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Clannad are a Grammy Award-winning Irish musical group, from Gaoth Dobhairmarker, County Donegalmarker. Their music has been variously described as bordering on folk and folk rock, Irish, Celtic and New Age. They are known for performing in various languages, including English, Latin, Gàidhlig, Mohican and most of all in their native tongue, Irish.

Clannad comprises siblings Moya Brennan (born Máire Ní Bhraonáin) and Ciarán Brennan (born Ciarán Ó Braonáin), and their twin uncles Noel Duggan (born Noel Ó Dúgáin) and Pádraig Duggan (born Pádraig Ó Dúgáin). Other siblings, Enya (born Eithne Ní Bhraonáin) and Pól Brennan (born Pól Ó Braonáin), left the group in 1981 and 1990 to pursue solo careers.

Clannad first made their mark in the folk and traditional scene in the 1970s in Ireland and mainland Europe. They subsequently went on to bridge the gap between traditional celtic music and pop music in the 1980s and 1990s with albums such as Macalla and Anam. During their career they toured the world extensively and gained fans in every major territory. Lead singer Moya Brennan and her sister Enya have also enjoyed significant success as solo artists. The band won a Grammy Award in 1998 for Best New Age Album, and their record sales exceed the 15 million mark. They are also widely regarded as the band which, for the first time, put Irish traditional music and the Irish language on the world stage and paved the way for many other Irish artists.

Ten years after "taking a break", the five original members of Clannad reunited on stage at the Celtic Connections Festival in February 2007 in Glasgowmarker, Scotlandmarker. Moya, Ciarán, Noel and Pádraig embarked on their first UK tour in over 10 years in March 2008, starting in Gatesheadmarker. In 2009, the band's Pádraig Duggan announced that the band were recording a new album.

Musical upbringing

Siblings Ciarán, Pól, and Máire Uí Bhraonáin (Brennan) and their two uncles Noel and Pádraig Ó Dúgáin (Duggan) grew up in Gaoth Dobhairmarker, in rural Ireland. The Brennans' mother, Baba, was a music teacher, and their father, Leo, was a former member of a cabaret band. Leo was travelling extensively in the early family years. Later, they bought a pub with a stage called Leo's Tavern (Tábhairne Leo). The children would occasionally do cover versions of Beatles, Beach Boys and Joni Mitchell songs at home and in their family pub.

The name Clannad comes from Clann As Dobhar, meaning 'the family from Dore'. The children were performing late at night in the pub (the story was recounted by Máire, TG4, 17 March 2007, Clann as Dobhar & Clannad Beo) when the local police sergeant walked in. They feared a summons, but instead the policemen had a form to enter a local music competition. They didn't have a name at the time, but had to find one for the competition. Someone suggested Clann As Dobhar, which was provisionally abbreviated to Clannad'.

The young Brennans' and Duggans' passion for the traditional music of Ireland soon expanded beyond their native Gweedore. They would later visit such outlying communities as Tory Islandmarker off Donegal's coast. Armed with some 500 Gaelic songs, they would later begin to arrange these songs for a full band, something which had previously never been done.

Traditional years

Clannad entered a local folk festival in Letterkennymarker, County Donegalmarker, and won first prize, a record contract with the Irish arm of Phillips, when they were still in college and school. They did not make the record until 1973 because the record company did not like the idea of them doing half the album in Irish, as it was not heard of to sing Irish in mainstream music.

The first album was recorded in 1973, simply called Clannad, and it showed a band aware of contemporary Irish music of the day. There were hints of modern influences, most notably Pentangle's, in songs such as "The Pretty Maid" and "Morning Dew", but it was the Irish songs, particular an early arrangement of "Níl Sé'n Lá", a drinking song they found on one of their Tory Islandmarker expeditions, that really showed the band's ability to form contemporary, jazz-influenced versions of traditional material. This album was also released under the name The Pretty Maid. The second album followed in 1975 on Gael-Linn records and was titled Clannad 2. Produced by Planxty and Bothy Band founder Dónal Lunny, it showed a tremendously more mature band that was quite committed to singing mainly in Irish. Their arrangements were still experimental for the times, but their increasing skill in the use of traditional acoustic instruments kept the music well within the boundaries of folk music. Clannad 2 featured some ground-breaking traditional music, including Máire's harp playing on the O'Carolan song "Eleanor Plunkett" and ensemble work on songs like "Rince Briotánach" and "Teidhir Abhaile Riú", an Irish matchmaking song.

