Interview with Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh and Cormac Begley – Live at Saint Lukes

A shorter version of this article was first published in The Evening Echo [Cork] on 2017-05-11.
Text below photo.

Echo Article I Wrote - Begley & O'Raghallaigh - Live At Saint Lukes

Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh and Cormac Begley, two of Ireland’s most exciting and busiest traditional musicians, are returning to play Live At Saint Lukes on Saturday 20 May, as one half of a pair of concerts in the venue that weekend.

Cormac Begley, a bass, baritone, treble and piccolo concertina player, is a member of the renowned West-Kerry Begley musical family and received the 2014 Seán Ó Riada Award for his concertina playing. He is also the founder of the award winning ‘Tunes In The Church’ live concert series which showcase some of Ireland’s leading traditional artists in Dublin’s Unitarian Church and Galway’s St. Nicholas’ Collegiate Church. He recently appeared in Cork with Ré in Triskel Christchurch, plays in various duos and trios, and released his debut solo self-titled album this month, a record using the full range of concertinas spanning seven octaves.

Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh is a member of two critically acclaimed groups The Gloaming and This Is How We Fly, and like Cormac also plays in several duos and trios. He has made records with Mick O’Brien, as well as a set of three albums with Martin Hayes and Peadar Ó Riada. Caoimhín and Cormac played together in Live At Saint Lukes last December, and both look forward to returning, as Caoimhin explained, “for me, the acoustics of where you choose to play is a massive element of making music, and the more the space has to offer, the more I tend to enjoy it. Live At Saint Luke’s is an extraordinary space that gives you so much back – you send out a note into the cavern and wait for it to do its thing.  So it can have a pretty big impact on the way I play, at least to me.”

Bearing in mind his experience with his ‘Tunes In The Church’ series, Cormac has quite an insight into Live At Saint Lukes, “churches are beautiful historical and atmospheric rooms. I find them hugely peacefully buildings that encourage reflection and sensitivity within yourself and to space. These are environments that allow you to dig deeper emotionally and musically. They compliment the music we play. Every church has their own qualities and and St Luke’s grandness and acoustic quality is special to play in. These space allow people to experience and engage with the music in a different way.”

The duo haven’t been playing together very long as Caoimhín recalls, “our first concert together was this time last year, in May in the National Concert Hall (Caoimhín was the inaugural Kevin Barry Recital Room Resident Artist at the NCH). We subsequently played a fun run of shows in the Autumn, and are teaming up again for this run of six gigs. For me it’s lovely to cross paths like this with Cormac, who’s on quite the trajectory of his own at the moment, and we check in from time to time like this and make some noise together!”

The mutual respect between the two is clear as Cormac continues, “it’s an honour to play with Caoimhín. Something special and meditative happens when we play together. We complement one another well musically and instrumentally. We share similar musical influences too. It’s always nourishing on so many levels to engage with and make music with Caoimhin.”, even though Cormac has just released his own album, the Live At Saint Lukes concert won’t be featuring music from that record, “we are playing as a duo and it’s separate from my album which is entirely solo concertina.”

Caoimhín lays out in broad terms what the audience can expect at their concert, “it will be predominantly tunes, which we tend to play with, pull them slightly this way and that; sometimes loud, sometimes quiet; sometimes fast, sometimes slow. We play various versions of our own instruments, concertinas of all shapes and sizes, fiddles – one stranger than the next. But tunes, mainly, that’s what to expect.”   

Also playing on the night with Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh & Cormac Begley will be Ye Vagabonds, a pair of brothers, who have forged quite a following for their performances and interpretations of old folk music as well creating some great original material, they played a well received concert in Live At Saint Lukes for last year’s Cork Folk Festival.

Speaking of musical brothers, the night beforehand will feature two sets of them in the form of We Banjo 3, Enda Scahill on tenor banjo and Fergal Scahill on fiddle, viola, dobro, percussion, guitar and mandolin, Martin Howley on tenor banjo and mandolin and David Howley on guitar, with all four on vocals. Their 2016 album ‘String Theory’ has received tremendous reviews and they have been at the forefront of Irish banjo and fiddle playing for 2 decades. Their competitive success is consistent, Martin holding 7 All Ireland titles, Enda with 4, while Fergal and David hold various All Ireland titles on Banjo, Fiddle, Bodhran and Guitar.

Tickets for We Banjo 3 (Fri 19 May) and Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh & Cormac Begley (Sat 20 May) are available via or


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