Best of Irish: Around the World in 80 Riffs

Best of Irish: Around the World in 80 Riffs

Traditional Tour Desi Wilkinson, flute, vocals Máirtín O’Connor, accordion Brendan O’Regan, bouzouki

Tour Dates

The final tour of Music Network’s 2005 Spring Season provides a unique opportunity to share a rare voyage of musical exploration with three of Ireland's most sought after traditional musicians.  Desi Wilkinson (flute, vocals), Máirtín O’Connor (accordion) and Brendan O’Regan (bouzouki) weave Irish and other folk traditions from around the world as well as playing original compositions and hybrid genres such as Parisian musette and Jewish klezmer.  A highly-regarded solo player and member of Cran, Desi Wilkinson is internationally respected for his research into ethnomusicology.  Over the past 10 years his projects include forays into French, Scottish, Spanish, North American and Senegalese traditional music.  Under the banner Around the World in 80 Riffs, the trio performs May 18 - 28, 2005.  Music Network tours are funded by the Arts Council and are presented in association with The Irish Times and RTÉ lyric fm.  Further information from Music Network at (01) 671 9429 or

Desi Wilkinson 

Well -known flute virtuoso and singer Desi Wilkinson is one of Irelands’ finest traditional musicians.  His first and major influence was the renowned Co. Fermanagh fiddler Tom Gunn. Tom was a near neighbour of Desi’s in the city of Belfast and he spent many happy hours at music sessions in the kitchen at Gunns’ house in Belfast during the 1970s.  Here he had the good fortune to meet and listen to many great musicians and singers who remain a constant source of inspiration for him.   Desi plays music that, while steeped in tradition, blazes trails of invention and creativity.  Desi is well known both throughout Europe and in the USA where he has toured and presented academic papers.  He has also worked as a collector and researcher of traditional music for which he received an award from the Irish Arts Council in 1990. He has a wide circle of personal contacts within the artistic community in Ireland, North America and throughout Europe from Norway to Italy.  These contacts are with a variety of individual musicians and music enthusiasts, professional cultural associations, academic institutions and theatres. He has long experience of the introspective creative process of making music, the social world of traditional music, stage performance, studio work and fieldwork. He takes a keen interest in current affairs, politics, history, the environment, walking and playing table tennis. And, last but not least, having a good laugh.

Musical Career

Originally from Belfast now living in Limerick, Desi has been deeply involved in the world of professional music from 1984 up until the present day. He has received great acclaim in Ireland and abroad both as a solo player and for his collaborative work both with the internationally known group Cran and many other artists.  Desi’s second solo album 'shady woods' was released in 2001 to great critical acclaim. Major international music projects to date - Hent St Jakez (story of Santiago pilgrimage in music and words - Spain and Portugal (1993), West Wind (Breton and Irish music - theatre La Villette-Paris and Quartz- Brest (l’imaginaire irlandais 1996), La Traversée (Ireland-Québec-France in York, England 1998). Kennedy centre Washington DC 2000. Donegal to Senegal (Belfast summer festival 2002).

Academic Career

Desi's interest in all ‘worlds of music’ both in terms of their aesthetic content and in how they relate to society in general has led him into academic research in the area of Ethnomusicology.  His involvement with music for its own sake then is equalled by his interest in how musicians of all types function in the socio-economic and political world. Areas of special interest include, Brittany the French language, France’s occidental Diaspora, North America, the Irish Diaspora and Scotland.  A qualified teacher of History, he holds an MA in Ethnomusicology from Queens University Belfast and a PhD from the University of Limerick in respect of his work concerning traditional music and identity in Brittany. Until Sept 2002 he was based at UL where he was a Post-doctoral research associate under the auspices of the IRCHSS (Irish Research Council for the Humanities and Social Sciences). In this capacity he prepared material for publications due for launch in the autumn of 2003. At present he divides his time between musical performance and educational projects, working at all levels from third level to National school.

Máirtín O’Connor (edit biog)

Máirtin O'Connor began playing the accordion at the age of nine.

