Ciarán Ó Gealbháin
Born in 1975 and a native of "an Sean-Phobal" in the Co. Waterford Gaeltacht (Irish-speaking area), Ciarán is a native Irish speaker and "sean-nós" singer (the centuries-old Irish language singing-style). Growing up in the coastal, clifftop area of Barr Na Stuaic, it was inevitable that he would be strongly affected by the age-old traditions of this historic area. Beginning singing in public whilst in his mid-teens, he learned his songs from the older singers of his region and the recordings of the great Nioclás Tóibín were an influence on him from an early age. With the help and encouragement of Séamus Mac Craith, another local singer, Ciarán began putting together his own repertoire, bringing back to life songs that had not been sung for decades.
He has since also developed a love for traditional and folk songs in the English language, being influenced by the legendary Liam Clancy, from whom he not only got inspiration and encouragment, but also a good number of songs, freely given by Liam to a young singer he respects. The recordings of singers like Archie Fisher, Nick Jones, Andy Irvine and Paul Brady were also a major influence on Ciarán's English language singing.
For many years, he played and sang with guitar-player Dónal Clancy (son of Liam), once spending nine months in Hong Kong and over the years, the two developed a unique two-way musical relationship, often performing all night long as a duo on stage. When Dónal returns home to his native "An Rinn" (The other half of the Waterford Gaeltacht) from New York (where he now lives), the first outing is always an excursion with Ciarán, to some small, forgotten country pub in the middle of rural west Waterford, for a night of tunes and songs.
A special treat for the audience at a DANÚ concert is when Ciarán plays the piano-accordeon. His family have been playing music for generations and his father, Seán Ó Gealbháin (himself an accomplished accordeon player), inspired Ciarán to begin playing at a very early age. He has a wonderful traditional style of playing dance-music and slow airs and has been influenced by the playing of his teacher, Bobby Gardiner and by the playing of Tony Mac Mahon, amongst others. On the rare occasion that Ciarán plays a slow-air, the audience witness a very special performance. In a style which mimics the voice, he plays slow-airs as only a sean-nós singer can, with every nuance and emotion of the song translated through the sound of the accordeon.
Ciarán's younger sister Tríona is also a singer in the sean-nós style and has recently recorded locally on a CD ("Cois Mara Thoir sa Rinn" - Ciarán on tracks 5, 11 & 12 and Tríona on track 16, "Eochaill") with him. Saturated in tradition and music, Ciarán has added a further, deeper dimension to the identity of the group since his first tour in August 1998, and has helped make DANÚ a beacon in the vastness of the culture of the masses.
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