Anna, Sheila and Clare Friel are traditional musicians born in Glasgow with their family roots firmly entrenched in the Donegal Gaeltacht (Derrynamansher). Being siblings, they achieve a close blend on fiddle, flute and uilleann pipes interspersed with songs sang in unison, many from their family and local repertoire.
Since the launch of their debut album, they have performed in various venues and festivals across Europe, America and Asia and have appeared as guests on stage or toured with acts such as Altan, The Chieftains, Lúnasa, Sharon Shannon, The Máirtín O’Connor Trio, Cherish the Ladies, Solas and Fidil. In 2016, the girls performed at Festival Interceltique de Lorient, and won the prestigious Trophée Loïc Raison.
2018 has been a very exciting time for the girls as they released their new album ‘Before the Sun’ with Hajime Takahashi and Cathal Ó Curráin, produced by Ciarán Ó Maonaigh and recorded by Jack Talty. This was launched to a sold out crowd at Celtic Connections 2018 in Glasgow.
In November 2017, Clare was announced as the recipient of TG4 Gradam Ceoil Ceoiltóir Óg/Young Musician of the Year 2018. She was very honoured to accept this award in February 2018, with other recipients for other awards on the night including Frankie Gavin (Musician of the Year), Patsy Hanly (Lifetime Achievement), Pádraigín Ní Uallacháin (Outstanding Contribution), Máire Ní Chéileachair (Traditional Singer) and a special once-off award to The Field Marshal Montgomery Pipe Band: in recognition of their excellence in piping. It was a huge achievement to be included in such an incredible line up for the night, and also to be added to a list of amazing past winners, as well as being the first person in Scotland to win the award.
2017 was a very exciting time for the girls as they recorded and prepared for release of their new album ‘Before the Sun’ with Hajime Takahashi and Cathal Ó Curráin, produced by Ciarán Ó Maonaigh and recorded by Jack Talty. This was launched at Scoil Gheimhridh Ghaoth Dobhair, in Donegal in December 2017 and at their sold out Celtic Connections gig in January 2018. Since it’s release, ‘Before the Sun’ has been very well received, getting 4 stars in the Irish Times and a lot of airplay including being played on RTE 1’s ‘The Rolling Wave’ as part of International Women’s Day.
“Powerfully performed…energy and finesse” – Songlines, May 2018
★★★★ – The Irish Times, January 2018
‘Allow this mix of tunes and songs to soak into your soul and carry you away…that’s a pleasure that should be enjoyed to the full. Immerse yourself in Before the Sun from The Friel Sisters and you’ll discover something so close to perfect you would be hard pressed to make it any better’ – FolkWords, December 2017
“A magnificent album of traditional irish music” – Music Scotland
You can buy the new album ‘Before the Sun’ via Paypal.
|Before the Sun CD – £15 Sterling||Before the Sun CD – €18 Euro|
“Clare, Sheila and Anna Friel give me great joy in the strength, beauty and variety of their approach to traditional Irish music. That a much younger generation appreciate the traits, strengths and beauty in their local tradition is an ultimate testament to the store of riches that is Irish traditional music. They make this statement readily as they each excel on their chosen instrument: Clare on fiddle, Sheila on pipes and Anna on flute. Their abilities and excellent presentation of their talents is powerful when playing together, but really reaffirmed where the gems of short solo instrumentals that occur never fail to enchant the listener, as in Clare’s beautiful introduction to Anna’s glorious voice and rendition of “Kelvin Streams” and the interlude during the song with whistle and strings. Another example is her playing of “Cailleach an Airgead”, or “The Hag with the Money”, interspersed in “A Stór a Stór a Ghrá” sung by all three.
Sheila plays beautifully on the third jig, “Hunt the Cat”, and her playing on “Easter Snow”, a song that she also sings beautifully, is superb.
Anna on flute on “It’s in the Wind” on track 3 and on “My Former Wife” on track 5 are equally outstanding.
The singing of all three sisters features on “Free and Easy to Ramble On”…nice to hear their beautiful voices totally unaccompanied in this humorous take on the single life.
This is a joyous listen for me, the wonderfully delicate, strong, always controlled talents of Anna, Sheila and Clare Friel enhance a wondrous tradition.”
Tommy Peoples, November 2017
It’s been a thrill to watch them develop as singers and musicians and to marvel at their talent and enthusiasm for our shared heritage. We’ve been making music together all our lives and can feel their intuitive sympathy and understanding for each other’s music.