A remarkable career stretching back to the late 70's has seen him as a member of leading traditional groups, including Reel Union, De Dannan and Skylark. His versatility as a musician has seen him work on many recordings and his playing can be heard on recordings as varied as the Chieftains' Long Black Veil, the Dubliners' Thirty Years a Greying, Mark Knopfler's Golden Heart, and Townes van Zandt's Deeper Blue, to mention just a few, and in films such as Some Mother's Son (with Helen Mirren), The Twelfth Night (with Ben Kingsley), and Dancing at Lughnasa (with Meryl Streep).

He was the first accordion soloist in Riverdance and has worked as a soloist in Bill Whelan's Seville Suite. He has also played on the Paris Mussette (Vol. 2), a series of records chronicling the history of the mussette. His playing is featured in the TV documentary series Bringing it all Back Home and River of Sound.

In 1995 he was presented with the first ever Allied Irish Bank Traditional Music Award (which has now become the TG4 Traditional Musician of the Year Award) and in 1996 with the County Council Premier Arts Award. Máirtin has four solo albums to his credit. A Connachtman's Rambles, released in 1978, was very highly critically acclaimed and remained in the folk charts for a considerable period. Perpetual Motion was nominated for a Bank of Ireland Arts Award and was hailed by Q Magazine as one of the 1990's key instrumental albums. Chatterbox, featuring his own compositions, was described by Irish Music Magazine journalist John O'Regan as utterly enthralling - a treat for the musical taste buds, music that's joyful, challenging, thought-provoking and moving all at once. Folk Roots had this to say: When the roll is called up yonder of the world's great button-box players, then I'd guess Máirtin O'Connor's name will not be ommitted. Chatterbox gives further evidence of his outstanding technique, imagination and compositional talent.

The Road West also features his own compositions, which lean more in the direction of his traditional roots. An uplifting album of original tunes - a perfect gift for anyone who needs a lift - Sarah McQuaid, Evening Herald. A magical mixture of musical mood, colour and texture - Paul Drummy, Cork Evening Echo. Máirtin O'Connor has unobtrusively made some of the most challenging and invigorating music over the past quarter century. From The Connachtman's Rambles, his superb solo debut in 1979, to Perpetual Motion in 1990, and Chatterbox in 1993, he has displayed an ever-evolving technique in musical curiosity, with the latest album consisting of nothing but his own compositions. All the tunes on The Road West are his own as well, and he plays them with jaw-dropping dexterity and élan - Earle Hitchner, Irish Echo. Mairtin also wrote the music for the St. Patrick's Skyfest suite in Dublin in 2003 (he wants last sentence left in).

Brendan O’ Regan has been deeply involved with Irish traditional music for twenty plus years now. His work on various stringed instruments is highly regarded, as he is in constant demand for live and studio work. His skills as a musician/ composer/producer are well documented, performing on more than thirty albums, with acts as  diverse as De Dannan, Townes Van Zandt, Waterboys, John Prine, Sharon Shannon, Mary Black, Dolores Keane, Martin Stephenson. Brendan has also released two highly respected and popular solo albums,” A Wind Of Change” 1993, and the recent “Samadhi- Slow Music for Guitar” 2000. Brendan has also scored seven productions for Druid Theatre Co, Galway, as well as numerous television programmes. 

On Tour: Wed 18 May Roscrea (Roscrea Castle, 8.15pm), Fri 20 May Mallow (The Lodge Bar, 9pm), Sat 21 May Kilmacthomas (Rainbow Community Centre, 8pm), Sun 22 May Macroom (Briery Gap Cultural Centre, 8pm) Mon 23 May Clifden (Alcock & Brown Hotel, 8.30pm), Tues 24 May Dublin (Coach House, Dublin Castle, 8pm), Thurs 26 May Castlebar (Linenhall Arts Centre, 8pm), Fri 27 May Virginia (Ramor Theatre, 8.30pm), Sat 28 May Drogheda (Droichead Arts Centre, 8pm)

"All in all a dazzling display of virtuosity and quirky genius."

- In Dublin on Desi Wilkinson

"He plays… with jaw-dropping dexterity and élan."

- Irish Echo on Máirtín O’Connor

"One of the classiest musicians in Irish music today."

- Hot Press on Brendan O' Regan