Multi-award-winning Clannad who, in an exceptional 50-year career have taken Irish music and language to a worldwide audience, make a much-anticipated return to play the Festival’s first-ever Folk Legends slot during their farewell tour.Fusing elements of traditional Irish music with more contemporary folk, new age and rock Clannad (meaning Family in Gaelic) have created a beautifully unique and ethereal sound which combines haunting melodies and mesmerizing vocals to transcend the sands of time whilst appealing to a worldwide audience of all ages.
Clannad was formed in 1970 by siblings Ciarán Brennan, Pól, and Máire Brennan and their twin uncles Noel and Pádraig Duggan. The five grew up in Dore, an area of Gweedore, a remote parish in County Donegal in the northwest corner of Ireland. The band initially adopted the name Clann as Dóbhair, Irish for "The Family from Dore", when they entered a local music competition, and they used that name until 1973 when they released on the Phillips Ireland label their self-titled debut album “Clannad”.
The band released Clannad 2 as their second studio album on Gael Linn Records in 1974 which like their first album release features a mixture of English and Irish songs, this time with producer Donal Lunny and various members of The Bothy Band on additional instruments.
Clannad released their third album Dúlamán in 1976. The album (recorded at Rockfield Studios in Wales and the first produced by Nicky Ryan) was named after the Irish folk song "Dúlamán" which became a fan favourite at Clannad concerts.
Dates from their 1978 tour of Switzerland were released in the following year as their fourth album Clannad in Concert. Also in 1979, Clannad underwent a 36-date tour of North America, the most extensive by an Irish band at the time.
In 1980, Clannad became a six-piece band following the addition of Enya Brennan on keyboards and additional vocals. Enya's first recordings with the group were made as a guest musician for their next studio album Crann Úll (Irish for Apple Tree), recorded in Cologne, Germany and released in 1980 on Tara Music.
By the time Clannad entered Windmill Lane Studios in Dublin to record their fifth studio album Fuaim (Irish for Sound), Enya had become a full-time member. The album displays the group's further experimentation with electronic instruments which was first introduced by Nicky Ryan on their previous album Crann Úll.
In 1982, the now five-piece Clannad (following Enya’s departure) signed to RCA Records. They then accepted an invitation to record a song for Harry's Game, a three-part television drama depicting “The Troubles” in Northern Ireland. Ciarán, Pól, and Máire got together and wrote "Theme from Harry's Game". The song became a commercial success upon its release as a single in October 1982, peaking at number 2 in Ireland and number 5 in the UK. It still remains the only UK hit single to be sung entirely in Irish.
Following their new found success with "Theme from Harry's Game", Clannad included the song on their next studio album, Magical Ring which was released in 1983. The single and album (which became their first to be certified gold by the British Phonographic Industry) marked the start of their glittering and successful international career.
After Magical Ring, Clannad were commissioned to score the 26-episode drama series Robin of Sherwood, which aired from 1984 to 1986. For the first time in their career, the album was recorded in its entirety in English. The soundtrack was released in 1984 as Legend and won the band a BAFTA award for Best Original Television Music and in doing so became the first Irish band to win it.
In 1985, Clannad released Macalla (Irish for Echo) which was recorded in Switzerland, England and Ireland. It contained all original material except one traditional song and yielded the group a hit single "In a Lifetime", a duet with U2 singer Bono. This unlikely duet came about after they bumped into Bono in a nearby pub one evening during a break in recording the album.
Bono had been an enthusiastic supporter of the band since hearing Harry’s Game on the radio. So 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 , which went on to become a huge radio hit across the world, had a rockier edge than a lot of their previous material but still featured the ethereal vocal style they had made their own.
For their next album Sirius which was released by RCA in 1988 and was recorded in Los Angeles with rock producers Greg Ladanyi and Russ Kunkel, the drummer for James Taylor's band. The album included a duet with Bruce Hornsby and guest appearances by Steve Perry and J.D. Souther.
Clannad’s next two releases between 1988 -1991 were Atlantic Realm (1989) and The Angel and the Soldier Boy (1990). Atlantic Realm was a small album made for a BBC documentary about the Atlantic Ocean. The recording was mainly instrumental as their voices as instruments. The Angel and the Soldier Boy was a half hour animation without voice overs, with the music telling the story.
Both albums proved to be a minor success, and also demonstrated once again that Clannad were one of the most acclaimed soundtrack artists in the music industry.
Before the release of their next album, Pol Brennan left the group to pursue a solo career and work with the WOMAD organisation in Britain before re-joining the band in 2011.
After Pól's exit, Clannad continued as a quartet and recorded Anam (Irish for Soul) in Dublin and England. It marked a return to their sound heard on Magical Ring and Macalla and features greater contributions from Ciarán who is credited as a writer on nine of the album's ten original songs.
Two further albums followed in the early to mid 1990s; Released in 1993, Banba (a romantic mythical name for Ireland) included the song ‘I Will Find You’ which featured as the Love Theme to the movie ‘Last Of The Mohicans’ and received rave reviews as well as the band's first Grammy nomination whilst in 1996 the album Lore gave some thought to the Native
Clannad returned in 1997 with another album, Landmarks. It became one of the most celebrated Irish albums in history and in 1999, it won the group a Grammy award for Best New Age Album.
After the release of Landmarks the band withdrew from recording further albums and touring. They had been working solidly as Clannad for over twenty five years at this stage and were to keen to take an extended break for some rest and relaxation and also to explore individual pursuits.
They came back together, professionally, in 2007 to be presented with a ‘Lifetime Achievement Award’ in Ireland’s version of the BRIT awards and the following year in March 2008, Clannad began their first UK tour in over 12 years. The tour culminated in a dozen dates including further concerts in Ireland and Thailand.
In September 2013, Clannad released their first new album in fifteen years; Nádúr. It was the first to feature all five original members of Clannad since the compilation album Past Present in 1989 and was also the last to feature Pádraig Duggan who died on August 9th 2016.
Their incredible and enduring body of work including 16 studio albums has created a legacy that has influenced a generation of fellow Irish musicians and artists including The Corrs, Capercaillie, Riverdance and even U2.
And so the Clannad story continues with the last album, “In A Lifetime” an anthology delighting Clannad’s enormous and loyal existing fanbase as well as introducing this legendary, influential and culturally important band to a whole new generation of music fans.