Nuala Kennedy

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Bright and rhythmic, percussively accented flute playing and a voice of luminous clarity.


Nuala Kennedy is an Irish singer and flute player with hauntingly beautiful vocals, adventurous instrumentation, and an imaginative mix of influences.

Kennedy’s singing and flute playing springs from the traditional music of Ireland and Scotland, and from the fathomless realms of her own imagination. A consummate performer with a buoyant personality, her music has been described as unique, evocative, and soul-satisfying.

Nuala grew up in Dundalk, Co. Louth, on the East coast of Ireland; a musical area which is steeped in mythology and has long historical links with Scotland. She started to play traditional music at the age of seven when her father introduced her to her first whistle teacher. Nuala instantly fell in love with the music and started learning traditional tunes as quickly as she could. By the age of twelve she graduated to wooden flute and became a member of a local ceilidh band ‘Ceoltoiri Oga Oghrialla’. At the age of eighteen, Nuala moved to Scotland to study at Edinburgh College Of Art. She was immediately captivated by the vital traditional music session scene, and there made many friends, including fellow Irish expatriate Cathal McConnell, whose music has had a huge influence on her, and who has become something of a mentor to her over the years. It was in Edinburgh that Nualas passion for traditional music was further strengthened and where she honed her instrumental skills. The result was a comprehensive repertoire of Scottish tunes, as well as Irish, and led to the formation of her first real band, the trio Fine Friday, alongside guitarist Kris Drever and fiddler Anna-Wendy Stevenson. The trio toured widely in Europe, Canada and Australia, before disbanding in 2006, and released two critically acclaimed albums; ˜Gone Dancing and ˜Mowing the Machair.

At the same time Nuala’s on-going interest in Scottish Gaelic song was beginning to come to the fore, adding to her already large repertoire of Irish songs. In 2007 she decided to deepen her knowledge of Scots Gaelic and moved to Inverness in the Highlands to undertake a year of intensive study. The combination of the best influences of the two cultures, Scotland and Ireland, is what has made Nuala the artist she is today.

In 2007 Nuala decided that her vision and interpretation of traditional music deserved her own band and she released a solo CD ˜The New Shoes. Again the reviewers were captivated: ‘The New Shoes’ was voted traditional album of the week by The Irish Times, featured in BBC Scotland’s top albums of 2008 and traditional highlight of the year by Hotpress Music Magazine. That began an intense cycle of touring, and Nuala began taking her music abroad to audiences all over Europe and the USA. It also stimulated her creative powers and a lot of her own compositional work began at this point. At this time she was invited to write a piece for Glasgow’s Celtic Connections International festival, a piece she will revisit in January 2012. She put together an hour long show featuring nine players from around the world. It received a rapturous response from the audience and press:

Amongst others she has performed and recorded with American hipster and indie-poet Will Oldham, an album which received 5 stars from MOJO magazine, and cutting-edge Canadian composer Oliver Schroer, with whom she recorded ˜Enthralled a duo album of entirely original compositions to be released in January 2012 on Borealis Records. She occasionally performs with ECMA award winners Troy MacGillivray, Kimberley Fraser and Andrea Beaton. Nuala is also part of the traditional Irish group OIRIALLA: performing the music and song of her native South-East Ulster, which features Irish traditional music legends Gerry ˜fiddle OConnor, accordionist Martin Quinn and the acclaimed Breton guitarist Gilles le Bigot.

Nuala decided to continue her interest in education and further her knowledge of the tradition by undertaking a Masters Degree in Music Performance and Composition, which she completed with distinction from Newcastle University in 2011. The result of this was an even deeper understanding of, and commitment to traditional music, which is evident in the powerful and passionate performances she currently gives, wherever she is on tour.

“bright and rhythmic, percussively accented flute playing and a voice of luminous clarity” THE HERALD

“Riveting on stage – a mix of sweetness, earthiness and sheer musical virtuosity. The traditions in great hands here. This is an artist who gives it respect while using it as a launch pad for her own musical vision” ~ Brian McNeill