Len Graham and Brían Ó hAirt, two award-winning musicians and proponents of Irish traditional arts, will present a performance entitled “The Road Taken: Songs, Music and Dance from the Irish Tradition” on Friday, October 14 at 4:30 p.m. in Taplin Auditorium in Fine Hall on the Princeton University campus. Part of the 2016-17 Fund for Irish Studies series at Princeton University, the event is free and open to the public. Taplin Auditorium is a different location than where Irish Studies Series events are usually held.
Graham and Ó hAirt’s personal styles come from very disparate regions of Ireland—Graham’s ballads originate in northeastern Ulster while Ó hAirt’s lyrical sean-nós are from the Irish-speaking regions of the West. Their performance will exhibit numerous aspects of Irish culture and will include dance music on concertina and whistle, puirt-á-beul (mouth-music), and sean-nós dancing. Their traditional Irish songs cover a breadth of styles and subjects: ballads, lyric folksongs, and music hall pieces, which tell of love, emigration, politics, and more. Through many seasons of collaboration, the two have distilled the best of these traditions into a performance that weaves stories, songs, and dance that form the duo’s newest release, The Road Taken.
Graham is a world-renowned Irish singer and author who was crowned as the prestigious All-Ireland Singing Champion in 1971. Since the start of his professional singing career in 1982, he has collaborated with several legendary musicians, poets and storytellers, including the late John Campbell, who shared similar passions for preserving Irish traditional arts. During the years of conflict in Northern Ireland, Graham worked with Campbell on two albums that helped to raise awareness of shared cultural traditions across Ireland. In 2010 Graham released his most recent solo album, Over the Hills and Far Away. He has shared his wealth of talent and knowledge about Irish song, story, and dance at several international literary and folk festivals, as well as on television and radio. Throughout his career, Graham has been recognized for his work with numerous awards, including the 1992 Seán O’Boyle Cultural Traditions Award, the 2008 “Keeper of the Tradition” award at the Tommy Makem Festival of Traditional Song, and the 2011 CCÉ Bardic Award, among others.
Ó hAirt is the only American to have won the coveted senior title in traditional singing at the All-Ireland Fleadh Cheoil in Listowel, County Kerry in 2002. In his teens, his introduction to Chicago’s Irish-speaking community allowed him to cultivate a rich understanding of the sean-nós singing tradition long before his immersion in the language while living in the Connemara region of western County Galway. This experience left him with a vast repertoire of songs and language that continues to inform and inspire his singing. Ó hAirt has taught and performed extensively in North America, including performances at the Milwaukee Irish Festival, the Chicago Celtic Festival, the Ennis Trad Festival, and Sean-nós Milwaukee, a festival he established in 2003. In addition, his vocal recordings have been featured on numerous radio programs in both Ireland and the U.S., including various NPR and RTÉ radio programs. He is also an award-winning sean-nós dancer and accomplished instrumentalist on concertina, accordion, and whistle. He currently lives in Portland, Oregon, where he teaches Irish and helps develop language-learning games for Language Hunters, a non-profit organization.