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Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh
Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh
Inis Oirr, Aran Islands, Ireland
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Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh (born 1978) is a musician and singer from County Kerry, Ireland. Until 2016, she was the lead singer for the traditional music group Danú. Her name is pronounced Murr-en Nick OWL-eve.
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Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh grew up on Inis Oirr, the smallest of the Aran Islands, and Cape Clear Island, another small island off the coast of County Cork. Both of these communities are Gaeltachtaí (Irish speaking areas), and Muireann's first language is Irish. This was to influence her later career, due to her early exposure to Irish language song, especially in the Sean nós tradition. She began playing piano and fiddle at an early age, before progressing to the whistle and eventually the flute. Muireann's early musical experiences also included accompanying her father, traditional Irish fiddle player Feargal Mac Amhlaoibh, to sessions. When Muireann moved to the West Kerry Gaeltacht, she joined the national folk theatre of Ireland, Siamsa Tíre. During the six years she spent with them, she participated in several of their major performances. While in Kerry her singing developed, learning and gaining influence from local singers such as the Begley family, Áine Ní Laoithe and Eilín Ní Chearna. She spent four years in Dublin attending the Dún Laoghaire Institute of Art, Design and Technology earning a diploma in fine art. She then studied at the University of Limerick and was awarded an MA in Traditional Music Performance.
Muireann's first recordings were on a CD of Irish traditional music and song performed by Geantraí, a group of musicians who performed a show of the same name in the Skellig hotel in Dingle. She also recorded on a number of CDs including The Crooked Road by William Coulter, Cello by Barry Phillips, and several compilation CDs. As part of the requirements for her MA in traditional music performance, Muireann produced a solo album of tunes and songs, entitled Réalt na Maidine/Morning Star. A limited edition of this album was distributed, mainly locally in Dingle, although copies were also sold in the United States and Europe.
Muireann's joining of traditional Irish group Danú in 2003 marked a new departure in her musical career. Ciarán O Gealbháin, Danú's former lead singer, left the band in 2003, and Muireann took over as singer and whistle player, occasionally joining band member Tom Doorley in playing the flute. She recorded her first album with Danú in 2003, called The Road Less Travelled (The American release of the album spelled the title Traveled). The addition of Nic Amhlaoibh to the band line-up was hailed as a success. Danú recorded an album of solos in 2004, entitled Up in the Air, and Muireann played and sang on three tracks. 2005 saw the band release the album When All is Said and Done. Muireann participated in the project Hands Across the Water. This was a collaboration album with participation from dozens of high-profile traditional and folk musicians and singers, with the proceeds of album sales going to victims of the tsunami in southeast Asia. Muireann released her first major solo CD in 2006, entitled Daybreak/Fáinne an Lae. It featured musicians such as Oisín Mc Auley and Éamonn Doorley from Danú, Gerry O Beirne, and John Doyle from Solas.
In 2008, Muireann recorded Dual in both Irish and Scottish Gaelic with Julie Fowlis, Éamonn Doorley (of Danú) and Ross Martin to highlight the many similarities and differences between both Irish and Scottish Gaelic cultures. Dual was released in October 2008.
In 2016, Muireann recorded the single Bealtaine as one half of the electronica duo Aeons, along with Pádraig Rynne. They proceeded to release a second single, An Fhuil, later that year, followed by a full album, Fís, in 2018.
Muireann's television appearances include The Highland Sessions, a BBC Four television series featuring Irish and Scottish Gaelic music. Other television work includes The Late Late Show, Amuigh Faoin Spéir (produced by Éamonn de Buitléir), The History of Irish Dance, Léargas, and An Ghaeilge Bheo. BBC Alba appearances include performing and co-presenting (with Julie Fowlis) Cuirm@Celtic and Dà-Fhillte.
The shadowed, sensuously grainy timbre of Nic Amhlaoibh 's singing is reminiscent of a young Dolores Keane