The following year they produced Dúlamán. The title track was a song about two dúlamán, or seaweed merchants, one of whom is trying to win the hand of the other's beautiful daughter. It has been a favourite of Clannad's live shows for a very long time and is still performed in a rock version which captures the flavour of the original recorded acoustic version.
The band in 1976 still consisted of Máire on lead vocals and harp, Ciarán on double bass, electric piano and vocals, Pól on flutes, guitars and bongos, Noel on guitar, vocals and Pádraig on mandolin, guitar and vocals. They still kept the Gaelic spelling of their surnames of Ó Braonáin for the brothers, Ní Bhraonáin for Máire and Ó Dúgáin for Pádraig and Noel. During their first tour of Europe in 1976 a standing ovation after an eight-minute version of "Níl Sé'n Lá" convinced them to become full time professionals. The band's next album was Crann Úll (Irish for apple tree) released in 1978 on Tara Records. It featured a stronger emphasis on Máire's harp-playing. "Ar a Ghabháil 'n a Chuain Domh" featured a particularly full band arrangement reflective of their live jams at the time. "Lá Cuimhthíoch Fán dTuath" ("A Strange Day in the Countryside") showed the first hints of the more atmospheric side of the band's arrangements. On "Gathering Mushrooms" they included their sister Eithne Ní Bhraonáin (now known as Enya) on supporting vocals.

Clannad in Concert was released in 1979, featuring excerpts from their 1978 Swissmarker tour and a now world-famous version of "Down by the Sally Gardens" and a 10-minute version of "Níl Sé'n Lá". It served as a base for various solos by the individual members. In 1981 with the album Fuaim (pronounced foom, meaning sound), recorded in Dublinmarker's famed Windmill Studios, Clannad began to experiment with a more lush and electric sound. Enya became, for a short time, a full member of the band, adding keyboard and harmony vocals as well as lead vocals on two songs, "An tÚll" and "Buaireadh an Phósta". This album marked Clannad's first experiments with synthesizer. It also had guest Neil Buckley on clarinet and saxophones plus a percussionist and electric piano. The following year Enya left to pursue her solo career and the band was about to record the album which would forever change their career as well as their sound, Magical Ring which appeared in 1982.

Chart success

1980s

Clannad were signed up to RCA Records when they were approached and asked if they would be interested in doing a song for a fictional drama on British television, depicting The Troubles in Northern Irelandmarker. Ciarán, Pól and Máire got together and wrote the now-legendary song "Theme from Harry's Game". Entering the British charts at number 5, it remains the only hit single in the UK ever to be sung entirely in Gaelic. The album Magical Ring was a huge turning point in Clannad's career, it was the start of their international career. Magical Ring contained half traditional material and half original recordings. The album which was on the UK album charts for over six months earning the group their first gold record award, features some of Clannad's best and most enduring original compositions like "Tower Hill", "Passing Time", "Newgrange" and "I See Red". In its impact of achieveing a fusion of traditional folk, modern rock and world music, for its utopian vision of man in harmony with nature, Magical Ring is often compared with Alan Stivell's Renaissance of the Celtic Harp.



Shortly after Magical Ring, Clannad were commissioned to provide music for the 26-episode TV drama series Robin of Sherwood. They once again began to stretch themselves, creating music for a range of characters and events. For the first time ever, they produced an album without any of their native Irish, as the story was set deep in English folklore. The album Legend (1984) won the band a BAFTA award, the first time an Irish act had been honoured thus. The musical style of the album was dominated by guitar riffs and trumpet reverberations. It was primarily this album that firmly elevated the group to 'household name' status, with their music being broadcast into millions of homes every Saturday night for 26 weeks.

Macalla (echo in Irish) was released in 1986, Clannad's next proper album, and proved to be their most critically acclaimed album ever . It contained all original material except one traditional song and yielded the group a hit single "In a Lifetime", a duet with U2's Bono. The album featured the core quintet plus a large number of backing musicians who have continued to tour with them, including ex-King Crimson sax man Mel Collins, Moving Hearts' guitarist Anton Drennan and drummer Paul Moran. Also onboard was producer Steve Nye, whose previous charges included the Penguin Café Orchestra and David Sylvian. The album opens with the song "Caisleán Óir". In "Buachaill Ón Éirne" they covered a traditional Irish song from their native Donegalmarker. It was the first time ever such a song featured on a chart-topping comercial album, something Clannad went on to pioneer in. When Macalla was released, the listening public began to be more accepting of the mainstream material that appeared heavily on the record. Songs such as the pop-flavoured "Closer to Your Heart" and the powerful ballad "Almost Seems " were successful singles for the quintet. The latter even served as the official Children in Need single for 1985.

