Altan are an Irish folk music band formed in County Donegal in 1987 by lead vocalist Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh and her husband Frankie Kennedy. They brought Donegal's rich collection of Irish language songs and instrumental styles to audiences around the world, and they remain the world's foremost Irish traditional group with over a million records sold. They were the first traditional group to be signed to a major label when they signed with Virgin Records in 1994. Altan have established a large following in Ireland, UK, Europe, United States, Canada and even in Japan. They have worked with a wide variety of well-known musicians including Dolly Parton, Enya, The Chieftains, Bonnie Raitt and Alison Krauss.
As a 18-year-old young student and musician from Belfast, Frankie Kennedy used to travel to Gweedore, County Donegal on his summer holidays, learning Irish and playing traditional Irish music on Irish flute and tin whistle. There he met native 14-year-old Irish-speaker and musician Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh, the daughter of famed musician Proinsias Ó Maonaigh from Gweedore and the two fell in love with each other but Ní Mhaonaigh being very young, an innocent friendship began. When she was 15, she was allowed to go to dances under her brother Gearóid Ó Maonaigh's watchful eye, and gradually Frankie Kennedy and Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh became a couple. They both took jobs as trainee teachers at St. Patrick's College in Dublin. In 1979, the two musicians made their recording debut as accompanists for the well-known Belfast singer and Gaelic enthusiast Albert Fry on his self-titled debut album. (In total, Ní Mhaonaigh and Kennedy would feature on the first three albums of Albert Fry.) Two years later, in 1981, Ní Mhaonaigh and Kennedy graduated from college and married when Mairéad was 21.
Pre-Altan years: Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh & Frankie Kennedy:
By then, Kennedy and Ní Mhaonaigh had moved to Dublin and were both teaching at St. Oliver Plunkett primary school in Malahide. At the time, they were also playing music in the folk clubs around Dublin. Ní Mhaonaigh has learned the Donegal-style of fiddle-playing from her father, however, Donegal music was little known outside of the county at the time. Kennedy's repertoire included a number of obscure northern flute tunes drawn from his travels in County Tyrone and County Fermanagh.
1983: 1st album: Ceol Aduaidh:
In the early 1980s, Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh formed a band with Frankie Kennedy, Gearóid Ó Maonaigh (Mairéad's brother) and a then unknown musician from Gweedore, Eithne Ní Bhraonáin, later known as Enya. People became interested in their repertoire of Donegal tunes. A short-lived band, the group's members contributed to Mairéad and Frankie's debut album, Ceol Aduaidh (which means "Music of the North"), produced by Nicky Ryan (who eventually would become Enya's producer) and released in 1983 by Gael-Linn Records. The album is a collection of Gaelic songs and Ulster jigs and reels.
After the release of their first album, Kennedy and Ní Mhaonaigh were invited to play all over America where they quickly realised there was a market there. They then took a career break from teaching, which ultimately became permanent.
1987: 2nd album: Altan:
Inspired by the success of their début effort, they began to work on a new group of ballads and jigs from the North. Released on the Green Linnet Records label, the result was 1987's Altan, named after a deep and mysterious lake which sits in the shadow of Mount Errigal near Gweedore, County Donegal. In the Irish language, altan means "stream". The album features many of the musicians who would later join the band under that same name.
Mainstream success as Altan: 1987-present:
1987-1994: The Green Linnet years:
Horse with a Heart, The Red Crow, Harvest Storm and Island Angel
Shortly after the release of their second (studio) album in 1987, Ní Mhaonaigh and Kennedy formed the band Altan (named after the album) with two additional members. Thus, they began as a quartet with Kennedy on flute, Ní Mhaonaigh on fiddle and vocals, Ciarán Curran on bouzouki and Mark Kelly on guitar. Later on, Dublin's Paul O'Shaughnessy joined the band on fiddle, participating in the first three Green Linnet recordings (1989-1992).
In 1989, Altan released their very first (well-received) album, Horse with a Heart.
In 1990, Altan released The Red Crow, which became the first of three Altan albums to win the prestigious "Celtic/British Isles Album of the Year" award from the National Association of Independent Record Distributors and Manufactures (NAIRD).
