An Irish evening

Irish band The Chieftains ain’t fiddlin’ around

By Matt Clevenger

Seán Keane, Paddy Moloney, Kevin Conneff and Matt Molloy of the Chieftains.

Irish-music legends The Chieftains are no strangers to Dayton. The Grammy Award-winning group has visited the Gem City many times throughout their almost 50-year career, and their regular shows have become a spring and summer tradition of sorts for audiences here.

“We’ve played there many times,” band leader Paddy Moloney said in a recent interview. “I’ve got so many friends in Dayton, it brings back great memories going back over the last 30 years at least.”

The iconic group will return to Dayton this week, performing at the Schuster Center on Sunday, March 6 as part of the CityFolk Celtic Series. The impressive show, which includes singers, dancers, a guest fiddler and guitarist, and a pipe band, will feature new material from the Chieftains’ latest album, “San Patricio,” and well-known classics from their extensive history.

Pipe player Paddy Moloney formed the Chieftains in Ireland in 1962, originally intending to record a single album of authentic Irish music. “We came together just to make that one album, because there was very little interest,” Moloney explained. “It wasn’t the cool kind of thing to be seen playing traditional Irish music … to be walking down the street with a fiddle under your arm, you got a bit of a slighting from your mates, you know?”

“That all changed over the last 30 or 40 years,” he said. “Now you have the same people coming and saying, ‘Can you get me tickets to your show?’”

The group’s first recording, “The Chieftains 1,” soon grew in popularity and band members decided to form a permanent group. Now, almost 50 years later, the six-time Grammy-winning band has become the world’s best-known traditional Irish group, with more than 40 successful albums to their credit. “From one album, it’s amazing how it grew and grew in popularity, and got played by rock stations and BBC,” Moloney said. “We never looked back. A few of us have retired now, we have three of them back home. They’re still Chieftains of course – they still come and play with us on and off for special occasions.”

Known for their relentless world touring, the Chieftains were the first Western group to ever play on the Great Wall of China and were officially named Ireland’s Musical Ambassadors in 1979. Over the years, the Chieftains have also developed a reputation for their numerous collaborations with pop, rock and country music stars including the Rolling Stones, Van Morrison, Elvis Costello, Roger Waters, Chet Atkins, Roseanne Cash, Emmylou Harris and many others.

Most recently, the band worked with blues guitarist Ry Cooder for several songs on their latest album, 2010’s “San Patricio.” “It’s a brilliant story,” Moloney said of the album. “It took me two years to put it together, but it was well worth it in the end.”

The Chieftains will celebrate their 50th anniversary next year, and the band plans to mark the occasion with a series of special shows in several countries around the world. “Next year will be a very special occasion because we will be celebrating our big 5-0,” Moloney said. “It’s going to be a world tour by the sound of things … we’ve played Carnegie Hall many times, and next year they’re going to present us as one of their special acts.”

The band shows no signs of slowing down, however, and Moloney himself is always busy with side projects, including symphonies and work for film scores. “If I’m not touring, there’s definitely an awful lot of work to be done,” he said. “There’s things happening and there’s things going on all the time. Having done ‘San Patricio,’ I’ve gained a lot of interest from people who want to do projects.”

One interesting project Moloney is currently working on involves astronaut Cady Coleman, who also happens to play the flute in a band. “There’s an astronaut friend of ours who went up to the space station a few weeks ago,” he said. “She asked if I could send her a tin whistle she’d like to bring, so I sent her up a whistle and Matt Malloy sent an old flute, and Ian Anderson from Jethro Tull, he also sent a flute up as well. So she’s been in touch and the idea is to try and get me to link up and do a duet together from outer space.”

“That’ll be an interesting encounter when it takes place,” he added. “But it has to be tried out technically first, to see what will happen with the delay.”
Moloney said the Chieftains have a special show planned for this Sunday at the Schuster Center, featuring local dancers and pipers as well as Scottish singer Alyth McCormack and harp player Triona Marshall. The show will also include performances by Nashville-based guitarist Jeff White and fiddler Amy Richardson, as well as well-known dancers Cara Butler and Jon and Nathan Pilatzke.

“You could say that this time we’ve got a big show for you,” Moloney explained. “Not just the few Chieftains sort of sitting down and belting away. We’ve got young blood behind us, and some wonderful musicians, singers and dancers.”

“Today and this morning we were rehearsing a new approach to the opening of the show, just to break it up,” he said. “We like to contribute new music and new ideas each year. It keeps us good. It keeps us on our toes as well and gives you a great insight into what the Chieftains are still all about.”

The Chieftains will perform Sunday, March 6 at the Schuster Center. Show starts at 8 p.m., tickets are $27-$56. Tickets are available by phone at (937) 496-3863 or online at and More information can be found online at

Reach DCP freelance writer Matt Clevenger at

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