Dermot Byrne & Yvonne Casey with Steve Cooney
Dermot Byrne & Steve Cooney are very old friends of our festival and have performed here many times over the years. Today they are joined by the great young Clare fiddler Yvonne Casey who is making her Fiddle Fair debut.
Dermot Byrne hails from the Inishowen peninsula of Co. Donegal, the most northerly part of Ireland, and has played accordion from the early age of four. A child prodigy, he learnt from some of the greatest Donegla fiddlers including Johnny Doherty, Con Cassidy, James Byrne, Tommy Peoples, Francie Mooney, The Campbell’s and Dinny McLaughlin. He has recorded and performed with artists such as Dolly Parton, John Prine, Stephane Grappelli, Vince Gill, Phill Coulter, The Stunning, Salsa Celtica, Brendan Quinn, Frankie Lane, Mary Black, Tim o Brien, Alison Krauss and Paul Brady.
Over his many years of playing, Dermot developed a unique style. His seemingly effortless playing, combined with great subtlety, and a faultless ear, makes him one of the great accordion players of his generation. As well as his mastery of the Donegal style and repertoire, Dermot can turn with ease to other styles and traditions such as French musette, or South American music. He guested on two Altan recordings “The Red Crow” and “Island Angel” before joining the band in 1994.
Steve Cooney is best known for his development of an influential style of guitar accompaniment to the traditional dance music of West Kerry, for which he won the National Entertainment Award in 1997. Born in Melbourne Australia in 1953, he came to Ireland in 1980 and maintains his connections with the Aboriginal culture there, into which he was initiated. He has ancestral links with Tipperary, Cavan and Galway. He has participated in making more than 250 CD's, either as a guitar or bass player or as producer and engineer. Also a poet and songwriter, he has worked with many iconic international artists in rock and country but his primarily focus is Irish traditional music, and fusions of that genre. In 2020 he released a CD of solo guitar interpretations of ancient harp tunes, Ceol Ársa Cláirsí, which won 3 awards at the 2020 RTÉ Folk Awards as well as Irish Times traditional album of the year. He was also given a Lifetime Achievement award by RTÉ. He completed an M.Litt.Ed in 2011 and a Ph.D. in 2018 on an intuitive musical notation system that he has developed for early learners and those who have difficulties with staff notation.
‘Master Cooney restores the ancient link between lyre and lyric, between poetry and performance, the rhapsody and rascality’ _ Seamus Heaney
‘Steve Cooney…possesses a rare and deep musical intuition… he discovered a very unique rhythmic vocabulary that had never previously been heard on guitar in Irish music. He plays with an understanding and integrity that brings out a very ancient feeling in the music.’ _ Martin Hayes
Yvonne Casey is one of Co. Clare’s most distinctive fiddle players. She grew up surrounded by the richness of Clare music and plays in a very unique soulful style. Sitting in sessions from a very young age she discovered the joys of Doolin as a teen, where she met and played with legendary musicians such as Micho Russell, Kevin Griffin, Eoin O’ Neill plus many more. In the 1990’s the band The Ceili Bandits was formed, Yvonne recorded two CDs with them and toured Europe and the U.S.A. She also recorded her first solo CD in 2004.
Yvonne created her own music school in Co. Clare, and performs and teaches at various festivals at home, abroad and online. In 2018 Yvonne released her second solo CD entitled “Croí’ (Heart) which includes many of her own new compositions.
Some of her compositions are showcased in the Irish Traditional Music Archives in Dublin as part of a series called Saothar. Her recent collaboration with accordion wizard Dermot Byrne from Donegal is charming audiences with their fresh new sound, and in December 2021 they released an all new compositional album entitled 'As we feel it'.
“ Her playing is a truly authentic expression of the fiddle music of Clare and south east Galway. The style she plays in is intimate, warm and inviting. Feeling is at the very core of her music.” _ Martin Hayes.