In 1992, Ciarán Tourish (from Buncrana, East County Donegal) on fiddle & whistle and Dáithí Sproule (from Derry, Northern Ireland) on guitar joined the band for the Harvest Storm recording. With the arrival of Dáithí Sproule, Mark and Dáithí shared the role of guitar player, Mark touring with the band in Europe and Dáithí in the United States.
In the meantime, Frankie Kennedy learned in June 1992 that he had Ewing's sarcoma, a type of cancer that attacks bone structure. He endured surgery, radiotherapy, and chemotherapy in an effort to cure himself while simultaneously continuing his work with Altan.
In 1993, the band released Island Angel. Billboard cited Island Angel as the fourth-best-selling album of world music in 1994. In 1994, they were asked by US President Bill Clinton to perform at the White House on Saint Patrick's Day, and they played for him again on his visit to Ireland in 1998. Also, President of Ireland Mary McAleese requested they accompany her on several State visits.
Frankie Kennedy died on 19 September 1994. After a period of mourning, the band resumed their touring as requested by Kennedy himself before he died.
1994-2000: The Virgin years:
Blackwater and Runaway Sunday
While doing battle with cancer, Frankie Kennedy continued to steer the band to international recognition, negotiating with Virgin Records UK to sign the band before his death in September 1994. This was a significant signing, as up until this traditional music was not on any major label.
Dermot Byrne from Buncrana, East County Donegal who had previously guested on accordion on two Altan recordings The Red Crow (1990) and Island Angel (1993) officially joined the band in 1994. Thus, the band (recording) line-up became Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh (vocals, fiddle), Ciarán Tourish (fiddle), Mark Kelly (guitar), Ciarán Curran (bouzouki), Dáithí Sproule (guitar) and Dermot Byrne (accordion) and remained unchanged until Dermot Byrne's departure in 2013.
In 1995, Green Linnet Records released Altan's first greatest-hits package entitled The First Ten Years.
In April 1996, Altan released Blackwater, their first album on Virgin Records.
In July 1997, Altan released their next album, Runaway Sunday, which featured their popular version of "Gleanntáin Ghlas' Ghaoth Dobhair", a song written by Mairéad's father and a favourite at all their live shows.
2000-2005: The Narada years:
Another Sky, The Blue Idol and Local Ground
In 2000, the group released Another Sky, their first album on the Narada label.
In 2002, The Blue Idol featured the vocals of American singer Dolly Parton, who became close friends with the group after she invited them to play on her 2001 album Little Sparrow. The album garnered them the award for Best Group at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards.
In 2002, Altan (along with other artists signed to Green Linnet such as Cherish the Ladies) sued for unpaid royalties. Most artists were paid and most claims were settled in 2006 as Compass Records (who would later sign Altan) bought the company.
In 2003, they released another greatest hits compilation CD called The Best of Altan: The Songs.
In 2005, they released Local Ground. Like almost every other Altan offering, it was met with positive and enthusiastic reviews.
2005-2009: Recording hiatus & solo projects:
Down The Line, The Crow in the Sun and Imeall
In 2005, Ciarán Tourish released his début album Down The Line
In 2007, Dáithí Sproule released his début album The Crow in the Sun
In late December 2008 in Ireland (and in February 2009 worldwide), Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh released her début album Imeall.
2009-2014: The Compass years:
2009-2011: Celebrating the 25th anniversary:
25th Anniversary Celebration
In April 2009, Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh announced that the band would be going into the studio in early May 2009 to record a new Altan album with the RTÉ Concert Orchestra just after a show on 7 May 2009 in Pornichet, France (near Saint-Nazaire).
In July 2009, Ní Mhaonaigh announced that Altan would also release their first DVD as the video recording of a concert on 14 August 2009 in the National Concert Hall (NCH), Dublin, Ireland (again with the RTÉ Concert Orchestra).
To commemorate their 25th anniversary, Altan released 25th Anniversary Celebration, a compilation album of studio re-recordings of previous material (plus one brand new song) with the contribution of the RTÉ Concert Orchestra. It was made available in January 2010 in Japan (where it had its launch in December 2009 during Altan's Winter 2009/2010 Japanese tour), in February 2010 in Ireland and UK and in March 2010 in North America.
