” collaboration with Davy Spillane (1992), and of course “Riverdance”(1994).


From RTÉ Archives, Planxty playing “Kitty Gone A Milking” and “Music of the Forge” at the National Stadium in Dublin as featured on a June 1973 episode of The Music Makers

In one sense, the coming together of Irvine, Dónal LunnyChristy Moore and Liam O’Flynn as Planxty marked a détente between the sometimes-opposing forces of the folk music and traditional music revivals. It also coincided with (or helped spur) the emergence of a more youth-based traditional music culture, as is evident from Planxty’s concert footage in this period.

As well as electrifying audiences with their live concerts, the band released six studio albums that still impress today in their creativity and artistry. Among these were some of Irvine’s most memorable interpretations such as “The Jolly Beggarman”, “The Rambling Siúler” and his own “Băneasă’s Green Glade”.


From RTÉ Archives, Planxty perform ‘You Rambling Boys of Pleasure” at the National Stadium in Dublin as featured on a May 1983 episode of Festival Folk

It was also during this period that Irvine forged a partnership with Paul Brady, who had joined Planxty as a replacement for Christy Moore in 1974. After the initial breakup of the group in 1975, Irvine and Brady developed the band’s unrecorded later material for one of the best-loved albums from this period.

The album’s reputation was further enhanced last year when it was commemorated through a concert tour that involved the performance of the whole album (albeit in a different order). This seems to have been the first time that a folk or traditional album has been celebrated using methods more usually associated with the production of “heritage rock”.


After Planxty’s second stint, Irvine began to focus more on solo recording and touring, interspersing this with a vast array of collaborations and membership of other groups. Included among these is a long series of albums with Patrick Street extending from 1986 until 2007 and further explorations of the connections between different folk traditions with Mozaik. Most recently, Usher’s Island brings Irvine, Dónal Lunny and fiddler Paddy Glackin together with younger musicians who emerged in the 1990s such as Mick McGoldrick(flute) and John Doyle (guitar).

The motif of travel continues to be prominent in his musical career, with new pathways being forged to Australia, where he made his most recent recording, “Precious Heroes”, with the Australian mandolin player Luke Plumb. Included on the album are songs about miners’ rights, Irish anti-fascists in the Spanish Civil War and the Australian bushranger Ben Hall. Clearly, the inspiration of Woodie Guthrie on Irvine remains undimmed more than 50 years on from discovering him.


From RTÉ Archives, a Nighthawks’ piece on Andy Irvine from 1990

Throughout his remarkable career, Irvine has remained a consummate singer, storyteller and interpreter of songs. Not only never tiring of the road, his career has also shown a tirelessness in seeking out new connections, new musical experiences, and new repertoire. Perhaps it is this – and his ability to bridge the folk, traditional and wider musical worlds – which has been most influential on later generations of musicians.

The inaugural RTÉ Radio 1 Folk Awards will take place in Vicar Street, Dublin on Thursday October 25th

The views expressed here are those of the author and do not represent or reflect the views of RTÉ

sourece: https://www.rte.ie/eile/brainstorm/2018/1021/1005709-andy-irvine-profile-folk-awards/ 

Feature: Andy Irvine & Dé Danann

After the split of Planxty in 1975, Andy Irvine found himself at a looks end for the first time in a few years. It is a little known fact that for a brief time in 1976 Andy Irvine was a member of the group De Danann. There is not a whole lot known about his time with the group but here’s what I could find.

Dé Danann Early Days

The group’s debut album was the eponymous Dé Danann, produced by Dónal Lunny and recorded at Eamonn Andrews Studios, Dublin, in 1975 and released on Polydor. It featured Delores Keane on vocals. In early 1976, Singer Delores Keane left to marry multi-instrumentalist John Faulkner, with whom she subsequently recorded three albums of folk music.

To fill the vacancy left after Keane’s departure, Dé Danann brought in Andy Irvine, who recorded live with the band on 30 April 1976, during a folk festival in Germany. Irvine left soon thereafter because of scheduling conflicts but proposed Johnny Moynihan as his replacement, who participated in the recording of the band’s second album, Selected Jigs Reels & Songs.

Dé Danann in 1977 with Johnny Moynihan shortly after Andy’s departure.

In his own words

“Since Paul [Brady] and myself had struck up a particular friendship we decided to stick together and become a duo. At the same time my old friend Alec Finn had asked me to join De Dannan because Dolores Keane had left. So I was in two outfits at the same time, which I should have known was going to be a disaster.

Frankie Gavin rang me up one day and he says:
“Andy, De Dannan have been offered two TV programmes on RTE in June.”
Now I’d already agreed to do a tour in Brittany with Paul and Liam in June so my heart sank. I said: “Oh that’s great Frankie. Do you know what dates in June?”
And he says:   “Yes, the 15th and 16th.”

Right smack bang in the middle of the Breton tour… ‘’So I said,’’Frankie I’m going to have to ring you back’’. I sat down and I thought ‘’What the hell am I going to do? there’s no way out of this’’. Much as I liked playing with De Dannan, I considered that what I was playing with Paul was more in my line as a musician.

So I rang Frankie back and I said:
“I’m terribly sorry Frankie but I’m going to have to leave the band.”
And I think that’s the only time I’ve ever heard Frankie Gavin lost for words!

Leaving the band like that, at short notice left me feeling pretty bad and I suggested they ask Johnny Moynihan. Johnny was free and had already told me he would be interested. So he stepped into the breach and got me out of a big guilt complex. They made a great record after that, The Mist Covered Mountain*.

