‘A Hidden Ulster – people, songs and traditions of Oriel’ – Order Here

Contemporary Musicians

Singers and Instrumental Musicians

ORIEL ARTS invited musicians from the wider Oriel region, and singers from the Donegal Gaeltacht, to select songs and tunes from the renewed corpus of song and dance manuscripts reproduced or listed in A Hidden Ulster – people, songs and traditions of Oriel (Four Courts Press, 2003).

In the summer of 2018, five singers from Oriel, and three from the Donegal Gaeltacht, were filmed singing Oriel songs, together with three local instrumental musicians from the wider Oriel region including Counties Armagh, Louth and south Down, who selected tunes from the music manuscripts collections, published in facsimile in A Hidden Ulster (AHU 421-507). The harp music which was selected, much of it listed in A Hidden Ulster, necessitated research for manuscript sources in the Bunting Collection at QUB. The instrumental musicians were commissioned to give a short commentary on tunes selected and to transcribe the music from manuscript.

There has been a longstanding linguistic and song connection between the Donegal Gaeltacht and Oriel, with the general trend among singers of Oriel being to look to the Donegal Gaeltacht as a source for song from the living oral tradition. This trend has continued for many years, with Oriel singers little realising the wealth of song on their own doorstep, hidden in manuscript and recording. Indeed Oriel enriched the Donegal tradition, with many songs which had found their way into the Donegal repertoire. ORIEL ARTS aims to mutually enrich and consolidate that longstanding bond.

The ORIEL ARTS musicians are:

 Bláithín Mhic Cana

Bláithín Mhic Cana singer. Photo: M .Ó Graham

Bláithín Mhic Cana (nee Doran) is from Mullaghban in County Armagh and is a teacher in Gaelscoil Phádraig Naofa in Crossmaglen. She comes from a background of traditional singers in Mullaghban, and has taken on the mantle of the transmission of local oral Gaelic song.

She is an inspirational teacher of traditional singing in the school in which she teaches, and is passing on songs from Oriel to young singers such as Piaras Ó Lorcáin and Tara Nic Giolla Phádraig.

She is an active organiser with Gaelphobal Dheisceart Ard Mhacha, which promotes activities in Irish for the growing numbers of Irish language families of south Armagh.

She is a fluent Irish speaker, teaches in the Teileann Gaeltacht summer college in Donegal, and speaks in Irish to her young family.

She sings  A Hidden Ulster songs Séamus Mac Murfaí and and Maidin Fhómhair here for ORIEL ARTS.

 Darren Mag Aoidh

Darren Mhag Aoidh Fiddle player

Darren Mag Aoidh fiddler player. Photo: M.Ó.Graham

Darren Mag Aoidh is a professional musician from the borderlands of Oriel, in Mayobridge near Newry. As an active traditional musician since his youth, he has won various titles on fiddle and piano. He was selected in 2003 to tour Ireland with Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann.

He was a member of DIT Conservatory’s traditional Irish music ensemble as an undergraduate student. A traditional fiddle player, organist and conductor, he is the recipient of many awards for fiddle and piano and has performed internationally.

He is a fluent Irish speaker.

He transcribed the music notation and recorded three videos of fiddle tunes from the Donnellan manuscript Collection in A Hidden Ulster. He also transcribed the three Carolan Louth compositions for ORIEL ARTS.

Sylvia Crawford

Sylvia Crawford harper. Photo: M. Ó Graham

Sylvia Crawford from County Armagh, is a professional musicians and an experienced teacher of fiddle, early Irish harp and piano, working both as a soloist and in various duos and larger ensembles in Ireland and in continental Europe.

She is now also actively involved in the revival and promotion of the early Irish harp and is on the staff of The Historical Harp Society of Ireland summer school in Kilkenny. She performs widely and is at present completing a scholarly work on early Irish harp repertoire and the Armagh harper Patrick Quin.

She transcribed the music notation, contributed a detailed commentary on sources, and recorded five videos of Oriel harp music and a tune from Arthur O’Neill, on the early Irish wire strung harp for ORIEL ARTS as well as five videos of accompanied songs from A Hidden Ulster


Siubhán O’Connor

Siubhán O’Connor singer. Photo: M. Ó Graham

Siubhán O’Connor is a singer and instrumental musician from Ballymakellet in County Louth who has inherited a great musical legacy from generations of musicians.

She is the daughter of the singer Eithne Ní Uallacháin and fiddle player Gerry O’Connor. An accomplished fiddle player, she played in traditional bands during her youth while she was taught to play the fiddle by her grandmother, the celebrated fiddle teacher and musician, Rose O’Connor in Dundalk who originally came from Moynalty in County Meath.