After a few European dates in January, February & April 2010 and an extensive 18-date (March to April) tour of the United States, Altan launched on 23 April 2010 in Dublin, Ireland their 14-date "25th Anniversary" (April to June) tour of Ireland. During Summer 2010, Altan took part in a few European festivals. A 10-date tour of UK and Ireland took place in September 2010.
After attending the Irish Festival of Oulu in Finland and visiting France twice (Paris and Saint-Louis) in fall 2010, Altan gave in 1 & 2 January 2011 their annual New Year Irish concert (exceptionally a 2-date one) at the Scoil Gheimhridh Frankie Kennedy in Gweedore, followed by a special 25th Anniversary Concert in late January 2011 at the Christ Church Cathedral in Dublin, Ireland. Altan then embarked on a 5-date tour of France in early 2011.
An extensive 12-date US tour followed in March 2011. In spring and summer 2011 Altan toured Europe, notably visiting France (Fontaine near Grenoble on 1 April 2011 and, for the first time, the city of Lyon on 13 & 14 May 2011). After a 4-date (3-location) US visit in August 2011, Altan participated on 8 September 2011 in a special Celebration concert of Fiachra Trench at the National Concert Hall in Dublin, Ireland with the RTÉ Concert Orchestra. Just a month later, on 8 October 2011, Altan gave a special Irish gig in Letterkenny, County Donegal with the Donegal Youth Orchestra and young traditional musicians from the Donegal Gaeltacht. The same month, after a 3-date visit in Belgium and Netherlands, Altan embarked on an extensive one-month German tour called "Affairs of the Heart" during which they played (almost) every day.
2011-2014: Gleann Nimhe - The Poison Glen and touring:
Gleann Nimhe - The Poison Glen
From April 2011 to January 2012, Altan recorded a new studio album entitled Gleann Nimhe - The Poison Glen.
After celebrating the launch of the 18th Frankie Kennedy Winter School programme on 29 November 2011 by performing a show taking place during the Liffey Banks Sessions at The Grand Social, Dublin, Ireland, Altan celebrated the new year 2012 as well as the then forthcoming release of their new studio album Gleann Nimhe - The Poison Glen on the occasion of their performance on 1 January 2012 at Scoil Gheimhridh Frankie Kennedy, Ionad Cois Locha, Gweedore, County Donegal, Ireland during which they played some new tracks from it.
Exactly seven years after Local Ground, Altan released Gleann Nimhe - The Poison Glen, their new studio album of original material, on Compass Records in the US on 28 February 2012, in Europe & Australia on 8 March 2012, in Ireland on 9 March 2012 and in the UK on 12 March 2012. Started in April 2011, the recording took place in famous sound engineer & bass player Billy Robinson's Steeples Studios in Ramelton, Ireland and ended in early January 2012.
The album features An Ghealóg, a song composed by Martin Tourish who would later join the band replacing Dermot Byrne, temporarily starting from the extensive Fall 2013 (mostly) German tour and permanently since Dermot Byrne's departure from the band in early 2014.
Extensive touring in promotion of Gleann Nimhe - The Poison Glen
In March 2012, they performed a 7-date tour in the US and a 7-date tour in France (in the north-west part of the country) with Dáithí Sproule rejoining the band on the two tours. An extensive 14-date tour in Norway followed in April 2012, still with Dáithí Sproule touring with the band.
On 12 May 2012 in Baltimore, Ireland, Altan embarked on a tour of Europe including a 2-date visit in France on 15 May 2012 in the suburbs of Lyon (Altan's third performance in the area of the Gallic capital in exactly a year) and on 16 May 2012 in Fouesnant, Brittany, visiting Ireland once again, Belgium, UK (taking part on 2 June 2012 in the Ireby Festival, Cumbria), Germany, Switzerland, France once again (on 7 July 2012 in Tain-l'Hermitage) and ending in Ireland, visiting Dunlewy near Gweedore, Altan's homeland on 10 August 2012, Cavan at the Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann on 16 August 2012 (double bill concert with Clannad) and at Ranelagh Arts Festival in Dublin, Ireland on 15 September 2012. A 5-date tour of the UK followed in October 2012. Before a 6-date tour of Germany in November 2012, Altan played two shows in early November 2012: back in Ireland in Graiguenamanagh and at the Irish Fleadh in Cáceres, Spain. Altan gave their last concert of 2012 in France on 6 December 2012 in Strasbourg.