Maighread and Tríona Ní Dhomhnaill, November 2017
Summer 2013 saw the girls record their debut album in their home in Donegal with guest musicians Gearóid Mooney, Seamus O’Kane and Griogair Labhruidh. This album was launched in December 2013 at the last Scoil Gheimhridh Frankie Kennedy Festival in Gaoth Dobhair in County Donegal. Scoil Gheimhridh Frankie Kennedy was a key event yearly in the girls’ musical maturity and was the ideal setting to celebrate their first album launch. Exciting times lie ahead in 2017 as the girls embark on the process of recording album number two.
You can buy the self-titled debut album ‘The Friel Sisters’ via Paypal.
|The Friel Sisters CD – £12 Sterling||The Friel Sisters CD – €15 Euro|
“To have listened to the growth and development of Anna, Sheila and Clare’s music over the years has been a complete joy and revelation to me. We have spent many a night in Huidi Beag’s pub in Bunbeg, Co. Donegal during their summer and school breaks from their home in Glasgow, while visiting their mother, Sheila’s, home in Doire na Máinsear, a well-known music house in these parts or at their father John’s family home in Kerrykeel. Nightly we would wait eagerly for their smiling faces to come through the door (albeit always late!) and light up the room with joy, devilment and glorious music. The Friel Sisters are great people who come from great people and it goes without saying that they play wonderful music. Musicians spend time perfecting skills and techniques, but I know from listening to these girls over the years that they must have an innate understanding of music for their musicianship to mature to this standard. It is something that cannot be learned.They have recorded music and songs here that reflect an upbringing rich in family songs that they got from their grandmother Nellie and their mother Sheila, and neighbours like Connie ‘Mhary Mhicí’ Ó Gallchóir of Rann na Feirste, as well as from listening to great singers like Dolores Keane and the wonderful Cathal McConnell from Balinaleck, Co Fermanagh. Their tunes also reflect people whom they have met and who have influenced them on this musical journey. I can hear nuances of masters like Donegal fiddlers, Tommy Peoples, Danny Meehan in Clare’s fiddle playing; pipers Gay McKeon and Willie Clancy in Sheila’s piping; Northern flute players like Harry Bradley and Cathal McConnell in Anna and Sheila’s flute playing – the list of influences could go on. But what Anna, Sheila and Clare have done is listen to these great musicians, learn from them, and then make the music their own. “Briseann an dúchas fríd súile and chait” is an old Gaelic proverb, which literally states that nature breaks through the cat’s eyes, meaning that what is innate and natural comes out anyway – you cannot hold it back. Likewise The Friel Sisters’ music cannot be held back; it is what comes natural to They breathe music, they live music, they love music. Traditional Irish music is in a richer place for having these young genuine people carry it on to future generations.
Bainigí sult as.” Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh, An Pointe, Co Dhún na nGall Fómhair 2014
16th – 17th February 2019
TG4 Gradam Cheoil 2019
Clare & Liam O’Connor – Workshops
Venue – Cultúrlann Mac Adam Ó Fiaich, Belfast
20th – 24th February 2019
Scoil Cheoil an Earraigh – Workshops and Concerts
Ballyferriter, Dingle Peninsula, Co. Kerry
28th February – 3rd March 2019
Workshops and Concerts
Corofin Trad Fest, Corofin, Co. Clare
6th March 2019
Arts in Action
Venue: NUI Galway, Co. Galway
9th – 19th March 2019
East Coast USA Tour TBA
26th March – 20th April
Clare – On tour with Moya Brennan
England, Wales & Holland
“…the Glasgow-born, Donegal-bloodlined Friel Sisters, who were a real breath of fresh air in singing clearly and unaffectedly and playing unencumbered jigs with skill, shape and heart to free the music from its showbiz strait jacket.”
– The Herald, 30th Jan 2012 following Song for Ireland, Royal Concert Hall, Glasgow
“Glasweigan siblings Anna, Sheila and Clare comfortably display their Donegal roots on this debut album. The Friels’ intuitive no-nonsense mix of flute, fiddle and pipes reflects a gene pool rich in Donegal songs, and shot through with a refined capacity to mine the finer points of a tune…The trio’s ensemble playing is clear-headed and intimate.” *** Siobhan Long. The Irish Times, March ’14.
“They share a musical understanding and approach…forthright, assured, energetic and very enjoyable.” **** Julian May. Songlines Magazine, Aug 2014.
“The Friel Sisters represent a new strand in traditional Irish music – they superbly balance a contemporary approach with an informed understanding of where their song and music comes from. They encompass the soul of Irish music. Daughters of the diaspora, they are extremely capable, professional in the approach to their work and, above all, entertaining onstage”. Tom Sherlock- agent, promoter and artist manager.
