One group whose music has become synonymous with the ethereal sounds of “Celtic” music is the Donegal band Clannad. Their music has been used in movies, television shows, and commercials, heard in diverse venues, from “The Last of the Mohicans” to Volkswagen.
Clannad was formed in 1970. Family and place are the very essence of this Irish band. Originally named ‘an clann as Dobhar’, which means “family from Dore,” (the family is from Gweedore, Donegal) they soon became known simply as Clannad. The original lineup consisted of siblings Maire, Ciaran, & Paul Brennan along with their twin uncles Padraig and Noel Duggan. Maire, Ciaran, and Paul’s father, Leo Brennan, formed a showband in the 50’s playing popular tunes on saxophone and clarinet and highland reels on the accordion. Their mother is a music teacher who plays organ and harmonium, and their maternal grandparents were village schoolteachers steeped in old songs and ancient Irish folklore. When he saw that his band’s days were numbered, Leo acquired an old tavern in the area, where he still entertains today. “The house was always open to music,” states Maire. “What this meant to us was a small stage to perform on.”
In 1970, Clannad won first prize in the prestigious Letterkenny Folk Festival, which included the opportunity to record an album. The group went on to record six traditional albums, developing their voices and creating the Clannad sound in the process. In 1976 the band went from part-time to a full time professional band. In 1980, the siblings sister Eithne joined the line-up, singing and playing keyboards for the next two years. She later started her own successful solo career as Enya.
Clannad’s big break came in 1982, when they were asked to compose the theme for Harry’s Game, a three-part television thriller about Northern Ireland. This music was also used in the film Patriot Games with Harrison Ford and was then used as background music for a Volkswagen commercial. In 1983 Clannad released ‘Magical Ring’ which became their first gold record.
Clannad continues to enjoy success and has made almost twenty albums to date. As Maire explains, “What we try to do is paint pictures with our songs. It’s not so much telling a story with verses and choruses - instead, it’s done through emotions and...feelings.”
In recent years, Clannad has not toured or recorded on a regualr basis. The last studio album was “Landmarks”, released in 1997. The band’s last tour of the United States was in 1996, as well. The last general release under the band’s name was the 1997 “The Very Best Of Clannad.” The band is preparing for the recording of a new album in 2004.
The music of Clannad can be heard on numerous television and movie soundtracks. Here is a list of the songs that may be familiar: 1982 Harry’s Game - Harry’s Game; 1984 - Robin of Sherwood - “Legend” Album; Caislean Oir ; 1989 Atlantic Realm - “Atlantic Realm” Album; 1989 - The Angel and the Soldier Boy - “Angel and the Soldier Boy” Album; 1991 - Patriot’s Game - Harry’s Game - In A Lifetime; 1992 - Switch - Both Sides Now (M. Brennan); 1993 - Last of the Mohicans - I Will Find You; Into the West - In a Lifetime; The Dolphin Connection - The Dolphin Connection Theme; One World One Voice - Ri Na Cruinne; 1997 Warriors of Virtue - Forces of Nature.
In late 2003, Maire changed the spelling of her name to Moya, as most English speakers could not pronounce it. She also toured the United States for the first time in many years in 2004, supporting her album, “Two Horizons”, her fifth solo project. They still perform today in 2021.
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