Brian Boru

Brian Boru: Concerts already performed: The musicians:  The Programme: Review by Embassy of Ireland, Berne

Just over one thousand years ago,  Brian Boru, King of Munster and All Ireland faced a Viking Force at the Battle of Clontarf, outside Dublin, headed by the Viking King of Dublin, Sitric, who was not just Brian’s son in law, but his stepson too, Brian having married Sitric’s mother after Sitric married Brian’s daughter…

A small wire harp in the style of the Brian Boru or Trinity Harp.

A small wire harp in the style of the Brian Boru or Trinity Harp.

Brian and his armies were victorious on the day, though the elderly King was killed by a retreating Viking Lord. Every Irish schoolkid has heard of Brian Boru, but the events leading up Good Friday, April 23rd 1014, nor indeed the life and times of the King are not so well known.

Tale of the Gael team up with Carlow born classical flautist Robert Tobin for a well researched, interesting and informative presentation on the times which features aspects of medieval Dublin, 11th century Ireland, Vikings, plenty of music and of course a close-up on Brian….a whole new way of looking at The Life of Brian….

The Boru dynasty took 60 years to recover from April 23rd: Brian, his son and grandson all died. The  Jarl of Orkney, a Viking battle commander also lost his life, and as a result, the power balance on the Orkney Islands also shifted….and so on….the Battle had repercussions through the Viking community of the western islands. Brian Boru has long been associated with an ancient harp housed in Trinity College Dublin, as it was believed for centuries that the harp belonged to him, wrongly, as it turns out, as the King is about four centuries older than the harp. Brian’s court in Co. Clare was said to have been a cultured place, fostering musicians, singers and historians, and perhaps the association stems from this. Either way, it’s a great reason to tune up the harps, fiddles, flute, bass, bouzouki and pipes, and celebrate this great Gaelic Tale…

Tale of the Gael have sewn this magnificent saga into a 90 minute musical weave that

Carved wooden heads on Viking Boats were not normally as friendly looking as this guy

Carved wooden heads on Viking Boats were not normally as friendly looking as this guy…maybe it’s the camera angle!

delights, informs and entertains through well researched anecdote and the finest of Irish  music. From the opening years of the 11th century, music and story work together, bringing the far-flung  elements of this fascinating tale to the one bloody confrontation that was Clontarf on April 23rd, 1014.

The musicians in the project come from a variety of musical backgrounds, and have previously worked on creating a musical tapestry from aspects of Irish history, the most recent being a blending of the works of Turlough O Carolan,  18th Irish harper and composer and W.B. Yeats, Nobel Prize Winner for poetry. This performance closed to a standing ovation at the Yeats International Festival in Sligo, August 2013, before performing in for the Geneva Literary Aid Society, Switzerland, in November of the same year. 2013 also saw a commissioned performance for the O Donnell Clan Gathering in Donegal Castle, which also closed to a standing ovation.

Robert Tobin, Carlow, silver flute

Robert Tobin, from Carlow, currently studying silver flute in Zurich, joins the group for the winter concerts

Robert Tobin, from Carlow, currently studying silver flute in Zurich, joins the group for the Brian Boru Project 2014

Robert currently resides in Zurich, Switzerland where he is studying for a Masters degree in Music Performance. In 2012 he completed with First Class Honours BA in Music Performance degree in the Royal Irish Academy of Music, Dublin and later studied in Vienna’s Universtät für Musik.He has appeared with RTE Concert Orchestra, the Hibernian Symphony Orchestra and National Youth Orchestra of Ireland, and most recently with the European Union Youth Orchestra in London, may 2014. As a soloist Robert has appeared in Scotland, Austria, Switzerland, Finland and Russia. In February 2012 he received first prize in the Yamaha Music Foundation of Europe bursary competition and in 2013 won the McCullough Cup and the Lyric Fm Radio Bursary for Woodwind Concerto at the Feis Ceoil, Dublin.

Dave Aebli, Zurich, bouzouki, bass

Dave Aebli from Zurich, Switzerland.

Dave Aebli from Zurich, Switzerland, also made his own instrument.

Dave started playing Irish music at sixteen, and hasn’t stopped. He plays with several groups and has an impressive mastery of not just Irish rhythms but Greek and Balkan music too. His tasteful bouzouki and bass arrangements can be heard on several recordings of Irish, Greek and Swiss folk music, and he has toured in Greece, Ireland, Italy, France, and most recently Australia with different bands.




Mickey Dunne , Limerick,  Uilleann pipes, whistles, fiddle

Mickey Dunne not only plays the pipes, but is a well known pipe-maker too

Mickey Dunne learned his piping from his father and uncles and is a well known pipe-maker too

Mickey, a legend in his own right,  comes from one of the last of Ireland’s families of travelling pipers, and learned his craft from his father and uncles who travelled the length and breadth of Ireland with their music. Loved by audiences everywhere for his quick wit on stage, Mickey has an entire repertoire of tunes, but of stories as well.