After their annual show on 1 January 2013 at Scoil Gheimhridh Frankie Kennedy, Ionad Cois Locha, Gweedore, County Donegal, Ireland, Altan played two shows in France in early 2013 (on 15 January in Savigny-le-Temple near Paris and on 1 February in Cherbourg) and a unique show in Scotland on 23 January 2013 (at the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall with some very special guests including Tommy Peoples, Maighréad Ní Dhomhnaill, Tríona Ní Dhomhnaill, The Friel Sisters (from Glasgow) and The Henry Girls) before to embark on a 12-date tour of the United States in March 2013 with Dáithí Sproule rejoining the band.
In November 2012, the Earagail Arts Festival (which takes place annually in Carrickfinn, West Donegal, Ireland) announced (as part of the festival's 25th birthday celebration) a unique double bill concert on 13 July 2013 entitled "Abhaile - The Homecoming" gathering two of Donegal's (and Ireland's) most famous groups, Clannad and Altan, the second time ever (and in a year) for the two bands to share the same stage after their performance in Cavan, Ireland in August 2012.
Altan took part in two spring shows in May 2013: the Vantasival in Dundalk, Ireland and a European celebration in Paris, France). In July 2013, the double bill concert shared by Altan and Clannad attracted 1,500 people. The same month, Altan gave three extra festival shows: they participated in the European P.I.I.G.S. Festival show in Athens, Greece and gave two shows in France, a scheduled one on 23 July 2013 in Plouescat, Britanny and a surprise one the next day in Montrevel-en-Bresse, Rhône-Alpes, their first one in the Lyon area in over a year.
Afterwards, Altan announced a 17-date tour of Germany, Switzerland and Austria for November 2013. On 4 December 2013, Altan celebrated the launch of the 20th and final "Frankie Kennedy Winter School" at the Tigh Hiúdaí Beag pub in Gweedore, Donegal, Ireland before performing their annual new year show on 1 January 2014 at Ionad Cois Locha in Dun Luiche). After a few shows in Ireland (Dublin in St. Patrick's Cathedral during the Temple Bar TradFest), Spain (Gijón and Vizcaya) and Scandinavia (Middelfart, Denmark and Uppsala, Sweden), Altan embarked on an extensive tour of Australia in February 2014 (unfortunately, not a single show was scheduled in New Zealand) followed by two shows in Shanghai and Beijing, their first ever shows in China.
Altan's French booking agency Naïade Productions announced two shows in France: one for 28 March 2014 in Angers and the other for 5 April 2014 in Nantes. The show at the "Eurofonik" Festival in Nantes was later cancelled. Two other shows in France were scheduled for 26 March 2014 in Haguenau, Alsace (their second one in the Strasbourg area in only a year and a half) and for 25 April 2014 at the Festival "Nuits Celtiques" in Nesle, Picardie, north of the country.
The band performed two other Spring 2014 shows: on 31 May 2014 in Chiuduno, Italy (near Bergamo) and on 16 June 2014 in Fès, Morocco.
2014-present: The Pledge Music years:
2014-present: The Widening Gyre and touring:
On 3 June 2014, in their Twitter page and Pledge Music website page, Altan announced that they were at that time working on a new studio album planned to be recorded in Nashville, Tennessee. Indeed, at that moment, the band was in pre-production and had started rehearsing potential material for the new album with the intention to play and sing these new pieces at various concerts during Summer 2014.
On 12 June 2014, Altan confirmed being rehearsing new potential material for their new album, «getting excited» about it and being impatient «to play and sing these new pieces».
Altan performed a few shows in Europe in Summer 2014: one in Switzerland (on 28 June 2014 in Corbeyrier), one in Ireland (on 19 July at the National Concert Hall, Dublin, Ireland) before to embark on a 5-show US tour (on 26 July in Sellersville, PA, on 7 August in Brooklyn at Celebrate Brooklyn! at Prospect Park Bandshell, on 9 & 10 August in St. Paul at the Irish Fair of Minnesota and on 12 August at Marcus Center for the Performing Arts in Milwaukee, WI).
