Moya Brennan - Artist Page
Moya Brennan
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Photo by Peer Lindgren

Moya Brennan was one of the founders of legendary Irish group Clannad . To date, Clannad have sold around 10 million records. Moya and two of her brothers, Pol and Ciaran played their first shows with uncles Noel and Padraig Duggan in the 1970s. All the band members spoke Gaelic as their first language, and their commercial chances seemed modest. However, they made a breakthrough record in 1982, Magical Ring, that contained the 'Theme From Harry's Game', which reached number five in the UK charts, and appeared on the 'Patriot Games' soundtrack ten years later.

In 1986, the Clannad release, Macalla, featured the song 'In A Lifetime,' with Moya sharing vocals with Bono from U2. A compilation, Past Present, reached number five in the UK albums chart in 1989. The band won a Grammy Award (for 1997's Landmarks), and provided the theme music to Last Of The Mohicans and Robin Of Sherwood, while Moya also sang the theme to Circle Of Friends in 1995.

Moya has also collaborated with a host of well known musicians, including Paul Young, Bruce Hornsby, Joe Jackson, Robert Plant, Shane McGowan Paul Brady and Russell Watson. In 1999 she scored a worldwide hit with Chicane on 'Saltwater'.

Moya's solo albums include Maire (1992), Misty Eyed Adventures (1995), Perfect Time (1998) and Whisper To The Wild Water (1999).

Her autobiography, The Other Side of the Rainbow (2000), was a powerful and honest account of music, fame, misfortune, love and spirituality.

The Two Horizons project, released in 2004, produced 80 minutes of music that Moya and producer Ross Cullum were happy with. In the final stages, Chris Hughes came in to oversee the final editing of the record, lending fresh ears and experience to shaping the finished product.

'It was a monumental task bringing the album down to its final running time but we've encapsulated the essence of what we started with.' Moya says.

The same degree of synergy carried Two Horizons through photo sessions and designers. Artwork and costumes echo the Two Horizons theme and soulfulness of the music. Everyone seemed to appreciate and understand the project's broad picture, much to Moya's satisfaction.

'I think it's the best thing I've done,' she enthused. 'I'm loving it. I've never heard my voice sound the way it does now. The production is fantastic and the harp sounds amazing, which is very much a part of what the record is about.'

Moya used her new record to celebrate the Irish harp in her own personal scheme. Coming from Donegal, in the North West of Ireland she had learnt to play the harp as a schoolgirl and it was the start of an enduring love. However, she was often reluctant to highlight her playing in public. She felt that the harp was over-exposed ' a national emblem, often degraded by the advertising trade. Even with Clannad, a group that has drawn from the deep wells of Irish tradition, there has been a rather coy attitude to the harp. Not so this time.

Moya started this project in the summer of 2001. From an early stage, she'd been convinced that this record should have some kind of a narrative. To this extent, she was encouraged by her new record company and particularly by Max Hole, a key figure at Universal International. Moya started working on storyboards, aiming to thread a series of songs around a defined theme.

She was thinking about Ireland's past, and her reading included the blind harpist, Turlough O' Carolan. She was also fascinated by the global use of harp music in many of the world's traditional cultures and possible Irish connections, for instance, the kora harp in West Africa. Meanwhile a close friend was researching the ancient site of Tara, where, according to legend, the High Kings of Ireland met in pursuit of reconciliation and sublime art.

The title Two Horizons was partly inspired by a visit to the site of Tara. She'd arrived just before dawn, and when she ascended the hill, the moon was on one horizon, and directly opposite, the sun was on the rise. Here it was, a perfect metaphor for the past and the future, a place where music, memories and myth could all take shape.

Moya split her recording sessions between her home studio near Dublin and that of her producer, Ross Cullum, in London. Ross had previously worked on records by Tori Amos, Tears For Fears, and even Moya's sister, Enya. They began writing together, and on the track 'Bright Star', Moya was so inspired that she produced the words and vocal lines in two hours. Also, Ross was finding new ways to frame Moya's voice. 'He was careful not to take my music out of its context,' she notes. 'But he also gave a modern, rhythmical aspect to it.'

The energy of the project kept bringing her back to the harp and so the instrument appeared on a series of tracks. It also became an important motif in the theme ' a quest through time and landscape to find the legendary harp that played at Tara. At a certain stage in recording the album Moya felt that the storyline had become too specific. She then decided to make things more open to interpretation. 'When people talk to me about what Clannad's music has done to them,' she explains, 'they say that they put the record on and they form their own pictures and feelings and emotions. So I wanted to leave a certain amount to the imagination.'

