About the Band
Craobh Rua (pronounced Crave Roo-Ah) translates from Irish to ‘Red Branch’ and is a name that is well known in Celtic history from the stories of the Red Branch Knights of Ulster.
Hailing from Belfast they perform Irish traditional music with their distinctive northern style. Their music has delighted audiences and earned them wide acclaim and recognition. Craobh Rua are now regarded around the world as one of the finest ambassadors of Irish traditional music. The band’s musicians bring their own individual experience to the group and fuse their talents to bring life to a wide array of instruments including the banjo, mandolin, fiddle, uilleann pipes, tin whistle, guitar and vocals. They take a refreshing, unpretentious but uncommonly skilled run at some of the greatest music in the world.
They have given concerts and festival performances in the USA, Canada, Australia, Germany, Austria, Italy, Holland, Switzerland, Brittany, Asturias, Belgium, Poland, Slovenia, Denmark, Norway, Bulgaria, England, Scotland, Wales and of course their native home – Ireland.
Craobh Rua has released six albums to date and appeared on a number of compilation albums. Their latest release, I’d Understand You If I Knew What You Meant, has been critically acclaimed and spent most of 2015 near the tops of the traditional music album charts.
“Craobh Rua are free advertisement for everything that’s good about Irish Traditional Music – they play it from the heart and they play it superbly. Long may they continue to do so.” –Belfast Telegraph
Brian Connolly (banjo and mandolin) from Belfast was taught the mandolin by his grandfather and then started playing the banjo. His main influences include Barney McKenna of the Dubliners, The Chieftains, The Bothy Band and Planxty. He played with several groups while at school and began playing at sessions. He founded the original Craobh Rua in the mid-eighties and remains the driving force behind the band today. As well as touring with Craobh Rua he teaches banjo and mandolin and has published a banjo tutor book Play Tunes on the Irish Tenor Banjo Introductory Repertoire.
Desy McCabe (uilleann pipes and tin whistle) originally from Belfast and now living in Cork. Desy started initially playing the tin whistle at 15 and then a few years later began to play the uilleann pipes. His main influence on the uilleann pipes was the uilleann piper and pipe maker Sean McAloon. He also learned from recordings of The Chieftains, The Bothy Band and Planxty and started to play at the sessions around Belfast. He is the original uilleann piper with Craobh Rua and recorded on the first album Not A Word About It.
Jim Rainey (guitar and vocals) Belfast born, began playing guitar and trying to sing at around the age of 16. It was at this time that he first discovered Irish trad music and whilst immediately smitten, did not begin to play at sessions until into his twenties. A self-taught musician, Jim got most of his musical education at the various sessions throughout Belfast. His influences are too numerous to list-though he is particularly drawn to Breton fest noz music, blues, bluegrass and gypsy swing.
Conor Caldwell (fiddle) from Belfast is a student of Donegal fiddle music and was awarded a PhD in 2013 for his thesis on the fiddler John Doherty. He has taught and lectured as many prestigious festivals around Ireland and Europe including the Willy Clancy Summer School, the Glencolmchille Fiddle Week and Scoil Gheimhridh Ghaoth Dobhair, as well as having worked at Queen’s University, Belfast. Conor has collaborated with a number of artists in recent times, including Danny Diamond, Maurice Leyden and the Scottish fiddler Coll Macdonald.
Michael Cassidy (fiddle) from Belfast started playing fiddle at the age of twelve, taking classical lessons at first and then playing traditional music after attending a Bothy Band concert. Initially he learned from recordings of Paddy Glackin, Kevin Burke and Sean Maquire on a fiddle bought by his grandfather and handed down to him in the early eighties. He played in several groups at school and has played in Craobh Rua since 1986.
Patrick O’Hare (uilleann pipes and tin whistle) from Belfast began playing the pipes at age thirteen. He has toured extensively throughout Europe as a soloist and with various bands. He was asked to join the group Ciorrus, formed by Donal Lunny but turned down the opportunity as he felt it was not the right time. As well as a performer and teacher he is also a maker of the uilleann pipes and has gained a reputation as one of the most outstanding reed makers of his generation, making reeds for many pipers from around the world such as John McSherry and Michael McGoldrick. He has published a book A Guide To Reed Making For The Uilleann Pipes.
Eoghan McKenna (fiddle) from Co. Antrim started playing fiddle at age 7, taught by London musician Karen Ryan. Later he took lessons from Sean Maguire. Influences include Sean Magiure, Andy McGann, Paddy Reynolds and Michael Coleman. Has played with Cross Keys Ceili Band and is an All Ireland Fiddle Champion. He also plays banjo and mandolin and has been playing with Craobh Rua for the last few years.
Reviews and Testimonies
“The mighty Northern style of Irish Traditional Music cruises through their veins” –fRoots
“A rich sound defined by its acoustic driven jigs, reels and waltzes, Craobh Rua’s traditional Celtic Fare not only warms the soul, it sets the toes-a-tappin’.” –John Roos, LA Times
“Craobh Rua are free advertisement for everything that’s good about Irish Traditional Music – they play it from the heart and they play it superbly. Long may they continue to do so.” -Belfast Telegraph
“They are among the foremost bands playing Irish music today.” –Rock ‘N’ Reel
“My pick of the festival was Craobh Rua…gained momentum like a runaway freight train and had young and old cheering and dancing in the field.” –Main Line Times, Philadelphia, USA
“Craobh Rua…stole their way into hearts with the almost telepathic virtuosity and verve of their instrumental playing on uilleann pipes, fiddle, banjo, mandolin and bouzouki.” –Jim Ferguson, The Shetland Times
“Craobh Rua played warm, unpretentious and skilful music…” –Scotland on Sunday
“A Rare musical feast. Craobh Rua had the audience clapping their hands and stamping their feet so much at the end of their energetic performance that they were persuaded to play an extra piece.” –The Shetland Times
“The stars of the show were undoubtedly Craobh Rua…they produced one of the tightest sounds I have heard from a live band.” –The Orcadian
“Craobh Rua combine the best of traditional and contemporary influences in arrangements which splice together individual interpretations of melody and harmony lines into a texture which has the durability of a hand-woven cloth.” -Archie FisherBBC Radio Scotland
“One of the most wonderful live bands we’ve ever had on the show.” –HENO S4CTV, Wales
“Craobh Rua are nothing short of spectacular.” –Mark Sustic, Champlain Valley Folk Festival, USA
“They have a wonderfully relaxed yet exciting way of playing tunes…The original arrangement and easy delivery of their songs makes a wonderful contrast to the tune sets and provides a balance that leaves every audience delighted and looking for more.” –Phil Cunningham
“If you’re a fan of Irish traditional music and it’s the real diddly you’re ‘craobhing’, you can’t go wrong with Craobh Rua!! Their fiery combination of fiddle, banjo and pipes produce tunes so true to their origins you can almost smell the peat smoke.” –Steven Dietrich, Producer, Celtic Airs Concert Series, University of Hartford, Hartford, Connecticut, USA