The following album, Sirius, was released by RCA in 1988 and was recorded in Los Angeles with rock producers Greg Ladanyi and Russ Kunkel (James Taylor's drummer). The album included a duet with Bruce Hornsby and guest appearances by Steve Perry and J.D. Souther. The title track was Pól Brennan's encouraging call to the environmental movement, and to the Greenpeace ship of the same name. "Something to Believe In" featured the voice and keyboards of Bruce Hornsby. Completed with the help of some of the biggest names on the Californian rock scene, Sirius was another different creation, just like their previous 3 albums. Received with critical apprehension, Sirius was initially, stoutly defended by the band as a change, but since then members have expressed their disappointment with the album and even Pól Brennan apologised on its behalf. The following year they embarked on their first world tour and within a year the album had become their best selling work to date.

Between 1988 and 1991 there were some side projects for the band, including Atlantic Realm (1989) and The Angel and the Soldier (1990). Atlantic Realm was a small album made for a BBC documentary about the Atlantic Ocean. The recording was mainly instrumental as their voices as instruments. The Angel and the Soldier was a half hour animation, without voice overs and the music told the story. Both albums proved to be a minor success, and also demonstrated once again that Clannad were one of the most acclaimed soundtrack artists in the music industry. Two greatest hits albums were released at around this time:
  • Past Present [RCA], which to date is the only "greatest hits" compilation so far by the band to include any original tracks: "The Hunter" and "World of Difference". Both are among their best recordings while strangely only appearing on this rare album. This album also included tracks from Magical Ring, Macalla, and Sirius.
  • The Collection [k-Tel], re-released in 1996 under the label's Celtic Collections series. Unlike Past Present however, it also included five earlier tracks from their more traditional Irish period.


Clannad in 1996, without Pól Brennan.
Pól Brennan left the group to pursue a solo career and work with the WOMAD (World of Music, Arts and Dance) organization in Britainmarker. He released a trio album in 1993 with Guo Yue and Joji Hirota under the new name Trísan. The true reason for Pól's departure is unknown; being a family band, very little information is released about personal and professional relations about and between the members.

1990s

The band continued on as a quartet and recorded 1991's Anam. It marked a return to the Clannad sound of such albums as Magical Ring and Fuaim and was recorded in two and a half months at the band's home studio in the hills of Dublinmarker. On Pól's leaving the rest of the group began sharpening their song-writing skills with Ciarán, already the main source of their original music. The title Anam means "Soul" in Irish and the album had 10 songs. The album was finally released in the USA in 1992 with a different cover and the addition of the previously released Bono duet "In a Lifetime" and "Theme from Harry's Game", which had been included in the motion picture Patriot Games. As a result, it got used on the Volkswagen advertisement, which helped establish the band's career in the USA and the song went on to win the Billboard Music Award for "World Music Song of the Year". They dedicated the opening song "Rí na Cruinne" to the One World One Voice charity project.

In 1991, a duet between the band and Paul Young, "Both Sides Now" was released. The track had been put together for the Blake Edwards film Switch, featuring Ellen Barkin. In the storyline, a nasty male chauvinist, is re-incarnated as an attractive female. The use of the Joni Mitchell song was therefore quite suitable and proved a hit for the group. Released in 1994, Banba became Clannad's 13th studio album and was greeted with rave reviews and the band's first Grammy nomination. The album jogged comfortably to the number one spot in the World Music Chart. Banba is a romantic mythical name for Ireland. The track "I Will Find You" was especially written for the film The Last of the Mohicans, Máire sings in Mohican and Cherokee. Once again all the songs were written and produced by Ciarán Brennan, except "Sunset Dreams", written by Noel Duggan. Moya Brennan described the album as "a fusion of various styles of music, growing out of a traditional Gaelic root." Banba has been described as one of Clannad's most visual albums, and has sold over 1 million copies to date.

