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Thursday, October 21, 2021

Paddy Moloney, Irish Piper Who Led the Chieftains, Dies at 83

Paddy Moloney, the playful but disciplined frontman and piper of the Chieftains, a band that has stood at the forefront of a worldwide revival of traditional Irish music performed on traditional instruments, passed away on Monday in Dublin. He was 83 years old.

His daughter Edin Moloney confirmed the death in hospital, but did not provide a reason.

For nearly 60 years, the Chieftains have toured extensively, released over two dozen albums and won six Grammy awards. They were especially famous for their collaborations with artists such as Van Morrison, Mick Jagger, Paul McCartney, Nancy Griffith and Luciano Pavarotti.

“Over the Sea to Skye”, a collaboration between The Chieftains and flutist James Galway, peaked at # 20 on the Billboard Classic Albums chart in 1996.

“Our music is centuries old, but very lively,” Mr. Moloney told The Philadelphia Inquirer in 1989. “We do not use flashing lights, smoke bombs or acrobats falling from the stage.” He added: “We are trying to convey the feeling of a party, and everyone understands that.”

In 2012, when he was vice president, President Biden told People magazine that his desire was to sing Shenandoah with the chiefs “if I had some kind of musical talent.” He invited them to speak at his inauguration this year, but Covid restrictions prevented them from traveling.

Mr. Moloney was a master of many instruments: he played the uileann bagpipes (Ireland’s national bagpipes), the tin whistle, the bodhrana (a type of drum) and the button accordion. He was also the group’s lead composer and arranger.

When, in 2010, on the NPR quiz “Wait, Wait … Don’t Tell Me,” what he considered to be the sexiest tool, he chose pipes.

“I often call him an octopus,” he said, “and so, I mean, it’s what makes every part of you move.”

The Chieftains performed at the Great Wall of China, Nashville and Berlin to celebrate the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1990, along with Roger Waters of Pink Floyd to play The Wall.

Their most famous recordings included Cotton Eyed Joe, O’Sullivan’s March, Bonaparte’s Retreat and Long Black Veil (with Mr. Jagger). Their 1992 album Another Country, created in collaboration with country artists such as Emmylou Harris, Willie Nelson and Chet Atkins, won the Grammy for Best Contemporary Folk Album.

Their other Grammy Awards included one for Best Pop Vocal Collaboration for Have I Told You Lately That I Love You ?, a collaboration with Mr. Morrison from their 1995 album The Long Black Veil, and one for the best in the world. album for “Santiago” (1996), consisting of Spanish and Latin American music.

Mr. Moloney loved country music.

“I’ve always considered Nashville to be just another part of Ireland, in the south or somewhere else,” he said on the website of the Tennessee Performing Arts Center in 2020. “When I got there and played with musical geniuses like Sam Bush or Jerry Douglas or Earl Scruggs, they pick things up so easily. You don’t have to dive and rush. “

The last track on Another Country – “Finale: Did You Ever Go A-Courtin ‘, Uncle Joe / Will the Circle Be Unbroken” – includes Miss Harris, Ricky Skaggs and the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. Rambles, a culture and arts magazine, described it as “the closest Irish bully in history,” referring to an Irish party with music. The track, according to the magazine, sounded like “a few pints were drunk and box bread was handed out before the great musicians gathered together decided to put on a musical for everyone.”

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Patrick Moloney was born on August 1, 1938 in Donnicarney, north of Dublin. His father, John, worked in the accounting department of the Irish Glass Bottle Company. His mother, Catherine (Conroy) Moloney, was a housewife.

Paddy came from a musical family: one of his grandfathers played the flute, and his uncle Stephen played in the Ballyfin Pipe Band. Paddy began playing the plastic tin whistle at the age of six, and soon after began studying the uileann pipe under the guidance of a man known as the “King of Pipers.”

He easily mastered the tune, gave his first public concert at the age of 9 and performed on local streets.

“There were five pipers in the Donnicarney area,” he told Ireland Magazine in 2019. “I walked around a dead end, playing like a rat-catcher, and my friends followed me.”

After graduating from high school in the 1950s, he joined the building materials company Baxendale & Company, where he met his future wife, Rita O’Reilly. He joined the traditional Irish band Ceoltóirí Chualann in 1960 and formed The Chieftains in 1962; The name comes from the story of the Irish writer John Montague “The Death of the Leader”.

During the 1960s and 1970s, Mr. Moloney was the CEO of Claddagh Records, of which he was the founder, and has released or curated 45 albums in folk, traditional, classical, poetry and oral production.

The Chieftains, who achieved success in the mid-1970s with sold-out concerts at the Royal Albert Hall in London, were initially a purely instrumental ensemble. But in the 1980s the band abandoned their early purism and Mr. Moloney became a composer, composing new music imbued with Irish traditions.

The Chieftains began mixing Irish music with the styles of the Celtic diaspora in Spain and Canada, and bluegrass and country music from the United States. They have collaborated with renowned rock and pop musicians as well as musicians from different countries such as Norway, Bulgaria and China.

Mr. Moloney himself has written and arranged music for films including Barry Lyndon (1975), Baby: Pig in the City (1998) and Gangs of New York (2002).

Besides his wife and daughter, he is survived by two sons, Aonghus and Padraig; four grandchildren; and sister Sheila.

In 2012, to mark their 50th anniversary, the Chieftains teamed up with 12 folk, country, bluegrass, rockabilly and indie rock artists including Bon Iver, The Decembrists, The Low Anthem and Imelda May to record the album Voice of Age. “They also went on a tour that ended at Carnegie Hall on St. Patrick’s Day.

“What’s going on here with these young bands,” Mr. Moloney told The New York Times at the time, explaining the concept of the album, “they’re going back to the melody, the real material, the roots and the folk feeling.” of them all. I can hear how any of them sings folk songs. “

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