Guest musicians on the album included folk giant Martin Carthy, Robbie McIntosh (sometime Paul McCartney guitarist) and old friend Anto Drennan, now working with The Corrs. Moya's band also played live on some key sessions, while a wealth of traditional players included Maire Breatnach, Nigel Eaton and Troy Doneckley.

In 2005 she released An Irish Christmas with a selection of familiar favorites with an Irish flavor. Pieces include "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen," "Joy To The World," "Love Came Down at Christmas," "Carol Of The Bells," "What Child is This" and "Do You Hear."

"I've been involved in number of other people's Christmas projects in recent years," explained Moya, "but I wanted to capture a truly Celtic Christmas feeling. It's always important to bring the meaning of Christmas to the fore. It is the essence of what I believe in and the album offers both celebration and reflection on that familiar theme."

With Signature (2006), Moya went back to her Irish roots, combining the contemporary and the traditional. In true Irish tradition, many of the songs have a bittersweet flavor. Rather, Signature is a series of snapshots of Moya’s life that when all woven together, produce a tapestry of contrasting colors and emotions. “When I share things about my life with people I am sometimes amazed at the reaction,” said Moya about Signature. “I have been really moved in the way that my experiences have brought encouragement to others. Even though we can all feel broken at times we can all be put back together again. I felt that translating some of that into song was a natural progression. I am what I am and here it is!

In May 2007, a remarkable gathering of traditional Irish musicians and singers came together at Vicar Street in Dublin to celebrate the life and music of Mícheál Ó Domhnaill, who, with Skara Brae and The Bothy Band, had been a pioneering force in Irish music. Among the many artists and groups coming together that evening was an evocative performance by four of Ireland’s finest female singers. Moya got together with Triona and Maighread Ní Dhomhnaill (Míchaél’s two sisters, concert organizers and co-members of Skara Brae and The Bothy Band) and Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh of Altan.

Triona, Maighread, Mairéad and Moya named the project T with the Maggies. All the singers came from the same corner of County Donegal (with Gaelic as their first language). Their first show in January 2009, at the Temple Bar Tradfest in Dublin, sold out immediately and they went on to perform at the Irish Global Economic summit. They recorded an album titled T with the Maggies.

In the past two years, Moya Brennan has been collaborating with harp player Cormac De Barra. Both come from large musical families in Ireland and their mutual admiration for each other developed into a stimulating musical relationship. Moya and Cormac released their album Voices & Harps in 2011.

Moya is often asked whether Clannad is still an ongoing prospect. 'The band still exists, even though we've taken time out' she stresses. 'There's still stuff to be done there.'

Discography:

Clannad, with Clannad (Phillips, 1973)
Clannad 2  with Clannad (Gael-Linn / Shanachie, 1975)
Dúlamán, with Clannad (Gael-Linn / Shanachie, 1976)
Crann Ull, with Clannad (Tara Records / Shanachie, 1980)
Fuaim, with Clannad (Tara Records, 1982)
Magical Ring, with Clannad (RCA, 1983)
Legend, with Clannad (RCA, 1984)
Macalla, with Clannad (RCA, 1985)
Sirius, with Clannad (RCA / Atlantic, 1987)
Atlantic Realm, with Clannad (BBC / RCA, 1988)
The Angel and the Soldier Boy, with Clannad (RCA, 1989)
Anam, with Clannad (RCA / Tara Records, 1990)
In Concert, with Clannad (Shanachie, 1990)
Maire (1992)
Banba, with Clannad (RCA / Atlantic, 1993)
Misty Eyed Adventures (1994)
Lore, with Clannad (RCA / Atlantic, 1996)
Landmarks, with Clannad (RCA / Atlantic, 1998)
Perfect Time (1998)
Whisper To The Wild Water (1999)
Two Horizons (2003)
An Irish Christmas (2005)
Signature (2006)
My Match Is A Makin', with Cormac de Barra (2010)
T with the Maggies, with T with the Maggies (2010)
Voices & Harps (2011), with Cormac de Barra (2011)

[Biography includes elements from an original text by Stuart Bailie. Courtesy of Universal Music].


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Vocals, Harp