The album Lore (1996) gave some thought to the Native American Indians. On "Trail of Tears", Noel Duggan imagines how it felt to be exiled from one's ancestral land, he was also thinking about these people and their connection with the Irish. It opens with "Croí Cróga" ('braveheart' in English) which was written as a theme tune for the Mel Gibson film Braveheart which, for unknown reasons, never made it onto the soundtrack. Lore features American drummer Vinnie Colaiuta and Mel Collins. It contained a strong jazz element, with songs such as "Seanchas" blending contemporary sounds with traditional Irish music and the Irish language. Clannad toured Europe, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand in 1996 to promote the Lore album, due to apparent disagreements with Atlantic Records, the plans to tour the USA were scrapped. In 1996, they received a lifetime achievement award from the Irish recording industry (the IRMA).

After 25 years of recording ground-breaking music, Clannad returned in 1997 with another album, Landmarks. In the song "Of This Land", Máire sings about Ireland, of its past and of its future. The track "Fadó" (translates as Long Ago), demonstrates the influences of old Celtic history on Clannad's music. It became one of the most celebrated Irish albums in history and in 1999, it won a Grammy award for Best New Age Album, Clannad's third Grammy nomination.

In 1999, the group composed the song "What Will I Do" for the Kevin Costner film, Message in a Bottle.

2000–present

After Landmarks, Clannad ceased to make any more studio albums, but have promised to return in the near future.In 2003, Clannad released the best of album, The Best of Clannad: In a Lifetime, which is one of their biggest-selling albums to date.

In 2005 the two Duggan twins, Noel and Pádraig, as the musical duo The Duggans, got together for the first time outside of Clannad and recorded the album Rubicon.

During the 2006 solo tour of Moya Brennan in The Netherlands, the concert in De Doelenmarker, Rotterdammarker, was dedicated to Leo and Baba Brennan. The whole of Clannad, including former member Pól and sister Deirdre, performed five songs.

The five original members of Clannad appeared on stage together at the Celtic Connections Festival in Glasgowmarker on 19 January 2007. The concert was greeted by 2,000 fans who travelled from places such as the USA and Brazilmarker to see the legendary group perform some of the most loved songs in their history. While at the Meteor Ireland Music Awards that were held in Dublinmarker on 1 February 2007 Clannad were presented with the coveted Lifetime Achievement Award.

In March 2008, Clannad began their first UK tour in over 12 years, starting at The Sagemarker in Gatesheadmarker.

In May 2008, the Clannad song "Down by the Sally Gardens" was featured in the listening paper for Music GCSE from the OCR exam board.

On 25 August 2008, Clannad released a new compilation album of their early music to contrast the music of their previous compilation album at the beginning of 2008, Beginnings: The Best of the Early Years.

Clannad's Pádraig Duggan announced that Clannad would be recording a new album in February 2009. In an interview he stated that the album would be unplugged and could consist of their old songs. In June 2009, Clannad was nominated for an IMA Award in the category Best Revival Act, along with other revived bands Planxty, Moving Hearts, Arcadymarker and Stockton's Wing.

Musical style

When Clannad first started out in the early 1970s their music and sound stemmed solely from their traditional background. Despite this they managed to popularize such old songs as "Dúlamán", "Teidhir Abhaile Riú" and "Coinleach Glas An Fhómhair", and these songs have remained popular numbers at their concerts. On the departure from their folk and traditional background in 1982, they created a new sound that would define the meaning of New Age and Celtic music forever. When "Theme from Harry's Game" and "Newgrange" were first heard, radio stations all over the world became fascinated by the earthly and spiritual sound that they had never encountered before. One critic said "the tunes were seeped in the old ways, but the production and the arrangement was fresh and inventive". This transition in Clannad's career is often seen as the birth of Celtic music and till this day they are regarded as the pioneers of that genre. They are also noted for their melodious harmonies, which have been at the heart of their music since their first album. Legend (1984) was based on English folklore. With later albums Clannad delved further into the realms of electronica and even pop. Due to this, many of their singles entered pop charts all over the world, and widened their fan base once again. Despite their huge success with this genre of music, the group managed to maintain a link with their Gaelic roots right up to the present day, giving traditional Irish songs such as "Tráthnóna Beag Aréir" and "Buachaill Ón Éirne" the Clannad treatment.

