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Nollaig Casey




Updated 15 October 2005

"The highlight of the Festival was the exquisite and dignified playing of Nollaig Ní Chathasaigh...Strong and elegant on stage, her instrument appears almost to be an extension of her own body"
- The Irish Times"

I would happily sit all night in a cold theatre to listen to Nollaig Casey..."Fortnight (Belfast)

"Nollaig Casey played wondrous fiddle before singing unaccompanied with such feeling it brought tears to the eyes..." - The Subiaco Post (Western Australia)

"Nollaig’s performance was stunning for its sheer musical artistry, seducing some into quiet amazement and inducing others to insist on encore after encore..." - The Irish Times 

"Saturday night saw Dónal Lunny brewing up a storm on the main stage with polkas to leave the band out of breath, and the crowd roaring their appreciation. Nollaig Casey, resplendent in red, held centre spotlight with the ease and grace of a natural born artist..." – The Southern Star


Nollaig is one of Ireland's most gifted musicians, with her own unique way of playing traditional Irish music on the fiddle and such an utterly distinctive sound that it would be impossible to mistake it for that of anyone else. This "sound" is so attractive to other musicians that there exists hardly any major Irish artist of the last twenty years with whom she has not worked.

Her powerful presence graced Dónal Lunny’s ground-breaking band Coolfin, of which she was a founder member and with whom she had a busy international touring schedule. One highlight was their performance in a special concert celebrating the Irish roots of American country music for Island: A Festival of the Arts in Ireland held at the John F. Kennedy Centre in Washington DC which was broadcast coast to coast on network television: they shared the stage with Ricky Skaggs, Emmy Lou Harris and Steve Earle. Nollaig’s been working with Dónal off and on for over twenty years: she joined the legendary band Planxty (of which he was a founder member) in 1980, touring all over Europe with them and has been involved in a large number of Dónal’s projects in the intervening years.

Nollaig’s prodigious technique and her unique ability to play both classical and traditional music with equal proficiency, coupled with her exceptional expressive gifts has inspired a number of composers to write orchestral pieces for her. In 2003 she performed in front of millions as soloist with the RTE Concert Orchestra in a work by Shaun Davey commissioned by the Special Olympics held in Dublin. With the same orchestra she performed a piece by Dónal Lunny, commissioned in 1997 to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Great Irish Famine, on several occasions, most recently at Expo 2000 in Hanover. In 1999 she gave the first performance in New York of a Concerto for Violin and Irish Fiddle by Evan Chambers, which had been commissioned by the Albany Symphony Orchestra.

She enjoys an unrivalled popularity among composers of film-music with an Irish tinge and has been the featured soloist on over twenty feature-films – most recently in Dancing at Lughnasa and Waking Ned. She was of course seen as well as heard world-wide in the 1992 Hear My Song (about the life of singer Josef Locke). She is herself a prolific composer, writing for Coolfin, television documentaries and for her own recording projects.

Nollaig has recorded and worked with Enya, Van Morrison, Sinéad O’Connor, Nanci Griffith, Ricky Skaggs, Rod Stewart, Dónal Lunny, Mary Black, Carlos Nuñez, Jim Rooney, Andy Irvine, Moving Hearts, The Indigo Girls, Spandau Ballet, Christy Moore, Liam O'Flynn, Dan ar Bras, Sharon Shannon, Maura O'Connell, Dick Gaughan, Paddy Keenan, Máirtín O'Connor and her sister, the innovative and influential harper Máire Ní Chathasaigh, among many others. She was a star performer in Dan ar Bras’ massively successful Héritage des Celtes project: both albums (released by Sony France) received Gold Discs in France and Héritage received the French equivalent of the Brit Awards. She has made two critically-acclaimed albums, Lead The Knave and Causeway with Arty McGlynn and her solo album The Music of What Happened will be released very soon.

More detailed biographical information

Born into a well-known West Cork musical family, by the time Nollaig began to play the violin at the age of eleven she was already proficient in a variety of instruments - notably piano, tin-whistle and uilleann pipes. Throughout her teens she developed her talents both in the fields of classical and traditional music, winning several All-Ireland titles for fiddle-playing (Oireachtas and Fleadh Cheoil na h-Éireann) and traditional singing (Oireachtas) culminating in the award to her of the Bonn Éigse agus Ceoil at Slógadh Náisiúnta na h-Éireann 1972 for the best all-round performer, in consequence of having won first prizes for fiddle, tin-whistle, traditional singing, dancing, solo dramatic scene and poetry-writing! She had already begun to compose and in 1972 won an RTE Radio Competition for newly-composed tunes in the traditional idiom. As a student of the Royal Irish Academy of Music she won the Vandeleur Scholarship and was awarded the prestigious Arthur Darley Memorial Prize at the Dublin Feis Ceoil for the playing of unaccompanied Bach Sonatas and Partitas.

Having graduated from University College Cork with a B. Mus. degree at the exceptionally early age of nineteen, she embarked upon a professional career, firstly with the RTE Symphony Orchestra where she remained for three years until she joined Planxty in 1980. When Ireland hosted the Eurovision Song Contest in 1981 Planxty made a guest appearance, playing Timedance, a piece specially written by fellow band-member Bill Whelan and later released as a single, in which Nollaig's distinctive playing was heavily featured. Bill of course went on to write the music for Riverdance  - which also started life as a piece of Eurovision interval music: the rest, as they say, is history! Nollaig makes occasional guest appearances in Riverdance, thus completing the circle.

She has subsequently toured with a wide variety of artists (mentioned earlier) in Ireland, the UK., France, Germany, Holland, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Hungary, Libya, Switzerland, Austria, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Japan, the U.S.A., Australia and New Zealand.

A frequent broadcaster, her countless RTE television appearances have included several on the prime-time Late Late Show, Nighthawks, Saturday Live and Sult as well as on specialist traditional music programmes such as The Pure Drop. She made frequent appearances on the major 1991 BBC TV series Bringing it All Back Home with members of U2, Dónal Lunny and Arty, and performed on the prestigious Good Morning America TV show when the series was launched in the USA. Recently she took part in a Late Late Show Special on prominent Irish women musicians.

Contact Nollaig
Nollaig's solo CD
Arty McGlynn
Download for promoters (solo)
Download for promoters (duo)
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Old Bridge Music
PO Box 7, Ilkley, West Yorkshire, LS29 9RY, UK
Tel: +44 (0)1943 602203   Fax: +44 (0)1943 435472