Born in Scotland and reared in the charming coastal village of Gortahork on Ireland’s famous ‘Wild Atlantic Way’ in the heart of the inspiring Donegal Gaeltacht, Theresa Kavanagh has been playing fiddle since early childhood.
Such is her musical prowess, Theresa has played alongside such well-known artists as Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh and Donal Lunny. She has also performed right across Europe at major international festivals including ‘Celtic Connections’ in Glasgow, Scotland, ‘Festival Interceltique’ in Lorient, Brittany and throughout Romania as part of that nation’s first-ever St. Patrick’s Day celebrations.
Now a teacher of music, Theresa has shaped her impressive gifts into a newly-released CD with the intriguing title ‘An Choill Uaigneach’ (The Lonesome Forest).
As a previous guest at ‘Ireland Writing Retreat,’ Theresa shared her passion for Irish music and song and the legends and stories behind them in an exclusive performance for participants.
International composer Neil Martin praised Theresa’s CD, saying, “Her tunes are well-crafted, individual, beguiling, hewn from hard-won places within herself, at times quirky and humorous, twisting and turning...”
Below Toru Kumagai (l) from Japan and Reuben Ó Conluain (r) congratulate fiddle player, Theresa Kavanagh, on release of her new CD ‘An Choill Uaigneach’ (The Lonesome Forest).
‘Ireland Writing Retreat’ interviewed Theresa shortly after the successful launch of her CD recently at the Amharclann Theatre in the village of Bunbeg. Here’s what she said:
Q. Explain the kind of inspiration you receive from the beautiful landscapes of Donegal for your music and compositions.
T.K. I see Errigal Mountain from my bedroom and living-room windows and often stand and practice looking out at it. The calm of the sea also has a big influence on me. Even in a storm the sound of the sea can quieten everything else going on in your mind.
Q. How would you describe your new CD for those interested to learn more about you and your music?
T.K. With this particular album, it was more about relationships and personal connections that brought out the melodies. However, I was largely influenced this time by the playing of Dungloe fiddler Danny O'Donnell. His sweetness of tone, choice of tune and understanding of the music really spoke to me and helped shape the rest of the album as did the amazing compositions fiddler Tommy Peoples from the village of St. Johnstone.
Q. Why was the fiddle so special for you?
T.K. Like many students, it didn't become special until I became good at it and made social connections through the music. Believe me, there were a lot of tears and rows over practice until then but I wouldn't change a second of it... except I might have practiced more! Social activity in music, dance or any of the arts is what makes them so special as it's all about conveying emotion and opening yourself up to things, about being vulnerable. It can be scary at times but very rewarding. In order to make those connections you need the support of others.
Q. What are your favorite Irish fiddle players?
T.K. I honestly couldn't say. There are so many people who have influenced me for numerous reasons. There are a few composers that I admire like Tommy Peoples, Liz Carroll and Paddy O' Brien but there are so many more, but I really couldn't narrow it down to just those three.
Q. What are your favorite Irish traditional singers?
T.K. We have some wonderful singers right here in Donegal, Mairéad Ní Mhaoinigh, Máire Brennan, Diane Cannon who performed at the opening of the annual ‘Scoil Gheimridh’ (Winter School) here. The list goes on and on.
Q. What are your plans for the future?
T.K. I’m teaching at local school, Pobalscoil Ghaoth Dobhair, and love working with the students there. I’m also planning an Irish tour and possibly a few dates in other European countries over the summer. All live dates will be published on my website.
To be in with the chance to win a free copy of Theresa Kavanagh’s new CD, become a Friend of Ireland Writing Retreat before February 28 2018.
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