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Chieftains' Paddy Moloney: Tried, true and traditional

Chieftains' Paddy Moloney: Tried, true and traditional

Irish band to play a St. Patrick's Week concert on Proctors' MainStage on Tuesday
Chieftains' Paddy Moloney: Tried, true and traditional
The Chieftains' Paddy Moloney.
Photographer: The New York Times

Paddy Moloney remembers Proctors in Schenectady.

"It's a great spot," said Moloney, founder and leader of The Chieftains. "We got a great reception there."

Moloney's people — Ireland's well-known and well-traveled band of traditional Irish musicians — are hoping for another positive response. The Chieftains play a St. Patrick's Week concert on the theater's MainStage Tuesday at 7:30 p.m.

"I'm excited about the show because we've been doing it about three weeks and it's going down a storm," Moloney said in a telephone interview earlier this week from Virginia Beach. "In Ireland, that means it's going down great."

The Chieftains have had their share of great days. They started in Dublin in 1963 and have some 50 albums to their name — some collaborations with other artists. Their takes on traditional music have earned them 18 Grammy nominations and six Grammy wins.

With Moloney on uilleann pipes, tin whistle, button accordion and bodhrán, the rest of the band includes Sean Keane on fiddle and tin whistle; Kevin Conneff on bodhrán and vocals; and Matt Malloy on flute and tin whistle.

Some other highlights:

  • The Chieftains were the first Western musicians to perform on the Great Wall of China.
  • They participated in Roger Water’s The Wall performance in Berlin in 1990.
  • The Chieftains were the first ensemble to perform a concert in the Capitol Building in Washington DC.
  • In 2010, Moloney’s whistle and Molloy’s flute traveled with NASA astronaut Cady Coleman to the International Space Station.
  • The Chieftains performed for more than 1.3 million people in 1979, during Pope John Paul II’s visit to Ireland.
  • The Chieftains have teamed up with musicians such as the Rolling Stones, Van Morrison, Paul McCartney, Madonna and Roger Daltrey.

The band recently made new fans in Japan.

"There was crying and tears when we left," Moloney said. "I've never seen such emotion from young people. Even the empress of Japan came to a show, she studied in Dublin — Trinity College — she knew all about the history of Ireland and Dublin."

There will be special guests on stage Tuesday — musicians, pipers and dancers. Among them — Alyth McCormack will be on vocals and will perform Irish step dancing; Triona Marshall will be keyboards and harp.

At 79, Moloney enjoys playing with younger musicians.

"I just wish I had the finance to bring all the young people with me on tour," he said.

When Moloney began making visits to America during the 1960s, he said, everything was green around St. Patrick's Day.

"It was corned beef and cabbage, I thought a little over the top, but why not?" Moloney asked. "It brings the image of Ireland back to people. And everyone comes in with our brand of music, the genuine stuff. There are no tear jerkers, just good traditional Irish music, song and dance."

Moloney's vision of Irish spirit includes his countrymen and women, and he loves to suggest places people can visit in his home country. He's bullish on Dublin, County Cork, County Kerry; Moloney himself just won't be around for St. Patrick's Day in Ireland.

"In Ireland, it used to be a parade on Sunday, which I took part in when I was 10 years old," Moloney said. "Now it's a whole week of festivities, I actually tried to put together a tour of Ireland for St. Patrick's, it's happening in October now."

If people make the flight to the isle, Moloney said, they should be prepared to talk to strangers. And come into the parlor for a visit.

"That's one thing when they visit they can't get over, the friendliness and the hospitality," Moloney said. "If you speak to them, you could end up having dinner with them. It happens all the time."

Moloney believes time is on his side. He'll be 80 by next St. Patrick's Day, and he expects he'll be on stage.

"They're already talking about another tour, it's very difficult to say 'No,' " Moloney said. "Travel is hard, the airports and the hotels, but then you get on stage and give it your everything. It's been a wonderful musical journey."

Reach Gazette reporter Jeff Wilkin at 518-395-3124 or at [email protected].


The Chieftains

WHEN: Tuesday, 7:30 p.m.
WHERE: Proctors MainStage, 432 State St., Schenectady
HOW MUCH: $20-$50.
MORE INFO: www.proctors.org

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