Voices & Harps in the Donegal air

On Sunday night, Moya and Cormac brought a very special weekend to a close, which not only saw them give a series of workshops entitled Voices & Harps, but also saw them launch their new album [of the same name] at Tabhairne Leo in Meenaleck.

The two artists have been performing together for over eight years and any time the legendary singer would be asked to perform an intimate ‘smaller’ gig, Cormac would be by her side playing the harp and singing with her.

And so they started working on the album last year and by the beginning of 2011 they had it completed, but they wanted to wait for the right opportunity to launch it.


“Sitting in my kitchen in Dublin one day we thought wouldn’t it be nice to combine the launch with workshops for singing and harp – Voices & Harps – the name of the album was just a great title for them, too,” she laughed.

“Singing for the past 30 to 40 years, I have often been asked about my sound, what microphone I use and people wanting to learn a specific song and between that and Cormac’s masterful harp-playing we were able to combine that into workshops.

“We thought doing it together would be a nice concept and the workshops would be very inclusive, offering people the chance to sing or learn to play the harp.”

So attractive was this opportunity to get to work with Moya and Cormac that people came all the way from England, The Netherlands and France.

“It was just another way of us attracting more people to Donegal and we hopefully we can make this an annual event and if people come to the county once, you’d like to think that they will definitely be back again,” said Moya.

Over the weekend, the budding singers and harp players learned the craft at Ionad Naomh Pádraig in Dobhair during the day, enjoyed the festivities at the album launch on Saturday and last night it was their turn to step into the limelight.

Moya said: “We got them all up on stage at Leo’s last night to give them a nice send off. Getting up for a song is all part of the experience and hopefully they’ll be back soon.”


As it was with the T With The Maggies album, there was no way Moya was not going to have an official launch back home in her native county.

“Voices & Harps has some old traditional songs revamped on our on way as well as three newly composed songs and Cormac’s beautiful version of Bean Dubh a’Ghleanna.

“One instrumental that had to be featured on the album is Cormac’s version of Carolan’s Concerto, which is a real showstopper any time he performs it.

“It also gave me the opportunity to record some songs that I had never done before like She Moved Through The Fair, which was my late Auntie Rosemarie O’Donnell’s party piece.

“At any family gathering we had one of my songs was always Down By The Sally Gardens, which I also recorded, and Auntie Rosemarie sang She Moved Through The Fair and she always sang such a beautiful rendition of it,” said Moya.

“We are really pleased with the result, there are a lot of beautiful harmonies and John Reynolds [Sinead O’Connor, U2, Cara Dillon] did a fantastic job mixing the album.”

Moya, and in fact the whole Brennan family’s, connection to the also well-known and musical de Barra family from Dublin goes back many years.

Fionán de Barra, who is now married and lives in Philadelphia, was Moya’s guitarist for over a decade and still flies back to join her for various performances.

Flute player and all round multi instrumentalist Éamonn de Barra has also performed with Moya and more recently joined her and Clannad for their 40th anniversary concerts in Christ Church Cathedral during this year’s Temple Bar Trad Fest.

“There are six de Barra boys, three of them professional musicians and the others have day-time jobs, but when they perform together they are collectively known as Barco.

“Last Monday I had the privilege of singing a few songs with all six brothers for the first time in Dublin at the Harcourt Hotel trad session and it was an amazing concert.”

Cormac flew into Dublin Airport on Friday morning where he was picked up by Moya to travel up to Donegal where they performed on RTÉ Raidio na Gaeltachta and at the Guth Gafa International Documentary Film Festival during Highland Radio broadcast.

Moya said: “Cormac is full of energy and doing so well. He flew back from Los Angeles where he was working with Julie Feeney and hopped into the car to come to Donegal and the launch and workshops up in Donegal was really important to the both of us.”

If you missed the launch of Voices & Harps at Leo’s on Saturday, you can catch Moya and Cormac at their Dublin launch in Whelan’s on Wexford Street this Wednesday where they will be joined by Éamonn de Barra, top class percussionist Robbie Harris, the lovely Sinead Madden and Moya’s daughter Aisling, a very talented multi instrumentalist and singer – it’s in the blood!

For more information and to purchase Voices & Harps, the new album by Moya Brennan and Cormac de Barra log onto the Voices and Harps wesbite.


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