Background material on this years performers

Frankie Gavin and Catherine McHugh

Frankie Gavin was born in  County Galway, from a musical family. As a child he played the tin whistle from the age of four and, later, the flute.At the age of six, Frankie played for President Kennedy when he visited Ireland in 1963.His musical ability on the fiddle are mainly self-taughtand at 17 years old, he gained first place in both the All Ireland Under-18 Fiddle and Flute competitions. In 1974, he founded the group De Dannan with Alec Finn.Gavin has played and recorded with Andy IrvineThe Rolling StonesElvis CostelloStéphane Grappelli, and Frankie Goes to Hollywood, and in 2010 became reputedly the fastest fiddle-player in the world, with an entry in the Guinness Book of Records.  He continues to be a leading influence in the traditional music scene. 
Catherine McHugh is from County Galway and is one of the most outstanding young accompanists and fiddle players in Irish traditional music today. She grew up in the ancient MaighSeola territory steeped in legends of Irish traditional music, as a result, Catherine was influenced greatly by the outstanding musicians of East Galway. Catherine has recently appeared on the critically acclaimed debut solo albums of banjo player Theresa O’Grady and Sligo accordion virtuoso Daithí Gormley.

Thomas Strain

Thomas Strain is a Donegal fiddle player and composer, native to Burnfoot. He started to play music at the age of 8, learning the piano accordion under the tuition of Teresa McClure. By the age of 12, Thomas had become familiar with the music of the legendary fiddle player, Tommy Peoples, inspiring Thomas to learn the fiddle. Thomas was taught by Tommy Peoples’ nephew, Seamus Gibson, for a number of years and has taken lessons from Tommy Peoples and his daughter Siobhan Peoples, finding himself steeped in the music of these great players and focusing on the Peoples’ style. Thomas continues to develop as a player and as a composer of tunes. One of his latest compositions is a Lament called ‘Tommy – The Peoples’ Hero’, composed in honour of Tommy. Thomas has taught the fiddle for many years. He has tutored at summer schools, workshops, and also one-to-one lessons from his home. He also teaches fiddle lessons at the annual Glencolmcille fiddle summer school with CairdeasnabhFidléirí.

Paula and Melanie Houton

Sisters Paula and Melanie Houton from Inishowen are two of the finest exponents of the Irish fiddle, flute and whistle playing traditions. As performers and teachers of their respective instruments they have played some of Ireland’s biggest festivals and appeared on flagship television and radio programmes for national broadcasters RTÉ, TG4 and BBC.In 2019, they released their first album, ‘A Snapshot in Time’, which they launched at Belfast’s and Ennis’ TradFests andbrings together some of their favourite jigs, reels, mazurkas,barndances and newly-composed tunes.Paula and Melanie have recently played at Fleadh CheoilnahÉireann, Ennis TradFest, Belfast TradFest, Gig ‘n The Bann and FéilenahInse

Stephen Fagan

Stephen Fagan is a guitarist and singer from Clondalkin in Dublin. He learned his trade at regular sessions in the local cultural centre ÁrasChrónain. He has been playing and presenting at The Irish House party since its inception in Dublin and abroad on tour.
He also appears regularly at Dublins famous Musical Pub crawl. He has recorded albums with the group Cunla for ClóiarChonnachtaand a solo Cd with Eoin O Neill and Mary Custy.
Recently he has been playing gigs with a new band called The Full Shillin’ and recording new songs written under the guidance of John Spillane

Patsy Toland

Patsy is a member of the Seamus Grant Weekend committee and a driving force behind the website and the annual festival. As a musician he has played banjo, mandolin, fiddle and tenor guitar as a member of many groups – ranging from Celtic Rock in Sirreel, duets and trios in Temple Bar, festivals across Ireland and Europe.  Patsy has taught music throughout his musical career and now focuses in the development of as an archive of the music of his locality but also as a teaching site for those interested in learning about the style and repertoire of Seamus Grant.
Patsy and Stephen have performed as a duet for over 20 years.

