The man with the soft West Clare voice, who has engaged audiences across Ireland, the UK, parts of Europe and on cruises around the world, will take to the stage at Cois na hAbhna in Ennis later this month.
Following the huge success of last year’s Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann, PJ Murrihy will set the wheels in motion for Fleadh 2017 as the Executive Committee prepares for an exciting repeat event in August.
Just back from a cruise around the Bahamas with Joanie Madden and Cherish the Ladies, PJ was among an illustrious line-up of singers and performers on board the holiday cruise ship including Mary Black, Tommy Sands, Donal Clancy, son of the late Liam Clancy, Rory Makem, son of the late Tommy Makem, Billy McComiskey from the States, Kevin Crawford, Robbie O’Connell, Danú and many others. At Cois na hAbhna, however, he will joined by accordionist, Seamus Shannon and a host of local traditional musicians, singers and dancers.
Living in Mullagh, PJ Murrihy began his singing career in the 1970s with the Kilfenora Céilí Band and sang with them for about 5 years before joining the well-known Bannermen. Although he never competed at Fleadh Cheoils, he attended many with the legendary North Clare band. An album of the KIlfenora in 1975 included PJ and this was when he first met and was influenced by Mick Moloney of Transatlantic Records, now an academic, folklorist and musician, who received the Presidential Distinguished Service Award from the President of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins in November 2013.
In May of last year, P.J was honoured to sing his own composition, ‘The West Clare Famine’ song for the President at the National Famine Commemorations. In March, 2014, he was awarded Best Original Song for ‘Drawing Little Men in the Ashes’ by Irish County Sound of the Irish Farmer’s Journal. His latest album ‘Soldier On’ is proving to be very popular among his loyal followers.
Frank Whelan, Chairman of the Fleadh Executive Committee 2017, asked me to perform on the Gig Rig in the Abbey Street Car-park in Ennis last year and it was my absolute privilege to do so,’ said PJ, ‘and now I’d like to give back to the Fleadh Organising Committee and the wider Fleadh Community in County Clare and beyond and hopefully raise some welcome funds in the process for Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann 2017,’ he said.
Accomplished accordionist Seamus Shannon, who is highly regarded in Irish/American music circles was also on the recent cruise to the Bahamas. In the late 1990s, PJ and Seamus travelled the length and breadth of the UK particularly, from the Galtymore in London to the Irish communities in Leeds and Bermingham right up to Newcastle-on-Tyne in the North East country. They also made professional trips to Spain and Portugal with Enjoy Travel
The concert performance at Cois na hAbhna will include a segment on Clare songs and stories that he got from his father. There’s the story of Jane Hogan, from Dereen, Mullagh who travelled third class on the Lusitania. She was on the deck of the ill-fated ship at 2 o’clock on the afternoon of the 7th May 1915 when it was torpedoed and she was thrown into the water but saved five hours later by a life-belt thrown to her from a fellow passenger.
The Pipes of Johnny Doran is another element of PJs repertoire. Johnny Doran was an uilleann piper from Rathnew in Wicklow, who travelled to the fairs and races around the country in the 1930s and 40s and was said to have hugely influenced the young Willie Clancy in West Clare. A host of other songs including the West Clare Coast and the Cliffs of Moher as well as comical and humourous songs are a feature of PJs performances.
Frank Whelan, Chairman of the Fleadh Executive Committee for 2017 said that PJ Murrihy’s singing career is a testament to the man’s talent and popularity. He expressed his delight that PJ so generously offered his support of this year’s Fleadh by giving this unique performance on the 25th February at Cois na hAbhna. ‘We are hugely indebted to PJ,’ he said, ‘and we hope that the event will be well supported not only by Fleadh followers, but by those who enjoy PJ’s singing and the talent of his many friends,’ he said.
In his spare time, PJ is a breeder of Japanese, Wagyu beef cattle. PJ tells a great story about being in a restaurant in New York about 10 years ago when he spotted Wagyu steak on a menu for $120 a plate. He went on to import them from Australia and with the assistance of his family has been breeding them since. They are currently building a pedigree herd which stands between 30 and 35 animals.
A man of many and varied interests, PJ will also be joined in Cois na hAbhna by champion button accordion player Caoimhe Millar, champion sean-nós singer, Elle Marie O’Dwyer from Cork, the wonderful and talented Browne family from Kilrush, Rithim an Chláir All-Ireland Set Dancers and Keefsa Corry, an All-Ireland Step-Dancer from Cree. A surprise guest or two is also expected.
*Tickets at €15 for PJ Murrihy and Friends performance in support of Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann 2017 at Cois na hAbhna, Ennis on Saturday 25th February at 7.30pm are available between 9am and 5pm Monday-Friday at Cois na hAbhna on the Gort Road, Custy’s Music Shop on O’Connell St. Ennis or on line from Cois na hAbhna website www.coisnahabhna.ie)