Wilmington residents looking for a unique musical experience will have the opportunity to witness the Celtic melodies of Paddy Moloney and the Chieftains when the band performs at UNCW in Kenan Auditorium this week. Coming to the Port City all the way from Ireland, Paddy Moloney and the Chieftains have a unique take on a centuries-old style to enlighten listeners on traditional Irish music.
“I started the band 52 years ago, always looking for a unique sound,” Moloney says. “It opened up the music that displayed the folk art and traditional Irish sound we hoped for.”
The acclaimed musical group is made up of fiddler Seán Keane, flutist Matt Malloy and singer Kevin Conneff. Paddy Moloney, founder of the Chieftains will lead the band with his uilleann pipes. Moloney, who began playing the pipes, along with the tin whistle at age 8, formed the band in 1962. Named after John Montague’s book of poems, “Death of a Chieftain,” the band has become one of the most widely known Irish folk musical groups since its formation. They even are regarded by the Irish government as Ireland’s Musical Ambassadors.
“I’ve always thought The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem did great things for Irish ballads, and I thought the same should be done for traditional music,” Moloney says. “My wish came true, as I’ve been able to spread the gospel of this music for many years now.”
The Chieftains’ popularity is not exclusive to the members’ homeland. Their blended sound of traditional and modern styles has attracted attention from around the world. They were the first ensemble to ever perform a concert at the Capitol Building in Washington D.C. Plus, they were the first Western musicians to perform on The Great Wall of China. They also performed at Roger Waters’ show “The Wall” in Berlin, Germany, in 1990. Their notoriety expanded even further when they contributed to a groundbreaking musical performance by NASA astronaut Cady Coleman. Coleman, who served as an inspiration for the 2013 feature film “Gravity,” borrowed Moloney’s tin whistle and Molloy’s flute for an unforgettable performance in the International Space Station.
“Cady sent us a video of her playing at the International Space Station on St. Patrick’s Day,” Moloney adds. “I adapted it and put it on our CD, ‘The Voice of Ages.’ We sometimes show this video at our concerts and play along with it. Sometimes Cady herself even shows up at concerts and plays with us onstage.”
They have collaborated with a number of well-known artists, including The Rolling Stones, Paul McCartney, Madonna, Lyle Lovett, Jackson Browne, Sting, Paolo Nutini, and Willie Nelson. The Chieftains also worked with Elvis Costello and Sinead O’Connor on the soundtrack for a six-part mini-series, “The Long Journey Home,” which focuses on the early Irish settlers in America and their struggles with potato famine. Their work with these musicians of various styles has helped the band expose their sound to a much wider audience, contributing to their goal of putting Irish folk music on par with the popularity of other musical genres
The Chieftains have won six Grammy Awards, an Emmy, and a Genie (Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television). Their contributions to the soundtrack of Stanley Kubrick’s film “Barry Lyndon” also landed an Oscar for Best Adaptation Score. They won the Lifetime Achievement Award by the UK’s BBC Radio 2 in 2002.
Solos from each member of the band will be featured during their upcoming performance at UNCW. There will be several younger up-and-comers accompanying the band as well: fiddler Jon Pilatzke, harpist Triona Marshall, fiddler and saxophonist Tara Breen, guitarist Tim Edey, mandolin and banjo player Martin Murray, and singer and percussionist Alyth McCormick.
“The most recent addition to this group is Tara Breen,” Moloney says. “She is one of the best fiddle players in the world. She also gets up and does a bit of dance during her performance.”
Other dancers will be joining the band as well, creating an even livelier show for the audience. Brothers Jon and Nathan Pilatzke will perform a step dance together in their specialized style from the Ottawa Valley during the show. Dancer Cara Butler, younger sister of the Riverdance leading dancer, Jean Butler, will take the stage, too. Known by her fans as the Princess of Dance, Butler has been performing with The Chieftains for over 20 years.
“With all of this happening, there is quite a lot of excitement that barely gives us any time to blink,” Moloney jokes.
Paddy Moloney and the Chieftains will be performing in Kenan Auditorium on UNCW’s campus at 8 p.m. Tickets are free for UNCW students who show a valid ID, but this offer is first come, first serve.