Harmonic Accompaniment


Tríona Ní Dhomhnaill is most often spoken of as a key member of some of the most influential bands in the evolution of Irish traditional music since the 1970s; groups like SKARA BRAE, The BOTHY BAND, RELATIVITY and Nightnoise. Her singing and multi-instrumental playing form a cornerstone of the distinctive sound of all those groups.

What’s not so fully appreciated is her role as a composer in both contemporary and traditional styles. From her early teens, Tríona was writing songs and tunes. In 1970, Danny Doyle sang her composition, “Words” in the National Song Contest to represent Ireland at the Eurovision Song Contest. With lyrics by poet Michael Davitt and music by Tríona the song “Faoileán” was released by Gael Linn in 1975 as an early warning on environmental issues. Last year saw the release of the complete edition of The Trio Collection featuring Dolly Parton, Emmylou Harris and Linda Ronstadt. Tríona’s song “In a deep sleep” recorded by Linda Ronstadt in 1988 is track 19. Japanese recording star Mimori has recorded Tríona’s songs, “The Road to Nowhere” and “Island of Hope and Tears”. Many of her compositions featured prominently in the recordings of Nightnoise. “Snow on High Ground” is a regular play on John Creedon’s nightly RTÉ Radio One show. Her 2010 album The Key’s Within consists solely of her own compositions and she plays all the instruments on the recording.

Tríona first made her mark in Irish music in the early 1970s as a schoolgirl member of the seminal band SKARA BRAE along with her younger sister Maighread, brother Mícheál and the Derry-born guitarist and singer, Dáithí Sproule. Their only recording on the Gael Linn label is widely regarded as one of the most influential and important Irish recordings of its time and it draws heavily from the rich Donegal song tradition.

Triona’s Aunt Neilí Ní Dhomhnaill from Ranafast in County Donegal, had a rich store of song in both English and Irish and was one of her earliest and biggest inspirations and influences. A keen sense of place and an intuitive understanding of the inherent beauty and worth of the song and music tradition have always been central to Tríona’s musical approach. On the disbandment of SKARA BRAE, Tríona and with her brother Mícheál were instrumental in forming the legendary Bothy Band, a grouping of Irish musicians who were to revolutionise the playing of traditional music. Joining Tríona and Mícheál in The Bothy Band were the Matt Molloy, Paddy Keenan, the late Tommy Peoples (later replaced by Kevin Burke) and Donal Lunny. Tríona’s keyboards playing underpinned the fiery rhythmic attack that was their hallmark and Tríona and Mícheál provided the ‘Bothies’ vocal identity through their contribution of songs sourced from the Donegal song tradition. The band’s five albums are classics in the traditional ensemble genre and still inspire young musicians today.

When The Bothy Band went their separate ways in 1979 Tríona moved to North Carolina and joined the band Touchstone. Other musical projects that Tríona has been central to have been Relativity with Scottish musician brothers Johnny and Phil Cunningham and her own brother Mícheál and the successful jazz-tinged Nightnoise who were to become one of the Windham Hill label’s best sellers.

Since her days in SKARA BRAE the musical bond between Tríona and her sister Maighread has been remarkably strong and their 1999 release Idir an Dá Sholas/ Between Two Lights marks a particular career milestone. Once again her novel approach to accompaniment shines through on this recording.

A gifted natural musician with a deep empathy for her own family’s rich tradition and an endless curiosity for new musical possibilities, Tríona’s compositions stand out as fresh and yet enduring, energetic and yet soulful, a uniquely connected and rooted set of new explorations.

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Dónal Lunny is popularly regarded as having being central to the renaissance of Irish Music over the last three decades.  Since the seventies Dónal has had involvement with some of the most innovative bands to emerge from Ireland including Planxty, the Bothy Band, Moving Hearts, Coolfin, and more recently Mozaik. He has toured across the world, collaborating with musicians of many different cultures.

Dónal co-founded Mulligan Records and produced 17 albums for the label. Since then he has produced tracks for, and collaborated on albums with Kate Bush, Mark Knopfler, Indigo Girls, Clannad, and Baaba Maal among others. He produced the internationally acclaimed album for EMI, ‘Common Ground’, featuring such artists as Bono, Neil and Tim Finn, and Elvis Costello. He also has appeared on the BBC TV series, Transatlantic Sessions alongside the likes of James Taylor, Eddi Reader, Diana Krall and others.  Dónal was MD of the House Band on the “Céiliúradh” concert in the Royal Albert Hall, part of President Michael D. Higgins’ state visit to the UK.

