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The musical life of North Cregg...

North Cregg 1998Formed in Cork, Ireland in 1996, North Cregg have established themselves as one of the premier bands playing traditional Irish music today. Voted "Best Traditional Newcomers" in the Irish Music Magazine Millennium Poll, their enviable reputation for exhilarating live performances continues to enthral audiences at home and abroad.

The birth of North Cregg came about as a result of the thriving informal pub session scene in Cork (Ireland's second city). In 1995, two locals - young accordion player Christy Leahy and veteran guitarist John Neville - were regulars on the session scene. When Armagh fiddler Caoimhín Vallely arrived in Cork to study music at the local university, an instant musical friendship struck up and the bones of North Cregg were taking shape. Frequent sessions together in local bars such as The Lobby and The Gables along with piano player Ciarán Coughlan revealed a fresh new sound prompting an offer for the quartet to perform a support slot at The Cork Folk Festival, September 1996.

When John was asked to come up with a name for the group on the spot during a phone call to the festival director, the name North Cregg sprang to mind. This was the name of a recently composed tune by a good friend, uilleann piper, Jimmy Morrisson. The tune was named after a small townland near Fermoy, County Cork. The name stuck and the festival concert was a roaring success for the group. More local gigs followed for this new band on the scene during the course of the next 12 months including a second appearance at The Cork Folk Festival '97. The offer of a tour in Germany in March 1998 on the St. Patrick's Day Celebration Festival by Magnetic Music resulted in the enlisting of Christy's younger brother Martin Leahy on snare drum for the trip. On returning from the tour, Martin joined the band on a permanent basis. The rest of that year saw the Creggies play several festivals around Ireland and also the Oslo Folk Festival, Norway.

The next obvious step was to record this new, fresh sound and in October of that year, North Cregg went into DanDan FitzGerald's studio in Cork with producers Niall Vallely and Frank Torpey (both of NOMOS) to begin work on the first CD: "...and they danced all night". They also enlisted the aid of a good friend, Armagh banjo player Paul Meehan, who had just moved to Cork.

  North Cregg Y2K

The CD was released in March 1999 on a return trip to Germany and launched in Ireland in April where the band played their first tour of Ireland, with rousing concerts in Dublin, Wexford, Limerick, Kerry, Armagh and their native Cork. The tour was well received and in the summer of that year, North Cregg took in many more festivals around the country and abroad with their newest member, Paul, now permanently on board.

One festival on the tour was a clarinet festival in Glomel, Brittany when the band was invited to perform with Breton clarinet maestro, Bernard Subert. The marriage of Bernard's clarinet to the distinctive sound of North Cregg was an instant success and resulted in the partnership being renewed at another clarinet festival - this time on the island of Martinique on the Caribbean and subsequent concerts in Ireland during summer and autumn 2000.


In November 2000, the band returned to the same studio again to set about recording album No. 2 on the Magnetic Music label, this time with Niall Vallely in the role of sole producer. 12 sets of tunes and songs were recorded, including some new compositions from John, Paul and Christy. The result, "mi da:za", was released in Germany in March 2001 to critical acclaim as the band headed back to headline their 4th consecutive St. Patrick's Day Celebration Festival. The album was officially launched in Ireland on the 1st of May, 2001. A summer full of music festivals followed as the band made debut appearances at some of Europe's leading folk festivals: The Cambridge Folk Festival, England and the Tønder Festival, Denmark. North Cregg's ever-growing popularity was rewarded by readers of The Irish Music Magazine who voted the band 'Best Traditional Newcomers' in the Millenium Readers' Poll.

Family and work committments forced John Neville to leave the band in 2001 and he played his final North Cregg concert on the same stage where it all began 5 years earlier - The Cork Folk Festival. John continues to play music and write songs in his home town of Cork. North Cregg 2003

Stunning Cork vocalist Fiona Kelleher joined the group shortly afterwards and so a new era in North Cregg's history began. Fiona's impeccable voice lends a whole new dynamic to the band. The new line-up made it's first international appearance at The Celtic Connections, Glasgow in January 2002. Since that night, North Cregg's exciting live shows have had audiences the world over amazed.

Album number three was imminent and an offer from Greentrax Recording Company prompted the band to head back to the studio once more. Work began in Secret Music studios in Glasgow with the mighty Donald Shaw of Capercaillie in the producers chair this time round. The end result, Summer At My Feet was released in August 2003.

The album was premiered at the Milwaukee Irish Fest, USA in the same month and the band spent the summer and Autumn of that year touring and promoting the new album to critical acclaim.

Changes a plenty came the bands way over the next year as Caoimhin Vallely and Paul Meehan decided to part company with North Cregg in August 2004 after eight years of playing mighty music with the band.

Liam Flanagan from Charleville, Co. Cork stepped in to the group shortly afterwards breathing new life into the sound of the band with his highly exciting fiddle and banjo playing. Claire Anne Lynch replaced Fiona Kelleher on vocals in the first days of 2006 completing changes in personnel and sound for North Cregg as the band approached 10 years on the road.

In 2007 the band released their fourth album, The Roseland Barndance, continuing a long tradition of bringing fresh exciting sounds to music lovers around the world.

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