Even though the rock-infused Sirius and the pop-inclined Macalla have become huge successes for Clannad, it was their break-through style that they created themselves that has left the greatest legacy. One of the places where Clannad's influence can be seen is in the film Titanic, where James Horner admitted to basing the soundtrack on Clannad's style. The soundtrack was so like Clannad's work that it has been incorrectly credited to them for many years. The "otherworldly" and "godly" Clannad sound comes from the ancient hills and glens that surround Gweedoremarker, according to lead singer Moya Brennan. Also, when asked to describe the group's style Ciarán said, "There's a feeling in all our music an ambience that stems directly from where we were brought up and to have to define our sound I always say that if they were to visit Gweedore they wouldn't need to ask." Traces of Clannad's legacy can be heard in the music of many artists, including The Corrs, Loreena McKennitt, Anúna, Riverdance, Enya and U2.

Trivia



The Brennan family

The Brennans are officially Ireland's most successful music family, with combined sales of over 90 million records. Máire (or Baba) Duggan and Leo Brennan are the parents of the Brennan siblings Máire (or Moya), Leon, Ciarán, Deirdre, Pól, Olive, Eithne (or Enya), Bartley, and Brídín. Baba was the local school's music teacher and Leo led the celebrated Slieve Foy show band. The catalyst that would propel the entire family onto the stage was the opening of Leo's Tavern in 1968 in Meenaleck, Co. Donegal. This pub has become a musical Mecca over the years, and Bono and Paul Brady have even been known to join in the regular jamming sessions.
Leo's Tavern (or Tábhairne Leo) as can be seen in 2007.
Where Clanand performed as youngsters growing up in the Northwest of Donegal.


The first members of the family to publish their music were Ciarán, Pól and Máire (now known as Moya), who in 1972 released Clannad's first album. Their Irish folk sound captivated audiences, and it was to be the beginning of a long prosperous career, one that continues to grow. Over the years they have sold millions of records, they sang for the Pope, and their first famous song "Theme from Harry's Game", was the first, and so far only, Irish Gaelic song ever heard on Top of the Pops.

The other six children can all sing and play one or more instruments - Olive and Deirdre have sung on Moya's solo albums and Brídín, who for years toured with Clannad as a backing vocalist, has released a solo record, Eyes of Innocence.

Máire Duggan is currently the lead member of the local Catholic choir, Cór Mhuire Doire Beaga, but no longer continues to teach in the local community school Pobalscoil Ghaoth Dobhair. The choir has gained national acclaim , and is frequently joined by Leo Brennan and the Brennan siblings.

Leo helps his son Bartley to run the family pub, Leo's Tavern, and still takes to the stage equipped with his accordion and mic.

Private lives

The private life of lead member Moya was detailed in her autobiography in 2000. In it Brennan recalls her upbringing as the eldest of nine siblings in rural County Donegal, Ireland. Along with the highs of success in the music business she also recounts low periods where alcohol, drugs and an abortion made her re-evaluate her life. She emerged from dark years as a committed Christian with rekindled faith. She remarried in 1991 (having previously been married to a Dublin musician) and now lives in Dublin, Ireland with husband, photographer Tim Jarvis, and children, Aisling and Paul.

Discography

Studio albums



Compilation albums



Live albums



Singles



Bibliography

Detailing Clannad's journey as a band Later subtitled: The Autobiography of the Voice of Clannad sometimes called God of Peace
  • 1991 – A Woman's Voice
Eddie Rowley in conversation with Máire Brennan Sheet music book for 'Past Present'

Videography

VHS released with 'Past Present' compilation

Notable awards

Won

  1. 1984 – 1984 BAFTA Awards, Best Television Music for "Robin of Sherwood"
  2. 1982 – 1982 Ivor Novello Awards, Best Soundtrack for "Theme From Harry's Game"
  3. 1992 – Billboard Music Award, World Music Song of the Year for "Rí na Cruinne"
  4. 1998 – Grammy Awards of 1998, Grammy Award for Best New Age Album|Best New Age Album for "Landmarks"
  5. 2007 – Meteor Music Awards, Lifetime Achievement Award


Nominated

  1. 1982 – 1982 BAFTA Awards, Best Television Music for "Harry's Game"
  2. 1994 – Grammy Awards of 1994, Grammy Award for Best New Age Album|Best New Age Album for "Banba"
  3. 1996 – Grammy Awards of 1996, Grammy Award for Best New Age Album|Best New Age Album for "Lore"
  4. 2009 – Ireland's Music Awards, Best Revival Act


References

External links




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