It’s not very well remembered now that I played in De Dannan, I even recorded with them on an Irish Folk Festival tour in Germany but I don’t think I’ve ever quite been forgiven for leaving the band. Whenever I see biographies of De Dannan, I notice there is no mention of me at all!”

* Johnny Moynihan participated in the recording of the band's second album, “Selected Jigs Reels & Songs”. He does not feature on the group’s third album “The Mist Covered Mountain”. Andy must have been mistaken here.

The 3rd Irish Folk Festival In Concert (1976)

Andy recorded live with the band on 30 April 1976, during a folk festival in Germany. This is the only known recording of the group with Andy at the helm.

Cat# Artist Title (Format) Label Cat# Country Year
INT 181.008 Various The 3rd Irish Folk Festival In Concert ‎(2xLP, Comp) Xenophon INT 181.008 Germany 1976
CM CD 040 A/B Various The 3rd Irish Folk Festival In Concert ‎(2xCD, Album) Celtic Music CM CD 040 A/B UK 1988
KIN W 2609 Various The 3rd Irish Folk Festival In Concert ‎(CD) Kingston World KIN W 2609 Germany 2005


B1 –De Danaan Martinmas Time/ Dinny O’Brien’s Hornpipe
B2 –De Danaan Maíre Rua/ Hardiman The Fiddler
B3 –De Danaan The Emigrant’s Farewell
B4 –De Danaan The Boys Of Ballysidare
B5 –De Danaan The Plains Of Kildare


  • Banjo, Bouzouki, Tin Whistle – Charlie Piggott (tracks as listed above)
  • Bodhrán, Bones – Johnny McDonagh (tracks as listed above)
  • Bouzouki – Alec Finn (tracks as listed above)
  • Fiddle, Whistle – Frankie Gavin (tracks as listed above)
  • Mandolin, Vocals – Andy Irvine (tracks as listed above)

If you have any other information on this interesting time in Andy’s career please do get in touch. Photos or recordings would be fantastic.

In Pictures: APR/MAY 2018 – SOLO TOUR in UK

sourced from the twitter community. thanks for sharing!

Fan Story: 15 year old Ed Sheeran with Andy Irvine in Kavanaghs Pub, Portlaoise [2006]

Thanks to John Shereran (Ed’s Dad) and Gary Dunne this gem was found last night!

15 year old Ed Sherran with Andy Irvine at ÉistMusic (ran by John Dunne & Vinny O’Brien) in Kavanaghs Pub-Portlaoise

Picture taken in 2006 with Credit to John Sheeran!

Here's Ed's version of Andy's classic West Coast of Clare

Feature: Precious Musos

Here's some info on the great line-up of musicians who helps make "Precious Heroes" such a great album.

Name Andy Irvine
Instrument Bouzouki, mandola, octave mandola, harmonica & vocal
About Andy Irvine is one of the great Irish singers, his voice one of a handful of truly great ones that gets to the very soul of Ireland. He has been hailed as “a tradition in himself”.
Site www.andyirvine.com
Name Luke Plumb
Instrument Mandolin, guitar, programming, bouzouki, guitar & vocal
About Through his work with Shooglenifty, Peter Daffy and as a Solo performer, Luke Plumb has established a reputation as a driving force in acoustic music on the global stage.
Site https://www.lukeplumb.com
Name Mike McGoldrick
Instrument Flute & Whistle
About Andy’s Ushers Island bandmate, Michael McGoldrick (born 26 November 1971, Manchester, England) is an English Low whistle, Irish flute, Uillean pipes, tin whistle and bodhran player. He also plays other instruments such as guitar and mandolin in some of his tracks.
Site https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_McGoldrick
Name John McCusker
Instrument Fiddle
About John McCusker (born 15 May 1973) is a Scottish folk musician, record producer and composer. An accomplished fiddle player, he had a long association as a member of the Battlefield Band beginning in the 1990s and was later a band member and producer for folk singer Kate Rusby. He has served as producer and arranger for artists in a range of genres and also has several solo albums to his credit.
Site http://www.johnmccusker.co.uk
Name Kate Burke & Ruth Hazleton
Instrument Vocals
About Kate Burke and Ruth Hazleton are two of Australia’s most respected and renowned folk musicians.  Their vocal harmonies, exceptional musicianship and unique interpretations of traditional song have won them national and international acclaim over the years.
Site http://www.kateandruth.com
Name Rens Van Der Zalm
Instrument Guitar & Fiddle
About Andy’s Mozaik bandmate, right-hand man. The Netherlands has few celebrities in the field of folk. But the Rotterdammer Rens van der Zalm definitely belongs in this select company. For three decades he has been giving colour – and more than that – to all sorts of different music groups with his violin, mandolin, guitar, accordion, bagpipe, whistles, harmonica and so on.
Site https://www.facebook.com/rens.vanderzalm
Name James Mackintosh
Instrument Percussion
About Hailing from the Scottish Highlands, James’s first forays into percussion were distinctly hand knitted. Fearing for the integrity of her pots and pans, his mother eventually bought him a drumkit for his 15th birthday. Some 30 years later James is widely recognised as one of Scotland’s most innovative drummers, and he is responsible for the deliriously danceable grooves underpinning Shooglenifty’s sound. The Shoogle drummer is much in demand elsewhere: with Capercaillie, Grit Orchestra, String Sisters and Michael McGoldrick to name a few.
Site http://www.shooglenifty.com
Name Kumiko
Instrument Glass harp
About Andy’s dear wife Kumiko!
Site www.andyirvine.com