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Danú Ensemble to Take New Jersey Audiences on a Musical Journey to Their Native Ireland

By Carolyn M. Brown,

originally published: 03/07/2024

Danú Ensemble to Take New Jersey Audiences on a Musical Journey to Their Native Ireland

Photo by John D. Kelly

Hailing from the counties Waterford, Cork, Dublin, and Donegal in Ireland, Danú is one of today's leading traditional Irish music bands to traverse the global stage, playing standing room only concerts. For nearly 30 years, the ensemble has hosted high-energy performances around the world and has recorded ten critically acclaimed albums. Danú will take audiences on a memorable and moving musical journey to their native Ireland, performing a glorious mix of ancient Irish music and their biggest hits at Stockton University's Performing Arts Center main stage in Galloway, NJ, on Sunday, March 10, 2024 at 2:00pm.

Also performing a new musical repertoire on this tour are Danú’s virtuosi players, Benny McCarthy on the button accordion and melodeon, Ivan Goff on flute, tin whistle, and uilleann pipe (Irish Bagpipes), Oisín McAuley on the fiddle, Éamon Doorley on the bouzouki, Tony Byrne on guitar, and Billy Sutton on the bodhrán (goatskin frame drum). Joining the band on vocals (Irish and English) is a familiar name among fans, Ciarán Ó Gealbháin, who travelled extensively with the group in the past and sang on the albums “Think Before You Think” (2000) and “All Things Considered” (2002). He is replacing Danú’s lead singer since 2016, Nell Ní Chróinín, while she is out on maternity leave.

McCarthy is the manager and one of the original founders of Danú along with Donnchadh Gough, Dónal Clancy, and Daire Bracken, who met in Waterford, Ireland in 1994. They officially formed the band in 1995 as part of Ireland’s delegation to Lorient Inter-Celtic Festival in Brittany, France (an annual event that is the biggest gathering of Celtic nations in the world). “This guy came up to me and said, ‘Would you guys like to go over to France next summer for a week?’ At 20 years of age, of course I said ‘yeah,’” recalls McCarthy. “We needed to have either an Irish name or a Celtic name. That was a stipulation,” he adds.

It was a friend who gave the bandmates their name. McCarthy says it comes from the ancient Celtic pantheon Danú who is associated with wisdom, wealth, fertility, and abundance. She is the mother goddess of all the gods in Celtic mythology and the faery people, the Tuatha Dé Danann, which means the “People of the Goddess Danú.”

The band’s debut album was simply entitled “Danú” and it was released in 1997 to huge critical acclaim. Their live DVD, “One Night Stand,” was recorded one night at Vicar St., Dublin. Danú’s popular recordings are available on the Shanachie label.

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McCarthy says that traditional Irish songs are a very social and community-based music. It is a genre of folk music that began as an oral tradition, passed down from generation to generation. In true fashion, his family introduced him to traditional Irish music at an early age, around five years old. While his brothers and sisters played and sang songs, neither of his parents were musicians—though they were céilí dancers. “My great-grandfather was a great accordion player. I never got to meet him because he died before I was born. So, there’s a (family) tradition there,” McCarthy says.

Equally, “Danú has been kind of a family that's evolved as well,” he adds. “It always featured some of the best musicians in the country if I say so myself. I really do feel that we've been fortunate enough to have some amazing musicians within the last 30 years.”

Much of Danú’s music is characterized as a nostalgic nod to Ireland’s mystical landscapes and storied past. McCarthy notes the band has its own unique sound. “It has to do with the instruments we play, the energy we have (on stage), and our approach to the songs. The way we express (ourselves) really (comes) from our heart. We don't have sheet music. All this music is in our heads. So, we're playing from the soul.”

When it comes to Danú’s longevity, “we have fun playing music and the audience has been a huge part of keeping us going,” adds McCarthy. What sets Danú apart from other bands, he says is that all the members have been native Irish speakers. “So, you're getting the real deal.”

Danú Ensemble to Take New Jersey Audiences on a Musical Journey to Their Native Ireland

Danú has toured extensively in its time throughout Europe, the Middle East, and North America, with major concert engagements in the United Kingdom, India, and Israel. McCarthy is excited to return to the United States and to perform again in New Jersey at Stockon University’s Performing Arts Center. “We’ve performed there before. It’s been a while, but I can remember the venue, even after playing in hundreds and hundreds of venues all over America. We’ve performed in almost every state in America. We’re only missing one, Alaska.”

McCarthy and his bandmates enjoy touring America, especially this time of the year, with March being “a bit of an Irish month” he says, thanks to St. Patrick's Day celebrations of Irish heritage and culture. “It's a great moment for us to celebrate our little country of Ireland.”

Observed every March 17, which marks the anniversary death of the patron saint of Ireland, St. Patrick's Day is incredibly popular in the United States and Canada, even though it may have originated as a religious holiday in Ireland. “There's a lot of people in the America (who are) connected with Ireland, people that immigrated here hundreds of years ago,” McCarthy explains. “We meet people who are always telling us about their Irish ancestry. So, it's lovely to be bringing some music from the old country.”

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Fans will be delighted to know Danú is currently working on an album and could possibly start releasing some new music in the coming months. “We don't just fire out music. We carefully arrange and organize our music,” McCarthy says. “There's a lot of work that goes into putting pieces together and a lot of detail.”

With scores of songs already in Danú’s repertoire, McCarthy says that adding new traditional Irish music to its signature sound could fuel the band’s concert performances for another 30 years.

Stockton Performing Arts Center, Galloway, NJ | March 10, 2024 @ 2:00pm. Click here for ticket information.

About the author: Carolyn M. Brown is an investigative journalist, editor, author, playwright, multimedia content producer and an entrepreneur. She has produced content spanning across a portfolio of platforms, including print, digital media, broadcast, theater arts, and custom events. Her publication credits include Essence, Forbes, Inc., and Diversity Woman magazines. She is a founding board member of the Paterson Performing Arts Development Council, a nonprofit dedicated to bringing together diverse communities through the performing arts and cultural events and to creating pathways for new and established artists.

Content provided by Discover Jersey Arts, a project of the ArtPride New Jersey Foundation and New Jersey State Council on the Arts.




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