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Lúnasa Will Bring Its Firey, Joyous Irish Music to New Mexico This March

By Bill Nevins, Contributing Wrtiter/Freelance Journalist

Lúnasa, “the hottest Irish acoustic band on the planet”, will play two New Mexico concerts on and just after St. Patrick’s Day this year: March 17th at The Lensic in Santa Fe ( and March 18th at Immanuel Presbyterian Church, Albuquerque (

Named for an ancient Celtic harvest festival in honor of the Irish fire- god Lugh, Lúnasa was formed in 1997 from members of some of the greatest Irish traditional music groups, an “Irish music dream team”. The band’s complex arrangements and unique sound reshaped the boundaries of traditional music and energized audiences the world over.

Lúnasa has toured the world, won multiple awards and is one of the most influential bands in the history of traditional music. Collaborations with singers Natalie Merchant, Mary-Chapin Carpenter, and Tim O’Brien and high-profile concerts at The Hollywood Bowl, New York’s Carnegie Hall, Glastonbury Festival and Bercy Arena Paris helped broaden the band’s audience and cement their place at the forefront of contemporary Irish music.

Currently the band is touring their most recent cd, “Cas”. Lunasa’s current lineup features: Trevor Hutchinson, famed as the bassist with The Waterboys: piper Cillian Vallely, a member of Riverdance who recorded with Bruce Springsteen; Kevin Crawford, one of Ireland’s greatest flute-players; award-winning fiddler Sean Smyth, who performed with Donal Lunny’s legendary Coolfin and accordionist Alan Kelly; Colin Farrell, a multiple award winning fiddler; guitarist Patrick Doocey; Dave Curley from Galway on bodhran and guitar, and surprise guests likely to join the band in shows along the way.

We spoke with Lúnasa’s piper Cillian Vallely by phone in late January. We recalled that we had last seen Cillian perform in October 2019, at poet Paul Muldoon’s famous “Picnic” variety show and in a session at the Dead Rabbit Restaurant, both in Manhattan. Cillian laughed, “Ah yes, both were grand craic, and you got home safely in one piece from the Dead Rabbit!”

About his musical “roots”, Cillian explains that he grew up in a rural town in the north of Ireland in a family steeped in Irish traditional music—both his parents were music teachers and he himself teaches piping to students now. “I began playing the pennywhistle at a time I barely remember, about the same time I began to walk. And I started on the uileann (Irish) pipes when I was 8 years old.” Cillian also notes that he attended university and studied classical music for many years, giving him the skills of reading music and being able to appreciate and work within a very eclectic musical milieu. He has played with jazz groups, orchestras, American folk bands and he has recorded with Bruce Springsteen and other rock and pop stars, as well as being featured on movie soundtracks.

Asked if he’s seen “The Banshees of Inisheerin”, Cillian laughs and says he has not yet seen it because his children are quite young and the movies he gets to see are generally “kiddie films”.

Cillian cites Planxty, the Bothy Band and Moving Hearts as the earlier ground-breaking Irish bands which inspired him coming up and which he still sees as pioneer models for what Lunasa does in exploring new ways to interpret Irish music today. He also mentions his admiration for the piper “Blackie” who holds forth in the pubs of Doolin, County Clare, and is famed in Ireland.

Cillian, who released his acclaimed solo album “The Raven’s Rock” in 2018, has long made his home in New York City, says that he’s been exploring playing with East European, African and other musicians outside the traditional Irish music world, and he finds it “a grand adventure”, noting that the next Lunasa album may well bring a bit of that adventurous musical adventuring into the band’s mix. “Each of us in the band have our own separate projects going on, and we come back together and bring some of that freshness and creativity to the group. I think that’s how we have kept going these twenty and more years.”

Will Cillian and his band mates possibly join in an after-concert session in a pub in Santa Fe or Albuquerque, Cillian laughs and says there are no such specific plans as of yet, “but one can never tell—we like to play if we’re welcome and there’s an interested crowd and perhaps a pint or two on offer!”

We look forward to hearing and seeing Lunasa in New Mexico in mid March! Well worth the trip to Santa Fe or Albuquerque or both towns!

Lunasa’s webpage is at

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