My interest in Irish music began with my interest in Irish dance. I began taking Irish dancing lessons in elementary school and continued to take lessons, compete, and perform throughout my school-age years. Through Irish dancing, I was exposed to the basics of Irish music, listening to jigs, reels, slip jigs, and hornpipes as I practiced footwork and choreographies in time to the music.
During my high school and college years I began taking an interest in choral and vocal music, taking vocal lessons at university, studying art song and classical compositions. And in my own time I continued to explore both bluegrass and Irish music, eventually picking up the bodhrán as a means to continue enjoying the rhythms I used to tap out while Irish dancing. After forming fialla, I picked up DADGAD guitar to add some accompaniment to the mix.
It has been a joy being able to make music with good friends! And there are many laughs to be had while we are rehearsing and exploring new repertoire. The creative process of adding our own Fialla flair to Irish traditional tunes and songs is a good bit of fun and evolved organically! For example, I once sang a few verses of North Sea Holes (a song by Ewan MacColl that I had heard from the singing of John Doyle) to Stephen and Jake as a song that might be interesting for us to explore covering as a band. They thought it sounded intriguing and started adding in some guitar and piano while I sang through some more of the verses. At which point it began to take on a somewhat jazzy groove... which was not initially what I had in mind stylistically. But I decided to roll with it and see where the approach would lead as we continued to play around with the arrangement. And it has ended up being something quite unique stylistically and really showcases Stephen’s expertise on piano!
I grew up in the last decade of indoor smoking, and I spent many of those years lost in the heavy atmosphere of Byrne’s Pub, cramming my toddler face full of pub popcorn and listening to my uncle Doug Rudy and his fantastic band the Yankee Celtic Consort. They had a brilliant singer and pennywhistle player by the name of Pat Mogan, whose playing mesmerized me so much that when we were asked to choose our first band instruments in elementary school, I chose the flute so that I could learn to play like Pat. After a childhood wrestling with a bum upper lip, I regrettably let that goal languish for a number of years until I picked it up again with renewed vigor as an adult. That was the same year we later formed Fialla, and I've not looked back since.
From an early age I was always drawn to Irish traditional music - the melodies and lyrics created in Ireland and handed down through oral tradition over nearly two thousand years. Musically, it is one of the last really healthy remnants of the lost world of "folk" music that belonged to those who stewarded the earth before us, and before the baroque era redefined music as composition over storytelling. Countless generations of musicians and storytellers have canonized their own experiences in the Irish trad repertoire, so that someone listening today has the chance to reach back through time to find a companion whose joys or griefs echo their own across the ages. As musicians, it is a privilege to help carry this torch for a while until we in turn pass it on to those who will come after us.
I started playing piano when I was 7 years old and never looked back. I then joined high school marching band playing percussion instruments and developed a love for drums of all kinds. Classical and jazz music have been my main focus throughout my musical journey. However, in college Jake approached me and asked if I had ever heard of a bodhrán and showed me some videos. I got a drum and learned the technique through YouTube videos and hours of practice. I then added accordion to my interests and have still been working to develop this challenging instrument as well. Music is a very important part of my life and I am grateful I get to share this with others!
My career is focused on teaching students with disabilities. I have been in this field to some degree for 8+ years, and now teach in a high school classroom for students with disabilities. This is the main area I have invested in outside of music, and I intend to continue on in this path to help people be as independent and happy as possible in life.
Side point: we rarely play songs everyone knows well. We want to be a band that captivates people by original compositions and instrumentation, not by singing pub tunes that everyone knows. I think one of my biggest pet peeves is when people come up during a break and ask for "more popular songs". Anyone can remember and enjoy a cover band, but if people can remember us because of our talent, energy, and engagement with the audience, that is special.