“They take each set with a determined and focused intent, biting into the tracks with an expressive authority. Each set has its own identity… This album is a triumph of raw natural talent delivered with passion and confidence by three sublimely gifted musicians.. An early highlight to 2014 and a definite repeat play album.” Tradconnect, Jan 2014
“The three Friel sisters hail from Glasgow, but on the evidence of their eponymous debut album, their hearts clearly lie in their familial roots of The Rosses in County Donegal. Indeed, the combined music and unison singing of Anna (flute and whistle), Sheila (uilleann pipes, flute and whistle) and Clare (fiddle, whistle and harmonica) sounds as is they could have been born there, so clearly are they imbued with the local tradition…their enjoyable recording features five sweetly sung songs…and a selection of instrumental medleys which includes a marvellous set of reels on which the sisters’ flute combine and a lively whistled version of the jig Contentment is Wealth, followed by a perky tin sandwich rendition of Liam O’Connor’s. The album is self-produced, but avoids all the pitfalls which sometimes blemish such projeccts, and should certainly entice listeners to catch the sisters in live performance.” Geoff Wallis, fRoots Magazine. Dec 2014.
“The new album is a mixture of instrumental and vocal music that any lover of traditional music will surely want to hear… Their instrumental work is top notch… (Tracks) are well chosen and show off their superior talent. The album abounds with small, smart touches that draw the ear… They are an impressive young bunch with fabulous taste and impeccable chops who have released an excellent debut album… “The Friel Sisters” is one you’ll want to hear.” Irish Echo, New York, Jan 2014.
“Anna, Sheila and Clare are, without doubt, among the brightest musical prospects on the horizon of traditional music and their debut album clearly and unequivocally demonstrates their very considerable talents. These girls, born and raised in Glasgow, have retraced their steps to their family roots in one of the Donegal Gaeltachts and, through the medium of fiddle, flute and uilleann pipes, have blended their ancestral culture with a veritable galaxy of musical influences that they’ve absorbed from across Ireland. The result is an album that gives an intimidation of the musical treats that await us the next time they record – and the times after that.…Both the playing and the singing are polished and faultless…Go and buy this CD, you most definitely won’t regret it. Me? I’ll be looking out for the next one!” John Waltham. Living Tradition Magazine, March 2014.
“This, their first CD, is nothing short of enchanting, and a heartening example of a generation embracing tradition even while interpolating its own impressions and ideas – some from their family, some inspired by the likes of Planxty and The Bothy Band…fresh and invigorating…Amidst the tracks is a goodly amount of variety in repertoire and arrangement.” Sean Smith. Boston Irish Reporter, Dec ‘14
“Their new album is a mixture of instrumental and vocal music that any lover of traditional music will surely want to hear. The Friels (who many readers might know from Catskills Irish Arts Week) play with familiar ease and a lovely sense of grace. Their instrumental work is top-notch…and show off their superior talent. The album abounds with small, smart touches that draw the ear…The sound of three woman singing together in unison is attractive and the friels do it well, bringing a distinctive and nuanced style that makes their approach particularly satisfying…The Friels have a beautiful and intuitive way of playing together. They are impressive young bunch with fabulous taste and impeccable chops who have released an excellent debut album. ‘The Friel Sisters’ is one you’ll want to hear.” Daniel Neely. Irish Echo. NY. Jan 14.
“The sisters have a wide range of instruments to bring to the recording with the girls playing flute, fiddle and uilleann pipies. The Friels have adopted a compelling and rare vocal tradition. I can echo that here, an excellent debut throws light on a family tradition of music making in Donegal that spans three generations. Proof that Glasgow isn’t so far away, as long as you have the music with you.” Seán Laffey, Irish Music Magazine, March ‘14.
“This debut CD is full-on old-style traditional music, played with the sort of skill and passion that sparked a revival almost 50 years ago…Three light pure voices make each song a rare treasure.” Alex Monaghan. Piping Today (magazine) May ’14.
“Trad Bravos…Dix instrumentaux et cinq chansons composent ce brilliant album…Revendiquant l’influence d’Altan, Plantxy ou Bothy Band, ells ont toujour joue et chante ensemble, et les chansons sont interpretees avec un unison parfait…Un talent immense, des voix divines et un joli minois en prime, voice un trio qui n’a pas fini de faire parler de lui. A decouvrir a de toute urgencies.” Phillipe Cousins. Le Peuple Breton, Feb 2014. AND Trad Magazine. June ’14
2 Page article in The Living Tradition about The Friel Sisters by Fiona Heywood
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