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Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh ( ) (born 26 July, 1962 in Gweedoremarker, County Donegalmarker) is an Irishmarker fiddler and the lead vocalist for the Irish traditional band Altan.


Ní Mhaonaigh grew up in Gweedoremarker (Gaoth Dobhair), County Donegalmarker, Irelandmarker. She is virtuosic even in a musical genre dominated by fiddle players; distinguished because of her Donegal repertoire from other singers. Mairéad has always had an equal love of singing and again learnt many songs from neighbours and friends in Gaoth Dobhair.

Her father, Proinsias Ó Maonaigh, taught her to play the fiddle. She received tuition and inspiration from fiddler Dinny McLaughlin, who was a frequent visitor to the home when she was young. Ciarán Tourish, who would later join Altan, was also a frequent visitor to the family home and also received tuition from McLaughlin.

Ní Mhaonaigh has two siblings. Her brother Gearóid played guitar for Ragairne (a short-lived band formed by Ní Mhaonaigh and Frankie Kennedy), appeared on the album Ceol Aduaidh, and organizes the Frankie Kennedy Winter School. Her younger sister Anna has contributed backing vocals to several albums and was a member of the group Macalla.

She met with Frankie Kennedy at a session at age 15. Kennedy was inspired to learn to play and soon became a talented flute player. They married in 1981.



Forsaking their jobs as teachers, Ní Mhaonaigh and Kennedy formed the band Altan during the late eighties. Kennedy's death from cancer in 1994 put the band's future in question, but she decided to continue at Kennedy's explicit request.

As well as her work with Altan, Mairéad over the years has presented traditional music programmes on radio and television, including the classic radio show, "The Long Note" and the television series, "The Pure Drop".

The String Sisters

Mairéad is also a member of the fiddle ensemble, The String Sisters.

Solo Work

Mairéad's first solo album, Imeall, was released in 2009. It was recorded in 2007/08 and co-produced by Manus Lunny. The title is Irish for 'Edge' or 'Threshold' and features traditional/folk songs as well as new compositions by Ní Mhaonaigh. Mairéad débuted songs from the album on December 28 at the 2008 Frankie Kennedy Winter School in an intimate concert with Lunny and also released a small quantity of albums. The album was officially launched in Dublinmarker on February 12, 2009. Mairéad has said in many interviews how personal she holds her début album. She has only released 3000 physical copies worldwide from her website.

Ní Mhaonaigh also performed two special concerts with long-time friends Moya Brennan and Maighread & Tríona Ní Dhomhnaill at the Temple Bar TradFest in January 2008, the second time the four musicians performed together. It was the first time she performed some songs from her forthcoming album and was joined by special guests who spent the last few years recording with her.

Personal life

Mairéad lost her first husband and Altan band co-founder, Frankie Kennedy to cancer in 1994. In 2000, she remarried to fellow band member Dermot Byrne. They have one daughter together, Nia. Ní Mhaonaigh and Byrne divorced in 2007 although have remained friends and work together and with Altan.


Solo albums

Frankie Kennedy & Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh


String Sisters

  • 2007 String Sisters Live CD
  • 2007 String Sisters Live DVD

Guest Roles

External links


  2. Robinson
  3. O'Regan
  4. Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh Official website
  5. Folk Superstars to perform for Children
  6. Temple Bar to come alive: Mairéad, Moya, Maighréad & Tríona in Concert
  7. Mairead to the music -


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