Cormac Begley and Liam O’Connor
Cormac Begley is a bass, baritone, treble and piccolo concertina player from a West-Kerry musical family. He plays in a number of projects including: duets including Liam O Connor, Caoimhín O Raghallaigh (hardanger d’amore) and Liam Ó Maonlaí (singer and multi-instrumentalist), Rushad Eggleston (cello); a trio entitled ‘Concertina’ (Noel Hill and Jack Talty); with the band Ré; and with singer/songwriter Lisa O Neil. He is the founder of Airt and the award winning Tunes in the Church live concert series in Galway and Dublin. In 2014, he received the Seán Ó Riada Award for concertina playing and his playing has been described as ‘a masterclass in timeless musicianship’ by the Irish Times (*****). He has recently recorded his debut solo album featuring the full range of concertinas to critical acclaim and has received nine 5-star review to date (e.g., The Irish Times, Folking.com, The Herald Scotland, Folk Wales Online Magazine). In 2018 he was nominated for ‘Instrumentalist of the Year’ for RTE1 Folk Awards and his solo album was shortlisted for the Irish Times album of the year (Top 5 in 2018).
'Nothing short of spectacular' (BBC Radio Northern Ireland)
'Album of the Month' for April (SHMU FM, Aberdeen)
“Album of the Month” on Midnight Campfire, Juice FM& Totally Radio.
5 Star Review ***** (Irish Times) - 'An earthy delight’..... 'The record’s limited-edition hexagonal case is a masterclass in form and function.'
5 Star Review ***** (Folking.com) - 'This is a superb solo artiste with feeling, amazing timings, drama, humour and obvious dedication to his craft.'
5 Star Review ***** (Folk Wales Online Magazine) - '....an utterly delightful album'
Liam O’Connor, one of Ireland’s leading fiddle players, was born into a musical family in Dublin. His solo CD “The Loom” received 5 star reviews and was voted Trad Album of the Year 2017 by the Irish Times.In September 2018 he was nominated for the Best Folk Instrumentalist RTÉ Radio 1 Folk Awards.
His father Mick O’Connor is a well-known flute player, researcher and leader of the Castle Céilí Band who was awarded a prestigious TG4 Gradam Ceoil Award in 2017. During his youth, Séamus Glackin taught Liam. By age of 15 he had won 5 All Ireland fiddle championships and later added junior and senior Oireachtas fiddle competitions. He also completed 8 grades in Classical violin training in the DIT College of Music, Dublin. In addition to performing as a soloist from a young age, in his teenage years he was also invited to perform in duet with established masters such as uilleann piper Liam O'Flynn and concertina legend Noel Hill.
Liam was awarded TG4 Young Musician of the Year in 2002. At the time, Liam was described in the Irish Times as "Possibly one of the most exciting fiddle players on the music scene since the emergence of Sean Keane and Frankie Gavin more than 30 years ago. He has an exceptional natural ability and the standard of his playing defies logic given his age."
He spent many summers in County Clare, his mother’s home county where he played with played with musical icons Joe Ryan, Bobby Casey, Peadar O’Loughlin and many others. Other major influences on his playing include Séamus Glackin, Vincent Harrison, Seán Keane, along with recordings of Tommie Potts, Michael Coleman and James 'Lad' O'Beirne.
In 2006 Liam and Sean was awarded a bursary from the Arts Council of Ireland under their DEIS scheme where the archiving and recording of the transmission of the tradition from older masters to younger musicians was central. He spent time with and conducted interviews with Seán Potts, Peter Horan, Vincent Harrison, Seamus Tansey, Seamus Begley, John Dwyer, Peadar O’Loughlin, Sean MacIarnán, among others during this project. Liam also featured on an acclaimed CD with Noel Hill in 2006.
In a review of a concert at the Temple Bar Traditional Music Festival in 2007 by Toner Quinn of The Journal of Music, he made the following comments on Liam's solo performance: "We teetered with O'Connor on the very edge of the melody as he stretched our concepts of the aesthetics of traditional music - expanding the melody, reducing it, compacting it, going forward, pulling back. This was dangerous music executed in a risky environment, with no accompaniment, no safety net, and there was no cutting short lest he ran out of ideas. O'Connor has the potential to have serious impact on fiddle playing. Now only 23 years old, a fiddle solo of three reels half way through the set was, in a word, breath-taking."
In 2009, he released a critically acclaimed CD "Dublin Made Me" with uilleann piper Seán McKeon which was described as “Exceptional musicians who marry technical prowess with a marvellous sense of adventure and history” (Irish Times).
In 2009, he secured first-class honours in a graduate diploma in Irish Folklore in the UCD Delargy Centre for Irish Folklore and Linguistics and the National Folklore Collection. During the course of his studies, Liam was awarded two prestigious scholarships: Scoláracht Máire MhicNéill and Scoláracht Dhónaill uí Mhoráin. He worked as a researcher of traditional songs in the Irish language for the Royal Irish Academy’s Doegen Web Records Project. He has taught as a guest teacher on undergraduate and post-graduate courses at the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance, Limerick, and in DIT, DKIT and UCD. He has also taught and performed at numerous Irish and international music festivals such as Scoil Samhraidh Willie Clancy, Scoil Acla, Tocane and many more. He has served as a board member on the TG4 Gradam Ceoil Selection Panel, on the board of the Irish Traditional Music Archive and as honorary secretary of An Cumann le Béaloideas Éireann/The Folklore of Ireland Society. Having been awarded a Master of Letters for his research thesis entitled “Aspects of oral tradition in the Life and Works of P.W. Joyce”, Liam has given lectures on Joyce at Na Píobairí Uilleann, the National Folklore Collection, the Chris Langan Festival, Toronto, and Scoil Samhraidh Willie Clancy.He also gave talks and lectures on Paddy Cronin, Vincent Harrison, Fiddle Music in Dublin, and Tommie Potts. Given his interest in manuscript, historic collections and contemporary traditional compositions, he is proud of having written forewords to the P.J. Giblin Collectionand to Connie O’Connell’s Bóithrín na Smaointe. In 2012, he was invited to give an illustrated insight into the music of Tommie Potts at the launch of RTÉ CD Tommie Potts – Traditional Fiddle Music from Dublin.
In 2013, he was commissioned to record and compose music for inclusion in Stailc 1913a TG4 film-documentary on the 1913 Lockout.
The Loom, a solo album that received five-star ratings and rave reviews was released in 2017. Described in an Irish Echoreview as a ‘mind-bogglingly good album full of wow moments from beginning to end.’ Writing in the Irish Times, Siobhán Long gave it a five-star rating and wrote: “The possibility that we are in a golden age of traditional music, is reinforced by the release of Liam O’Connor’s exceptional solo album The Loom. O’Connor has long been a thoughtful, considered fiddle player who wears his acquaintance with the musicians who came before him with equal parts pride and subtlety.”It was voted Trad Album of the Year 2017.
2018 saw the launch of a project called Re-creating P.W. Joyce: from 19thcentury manuscripts to an interactive online audio-visual resourcewhich was conducted in partnership with the Irish Traditional Music Archive in which Liam recorded 371 melodies from the Joyce collection and was funded through the Arts Council DEIS scheme. Other projects include an exciting duet with concertina player Cormac Begley, a tour of the USA, concerts with Sean McKeon, Noel Hill, in addition to various solo recitals and masterclasses. He has commissioned a new bow from expert archetier Noel Burke that is due in 2018 and which was kindly part-funded by Music Network Capital Scheme which he performed on in a solo concert in the National Concert Hall, Dublin in October 2018.