Alban Arena prepares to host Irish folk legends Clannad - exclusive interview

Clannad will be at the Alban Arena on Tuesday March 11.

Clannad will be at the Alban Arena on Tuesday March 11. - Credit: Archant

Clannad singer Moya Brennan speaks to the Herts Ad ahead of their Alban Arena show next week

Less than a month after receiving a lifetime achievement accolade at Radio 2’s prestigious folk awards, the legendary Clannad are coming to St Albans for the latest leg of their 40th anniversary tour.

This incredible honour is still very fresh in their minds, as singer Moya Brennan revealed this week.

“It felt great and especially the reception that we received on the night at the Albert Hall that night was particularly gratifying. There is such an incredible wave of new talent that has emerged in the folk scene of recent years and so being part of that event was fantastic.”

The past few years have witnessed a renaissance for folk music, but despite having recently released their first studio album for 15 years [Nádúr, 2013], the band have apparently not found it difficult to re-enter the contemporary music scene.

“The change in the way the music business is now is immense but in terms of how the sound, or the fashion of the day are, is not something that has ever really affected us. We’ve always just done our own thing and sometimes we’d get classed as folk band, sometimes a World Music act and sometimes even a pop act!”

The decision to return to the studio followed a stage reunion a few years previous.

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“In 2011 we played some shows with the five of us in Christ Church Cathedral in Dublin, the first time we had done that for many years. People had travelled from all over the world to be at these shows and it really sparked us into thinking that we still had unfinished business. For a while we felt we needed to come up with some new concept of what the album should sound like, but eventually we realised that what we needed to sound like was Clannad. We really feel that this record captures that perfectly.”

Clannad is very much a family affair. The group comprises siblings Moya, Ciaran and Pol Brennan and their twin uncles Noel and Padraig. Their younger sister Enya was recruited to the band in the late 1970s before going on to enjoy an internationally successful solo career.

It was shortly after her departure that the band released the album which would change their careers forever, the 1982 release Magical Ring, which included the stand-out hit Theme from Harry’s Game. The album was a fusion of world music, folk and modern rock, and came to define the Clannad style which is still evident today.

It soon led to the group being asked by television writer Richard Carpenter to provide the soundtrack for the ITV series Robin of Sherwood, a fresh interpretation of the mythology which incorporated magical elements often lacking from the tales, something which worked well for Clannad, and again became a contributory factor in their success.

“It was a big factor in our becoming known for soundtrack work andI think also a factor in our longevity. Even today we travel to all corners of the globe and in the remotest places people will always cite Robin Of Sherwood as the point they discovered Clannad. Even though the show finished here a long time ago, it has continued to be shown around the world.”

Many of their more successful compositions have been from soundtracks, including contributions to films like Last of the Mohicans and Braveheart, and Moya feels the visual aid often helped in writing their music.

“It can be a great source of inspiration and certainly brings a sharp focus to what the piece of music needs to be about and how it should sound. Although sometimes our music has worked equally well in a movie that it wasn’t originally written for.”

Even today, the band consciously includes Gaelic songs among English language pieces, and their influence can certainly be said to have brought Irish traditional music into the mainstream, and paving the way for other artists to sing in the language. Moya is fiercely passionate about the Gaelic tongue, and why they felt it necessary to keep it alive through their music.

“It is important to us but more than that it is natural to us. It is the language we grew up with and the language that we still think of as our first. When we first started making records in the seventies, a lot of people in Ireland thought we were mad to be singing in Gaelic and didn’t see the point of it at all. We’re proud that we stuck to it and it is interesting to see now how popular the language has become again in Ireland.”

Despite 40 years of performing in venues across the globe, the band have lost none of their enthusiasm for performing in front of a live audience.

“We love the fact that we are able to go out and perform to crowds of people all over the world. We are so fortunate that our audience has stayed loyal to us and are always thrilled at the amount of new people constantly discovering us. We are quite fastidious in recreating our sound on stage and we never give less than 100 per cent in our shows. When we perform live now we tend to go out to the foyer after the show to sign and meet people and that experience has been very rewarding and also very informative as to the different ways that fans relate to our music.”

You can see Clannad for yourself at the Alban Arena on Tuesday. Tickets are still available - click on the link to order.