BY SEÁN P. FEENY
A NEW series which sees Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh explore some of the North’s most attractive spots and to visit some of her musical friends is about to hit our screens.
This Friday, February 22, the first episode of the new series Aniar Aduaidh will be shown on RTÉ One (7.30pm) as Mairéad begins her journey in her native Gaoth Dobhair.
The journey begins in Mairéad’s native Gaoth Dobhair, the Gaeltacht which has drawn her home and where she is now permanently based, surrounded by her family and friends including, among others, Manus Lunny of Capercaille (who also features).
Mairéad reflects fondly on her strong musical influences of her father, the late Francie Mooney and shares memories of her late husband and founding member of Altan, Frankie Kennedy, which sets the tone of the series.
A very personal journey, the numerous performers Mairéad meets along the way during the six-part series take her lead and share their own strongest influences.
“The title of the programme means ‘Of The North West’, but can also be translated as getting a surprise, so in each programme of the series we have a little treat for the viewers.
“My journey begins in Donegal and takes me throughout Ulster and ends in the Belfast and County Down. At home it begins with my family and where it all began for me musically and then I travel to visit old friends all over.”
In Friday’s first programme of the series Mairéad also catches up with Kincasslagh’s own Daniel O’Donnell who takes her to his mother’s native Owey Island.
“Daniel was such a pleasure, he is great fun and one of the most amazing people to work with and very genuine. He spent the whole day with us and took us to Owey where he told us all about his mother and his upbringing, all through Gaelic.
“It was also just one of those beautiful sunny days in West Donegal last June so everything looked wonderful,” said Mairéad.
During the series Mairéad meets close friends she has known for years, all around the North West and Ulster, but the programme gives her an opportunity to learn more about them and their surroundings.
She said: “We focused on the things they wanted to show us. Arty McGlynn, for example, is renowned for his traditional music, but what a lot of people may not know is that he is also a fantastic Jazz guitarist and he takes us to his weekly Jazz session in Omagh.”
Mairéad also visits Dungiven in County Derry, which has always boasted a lot of musical talent and over the past decade, the wonderful Cara Dillon has been flying the flag.
“I met up with Cara and her husband Sam (Lakeman) in Dungiven and we played their song Hill Of Thieves and they actually took us to the hill afterwards.
“I learned so much more about Cara, whom I’ve known for years, being with her in Dungiven. I also found out that she spent a lot of time here in West Donegal with well-known Dungiven bodhrán-maker Seamus O’Kane,” she said.
Mairéad pays a visit to renowned actor, and singer in his own right, Adrian Dunbar who shows her around his native Enniskillen and surroundings.
She said: “I’ve known Adrian for years; he used to come to our gigs in London all the time years ago as he knows Ciarán (Curran) very well through the Fermanagh connection.
“Of course we all know Adrian as a fantastic actor, but he is also a great singer and he is very musical. We had great fun as he showed us around Enniskillen.
“It’s such a lovely town and there is so much to do there. It just makes you think that we don’t explore our own areas and neighbouring counties enough. Places like Enniskillen are just over an hour away and its lakes and surroundings are beautiful.”
Aniar Aduaidh is a rare opportunity to see many of the North’s very distinguished artists as we have never seen them before; in their own environments and yet not shying from the viewer’s desire to see them doing what they do best, performing.
Mairéad said: “A lot of the performances were very spontaneous and we didn’t have a lot of time, but the collaborations have turned out very well and are very ‘in the moment’.”
As a natural presenter, the charming Gaoth Dobhair native has become a very popular choice for television programmes and Mairéad revealed that she has further projects in the pipeline.
She said; “I’m more comfortable playing music, and although it as been a huge challenge it was great fun and I am very much looking forward to future television projects.”
Aniar Aduaidh is a joint Tobar and Independent Pictures production for RTÉ with financial support from the Irish Language Broadcast Fund and will be screened every Friday at 7.30pm, only on RTÉ One.
Bernie McGuigan, (44), is originally from Mountcharles in Donegal. She works in a GP practice in Malahide village.