...is one of Ireland's most gifted musicians, with her own unique way of playing traditional Irish music on the fiddle and such a distinctive sound that it would be im- possible to mistake it for that of anyone else. This “sound” is so attractive to other musicians that there exists hardly any major Irish artist of the last thirty years with whom she has not worked - and many international artists have been equally entranced.
Her powerful presence graced Dónal Lunny’s ground-breaking band Coolfin, with whom she had a busy international touring schedule. One highlight was their performance in a special concert celebrating the Irish roots of American country music for Island: A Festival of the Arts in Ireland held at the John F. Kennedy Centre in Washington DC which was broadcast coast to coast on network television: they shared the stage with Ricky Skaggs, Emmy Lou Harris and Steve Earle. Nollaig has worked with Dónal off and on for many years: she joined the legendary band Planxty (of which he was a founder member) in 1980, touring all over Europe with them.
A television programme about Nollaig’s life and music was broadcast on Ireland’s TG4 in April 2014 as part of its “Fuaimrian mo Shaol” series and is still available to view on the TG4 Player.She can als be seen in the current series of BBC TV’s Transatlantic Sessions playing with Alison Krauss and Aly Bain.
Nollaig’s prodigious technique and her unique ability to play both classical and traditional music with equal proficiency, coupled with her exceptional expressive gifts has inspired a number of composers to write orchestral pieces for her. In 2003 she performed in front of millions as soloist with the RTÉ Concert Orchestra in a work by Shaun Davey commissioned by the Special Olympics held in Dublin. With the same orchestra she performed a piece by Dónal Lunny, commissioned in 1997 to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Great Irish Famine, on several occasions, most recently at Expo 2000 in Hanover. In 1999 she gave the first performance in New York of a Concerto for Violin and Irish Fiddle by Evan Chambers, which had been commissioned by the Albany Symphony Orchestra and in 2006 made her Carnegie Hall début as soloist in the same concerto.
She is herself a prolific composer: she arranged several of her own compositions for fiddle soloist and string orchestra and played these, together with some by Shaun Davey, at a special gala St Patrick’s Day concert in The Athenaeum, Bucharest in 2005. “Twins on a Swing” was used as a signature tune for the RTÉ / TG4 TV series ‘Sult’ for several years.
She enjoys an unrivalled popularity among composers of film- music with an Irish tinge and has been the featured soloist on over twenty feature-films – including the acclaimed Dancing at Lughnasa and Waking Ned. She was of course seen as well as heard world-wide in the1992 Hear My Song (about the life of singer Josef Locke). She is herself a prolific composer, writing for Coolfin, television documentaries and for her own recording projects.
Nollaig has recorded and worked with Enya, Van Morrison, Sinéad O’Connor, Nanci Griffith, Ricky Skaggs, Rod Stewart, Dónal Lunny, Mary Black, Tommy Makem and Liam Clancy, Carlos Nuñez, Jim Rooney, Andy Irvine, Moving Hearts, The Indigo Girls, Spandau Ballet, Christy Moore, Liam O'Flynn, Dan ar Bras, Sharon Shannon, Maura O'Connell, Dick Gaughan, Paddy Keenan, Máirtín O'Connor and her sister, the innovative and influential harper Máire Ní Chathasaigh, among many others. She was a star performer in Dan ar Bras’ massively successful Héritage des Celtes project: both albums (released by Sony France) received Gold Discs in France. She has made two duo albums, Lead The Knave and Causeway, with legendary guitarist Arty McGlynn; a solo album, The Music of What Happened, in 2005; and a quartet album with her sister Máire Ní Chathasaigh, Arty McGlynn and Chris Newman in late 2008 – all to great critical acclaim.
Further biographical information
Born into a well-known West Cork musical family, by the time Nollaig began to play the violin at the age of eleven she was already proficient in a variety of instruments - notably piano, tin-whistle and uilleann pipes. Throughout her teens she developed her talents both in the fields of classical and traditional music, winning several All-Ireland titles for fiddle-playing (Oireachtas and Fleadh Cheoil na h-Éireann) and traditional singing (Oireachtas) culminating in the award to her of the Bonn Éigse agus Ceoil at Slógadh Náisiúnta na h-Éireann 1972 for the best all-round performer, in consequence of having won first prizes for fiddle, tin-whistle, traditional singing, dancing, solo dramatic scene and poetry-writing! She had already begun to compose and in 1972 won an RTÉ Radio Young Composer of the Year Competition for newly-composed tunes in the traditional idiom. As a student of the Royal Irish Academy of Music she won the Vandeleur Scholarship and was awarded the prestigious Arthur Darley Memorial Prize at the Dublin Feis Ceoil for the playing of unaccompanied Bach Sonatas and Partitas.