In late July 2014, while touring the US, the band all united - Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh, Ciarán Tourish, Ciarán Curran, Daíthí Sproule, Mark Kelly and Martin Tourish (replacing Dermot Byrne) - started in Nashville, Tennessee the recording sessions of the new studio album. On 6 August 2014, fiddler Stuart Duncan joined the band to play some tracks for the new album.
Earlier this year 2014 (1 May), Martin Tourish had released his first solo album entitled Under A Red Sky Night on Claddagh Records.
After a show in the United Kingdom (on 17 August 2014 at the Wickham Festival) and a show in Ireland (on 30 August 2014 in Bangor, Co. Down at the Open House Festival), Altan embarked on a 6-date tour of the UK with a visit on 11 September 2014 at the famous Cecil Sharp House in London. The two following shows were scheduled on 19 & 20 September 2014 in Scotland but ultimately cancelled due to the Scottish independence referendum. However, Altan put on two Festival shows on 3 & 4 October 2014 in Ireland.
On 9 October 2014, on their Facebook page, Altan confirmed that, at the time, they were «steeped in mixing their new album» and announced that they «hope to have it released in the Spring of 2015».
On 19 October 2014, on their Facebook page, Altan announced that the new album was being already mixed and overdubbed, containing «loads of surprises».
On 5 November 2014, Altan offered (for listening and downloading) a (very) short audio excerpt (15 seconds) of one of their new favorite tracks titled "White Birds" «recorded with an undisclosed very special guest».
On 18, 20, 25 and 27 November 2014, Altan announced the names of some musicians having participated as guests in the recording of the new album: Eddi Reader on vocals, Jerry Douglas (from Union Station and Transatlantic Sessions) on Dobro, Alison Brown, Bruce Molsky, Mike McGoldrick, Natalie Haas, Jim Higgins and Darol Anger.
On 5 December 2014, Altan took part in the Great British Folk Festival in Skegness, Lincolnshire, UK. During the show, Ciarán Tourish announced that they «have a new album almost finished which has been mastered» and about which they «can do any more with it for it's done» just before the band went into playing a new medley (taken from it) entitled "The Tin Key / Sam Kelly's Jig / The Gravediggers".
On 19 December 2014, Altan revealed the names of the final guests having participated in the recording of the new album: Mary Chapin Carpenter, Todd Phillips, Garry West, Julee Glaub Weems, Kenny Malone and Stuart Duncan and offered (for listening and downloading) a (very) short audio excerpt (18 seconds) of one new instrumental titled "Buffalo Gals".
On 24 December 2014, it was announced that Altan were already scheduled for the following summer to headline the Sidmouth Folk Week on 1 August 2015, performing at the Ham Marquee.
On 3 January 2015, Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh explained why Altan called on Pledge Music's services in order to produce the new studio album and thanked all the pledgers for helping Altan with the fundraising campaign and for bringing it to completion (reaching, at that time, 101% of goal): «The music business is a changing world for professional musicians as ourselves. We depend more on live concerts to make our living. We can no longer depend on big record company funding to get our music out there, we have to do it ourselves. Now with your help we have funded our latest album which we are really happy with.» She also stated that Altan have licensed the new album to Compass Records in the US, that Gary West of Compass co-produced it and that after 30 years recording studio albums, Altan «have taken a new approach with this one». The Altan Pledge Music pre-order page announced that all exclusive pre-orders would be fulfilled by 17 February 2015. Apart from the new album on CD, the Altan Pledge Music page offers many original and exclusive Altan items.
On 13 January 2015, Altan announced that they would reveal the title and the launch date of their new album in the ongoing week.
On 19 January 2015, Altan revealed that The Widening Gyre would be the name of their new album to be released in Ireland on 20 February 2015, in the UK on 23 February 2015 and in the US on 24 February 2015. And as they borrowed the title from "The Second Coming", one of W. B. Yeats poems, the first Irishman to be awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1923.
