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Essays and Such

Irish Cultural Society

of San Antonio Texas

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Promoting Awareness of Irish Culture

the Chieftans
By Butler Stevens
No dust on the wings of the Chieftans

The Chieftans


By Butler Stevens
Contributing Writer
Northside Recorder - January 25, 2001 

The opening scenes of the film "Titanic" showed one of the major 
characters racing to board the ill-fated vessel as it departed for the 
other side of the world. This scene is not unlike a typical day for 
Paddy Maloney, musician and co-founder of the Chieftains. The renowned 
Irish sextet has spent much of the last 30 years traversing the 
continents like international time-travelers.
"The planet is very small, really," said Maloney, prior to a 
performance in Denver.

Maloney first organized the Chieftains in 1962, with inspiration from 
the music he had been listening to since childhood. The group, a 
national treasure to Ireland, was recently given a lifetime achievement 
award by their fellow countrymen.  "I think there has been a resurgence 
in this kind of music today, because Irish folk music was created from 
the essential roots. I think people are interested in knowing where a 
lot of music first got started," said Maloney.
 
While the six-man band, image-wise, could easily blend into a Guy 
Ritchie film, musically they have had few competitors. Their distinctive 
sound is unmistakable.  They are notorious for letting loose and 
injecting some of the most prestigious old concert halls with the same 
colorful atmosphere found on any good Saturday night in Dublin.

  San Antonio fans will welcome the Chieftains to Trinity University's 
Laurie Auditorium at 7 p.m. Saturday.  

The multi-Grammy award winning lineup includes, on an assortment of 
pipes and tin-whistles, Paddy Maloney; harpist Derek Bell; fiddlers 
Martin Fay and Sean Keane; flutist Matt Molloy; and, on Bodhran drums 
and vocals, Kevin Conneff. The band will also be adding dancers Kara 
Butler and Donny Golden, support fiddler Natalie MacMaster and soulful 
pop vocalist Joan Osborne.  

Maloney, a most likable individual and avid storyteller, beams when 
referring to his band mates and a musical journey that's lasted over 
30 years.  "We have been very lucky to have the opportunities to work 
with many of the friends we've made over the years," he said.  One 
prized moment he recalls is working with acclaimed director Stanley 
Kubrick on the 1975 film "Barry Lyndon."  "I remember I was in the 
middle of a record release party for one of our new records and I got 
this call, with this little voice on the other end saying, 'This is 
Stanley Kubrick.' "Being the weekend and unaware of who he was, I 
asked if he could call me back on Monday. Immediately, one of my band 
mates said 'Do you know who you just got off the phone?'  Luckily he 
called me back," Maloney laughed. 

"We ended up doing 25 minutes of music for the film. Later we returned 
home, got another call from Stanley and he said there was another song 
that he wanted to record for the film.  "Exhausted from touring - and 
the fact we had just gotten home and hadn't spent any time yet with our 
families - Stanley said, 'Great, bring them all over here.' He flew the 
band, the families and all of the kids over to England and then threw a 
big Halloween bash for us afterwards. The song took an hour to record 
and it never made it in the film. "He was an eccentric, but very generous 
and kind man," said Maloney.  Their contribution helped win an Academy 
Award for the film's soundtrack, which put them into a rank of serious, 
world-class musicians.

Earning a Grammy for the 1995 CD, "The Long Black Veil," with 
support from a stellar cast of vocalists and musicians (including, just 
for starters, The Rolling Stones, Van Morrison, Tom Jones and Sting), 
the Chieftains repeated their success the following year and garnered 
another Grammy with 1996's Spanish-tinged "Santiago."

After completing the 1999 female vocalist-dominated "Tears of Stone," 
the band is currently supporting "Water from the Well," the newest 
Chieftains entry. "Ireland is so rich in music now. There are many 
new styles of music springing up. You can go 300 miles down the road 
and hear a whole other type of fiddling than (where) you just came 
from. This record ('Water from the Well') is part of a 12-year plan 
to meet up with the new Miles Davises and Charlie Parkers of Irish
music," Maloney said.  "We recorded half of this CD out in the actual 
locations and half in the studio, to capture the true feel," he said. 
"The whole band helped by contributing songs and pointing out different 
styles that some of the others weren't familiar with. A good example 
would be our friends in Donegal called Altan, who helped inspire the
Donegal set on the CD.
 
"This is the first recording for our new record contract, and I've got 
a few things that I've been working on - maybe eventually a recording 
of our work with symphony orchestras. There's a lot of work left to do,
" said Maloney.

Connecting with its universal audience has never been a problem for 
the Chieftains, who seem to have mastered walking a tightrope of epic 
magnitude, holding tight to true historical musical structures while 
incorporating modern flourishes and contemporary nuances.

Based on the Chieftains' indelible success and their continued 
inspiration, it seems the ethereal "Water from the Well" won't 
be drying up any time soon.