Seamus Gibson

Séamus grew up in Castletown, St. Johnston, in a musical family. His mother, Monica, is a sister of the fiddler Tommy Peoples. His father Eddie played the mandolin and also the flute and whistle.It was clear from when Séamus was very young that he was going to be an exceptional player, and so it has proved. In his early years as a player he focused on the Peoples’ style. He has developed into a masterful fiddler with his own distinctive and original approach.Now living in Letterkenny, Séamus continues to develop as a player and also as a composer of tunes. His reels named after Joe Cassidy and George Peoples have already passed into the tradition.
Seamus has completed two recent CDs. ‘Fly By Night’ is a live recording featuring concert performances by Seamus and his long-time playing partner Dermot Toland on guitar and ‘The Dropper Bell’ features Seamus accompanied by Altan’s bouzouki player Ciarán Curran and Derry guitarist Ciaran O’Kane.

Valerie Harkin School of Irish Dancing

The Valerie Harkin School of Irish dancing
is an Irish dancing school based in Illies Community Centre and The Sliabh Sneacht Centre, Drumfries. Irish Dancing classes for fun, fitness, Grading Examinations, Competitions. Suitable for Boys and Girls of all ages

Inishowen Traditional Singers’ Circle

The Inishowen Traditional Singers’ Circle is a voluntary community organisation formed in 1988 to encourage, foster and perpetuate the folk song and ballad tradition of the Inishowen Peninsula, Co. Donegal. They do so by Organising regular opportunities for people to meet and sing, including monthly sessions and an annual festival of traditional singing; Providing platforms to share the wealth of the Peninsula’s local song tradition: events, digital and hard-copy multimedia publishing, broadcasting, performing & lecturing. Striving to keep singing accessible, relevant and alive for everyone.
Jim MacFarland, Co.Derry is one of the Inishowen’s Traditional Singers Circle most stalwart supporters since it’s founding. He is highly regarded nationally and internationally within the traditional singing communities. His song repertoire and singing style is predominantly Inishowen based and has helped immensely to preserve these traditions and heritage for further generations to enjoy. His performances are a joy to watch and listen to.

Róise Ní Mhurchú hails from Culmore, at the foot of the Inishowen Peninsula. Róise is the current under 18 All-Ireland champion in Singing in Irish and Lilting. She is a regular at the Inishowen Singing Circle and has performed in many events locally. The talented teenager is also an accomplished tin whistle and fiddle player, as well as a respected singer in Irish and English.

Denis & Eamonn McGonigle.

The McGonigle family from Cloontagh are well known for their singing, dancing and also for fiddle playing. Denis is a fiddler player who carries the direct style and repertoire of Seamus Grant. Having experienced lessons with Seamus as his main teacher, he now carries the tunes and the style wherever he plays. Usually leading the North Pole sessionson a Saturday night with his cousin Eamonn.Eamonn also enjoyed some lessons with Seamus in his early fiddle learning but has broadened his interests and repertoire to other styles. Eamonn enjoys adding a few Bluegrass fiddle tunes to a session and is a fine mandolin player. Eamonn is also a lead figure in the local group ‘Reel Trad’. 

Gabby Fitzgerald

Gabby Fitzgerald is primarily an Uilleann Piper, but his talents also range to composer, multi-instrumentalist, singer, songwriter and storyteller.Gabby had many influences in music but it was the Irish folk scene that really inspired him and he was drawn to the haunting sound of the Uilleann pipe.Throughout his musical career Gabby has gathered a huge repertoire of songs and tunes that are brought to life, with the tools of his trade, delivering sweet and haunting melodies with a refinement achieved through years of playing.  To date Gabby has produced 2 albums titled the ‘Black Dog Island’ and ‘Elizabeth née Ellis’

Leanne Doherty and Daniel Miller

Leanne Doherty and Daniel Miller are well known on the music scene throughout Derry.  They both have been involved with music from an early age.  Leanne is the lead vocalist with an amazing voice.   Both Leanne and Daniel are multi-instrumentalist.  They also apply their talents to composing and songwriting making them a very accomplished duo.


ARCHIVE 23 is a project carried out by InishowenTraditional Music Project to collect, record and present 23 traditional musicians and singers from Inishowen.The aim of the project is to film and document the traditional music of the area as it is in 2023. The film features performances of tunes and songs from the local repertoire, along with new compositions. The film gives an insight as to how the music is currently being played, how musicians are being inspired from the local tradition, and how they are developing their own individual music from it. 

Clonmany Genealogy &Hertigage Group

Clonmany Genealogy &Hertigage Group is an Inishowenbased voluntary group with an interest in family and local heritage.   The group has gathered numerous photos, documents, artifacts, records etc. for their archive and share this information with the community through their informative exhibitions.  They are also a very helpful resource in assisting anyone from near or far who are trying to trace their family tree/roots in the Inishowen area.