He continues his work in studio production, also occasionally composing music for theatre, television and film. A member of Aosdána, in 2008 Dónal received an Honorary Doctorate in music from Trinity College. In 2009 he was appointed Artist in Residence at the University of Limerick, where he frequently teaches.






As a composer and performer, Ryan’s work has been performed to international audiences on four continents for over ten years, including major concert venues such as Tanglewood (U.S.A.), Lucerne Hall, KKL (Switzerland), Kölner Philharmonic (Germany), Holywell Music Room (England) and Waterfront Hall (N. Ireland). From Pomeroy in Co. Tyrone, Ryan began his musical life on the fiddle, taught by Bríd Harper. The piano soon followed in his teenage years and it is in vampology that Ryan now specialises. Described by the Irish Times as “…the funkiest piano this side of Dr John” and a “…secret weapon on rhythm” by the Irish Echo, Ryan has recorded on many critically acclaimed albums, amongst them Humdinger, with noted musicians Paul Brock and Enda Scahill, Tight Squeeze as a member of the Dave Munnelly Band, and The Dusty Bridge and Wayfaring with Fergal Scahill. In great demand as an accompanist, Ryan’s repertoire spans numerous genres from traditional Irish music to contemporary classical music. The confluence of these two genres formed the basis of his recently completed a PhD in composition at Queen’s University, Belfast, studying under Simon Mawhinney and Piers Hellawell.

Ryan is currently supported by a BBC Performing Arts Fund Fellowship in association with Moving on Music. His recent compositions including Gortnagarn, Séamsur II and Third Epistle to Timothy, have been performed by EXAUDI Vocal Ensemble, Konvergence Ensemble and the Ulster Orchestra, amongst others. Ryan’s work has been broadcast on BBC Radio 3 and Radio Ulster, RTÉ Lyric FM, Radio 1 and Ráidió na Gaeltachta as well as on BBC 2, UTV and BBC World.




Conal O'Kane


Conal O’Kane is from Philadelphia and is a graduate of the University of Limerick’s BA in Irish Music and Dance and MA in Irish Music Performance programs. A multi-instrumentalist, he originally played fiddle and banjo before focusing on guitar, which gives him an unusual insight into both the melodic and harmonic structures of a large repertoire of tunes. He studied music theory with Roberto Pace at the Settlement Music School, which gives him a broad spectrum of accompaniment techniques from a wide range of musical genres.

In addition to his busy touring schedule, he is also a guitar teacher on both the undergraduate and postgraduate programs in Irish music at the Irish World Academy in UL, and a regular tutor at the Blas International Summer School of Irish Music and Dance.













A graduate of the BA in Irish Music and Dance at the Academy, Tadhg has established himself as a force in the world of traditional Irish music. A recent All-Ireland piano title win is among the various awards for piano, piano accordion and accompaniment that have cemented this fact across the traditional music community. As well as extensive tours of the US and Europe with Goitse, he has performed on a variety of stages around the world to huge crowds and esteemed audiences; from Ireland’s National Concert Hall to Music Crossroads in Zambia and from the infamous Festival Interceltique de Lorient to a garden party hosted by Uachtarán an hÉireann, the President of Ireland.

Tadhg has not only made a name for himself in terms of his performing career. In recent years, he has recorded on many albums and worked with singers and musicians alike, including collaborations with legendary singers Aoife Clancy and Seán Ó Sé. He was also chosen by none other than Dónal Lunny to be the pianist in his ‘Lorg Lunny’ project which was recorded for an eight-episode TV series and culminated in the formation of the band Ciorras.

Tadhg has also taught extensively at festivals across Europe and teaches a variety of classes from piano and piano accordion, to accompaniment classes for a range of accompaniment instruments. Having grown up in an Irish-speaking home, and having studied the Irish language to University level, he has even been known to teach a few Irish or ‘Gaelic’ classes.

Young composers in Irish traditional music are the topic of Tadhg’s current research. His study will examine the phenomenon of the young composer; exploring what motivates them to compose, how they go about composing, and how their work is responded to within the tradition. The changing role of the composer figure in the context of Irish traditional music will be explored as will the structure and makeup of the music being composed.









Originally from Waterford City, Alan Colfer is a graduate of the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance at the University of Limerick, where he now works as principal guitar tutor. He has played extensively throughout Ireland and Europe, and his repertoire draws influence from music the world over.











**Please note all teachers are subject to change.