- Category: Musical Performers
Chicago Reel brings some of the city’s finest musicians together for a new look at Irish traditional music. Fiddle, flute, banjo, and button accordion combine with piano to showcase a wide repertoire of reels and jigs – old and new – energetic and full of spirit.
Denis O’Sullivan, master singer of the old-style sean-nós tradition, sings stories of forsaken love and tales of emigration. He delivers powerful interpretations of lesser-known material and brings fresh arrangements to audience favorites.
While paying homage to the great Irish musicians of the past who influenced them most, the band brings a contemporary drive and energy to their music. Dan Neely of the Irish Echo lauded the group’s “smart arranging and nuanced ensemble work” and their “delightful dance band feel that harkens back to Chicago bands of an earlier era.”
Since their formation in 2010, the band has appeared at festivals and venues throughout the country, including the Milwaukee Irish Festival, the Catskills Irish Arts Week, the Indianapolis Irish Festival, IBAM, the Gaelic Park Irish Festival, Millennium Park and SPACE.
Denis O’Sullivan is a native of Scartaglen, in the heart of Sliabh Luachra, Co. Kerry. His singing style was influenced by the rich musical tradition of this area and by the music of his father and grandfather, great singers who shared with Denis their vast repertoire of old songs. In keeping with the band’s traditional style, Denis’s singing reflects the influence of older generations of sean nós (old style) singers. His songs complement the band’s selections of tunes and reflect the tradition of his roots. Denis is a three-time All Ireland Champion singer in the sean nós category, winning his first title before he was 15. He came to Chicago in the late 1990s and has gained a reputation as one of Chicago’s best traditional singers. His first solo album, The May Morning Dew, was released in 2004. In a less-traditional vein, he also competed and won the Irish-American Idol competition in Chicago.
Rose Duffy‘s dedication to Irish music began at a young age. Her father and sisters played tunes after dinner in the family kitchen, and when she started to study Irish dance, it exposed her to the music before she first picked up a fiddle. At the age of eight, she began to take lessons and has since become a part of Chicago’s thriving Irish music scene, playing alongside musicians such as Liz Carroll and Maurice Lennon. She has played at Millennium Park, has been a member of the Broken Pledge Ceili Band, and has recently finished touring with Riverdance. Rose is also a practicing occupational therapist.
Pauline Conneely was born in Bedford, England to Irish immigrants hailing from Connemara and Co. Longford. Her parents passed their love of Irish music on to Pauline and her brothers and sisters. They studied with Brendan Mulkere, originally from Co. Clare, who filled their house with music when he came to teach. Pauline came to America in 1988 as a dancer and musician with Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann and moved to Chicago in 1989. She is one of the finest banjo players in America.
Jonathan Whitall is originally from Pittsburgh, where he grew up studying classical piano and violin. A family friend introduced him to Irish music in the mid-1990s, and he became interested in the tunes, studying the work of masters such as Tommy Peoples and John Doherty. He honed his technique playing with Donnybrook and other Chicago-area musicians. More recently, he has turned his attention to the distinctive style of Cape Breton music, taking inspiration from musicians including Glenn Graham, Joel Chaisson and Troy MacGillivray. Drawing from a variety of traditions as well as his extensive tune knowledge, he brings intricate, energetic and tasteful accompaniment to the band. He also fiddles with The Cosmic Otters, a contra dance band.
Ger Carey was born and raised in Kilmurry, Co. Clare, where he was raised in the Clare music tradition. Among his first musical influences were two of his neighbors, the late Francie Donnelan (one of the founding members of the renowned Tulla Ceili Band) and his son Brian. While at St. Flannan’s College in Ennis, Co. Clare, he played with the award-winning St. Flannan’s Ceili Band. Gerry toured the United States with the Tulla Ceili Band in the mid-1980’s, moving to Chicago not long after. He performs, plays in sessions and works to keep the tradition alive among the younger generation of musicians, including his two children.