Having graduated from University College Cork with a B. Mus. degree at the exceptionally early age of nineteen, she embarked upon a professional career, firstly with the RTÉ Symphony Orchestra where she remained for three years until she joined Planxty in 1980. When Ireland hosted the Eurovision Song Contest in 1981 Planxty made a guest appearance, playing Timedance, a piece specially written by fellow band-member Bill Whelan and later released as a single, in which Nollaig's distinctive playing was heavily featured. Bill of course went on to write the music for Riverdance - which also started life as a piece of Eurovision interval music: the rest, as they say, is history! Nollaig makes occasional guest appearances in Riverdance, thus completing the circle.
She has subsequently toured with a wide variety of artists in Ireland, the UK., France, Germany, Holland, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Hungary, Libya, Switzerland, Austria, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Estonia, Japan, the U.S.A., Australia and New Zealand.
She is a frequent broadcaster: her countless RTE television appearances have included several on the prime-time Late Late Show, Nighthawks, Saturday Live and Sult as well as on specialist traditional music programmes such as The Pure Drop. She featured in a Late Late Show Special on prominent Irish women musicians. She made frequent appearances on the major 1991 BBC TV series Bringing it All Back Home with members of U2, Dónal Lunny and Arty, and performed on the prestigious Good Morning America TV show when the series was launched in the US.
Praise for Nollaig
"The highlight of the Festival was the exquisite and dignified playing of Nollaig Ní Chathasaigh... Strong and elegant on stage, her instrument appears almost to be an extension of her own body" - The Irish Times
" I would happily sit all night in a cold theatre to listen to Nollaig Casey..." - Fortnight (Belfast)
"Nollaig Casey played wondrous fiddle before singing unaccompanied with such feeling it brought tears to the eyes..." - The Subiaco Post (Western Australia)
“Nollaig’s performance was stunning for its sheer musical artistry, seducing some into quiet amazement and inducing others to insist on encore after encore...”
- The Irish Times
“...brewed up a storm on the main stage, the crowd roaring their appreciation. Nollaig Casey held centre spotlight with the ease and grace of a natural born artist”
– The Southern Star
“A colourful, resonant voice and richly expressive fiddle-playing”
- The Hot Press
...is one of the best-known and most influential musicians in Ireland, with a unique understanding of music he performs. Born in Omagh, Co. Tyrone, his family was steeped in traditional music and when he was eleven his mother bought him his first guitar. Touring professionally with showbands and rock bands throughout Ireland, the UK and the USA from the age of fifteen, his playing soon came under the influence of Wes Montgomery and Thelonius Monk. He later revived his interest in Irish traditional music and in 1979 recorded McGlynn's Fancy, the first recording of the guitar played in an authentic traditional style and a classic of the traditional music world.
He subsequently became one of the most sought after musicians in the country, playing and recording with Christy Moore, Paul Brady, John Prine, Tim O'Brien, Jim Rooney, Jerry Douglas, Donal Lunny, Liam O'Flynn, The Chieftains, Matt Molloy and countless others. He also played as a member of Planxty, Patrick Street, De Danann and was for a number of years lead guitarist with the Van Morrison Band.
Arty is equally in demand as a live performer, recording artist and producer. The album Barking Mad by Four Men & A Dog, which Arty produced, was voted Folk Album of the Year by Folk Roots magazine. Other production credits include Christy Hennessy's The Rehearsal, an album that remained in the Irish charts continuously for eighteen months. He collaborated with Frances Black on her first two albums, Talk to Me and The Sky Road, both of which topped the charts in Ireland.
“Arty McGlynn is to flatpicking traditional Irish music what Doc Watson is to flatpicking American fiddle tunes" - Flatpicking Guitar Magazine (USA)
“Arty invented a role for the guitar in the Irish tradition and continues to dominate his field" The Ulster Herald
"Arty is one of today's major figures on the Irish music scene" The Belfast Telegraph
"Nollaig and Arty have been at the cutting edge of modern Irish music for the last 30 years" The Irish Times