Máire Ní Chathasaigh

TG4 Irish Traditional Musician of the Year 2001

The doyenne of Irish harp players” - Scotland on Sunday

"The most interesting & original player of our Irish harp today"
- Derek Bell

Solo Live Reviews

Máire has been performing as part of a successful duo with Chris Newman since 1988, so most of these reviews of solo performances date from the 1980s.

er opening jigs emphasised something we already know - that she is an accomplished performer on the Irish harp - better, indeed, than any harper in the country at decorating dance-music in authentic traditional style. Her "Gander in the Pratie Hole" was a match for any piping or fiddling version of that tune....Her simple harmonic treatment of Carolan's instrumental piece, "Farewell to Music", was strikingly effective, and her noble arrangement of "An Spéic Seoigheach" memorable.

The dance-music was relaxed and confident, played throughout the evening with style and precision, culminating in a hornpipe that effortlessly speeded into a glorious reel, "The Boys of Malin", which owed not a little to the playing of the late John Doherty."
- Tomás Ó Canainn in The Cork Examiner, Monday June 9th, 1986

FOLK ROOTS (England)
Fresh from a short visit to Australia where she played a couple of major arts festivals in the company of Ali Bain and Alistair Anderson, this remarkable harper from County Cork paid her third visit to South Wales for a series of club dates that also took her, this time, to the west of England.

And what a captivating performance it was at Llantrisant, with every note and every nuance commanding full attention. Máire Ní Chathasaigh has won numerous prizes in both national and international competitions and her electrifying performances have won her fame half way round the world. It's easy to see why - she is one of those musicians who truly deserve to be described as a virtuoso.

Inevitably, the music of the 17th century harper Turlough O'Carolan featured prominently, with no less than five of his pieces in the programme, including "Planxty Sudley", the majestic wedding march written for his daughter, and his tragic "Farewell to Music", allegedly written immediately before his death. Then there was the haunting "Lady Hamilton", the only surviving composition of Cornelius Lyons, who in the 18th century was harper to the Earl of Antrim, and an incredibly beautiful early Irish piece, totally different in structure and style from the Itialianate baroque hybrids of O'Carolan.

But it's not just the slow and stately music of the old Irish court that Máire plays. Hers is a repertoire that also embraces the, perhaps more familiar, jigs, reels and hornpipes of traditional Irish music - tunes that would more usually be associated with the fiddle or the pipes than the harp.Tunes, in fact, that some would say couldn't be played on the harp because of its limitations. But, listening to Máire, that myth is very quickly dispelled - here is someone who can create the most elaborate ornamentations, even when the notes are flying like sparks from a forge.

And as if all that weren't enough, Máire also has a pure, crystal-clear voice. She offered five songs in all, some in English and others in Gaelic, which perfectly balanced the evening's instrumental content. All, of course, were accompanied on the harp. Particularly impressive of her vocal offerings was the plaintive "Bantry Girls' Lament", a song from the days of the Peninsular War, in which many men from Máire's native Cork fought.

Every time I've heard Máire Ní Chathasaigh I've been impressed - this time I've been totally hooked. There's nothing for it...I'll just have to go to hear her again before she returns home." - Keith Hudson in Folk Roots Issue 63, 1987

áire Ní Chathasaigh added a no-nonsense commentary (and a ravishing light contralto voice) to her performance on the Irish harp, particularly in "The Bantry Girls' Lament" and a most moving, elegiac pavane, said to have been Carolan's last composition." - Maurice Rosenbaum in The Daily Telegraph, August 21st, 1985 (of a performance in the Purcell Room, London)

MUSIC MAKER (Perth, Australia)
Concert with Alistair Anderson & Aly Bain, Perth Concert Hall, January 21, 1987

"This concert lived up to all expectations and had me scurrying to the Thesaurus looking for fresh superlatives.

Surprisingly it was virtually a one-off; one concert in Melbourne and one in Perth with no precursor or follow-up in the U.K. It arose from Anderson's connections with John Williams and London's South Bank Festival and provided a welcome opportunity for him to come to Australia with two musicians who had gifts and sensibilities to match his own.

Ali and Aly Bain are old friends, have often played together in sessions and are familiar to Perth audiences. But Máire Ní Chathasaigh was the surprise package. It speaks volumes that after the Melbourne concert she had no albums left to sell here.

She caught a bug in Hong Kong on the way over and so didn't sing much, though what she did was lovely, but it was her harp playing that had the jaws dropping.

With apparently effortless technique she made familiar tunes ring with new life and lent authority to the less familiar. She is apparently at the forefront of a renaissance in harp playing technique in Ireland and it shows. The sort of stuttering embellishment usually restricted to pipes or fiddles, flowed from her fingers with great verve.

Carolan got a good look in but top spot went to to an air called “Miss Hamilton”, the only surviving piece by another early harper whose name has escaped me. It was breathtaking in the alternation of delicacy and power of attack.

Ali and Aly were excellent, of course, and I really enjoyed Máire's piano accompaniment to Aly's fiddle. The whole concept of three top-class musicians brought together to play separately and then ensemble worked very well indeed, enlightening people about their individual instruments and then exploring the possibilities of the combination.

This last part of the concert was dazzling with lead and harmonic parts shared, exchanged and interwoven through some ferocious reels. Better still was the accompaniment provided by all three to Máire's voice. Nothing overdone or flashy, just delicate enhancement - the sort of thing that leaves you feeling all runny inside." - Music Maker, Perth (Australia) March/April 1987

áire Ní Chathasaigh's tripping accompaniment (in the best sense!) to her own fine singing of "Cuach mo Londubh Buí" was excellent... She finished with Carolan's "Planxty Sudley" and the glorious "Old Oak Tree" reel. God bless her fingers for the new paths they find through the strings."
- Tomás Ó Canainn in The Irish Times September 16th, 1987

TREOIR (Ireland)
he outstanding harp virtuoso in the Irish traditional idiom" - Treoir, magazine of Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann


Máire on stage at the Liverpool Irish Festival.
(Photo by VIncent Ng)



"one of those musicians
who truly deserve to be
described as a virtuoso"


"the notes fly like
sparks from a forge"




"a pure,
crystal-clear voice"


"god bless her fingers for
the new paths they find
through the strings"


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