- the Irish family group responsible for such
timeless music as “Theme from Harry’s Game,” “In a Lifetime,” “I Will Find You”
and the sound track to the “Robin of Sherwood” TV series, make a welcome return
to the UK in March 2013 to mark their 40th Anniversary.
decades, Clannad has made music that
entwines the traditional and the modern, the past and the future, with
stunningly beautiful results. With their haunting songs, mesmerizing vocals,
and captivating sound the group has sold over fifteen million records
first came to prominence in the UK in late 1982 when after the hard hitting
drama “Harry’s Game” was aired, their evocative theme song was propelled into
the high reaches of the UK singles chart. This was no overnight success though,
since the band already had years of touring and six albums under their belt.
siblings Moya, Ciaran and Pol Brennan, along with their twin uncles Noel and
Padraig Duggan, the band began life performing in the family owned tavern in a
remote part of North West Ireland. After winning an established folk
competition of which the prize was a record deal with Phillips, they decided to
go at it full time. Their self-titled debut album, Clannad, was released in 1973.
trademark sound began to develop over the course of these first six albums - taking
near forgotten traditional Irish songs, often in their native Gaelic language,
bringing new arrangements to them, and creating a unique vocal harmony sound.
Throughout this period they toured extensively across Europe. Towards the end
of the seventies they recruited their younger sister in on piano and harmony
vocals. She worked on two albums and several tours with them before going on to
establish her own highly successful solo career as Enya.
The band had
gradually been adding more original compositions to their records as well as
introducing modern synthesized sounds into their traditional arrangements.
Their distinctive blend of sounds led to them being commissioned to compose a
theme for the ITV drama Harry’s Game.
Public reaction to the song was instantaneous and the band was called back from
their tour of Germany to appear on Top of
the Pops. This was a cause for national celebration at home and especially
in their home county of Donegal. This was significantly, the first, (and only
time), a Gaelic language song had been a hit in the UK charts. The song also
earned them an Ivor Novello Award.
Signed now to a major UK record label, they released the accompanying album Magical Ring to critical acclaim in
the success of this album they were approached to write a theme song for an
upcoming TV series about one of one of England’s most legendary characters,
Robin Hood. As work on this progressed, it turned out to be much more than a song. Clannad ended up composing all of the
music for the entire three series of Robin
of Sherwood. The show was a huge success at the time in the UK and is still
on constant repeat in many countries across the World. The band became
synonymous with the series and the mere mention of the show today will have
most people humming the familiar refrain of the hit theme tune, “Robin (The
Hooded Man).” The band was also awarded with a BAFTA award for Best Original Television Music.
regrouped in Dublin to work on their next album, Macalla. During a break in recording one evening the band retired
to the nearby pub for some refreshment. There they happened to bump into
another regular, Bono. Having just released The
Unforgettable Fire, U2 was, by
this stage, well on their way to being the global phenomenon they are. Bono had
been an enthusiastic supporter of the band since hearing Harry’s Game on the radio, describing it as “the sound of angels.”
U2 even adopted the track as the
music they would walk onstage to in their live shows, a feature that was shown
in their highly successful TV and DVD concert film, “Under A Blood Red Sky.”
After a pint
and a chat, Bono was keen to come back to the studio with them to listen to
what they were working on. They had just begun on a new song and were still
working on ideas for the verses. Over the next few hours the idea began to
emerge of Bono duetting on the song with Moya. The next evening they all met up
again in the studio, with newly written lyrics, and recorded “In A Lifetime.”
The song had a rockier edge than a lot of their previous material but still
featured the ethereal vocal style they had made their own. Bono performed, what
many would argue, one of his greatest ever vocal recordings. The song went on
to become a huge radio hit across the world and still sounds as fresh today as
it did then.
For the next
album, Sirius, Clannad diversified again and went to Los Angeles to record.
Working with American producers the end result, whilst still retaining elements
of their traditional sound and themes, also had a soft rock feel to parts of it
that would garner divisive reaction from their audience. The album also
featured guest vocals by Steve Perry from
Journey and Bruce Hornsby.
from two soundtrack albums, Atlantic
Realm and The Angel & The Soldier
Boy, RCA released a greatest hits album, Past Present, which also featured two new songs. The band undertook
a lengthy world tour to support the album. At the end of this tour Pol Brennan
announced he would be leaving the band to pursue solo interests.
forward as a four piece, Clannad
started work on a new album, Anam.
After the lavish production of Sirius,
they approached this album as a much simpler affair but also taking that unique
vocal harmony sound they had created and building it to new heights. The
formula seemed to work, especially in the USA where the album became their
biggest success to date there.
Banba (1993) which marked their 20th
anniversary was another success at home and abroad. The album featured the song
“I WIll Find You,” which featured as the Love Theme to the movie “Last of the Mohicans.”
This album also brought the band its first
followed in 1996 by the album Lore
and again mixed the traditional and the contemporary as only they could do
best. This was another chart success for them and earned them a second Grammy nomination.
In 1998 they
released, what was their last studio album to date. Landmarks was recorded in the middle of a forest in the Dublin
mountains over a six month period. After two previous nominations this was the
album that finally won them a Grammy.
never a conscious decision to stop recording or touring for such a long time;
it just sort of happened that way. They had been working solidly as Clannad for over twenty five years at
this stage and were keen to take an extended break for some rest and relaxation
and also to explore individual pursuits.
In the best
Irish tradition, one year led to another, and another. Being family they would
still gather together on various occasions which would often end up in
back together, professionally, in 2007 to be presented with a “Lifetime
Achievement Award” in Ireland’s version of the BRIT awards. Over the next few years they would undertake the odd
concert or festival appearances.
In 2011 they
were asked to perform a concert at Dublin’s historic Christ Church Cathedral.
Being in such an intimate setting they chose for the program to lean heavily on
their early traditional material as the acoustic nature of these track would
suit the surroundings well. With this in mind they invited Pol to join them for
the shows which due to demand turned into three consecutive nights.
were a huge success and this step of “going back to go forward” brought renewed
enthusiasm for all of them to do more together. They undertook more festivals
and shows together across Europe and the USA before beginning writing together
for a brand new album.
album, Nadur, (Irish for Nature), is their
first album of new material since 1998.
the release they will undertake an extensive world tour with the show
comprising songs from right their 40 year career as recording artists.
close-knit group, their musical journey is both remarkable in its personal
accomplishment and historic in its contributions to Irish culture.
It is indeed fascinating to consider that what
today is so widely regarded as Celtic music was first called “Clannad
music.” There is perhaps no
greater testament to the impact of this groundbreaking group than that.