We are proud to welcome back fiddle legend Séamus Connolly, who inaugurated the first annual O’Flaherty Retreat in 2004. This year Séamus returns in a special class to discuss his work on The Séamus Connolly Collection of Irish Music, which reflects more than 14 years of collecting and organizing music that links three generations of musicians and pays tribute to those in previous generations who kept the tradition alive. The collection consists of over 330 traditional tunes and songs, including both old recordings and contemporary performances, rare tunes and new compositions. He will also teach a Fiddle Masterclass.
No one has won more All-Ireland solo championships on fiddle than Séamus whose total of ten represents a benchmark that may never be equaled. His first title came at age 12, just ten months after initially picking up the instrument, while his first senior title came at age 17, making him the youngest senior champion ever. Séamus, who’s self taught, also won the coveted Fiddler of Dooney competition as a soloist in 1967 and four Oireachtas duet titles with Kilmaley, Clare, flutist Peadar O’Loughlin.
Born in Killaloe, Clare, in 1944, Séamus was raised in a household of music. His father, Mick, played accordion, whistle, and flute; his mother, Lena, played accordion and piano; and his younger brother, Martin, is a button accordionist who won the All-Ireland senior title in 1978. Séamus also played in two exceptional ceili bands, the Leitrim and the Kilfenora, and formed musical ties with button accordionists Paddy Ryan from Tipperary and Paul Brock from Westmeath.
But it is with another button accordionist, Paddy O’Brien (1922-1991) of Newtown, Tipperary, that Séamus forged one of the most celebrated duos in Irish musical history. From about 1964 to 1976, the year Séamus immigrated to America, the two played together as often as they could, and at one point they joined Peadar O’Loughlin, fiddler Paddy Canny, and pianist George Byrt in a group called Inis Cealtra.
In 1973 Séamus Connolly and Paddy O’Brien, accompanied by pianist Charlie Lennon, recorded a “little LP” of just six tracks, The Banks of the Shannon. It was anything but “little” in the estimation of Irish traditional music lovers, who eagerly snapped up the limited copies to savor the stunning tandem playing of Séamus and Paddy, dubbed “the Father of the B/C Accordion.”
Stateside, Séamus Connolly has added substantially to his prior achievements in Ireland. He has made two acclaimed solo recordings, Notes From My Mind in 1988 and Here and There in 1989, as well as Warming Up, a superb CD with flutist Jack Coen, button accordionist Martin Mulhaire, and pianist Felix Dolan in 1993. That same year, Séamus contributed four tracks of his own to the CD reissue of The Banks of the Shannon, which contains the six original tracks of the “little LP” and five solo tracks from the mid-1950s by Paddy O’Brien. The Clare fiddler’s talent also graces The Boston College Irish Fiddle Festival: My Love Is in America in 1991, Masters of the Folk Violin in 1993, and more than two dozen other albums by such artists as Jerry O’Sullivan, John Whelan, and Jimmy Nooan.
Instructor – Fiddle | 2018 Recipient of the Irish Artist in America Achievement Award