Her repertoire is mainly her mother, Eithne’s songs and she regularly performs with her three siblings as The O’Connor Clann. She works in the legal profession.

Her first language was Irish and she speaks in Irish to her young family.

She sings A Hidden Ulster song: Máire Bhán here for ORIEL ARTS.


Pádraigín Ní Uallacháin

Pádraigín Ní Uallacháin

Pádraigín Ní Uallacháin singer. Photo: M. Ó Graham

Pádraigín Ní Uallacháin is a professional musician from Mullaghban County Armagh and Dundalk County Louth. As a singer, she has recorded and performed extensively. She has been restoring and renewing the oral arts tradition of Oriel for many years.

She is the author/editor of ORIEL ARTS and A Hidden Ulster – people, songs and traditions of Oriel . 

Her first language was Irish and she spoke in Irish to her young sons.

She sings a selection of songs here for ORIEL ARTS from A Hidden Ulster, which she has researched and restored over a number of years. More here.

Lillis Ó Laoire

Lillis Ó Laoire. Singer Photo: M. Ó Graham

Lillis Ó Laoire is a native Irish speaker from Gort a’ Choirce in the Gaeltacht of Donegal, and teaches courses in Folklore, Literature and Culture in University College Galway.

He has won many prestigious sean-nós singing awards at the Oireachtas national festival. He has researched and written widely on Gaelic song and has been a key figure in the strengthening of the sean-nós tradition in Donegal and Toraí island.

He performs widely at festivals and workshops, and has recorded an album of songs, Bláth Gach Géag Da dTig. He has an affinity with the songs of Art Mac Cumhaigh of Crossmaglen, County Armagh (AHU pp. 250-84; 350-51).

He sings the A Hidden Ulster Oriel song Aisling Airt Mhic Cumhaigh here for ORIEL ARTS.

Diane Ní Chanainn

Diane Ní Chanáin singer. Photo: M. Ó Graham

Diane Ní Chanainn is a native Irish speaker and a professional singer and instrumental player from Mín Lárach near Gort a’ Choirce in the Donegal Gaeltacht. She has won major awards in the Sean-Nós na mBan competitions at the Oireachtas na Gaeilge national festival for sean-nós singing and Comortas Cuimhneacháin Shéain Óig Uí Thuama.

She has a rich store of sean-nós songs, and includes Oriel song from A Hidden Ulster in her repertoire.

She performs widely in different genres of music, and has featured on radio and TV. She also regularly performs and sings sean-nós with her daughter Kelly Ní Chanainn. She teaches traditional song and recently recorded a single Seán Ó Duibhir a’ Ghleanna.

She sings A Hidden Ulster song An Bonnán Buí here for ORIEL ARTS.

Dónal O’Connor

Dónal O'Connor - Fiddler

Dónal O’Connor fiddle player. Photo: M. Ó Graham

Dónal O’Connor from Ballymakellet in County Louth, is a professional musician and an multi-instrumentalist, composer, producer and television presenter. He has recorded and toured extensively, and is the son of traditional musicians, Eithne Ní Uallacháin and Gerry O’Connor.

He is the Artistic Director of the Belfast Summer School of Traditional Music; a member of Irish traditional groups At First Light and Ulaid, and an owner of Red Box Recording Studios in Belfast.

His first language was Irish and he speaks in Irish to his young family.

He is editing the Patrick McGahon manuscript Collection which was published in A Hidden Ulster, and has recorded on fiddle, seven videos of tunes from it for ORIEL ARTS, and transcribed their respective notation.

Máire Ní Choilm

Máire Ní Choilm singer. Photo: M. Ó Graham

Máire Ní Choilm is a native Irish speaker and a sean-nós singer from Mín an Iolair, Na Doirí Beaga, in the Donegal Gaeltacht. She has performed widely on radio, TV and stage and has won the major awards in the Sean-Nós na mBan competition at the Oireachtas na Gaeilge national arts festival.

She has a rich repertoire of sean-nós songs, performs at festivals internationally, and has recorded an album of song, Nuair a théid sé fan chroí, and is a popular workshop tutor in sean-nós song. She is living and teaching in Oriel.

As an Irish language assistant in St Patrick’s University DCU College, Drumcondra in Dublin, she held successful sean-nós workshops and weekly singing sessions for staff and students.

Irish is the language of her family.

She sings a Peadar Ó Doirnín song, Úr Chnoc Chéin Mhic Cáinte from A Hidden Ulster for ORIEL ARTS.