From Limerick, Mickey has guested at Pipers Gatherings all over the world, as a performer and teacher over the last thirty years. He is also a pipe maker.

With Finbarr Furey and Paddy Keenan, he runs the now famous Pipers Gathering in Clare every year. He has recorded with his daughters.

Catherine Rhatigan, Sligo, Irish harp,

Catherine Rhatigan, holds a B.A. in English and loves to do the historical research for the group!

Catherine Rhatigan, plays harp and both researches and presents the historical material for Tale of  the Gael’s special projects

Catherine spent some years playing and touring with the Belfast Harp Orchestra in the nineties, including a tour of the east coast of America with The Chieftains. A secondary school teacher of English for many years, she binds the words to the music, and has written several historical scripts for musical theatre, and worked with the James Joyce Foundation in Zurich on their recent and highly acclaimed stage/musical interpretation of James Joyce’s excerpts from Ulysses.  She has taught and performed in the USA, Ireland, France, Italy , South Africa and Switzerland, and currently plays with the Swiss Celtic Harp Ensemble.

Paul Dooley, Clare, wire harp/ fiddle,

Paul Dooley has also worked on the mysterious Robert Ap Huw manuscripts for many years, and went on to record this amazing music on the wire strung harp.

Paul Dooley spent several years studying the mysterious Robert Ap Huw manuscripts

Paul has spent several years studying wire strung harp and can truly be spoken of as one of the very few who is both a master of traditional music on the instrument and vastly learned in the history of the music that was played on it in Ireland, Scotland and Wales. Currently studying for a Ph.D in the University of Limerick on the subject, he has toured, played and lectured all over Europe, with a replica of the Trinty Harp, which was once believed to have belonged to Brian Boru, but turned out to be a few centuries younger than the King. Paul’s replica was made by himself, and he is also a great fiddle player.

Prannie Rhatigan, Sligo, percussion,

Prannie is the author of 'irish Seaweed Kitchen' and has provided many fine dinners at the end of long rehearsals...

Prannie is the author of ‘irish Seaweed Kitchen’ and has provided many fine dinners at the end of long rehearsals…

Prannie has played bodhran and other percussion with the band since it started, touring Europe and Ireland. She has a very gentle style that complements the often gentle tempos of the courtly harp music, and she often throws in a step or two of sean-nos dance as well!

The Programme:  Divided into 7 sections, each with a theme relevant to Brian Boru and set into some of Ireland’s finest music.

1 Ireland in 1000 and Brian’s Court: Followed by a selection of Irish Court music.

2 Gormlaith: Brian’s last wife and mother of his main opponent at Clontarf: (who was also his son  in law..) Accompanied by music from different centuries written for women.

3 Brian as King of All Ireland. We put together a suite of marches and airs from all over Ireland for this, with the famous and beloved ‘Brian Boru’s March’ as a theme.

                                                                                                                                                                4 Dublin 1000, town of Foreigners: With Irish music written for foreign patrons through the ages .

   5 The Vikings: A look at Viking Life followed by Orkney/Scandinavian  dance tunes.

6 Three Interesting Brehon Laws: Brian Boru was the first King to have this ancient Gaelic legal system implemented throughout the kingdom, including Dublin. Followed by two lively sets of reels and jigs.

7.The Brian Boru Harp:Where it fits into this Saga, followed by music  from the oldest harp manuscript in existence,  (circa 1312 )played on a replica of the Brian Boru Harp.

8. Clontarf. How the battle unfolded on the day: the music for this part of the concert took quite a while to put together, as it is made up of several short fragments of battle music as collected by Bunting on his quest to preserve the last of the music of the old Gaelic world in the late 1700s, early 1800s, and rarely, if ever played. Interspersed with dance music and a stirring war march, this is a final and powerful conclusion to the performance.


Already performed:

Strasbourg, France, Friday, March 21st,

Lausanne Switzerland, Sunday, March 23rd

Easter Feile Festival,St. Mary’s Church, Carlow,  Ireland, Friday, April 25th, (standing ovation)

The Hunt Museum, Rutland St, Limerick, Saturday, April 26th, (standing ovation)

St. Columba’s Church, Drumcliffe, Sligo, Thursday, April 24th, (standing ovation)


Review by the Embassy of Ireland in Switzerland: March 2014

Dear colleagues,

Yesterday evening I helped to open a concert in Lausanne commemorating Brian Boru and the Battle of Clontarf, The group, Tale of the Gael, a predominantly Irish group, though with members based in both Switzerland and Ireland, is well known to this Embassy and played to a very high standard. The musical programme was varied and mixed with interesting information on Brian Boru, the battle and Irish/Norse customs of the time.

The group travels and plays across Europe, so I thought it might be useful to colleagues in Norway and Denmark to share the information about this very entertaining and informative cultural programme, in case any of you are looking for musicians for any Battle of Clontarf related event.

Justin Justin Dolan | Embassy of Ireland | Kirchenfeldstrasse 68 | P.O. Box | 3000 Bern 6 | Switzerland !+41 31 352 14 42 | +41 31 352 14 55 | # [email protected]


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