Just in time for Saint Patrick’s Day, the Center is hosting two leading bands in traditional Irish music! Danú and Goitse are bringing their combined repertoires to DPAC for a night of fiddle, uilleann pipes, accordion, and more. We asked Benny McCarthy of Danú and Tadhg Ó Meachair of Goitse questions about their bands’ histories and what it’s like to come together for this event.
How long have you been performing?
Benny (Danú): Danú is celebrating 25 years as a band this year.
Tadhg (Goitse): Goitse has been performing full-time since 2011 — the year we graduated from the Irish Music program at the University of Limerick in Ireland.
How did the two groups meet and come to tour together?
Benny (Danú): Most of the touring Irish bands know each other. We performed together in 2018 in both New York and California.
Tadhg (Goitse): Working with the same management meant that these opportunities arose and we jumped at the opportunity. Given the shared repertoire of Irish dance tunes common to both groups, we launched straight into the collaboration and had great fun with it. As well as that, given that Danú has been on the road for a good stretch longer than Goitse has, we definitely looked up to the members of Danú. For example, speaking for myself as an accordion player, I was a massive fan of Benny’s throughout my teens.
How are your music styles similar and different?
Benny (Danú): Danú has been around for 25 years so our style developed over the years. It is a sum of the different members who live in different parts of Ireland all with different regional styles.
Tadhg (Goitse): The commonality in our music lies most strongly in the vast repertoire of Irish dance music. We’ll let the listener judge where the differences lie, but variations in regional styles of playing, as well as novel arrangements that draw on a multitude of influences from our various musical soundscapes, feed into the uniqueness of both bands.
What instruments do you play, and how long have you been playing them?
Benny (Danú): We have been playing music all our lives, some since they were four years old. Danú pretty much features most of the instruments prominent in traditional Irish music.
Tadhg (Goitse): In Goitse, we feature piano accordion, fiddle, banjo, bodhrán, guitar, piano, whistle, and voice. We’ve each been performing for a long time at this point, some since our teens, but others since the age of five or six. Our combination of instruments, especially the banjo and piano accordion, is less commonly found in Irish traditional ensembles today, and this instrumentation helps to distinguish our particular sound.
Why is sharing Irish music and culture with the world important to you?
Benny (Danú): We get to travel the world with our talents. Thankfully the world wants to hear our music.
Tadhg (Goitse): Sharing our culture across the world is something that is dear to us and it is always a joy to increase awareness of the traditions we have at home. While many people are aware of certain traditions from Ireland, it is always rewarding when, after a show, someone comes up to tell you that they had not known of the singing style in which Áine is steeped; that they had never heard of Colm’s ‘bodhrán’ or Irish frame drum; or even that they had not been aware of the Gaelic Irish language, in which two band members are fluent speakers.
What is the most challenging piece in the program to sing/perform?
Benny (Danú): All of our music is very challenging but with years of experience it comes easy to us. Very fast reels can be tricky but we enjoy the challenge.
Tadhg (Goitse): As a group, one of our main goals is to keep alive the traditions from which we come. In doing this, we aim to compose new music that fits alongside older material from the vast canon of Irish melodies. Therefore, because we are always refreshing our repertoire, the newer, less familiar material will always be more challenging than melodies we have been performing for longer periods of time. In 2019, we released an album called Úr, meaning “fresh” or “new,” and it has been a joy to work this material into our live show.
What do the names Danú and Goitse mean?
Benny (Danú): Danú is the title of a Queen Goddess in Celtic Mythology, we were given this name by a friend in 1995 and it’s been very good to us!
Tadhg (Goitse): Goitse is a Gaelic Irish slang term, especially found in the North-Western dialect of the language that means “come here.”
What do you hope the audience takes away from your performance at the Center?
Benny (Danú): We hope to take the audience on a musical journey to Ireland with our music and our Irish accents. We like to have fun, so we hope the audience does also.
Tadhg (Goitse): We hope that people learn about our musical traditions during the course of our show, however, our main desire is that people have a good time! At its core, most of the music we play is dance music and, through that, we strive to convey a sense of fun and energy that connects with the listener in a fundamental way.
What advice do you have for aspiring artists?
Benny (Danú): Master your music and master being in front of your audience. When an audience of 2,000 people seems like 20 people, you have got it together. It takes time to achieve but enjoy the journey.
Tadhg (Goitse): Make sure to play the music you enjoy — it makes all the rest of the work worthwhile!
Danú, your upcoming album is titled Ten Thousand Miles. What is the inspiration behind the name and what’s the farthest you’ve ever traveled for a performance?
Benny (Danú): Ten Thousand Miles was released in 2018 and we will be performing many of the great pieces from this album. Hawaii must be the farthest from Ireland we have been in 25 years. Is that 10,000 miles, I wonder? [Editor’s note: It is 7,033 miles.]
Goitse, you have an album out titled Tall Tales & Misadventures. What is a “misadventure” you’ve had on your current tour?
Tadhg (Goitse): There really have been so many over the years and we love to let the crowd in on some of the stories on stage! One that springs to mind just now, for whatever reason, is of baggage going missing on a trip to Italy a couple of years ago. Colm’s drumsticks had gone missing but we did have access to some wooden skewers for a barbecue. He ended up managing to fashion a makeshift bodhrán stick, or cipín, using the skewers, elastic bands, and some tape!
Thank you to both bands for their insights into their music and culture! Be sure to pick up your tickets for Danú and Goitse Thursday, March 5th at 7:30 p.m.
Tadhg Ó Meachair