Feilimí O’Connor

Feilimí O’Connor singer. Photo: M. Ó Graham

Feilimí O’Connor is a singer and instrumental musician from Ballymakellet in County Louth who has inherited a great musical and linguistic legacy from generations of musicians: he is the son of the singer Eithne Ní Uallacháin and fiddle player Gerry O’Connor.

He has performed on both television and radio programmes for BBC & TG4, and in 2015 he won the Oireachtas singing competition, Corn Cuimhneacháin Amhránaithe Sean-Nóis Mhúscraí. He was the first to bring an Oireachtas singing award to Oriel. He includes his mother Eithne’s songs in his repertoire, and has a particular interest in the literary poetic songs of his native Oriel.

A director/producer by profession, he has made numerous television series and documentaries related to Irish traditional music.

His first language was Irish.

He sings two A Hidden Ulster songs: Mairgne fá Chaisleán na Glasdromainne and Fá Dear Mo Mhuirnín Fháinnigh. He also filmed the musicians for ORIEL ARTS.


Oriel Arts Festival at Éigse Oirialla 

Also featured here are Oriel musicians who gave song performances at Éigse Oirialla in Omeath,  and others who gave illustrative concert recitals for ORIEL ARTS, of music manuscripts and repertoire collections listed in A Hidden Ulster (pp.421-5070. They include the following:

Piaras Ó Lorcáin

Piaras Ó Lorcáin singer at Éigse Oirialla 2016

Piaras Ó Lorcáin is from south Armagh, and is the youngest singer here. He developed fluency in Irish as a student at Gaelscoil Phádraig Naofa in Crossmaglen. He has been taught sean-nós singing by Bláithín Mhic Cana and took part in the 2016 Oireachtas na Gaeilge national competitions for sean-nós singing where he won the Seosamh Ó hÉanaí trophy for his age category 12-15 years. Traditionally, it is a competition for inter Gaeltacht sean-nós singers. He is the first to bring an Oireachtas trophy for singing to County Armagh. He loves singing and has a preference for the ‘big’ songs of lamentation and love.

He featured on the Éigse Oirialla programme 2016 and is a fluent Irish speaker.

He sings A Hidden Ulster (AHU pp.241-7) song Séamus Mac Murfaí (in the Transmission section of the song) with Bláithín Mhic Cana.

Gerry O’Connor

Gerry O’Connor. Fiddle player

Gerry O’Connor from Dundalk County Louth has won the Fiddler of Oriel title four times. He is a professional musician and has recorded many albums. He has toured extensively as a solo and band member with various groups including including Lá Lugh and Skylark. He comes from a long line of fiddle players and taught by his mother, Rose O’Connor. He is also an accomplished fiddle maker, and is much in demand as a workshop tutor for fiddle players. As part of a master’s degree in DkIT, he edited some of Luke Donnellan’s manuscripts, and he includes tunes collected by Donnellan in his core repertoire.

He has fluency in Irish and is the father of above musicians, Dónal, Siubhán, Feilimí O’Connor and also uileann piper, Finnian Ó Conchubhair who were brought up in a musical bilingual household.

He is filmed playing a selection of Donnellan manuscript tunes (AHU pp. 474-507) at an illustrative concert performance for ORIEL ARTS at Éigse Oirialla, with fiddle player Dónal O’Connor.

Zoe Conway & John McIntyre

Both Zoe Conway and John McIntyre are professional musicians from Mullaghbouy in County Louth. They have recorded and toured widely and  are much in demand for workshops and concerts. They are actively involved in promoting traditional music in their home locality on the Cooley peninsula: organising successful festivals, workshops and series of concerts throughout the year.

John McIntyre, whose paternal line is from the Donegal Gaeltacht, has a background in contemporary and traditional music, and is highly regarded as a sensitive and intuitive accompanist of traditional song and airs, and is a fine singer. He also engineered sound recordings at Éigse Oirialla for ORIEL ARTS. He is a fluent Irish speaker.

Zoe Conway has won the All Ireland Senior Fiddle champion title and is a tutor with Music Generation Louth. She is an accomplished solo and orchestral musician, composer and arranger of classical and traditional music, and collaborates with numerous high profile musicians in both genres. She is much in demand as a workshop tutor, a solo performer and as a duo with John McIntyre.

Their home and young family is a bilingual one.

They are filmed playing airs from the Philip Goodman repertoire (AHU pp. 468-73) at an illustrative concert for ORIEL ARTS at Éigse Oirialla including airs: Úirchill a’ Chreagáin and Maidin Fhómhair which are also featured here under the SONG section

John McIntyre and Zoe Conway Oriel musicians. Photo: Paul McCarthy