If you combined nine Irish musicians, instruments such as the bodhran or uilleann pipes, and 35 years of experience you would definitely expect some interesting results. Put them all in Centennial Hall and you find Celtic music's ubergroup, The Chieftains.
Founded in Dublin by Paddy Moloney in 1963, The Chieftains have become one of the most influential and enduring Irish folk groups. Moloney has been the group's leader since its inception, and his creativity has fueled their success across three decades. Moloney and long-time friend Martin Fay are the only continuous members of The Chieftains, but seven other men have enriched the musical fiber of the group with their own personal styles.
They have always represented Ireland's classical side in their use of traditional dance tunes, and accompaniment from fiddles, flutes, and guitars. Also, one can find uniquely Irish instruments on any of The Chieftains' albums, such as the uilleann pipes which is a type of elaborate bagpipe, or the bodhran, an ancient framedrum that provides the heartbeat of Celtic music.
Their first album (self-titled), reflected a new approach to playing Irish music through interpretation and arrangement. While most folk music of the 1960s, focused on vocal acts such as Peter, Paul and Mary or Bob Dylan, The Chieftains' music was purely instrumental.
When a song on their fourth album called Women of Ireland was featured in the Stanley Kubrick movie, "Barry Lyndon," The Chieftains' popularity grew tremendously. The soundtrack won an Oscar, and in 1975, they became a professional band. Before, the members of the group struggled to maintain their day jobs while still playing music.
The highlights of their 35-year career include performing for 1.3 million people at a Mass in Dublin conducted by Pope John Paul II, touring China in 1983, and being named Ireland's official musical ambassadors in 1989.
Although critics have labeled them as "Irish country," The Chieftains are not afraid to branch out into completely different genres. Listeners should not shy away from The Chieftains simply because they do not have Irish roots; rather, people should embrace this universal brand of music.
Throughout their career they have won four Grammys, the most recent in the Best World Album category for the 1997 Santiago. This project incorporated the music of the Galician people from the northwest corner of Spain. Such diverse artists as Van Morrison, Elvis Costello, the Rolling Stones, Sting and Sinead O'Connor have recorded with The Chieftains, and their music can be heard on the soundtracks for the films "Rob Roy," "Circle of Friends," and "Far And Away."
The Chieftains' current tour promotes Fire in the Kitchen, a collaborative CD between The Chieftains and some of Canada's finest female artists. Overall, when listening to The Chieftains, one must remember the words of Paddy Moloney, "let the music speak for itself."
The Chieftains will play at Centennial Hall at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday. Though a limited number of tickets are still available for $24-36 (half price for students) they are expected to sell out.