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Paddy O'Brien (Accordion)


Musicians of Offaly: (Courtesy of The Knotted Chord Archive, 2002).
PLUS: Biography (Courtesy of the Artist's site, 2005).

Paddy O'Brien (1945- ) Accordion.

Born on a farm just outside Daingean, County Offaly and introduced to the accordion at age 8 by his father but didn't get his own accordion for another 3 years.

Paddy started on a 1 row and earned the money for his own 2 row at 17.

He listened to the nightly radio shows and also found a tape recorder invaluable. Influences growing up locally included Joe Delaney and Dan Cleary. Beyond that Donegal fiddler John Doherty, Paddy Fahy and Eddie Kelly from Galway, Frank McCollum of Antrim, Sean Ryan, Tipperary and Johnny Henry from Mayo.

Based in Dublin in 1969 he played in a session with John Kelly Snr., fiddle and concertina, and Joe Ryan, fiddle both originally from County Clare.

Paddy's accordion playing saw him capture 4 Senior Oireachtas accordion titles in the 1970's, a Senior Trio All-Ireland (with Sean Ryan and Micheal O'hAlmhain), and the All-Ireland senior accordion title in the Fleadh Ceoil of 1975.

Paddy has played with a number of Ceili bands over the years including; The Ballinamere from 1966-69; The Sean Ryan Trio in 1968; The Castle Ceili Band 1969-78(made 2 albums) which also featured Mick O'Connor, John Kelly, Sean Keane, Michael Tubridy, Joe Ryan, John Dwyer, Bridie Lafferty and Benny Carey; 1971-78 Ceoltoiri Laighean (2 albums) with among others Eamonn de Buitlear, John and James Kelly, Paddy Glackin, Mary Bergin and Micheal O'hAlmhain; 1978-82 Bowhand with James Kelly and Daithi Sproule; 1983-84 Hill 16(1 album). His current band is Chulrua, with pipes/flute/whistle player Tim Britton and singer/guitarist Pat Egan, who have one cd "Barefoot at the altar"(Pied Piper Productions).

Two of the albums made with James Kelly and Daithi Sproule ("Spring in the Air" and "Is it Yourself") were re-released in one classic CD (Shanachie) in 1995. He has made one solo CD to date called "Stranger at the gate" (Green Linnet).

His last 3 groups are all United States based, where he has lived since 1978 (in Minneapolis since 1983).

Paddy plays all over the U.S. both with his band and with his wife, singer Erin Hart. He is one of the mainstays of John D. McGurks bar in St. Louis (the only bar in the U.S. which has traditional music 7 nights a week).

In his 40 years of playing he has collected over 4000 tunes and 500 hundred of these he has committed to tape, on accordion. This last exercise was part of the 1994 American National Endowment for the Arts project and is titled "The Paddy O'Brien Tune Collection: A personal treasury of Irish jigs and reels" (the 12 cassette set is commercially available). He has performed all over the world in concert and on Radio and television.

Paddy also has had two poems, individual tributes to pipers Seamus Ennis and Willie Clancy, published in the Dal gCais (The Journal of Clare) periodical (1993).

Official Biography.

Paddy O'Brien is a world-renowned performer and collector of Irish traditional music. A master of the two-row button accordion, he has devoted himself since the 1950s to learning, practicing, and sharing tunes. At present, he has a repertoire of over 3,000 pieces.

Paddy O'Brien was born and raised in County Offaly, in the midlands of Ireland. From an early age, he began to travel the countryside, listening to older players and learning both the music and the stories and history behind the tunes. In 1954, he began to learn the button accordion. Money was tight at the time, and paying off an accordion was a real challenge, but he was devoted to his instrument. In the late 1960s, he began to perform in public with the Ballinamere Ceili Band. Together with Sean and Kathleen Ryan, he toured the eastern U.S. in 1968. His reputation in Ireland and abroad continued to grow. In 1975, he was named All-Ireland senior accordion champion. Since settling in Minneapolis in 1983, he has toured as a solo artist and with several groups, recorded several albums, and has been featured on radio and television in Ireland and the U.S. A 1994 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts gave him the rare honor of recording and annotating a collection of 500 tunes from his repertoire. That project, a 12-hour-long set of tapes entitled The Paddy O'Brien Tune Collection: A Personal Treasury of Irish Jigs and Reels, has been praised as an invaluable resource for traditional musicians. He was also recognized as a master musician in the Minnesota Arts Board's Folk Arts Apprenticeship program.

Paddy O'Brien plays a wide range of traditional tunes, including jigs, reels, hornpipes, Irish polkas, slow airs, marches, slides, 17th-century harp tunes, and set dances. Much of the music that he plays was originally used for social dance music. While Irish dance steps are now considered a specialty known to but a few dancers, Irish instrumental music has become a concert idiom. Paddy's performances are filled with highly ornamented versions of dance tunes played to the virtuosic world standard. He has learned these pieces by ear, trading tunes with other players in Ireland and the U.S.

The programs that Paddy O'Brien offers are quite flexible. He has performed at fairs and festivals, colleges and universities, folk clubs, concert halls, and schools. He can appear as a solo performer, with one or two accompanists, or as part of a larger group. If desired, he can conduct workshops or arrange for dance instruction.

"I especially enjoy introducing people to my lifelong passion of the old instrumental dance music of Ireland. I have been a serious player and composer of Irish music for more than 30 years, in that time collecting a repertoire of more than 3,000 Irish traditional tunes. In 1995 I received a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to record and write notes on 500 reels and jigs in my repertoire. I have extensive experience performing at community fairs and festivals, colleges and universities, folk clubs, and a variety of other venues. I've done hundreds of concerts, workshops and dances, and have appeared many times on radio and television in Ireland and the U.S. I've also enjoyed working as an artist in the schools, and as a master in the Arts Board's Folk Arts Apprenticeship program".

You can listen to short samples from some of the tracks from this artist using the player below.




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