In a 20 January 2015 post on her Facebook page, Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh revealed the cover of their new studio album now simply entitled Widening Gyre and that the art work was done by their artist friend Édaín O'Donnell who previously designed the Gleann Nimhe - The Poison Glen cover.
On 21 January 2015, it was announced an Altan concert date on 9 May 2015 at the Buxton Opera House, Buxton, UK.
On 23 & 24 January 2015, Altan announced that they are having some special guests on their forthcoming US tour, including Liz Carroll, Caitlín Nic Gabhann on concertina and Mairéad's nephew Ciarán Ó Maonaigh on fiddle on some West Coast dates.
On 26 January 2015, Altan's official website published a presentation of their new studio album entitled anew The Widening Gyre giving many details about the new album: the new musical direction taken by the band, the album recording process and the participation of numerous guest musicians as well as the titles of some of the new tracks. The very same day, on their "Widening Gyre" iTunes page, Altan revealed the titles of the 14 tracks from their new studio album and released them for sale.
On 27 January 2015, on their "Widening Gyre" Compass Records page, Altan made available short audio samples of their new tracks.
On 29 January 2015, Altan confirmed that Caitlín Nic Gabhann (on concertina) and Ciarán Ó Maonaigh (on fiddle) would be their special guests as Caitlín & Ciarán in Somerville, MA, New York, NY and Fairfield, CT on their Spring tour in the US (respectively on 28 February, 1 & 2 March 2015). The same day, it was announced an Altan concert date on 14 May 2015 at Huntingdon Hall, Worcester, UK.
On 31 January 2015, in anticipation to the release of their new album, Altan posted its liner notes on their website.
On 13 February 2015, Altan announced that the band would take part on 31 July 2015 in the next Cambridge Folk Festival.
On 22 February 2015 in Charleston, WV (at Culture Center Theater, Mountain Stage Radio), Altan embarked on an extensive 25-date Winter/Spring North American tour which ended on 3 April 2015 in Greeley, Colorado (at the Union Colony Civic Center) including a unique date in Canada: on 17 March 2015 in St. Albert, Alberta (at Arden Theatre). The show on 5 March 2015 at the Ram's Head in Annapolis, Maryland was postponed and rescheduled to 9 March 2015 due to the inclement (snowy) weather. The show on 17 March 2015 (on St Patrick's Day) at the Arden Theatre, St. Albert, Alberta, Canada was postponed until the following day because of a burst water mains in the theater.
On 7 May 2015 in Birmingham (at Mac Birmingham), Altan embarked on a 10-date Spring 2015 UK tour ending on 23 May 2015 in Langholm, Dumfries & Galloway, Scotland (at The Buccleuch Centre).
On 30 May 2015, Altan took part in the Salmon Leap Festival in Leixlip, Co. Kildare, Ireland.
In June 2015, Altan should perform twice in Ireland: on 11 at the Inchydoney Island Lodge & Spa in Clonakilty, Co Cork and on 20 in Ballymun, Dublin at the Beo Ballymun Festival.
On 12 July 2015, Altan performed at the Earagail Arts Festival, Clanree Hotel, Letterkenny, Donegal along with Mary Chapin Carpenter.
On 31 July 2015, Altan took part in the Cambridge Folk Festival.
On 1 August 2015, Altan headlined the Sidmouth Folk Week, performing at the Ham Marquee.
On 25 August 2015, Altan will take part in the EastSide Arts Festival in Belfast, Northern Ireland with special guest Kathleen Turner.
In September and October 2015, Altan will perform four times over Europe, visiting three countries: Belgium (on 12 September in Bilzen at the Scottish Weekend), England (on 18 September 2015, at Heath Street Baptist Church in London, UK, on 19 September at the Rye Arts Festival in Rye, East Sussex, UK and on 24 October at the Return to Camden Town Festival in London, UK) and Ireland (on 25 October in Sligo at The Hawk's Well Theatre).
After their lone show on 19 May 2015 in Schwetzingen (at the SWR Festspiele), Altan will embark on 12 November 2015 in Reutlingen (at the kulturzentrum Franz.K) on a 10-date Fall 2015 tour of Germany (9 dates) and Switzerland (1 date in Zug) due to end on 28 November 2015 in Esslingen (at the KUZ).
