With St. Patrick’s Day right around corner, almost everyone is getting into the Irish spirit, including at The Kimmel Center. This Wednesday, Irish legends will be hitting the stage playing traditional music, showcasing traditional dance and much more for The Chieftains “Irish Goodbye Tour.” The multi-award winning band (who’s repertoire includes a few Grammys and even an Oscar) will take the stage by storm showcasing their classic tunes like never before, and if you haven’t heard the incredibly moving sounds of The Chieftains before, now is the time to do just that.
The Chieftains founder, Paddy Moloney sat down with Metro to give the scoop on what to expect from the group’s “Irish Goodbye Tour” this week at the Kimmel and why even though it is a farewell, it’s still nowhere near the end for The Chieftains.
What was your initial inspiration behind starting The Chieftains?
There wasn’t an awful lot—we came in at a very good time. I had been playing with various combinations of quartets and duets and things like that—music in general was just part of my complete life. I could never have done without it, much like now I’ve got to have something going. [At that time] I had felt that I wanted to put a connection with all of these instruments with traditional Irish music as one and to make an ensemble out of it, to create the various harmonies and progression that eventually we did over all of the 50 albums that we produced. I just felt that there really was a place in the world for this great folk art and this traditional music. My dream came true eventually, but all the things that have happened with The Chieftains and with all of our ideas, writing orchestra music and playing with a full symphony orchestra, that sort of thing, there was just always a bigger place for traditional Irish music. I just did it in the unique way where I created sound combinations of instruments and putting three whizzes together, two fiddles and eventually adding the harp to it—that sort of thing. The whole thing progressed gradually into making an album a year almost—two a year even sometimes, winning six Grammys and an Oscar for the music in “Barry Lyndon.” There was a great place for traditional Irish music once it was presented. A lot of people hadn’t heard Irish music or listened to it, so they were excited for what was coming out of the Chieftans, you know?
Looking back at your career, what are some highlights that stick out in your mind?
It was a part-time band for ten years—we all had different jobs, but I just felt that out there somewhere there was a place that we could go full time professionally and make a living and career out of what we were doing. That sort of came around, and I remember in 1975 we played the Royal Albert Hall in London and it sold out for 6,000 people with three weeks notice. There was no singing, or dancing or smoke screens or anything like that in the group at that time, just good solid music. People loved what was happening and what we were doing. The Albert Hall was just a clincher you might say. That led to the Sydney Opera House, Carnegie Hall several times, Symphony Hall in Boston, and of course Philadelphia in the Kimmel Center. It was a great joy and we’ve done it many times, Philadelphia really always had such a great audience for us there.
What went into creating The Goodbye Tour specifically?
There’s a tremendous variety of different things happening that has to do with traditional music and dancing. We have some great dancers, John and Nathan Polanski—John plays the fiddle too and he’s just fantastic. We always have one of your local choirs who are actually going to sing a few songs from ‘The Long Journey Home” especially “Shenandoah” that we recorded with Van Morrison many years ago and Elvis Costello’s anthem from ‘The Long Journey Home” as well—I wrote the music and he wrote the words for it. We will be performing also with one of your local pipe bands. There’s also a video incidentally of a good friend of ours who’s a colonel and an astronaut in NASA—Cady Coleman. She’s been up on the International Space Station several times, and she brought one of my tin whistles and a flute that belonged to Matt [Molloy] up on the Space Station and sent us down a video, which we actually show on stage. So it’s quite an exciting show in that respect. With just a tremendous movement and a wide variety of moods of traditional Irish music, from the dance music to the slower songs to various combinations of ideas that we came up with. At the top of the show will also be a video of a montage of photographs of people that we worked with over the years—so it won’t be shy, let’s put it that way.
How does it feel for you to be doing this farewell tour?
I have to admit, I couldn’t have even dreamed this up, it just seemed to appear. But we still have got things to do, we were offered two more albums and I still record with various people and poets, so it’s still very much a live thing. I haven’t given it a second thought whatsoever about it being a Goodbye Tour.
What do you hope audiences take away from the whole experience after attending the concert?
I hope an image of a great art and great music that has been around for hundreds of years and is now being presented in such a way that it’s understandable and that they can really appreciate. I hope they just get a feeling that my goodness, this is incredible.
For more information and for tickets to The Chieftains “Irish Goodbye Tour,” visit kimmelcenter.org