Bodhrán Performers


This list has no pretensions of being complete in any regard. Please suggest additions. If possible, please include names of bands, sources for particular recordings, and like that.

The bodhranists listed on this page are the ones I think are the best in the world. I'm open to counter-arguments, as long as you keep it friendly-like. Other performers are listed on a separate page, and some recommended recordings are available, too.


[Picture] Tommy Hayes, Stockton's Wing, etc. 2001 interview

Hayes' second album is A Room in the North (Claddagh Records). It features Julia Haines of Philadelphia on harp, Ronan Brown on flutes, Kenneth Edge on saxophone, and Hayes' age aunt Meta lilting.

His first album, An Ras, was released on Mulligan Records. He was in the original run of the hit show Riverdance, and in the 1995 movie Rob Roy. He also appeared on Eileen Ivers' recent self-titled album (Green Linnet 1139), track 5, Humors of Ballyloughlin/Knocknagow; the drumming in that piece is astonishing. How does he do that?!

An Ras shows off the range of his talents, with an emphasis on bodhrán. A friend tells me Some great tracks with him and piano player Mícháel O Súilleabháin, one recitation of the poem An Ras with percussion, and some nice slow pieces as well. The album is recorded very well, you can even hear Tommy's hand moving on the skin.

Other appearances: Altan Harvest Storm (Green Linnet 1117) and Island Angel (Green Linnet 1137); Seamus Connolly Notes from my Mind (Green Linnet 1087); Seamus Egan< A Week in January.

Colm Murphy, De Dannan

Murphy joined De Dannan after Johnny McDonagh left. On Jacket of Batteries ( Green Linnet 3053), his skills are well-illustrated in the title song, The Clumsy Lover, and Doberman's Wallet. To my ear, he has a notably lighter touch than some of the other top bodhrán-players, with greater emphasis on pitch-control. His talents are especially evident on Mícháel O Súilleabháin's The Dolphin's Way (Virgin/Venture 90651, not in print). He joins Donal Lunny, Altan in A Bhean Udai Thall on Horse with a Heart (Green Linnet 1095), and Sean Ryan on Síul Uait.

He has recently put out his own album, An Bodhrán (Gael-Linn CEFCD 175), in which he performs with a variety of other artists. This is a virtuoso collection, showing Murphy's command of the full range of the bodhrán. I don't especially like the way he chose to mike the bodhrán, but it does show off his stick work remarkably well.

[Picture] Kevin Conneff , The Chieftains

Conneff joined the Chieftains in 1976, replacing Peadar Mercier. There are two biographies of Conneff available on the web, here and there. Conneff's skills can be found, among other places, on The Week Before Easter (Claddagh Records), his solo album, and The Chieftains: Music from Ballad of the Irish Horse, a collection of music from the National Geographic television special, released by Shanachie Records (79051). The Chieftains' recordings have been issued variously by Shanachie, RCA, and Columbia, and most of them include some great drumming. More information about Conneff will eventually be available on Jeremy Skinner's Chieftain pages. Conneff can also be heard on Christy Moore's album Prosperous (Tara CD2008).

[Picture] Johnny (Ringo) McDonagh, De Dannan, Arcady

McDonagh has been playing bodhrán since 1967. He played with De Dannan, and is now leader of Arcady. Tommy Hayes calls him "the finest traditional player", and credits him with developing the rim shot. McDonagh is also one of the top bones players in the world, was the first to play a bodhrán with a brush, and came up with the idea for the tunable bodhrán. The August/September 1995 edition of Dirty Linen has a feature article on Arcady and McDonagh.

McDonagh brushes aside Hayes' praise, pointing out that he has returned to the traditional style after a long journey through other styles, including records with Mike Oldfield (the first live recording of Tubular Bells) and The Beat of the Drum, an African/blues piece on the B-side of Old Town, a single by Philip Lynott of Thin Lizzy. His goal is perfection in simplicity: A traditional style, close to the music, carefully executed, but with few pyrotechnics. Indeed, when I saw him play at The Knitting Factory in August 1995, his style showed a perfect balance between ornamentation and support of the tune. His pitch and tone control were remarkable, with each beat precisely fit to the music. He doesn't believe in elaborate, planned performances: For his recording session with Eileen Ivers, he listened to the music twice and recorded his performance in a half hour.

Kevin Rice writes: When I was 10, Ringo and DeDannnan came through town on the Smithsonian tour in 1976. Ring stayed at our house for the week. I was so impressed with the Bodhran and his playing, I decided to learn how to play it. Over the years, when they came into town, they often stayed at our house. I learned a great deal from his playing, and he has been my greatest infuence. I would say that he was a part of a group, DeDannan, that allowed him to show what a bodhran can do, and really treated him and his playing like it should be: an integral part of the music, given equal weight with the other instruments.

Check out Arcady's album After The Ball (Shanachie 79077), on which McDonagh himself recommends Jackie Daly's Reels and his duet with the flutist in Breton Reels. McDonagh has recorded with many soloists; he particularly recommends Mary Bergin's albums Feadóga Stáin (Shanachie 79006) and Feadóga Stáin 2 (Shanachie 79083). He also appears on Eileen Ivers' self-titled album ( Green Linnet 1139), track 10, Geese in the Bog/The Wandering Minstrel/The Pride of Moyvane/The Low Road to Glin/The High Road to Glin. Andy's Front Hall recommends tracks 2 and 4 on Altan's The Red Crow (Green Linnet 1109) and most of Sean Ryan's Take the Air (CEF 142). But McDonagh himself feels that Red Crow was poorly mixed and failed to use his performance to its best.


You can read about more bodhránists, or you can see a list of recommended performances.



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Josh Mittleman

Last updated 30 Mar 1999