After their tour of Germany, Altan will embark in December 2015 on a 4-date Japan tour (from 1 to 6 December), their first one in six years and their second one ever. The tour will visit 3 cities (and 4 venues): Tokyo (twice), Itami (near Osaka) and Nerima City (near Tokyo).
Late November / early December 2015, Altan announced that they are organising next November 2016 (12-19) the "Wild Altan Way", a road trip to Donegal and the North-West of Ireland, a bus tour in the «mystical and dramatic landscape of Counties Donegal, LondonDerry, Fermanagh and beyond», consisting of «exploring the rich historical, mythological, beauty sites as well as having homely music sessions and concerts along the way».
An extensive Altan tour of the US and a few Altan European shows (in the UK and France) are already scheduled for early 2016.
Indeed, almost a year after the beginning of their extensive 25-date Winter/Spring 2015 North American tour, Altan will embark on 19 February 2016 in Northampton, Massachusetts on another 25-date Winter/Spring 2016 US tour due to end on 25 March 2016 in Spokane, Washington.
Altan will also tour two European countries: the United Kingdom in April 2016, visiting two cities (on 9 April at Kings Place in London, UK and on 15 April at Perth Concert Hall in Perth, UK) and France in May 2016, also visiting two cities (on 10 May at the Espace Albert Camus in Bron, Rhône-Alpes, France and on 11 May 2016 at the Théâtre Municipal in Rezé, Pays de la Loire, France.)
Since the arrival of accordionist Dermot Byrne in 1994, the band recording line-up has remained unchanged until his definitive departure from the band some time in 2013 and his lasting replacement since then by Martin Tourish (Ciarán Tourish's cousin). Incidentally, Martin Tourish wrote (but didn't record) the song "An Ghealóg" from the 2012 Altan studio album Gleann Nimhe - The Poison Glen.
Thus, since late 2013, the band recording line-up has become:
Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh: lead vocal, fiddle,
Ciarán Tourish: fiddle,
Ciarán Curran: bouzouki,
Mark Kelly: guitar,
Dáithí Sproule: guitar, vocals,
Martin Tourish: accordion,
Regular touring line-up:
Based on the recording line-up, the band touring line-up may differ sometimes:
Dáithí Sproule (guitar) is replacing Mark Kelly when touring with the band, mostly in the US but also in Europe (for instance during the entire 14-date Spring 2012 Norwegian tour).,
Martin Tourish on accordion has permanently replaced Dermot Byrne, starting from the extensive Fall 2013 (mostly) German tour (from 12 to 30 November 2013) after a 8-month hiatus (starting from March 2013) during which Altan had no longer been playing with any accordionist (as Dermot Byrne had not been playing with the band since then).,
The band has occasionally welcomed on tour two musicians as a replacement for band members:
Tim Edey on guitar and backing vocals (who guested on Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh's 2008 solo album Imeall) has sporadically replaced Mark Kelly in 2010 & 2011 (for instance on 25 August 2010 in Bilbao, Spain, on 17 July 2011 in Castlewellan, Ireland),
Harry Bradley on flute (who guested on two Altan studio albums, 2002's The Blue Idol and 2012's Gleann Nimhe - The Poison Glen) has sporadically replaced Dermot Byrne in 2011, 2012 and 2013 (for instance from 19 October to 18 November 2011 during the (mostly) German extensive tour entitled Affairs of the Heart, on 30 March 2012 in Dublin, Ireland at the RTÉ's Late Late Show, on 30 June 2012 in Martigny, Switzerland, on 7 July 2012 in Tain-l'Hermitage, France, on 11 October 2013 in Cork, Ireland).,
The band has exceptionally welcomed (or will exceptionally welcome) live the following musicians:
Kathleen Turner on vocals (from County Tyrone, Northern Ireland) (only once on 25 August 2015 at the EastSide Arts Festival, Belfast, Northern Ireland),
