Kilkenny Tradfest


Clare Horgan – Seán Nós Singing

Clare Horgan – A Singer Apart

Originally from Waterville, on the breathtakingly beautiful Ring of Kerry, Clare grew up in a bilingual community on the edge of the Irish Speaking (Gaeltacht) area of Baile ‘n Sceilg. By the age of eleven, Clare had reached national level in the Fleadh Cheoil in the Sean-nós category (unaccompanied singing in the Irish language). From a childhood steeped in the rich tradition of Irish music, Song, Dance and Culture, Clare changed direction in the mid 90s when she studied for a Post-Graduate Certificate in Jazz and Popular Music at the Leeds College of Music. There she trained with leading British Jazz Musicians including Al Wood, Nikki Isles and Pete Churchill. Clare’s work encompassed a broad sweep of ensembles from duo work through to Big Band and a 20-strong pop band. While at college, Clare led The Lilting Banshees, her six-piece folk band, appearing at festivals in France and the UK. One of the highlights of her time in Leeds saw her fronting a sixty-strong Gospel choir on songs from traditional Negro Spirituals and Jazz standards to U2 songs.

In 1999, Clare recorded a 4-track EP with four of the top Jazz Musicians in the UK and former members of The Ronnie Scott Quartet, Dave Newton (Piano); Andrew Cleyndert (Double Bass); Steve Brown (Drums) and Don Patterson (Guitar). Tracks included a soulful rendition of the old Sinatra favourite ln the wee small hours of the morning, Jobim’s Bossa Nova, Dindi, a medium swing interpretation of Gershwin’s But not for me and a Jazz arrangement of the hauntingly beautiful Irish Seán Nós Lament An Leanbh Sí (The Fairy Child)

1999 saw Clare living and singing in Northern Ireland and playing at venues and festivals around the country. There, Clare fronted a highly accomplished band of Belfast based musicians on a very successful tour of her native County Kerry, organised by Ceol Uibhráthaigh.

Clare moved to London in 2002 and formed a quintet, Luascadh (Swing), a sensitive fusion of traditional Irish, Gospel and Jazz. Here she teamed up with young Irish musicians including fellow Kerry woman Colette O’ Leary of the Bumblebees. Highlights included a regular slot at The National Theatre, The Hammersmith Irish Centre and a guest spot at The 606 Jazz club.

The Summer of 2005 saw Clare in Downtown Beirut where she joined visiting Jazz musicians at the Blue Note. One of the highlights of her trip was a guest spot with Lebanese/Parisian saxophonist Jerome Sabbagh. Clare spent the winter of 2005 and the Spring of 2006 in Paris where she had a residency at The Swan Bar in Montparnasse, accompanied by Arnaud Gransac on piano and Eric Sindorf on acoustic bass.

Clare’s Debut Album, The Stolen Child, combines three separate recordings; the 4 track EP mentioned above, featuring British Jazz musicians Andy Cleyndert, Dave Newton, Steve Brown and Don Patterson, with a three track recording made earlier at Frank McNamara’s Studio in Meath, with leading Irish Jazz musicians including Bassist Dave Fleming and Tenor Saxophonist, Richie Buckley and is rounded off with two Traditional Irish Songs, taken from a recording on Television in Dublin at the very start of Clare’s career.

With the album complete, Clare returned home in 2006 to Kerry, at first to Dingle, where she launched her album.

A year in Limerick had Clare teaching on The Limerick Jazz Workshops as well as performing at the wonderful weekend sessions at The Milk Market and as a regular visitor to Dolans, playing Traditional Irish material at the downstairs sessions and upstairs, on occasion at the Jazz club with her Quartet.

Now living in her native South Kerry, she divides her time between revisiting the songs and stories of her childhood and gigging locally and farther afield. Gigs have varied from The Pavilion Theatre in Dun Laoghaire with her new Swing quartet, Polka dots and Moonbeams to the Cable O Leary’s Music and Dance Festival sharing the bill with Liam O Maonlaí of Hothouse Flowers. Other appearances include Tig Rosie’s, the intimate traditional pub in Ballinskelligs, as seen on BBC/RTE documentary The Story of Ireland with excellent traditional musicians John Brown and Paddy Casey, Live Sessions at the Country Market Caife Cois Trá. A highlight of her return home came with headlining the Charlie Chaplin Comedy Film Festival with her the Cork 20 piece Swing Band Tuxedo Junction. This year, Clare is delighted to have joined the all female Sean Nós choir Cór Ban Chúil Aodha in Baile Bhúirne under the baton of Peadar O Ríada, with performances coming up in various venues in 2014.

With a background in Jazz and traditional Irish music Clare finds herself, these days, more and more drawn to Bluegrass and Country songs. Her new CD, Away O’er the Water, just released this Autumn, features the fantastic country songs Tennessee waltz, Killing the blues and You win again along with a hugely energetic take on, “How Blue”, the song, first aired by Reba McIntyre. The CD is topped off with some South Kerry songs, including the previously unrecorded “Boatmen of Ardcost” and the hugely popular “Road from Killorglin to Cahersiveen.”

Clare has an ability to stop an audience in their tracks, taking them on an unforgettable journey across a series of landscapes, emotional and musical. In one song, Clare will draw you into the mystical world of pre-Christian Ireland; in the next song, you will find yourself sharing a laugh, hearing her admonish a misbehaving man in a raunchy blues number and before you know it, you have stepped into a dimly-lit jazz club in 1940s New York, sharing in the heartache of lost love. Her versatility and skill are infused with a voice that is warm and a tone that is pure and unaffected.