Eddi Reader on vocals (only once on 29 January 2016 at Celtic Connections, City Halls, Glasgow, Scotland),
Mary Chapin Carpenter on guitar and vocals (only once on 12 July 2015 at the Earagail Arts Festival, Clanree Hotel, Letterkenny, Donegal),
Robert Robertson on guitar and vocals (Scottish musician; member of the traditional Scottish Gaelic band Skipinnish) (only once on 29 January 2016 at Celtic Connections, City Halls, Glasgow, Scotland),
Yannick Chevalier on flute (French musician; only once on 14 May 2011 in Lyon, playing the (still unreleased) medley "Providence Reel / High Road To Linton"),
Anna Friel (from The Friel Sisters) on flute (only a few times: as a solo guest on 28 February 2015 in Somerville, MA; within The Friel Sisters on 21 May 2015 at St Andrew's in the Square church, Glasgow, Scotland and on 29 January 2016 at Celtic Connections, City Halls, Glasgow, Scotland),
On uilleann pipes
Sheila Friel (Síle Friel) (from The Friel Sisters) on uilleann pipes (only twice: within The Friel Sisters on 21 May 2015 at St Andrew's in the Square church, Glasgow, Scotland and on 29 January 2016 at Celtic Connections, City Halls, Glasgow, Scotland),
On tin whistle
Julie Fowlis on tin whistle (Scottish folk singer and multi-instrumentalist, plays especially the tin whistle) (only once on 29 January 2016 at Celtic Connections, City Halls, Glasgow, Scotland),
Cathal Hayden on fiddle (only once on 14 April 2007 at the Celtic Heart Festival, Hammersmith Irish Centre aka Irish Cultural Centre, London, UK),
Dave Abe on fiddle (only twice: on 8 March 2011 in Alexandria, Virginia and on 9 March 2015 in Annapolis, Maryland),
Ciarán Ó Maonaigh (Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh's nephew) on fiddle (only once as the unique guest musician on 30 March 2012 at the RTÉ's Late Late Show, Dublin, Ireland and three times as a duet with Caitlín Nic Gabhann (on concertina) on 28 February, 1 & 2 March 2015 respectively in Somerville, MA, New York City and Fairfield, CT),
Tommy McCarthy on fiddle (only once on 28 February 2015 in Somerville, MA),
Liz Carroll on fiddle (only nine times from 22 March to 2 April 2015),
Clare Friel (from The Friel Sisters) on fiddle (only twice: within The Friel Sisters on 21 May 2015 at St Andrew's in the Square church, Glasgow, Scotland and on 29 January 2016 at Celtic Connections, City Halls, Glasgow, Scotland),
Haley Richardson on fiddle (from Pittsgrove Township, New Jersey) (only once on 25 October 2015 at The Hawk's Well Theatre in Sligo, Ireland),
Sarah O'Gorman on fiddle (from Ballinamult, County Waterford, Ireland) (only once on 25 October 2015 at The Hawk's Well Theatre in Sligo, Ireland),
Caitlín Nic Gabhann on concertina (only three times as a duet with Ciarán Ó Maonaigh (on fiddle) on 28 February, 1 & 2 March 2015 respectively in Somerville, MA, New York City and Fairfield, CT),
Alison Brown on banjo (only five times on 6, 7, 13, 14 and 15 March 2015),
Garry West on bass (only five times on 6, 7, 13, 14 and 15 March 2015),
Myron Bretholz on bodhrán (only twice: on 8 March 2011 in Alexandria, Virginia and on 9 March 2015 in Annapolis, Maryland),
Neil Lyons on bodhrán (only once on 30 March 2012 at the RTÉ's Late Late Show, Dublin, Ireland),
Jim Higgins on bodhrán and snare drum (who guested on numerous Altan studio albums and on Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh's 2008 solo album Imeall) has occasionally joined the band on tour, specially during the entire 14-date Spring 2012 Norwegian tour (from 12 to 27 April 2012) and sporadically a few other times in 2013 (for instance in France on 1 February 2013 in Cherbourg at Le Trident, on 24 July 2013 in Montrevel-en-Bresse during the Festival "Les Temps Chauds"),
Aimee Farrell Courtney on bodhrán(only once on 13 February 2015 at the RTÉ's Late Late Show, Dublin, Ireland, playing the medley "Maggie's Pancakes/Píobaire an Chéide/The Friel Deal" from the 2015 studio album The Widening Gyre)