The Heartstring Quartet

Nollaig Casey, Chris Newman, Arty McGlynn & Máire Ní Chathasaigh

"Superb fiddle... Superb vocals" The Irish TImes

About The Music of What Happened

"FireWire" CD cover

Overview of Nollaig's solo CD

The Music of What Happened showcases Nollaig's exceptional expressive gifts and is a unique mixture of powerhouse Irish dance-music, meltingly beautiful airs, exquisite songs and her own memorable compositions - all suffused with her trademark lyricism and virtuosity.

Below you'll find a selection of reviews published in The Irish Times * * * *, Scotland on Sunday, The Scotsman * * * *. The Scottish Sunday Herald, The Living Tradition, Hot Press, Taplas, Shire Folk, Folking and the BBC Folk website.

The release of the album resulted in a number of articles in the press, notably in The Irish TImes, The Galway Advertiser and Irish Music Magazine

Guests: Arty McGlynn (guitars); Sharon Shannon (accordeon); Mairéad Casey (fiddle); Rod McVey (keyboards); Liam Bradley (percussion)

Click the "Buy this CD' button on the right to hear an excerpt from a track.

Go to Reviews and Tracklisting


"When Oisin was an old, old man and when all the other Fianna were dead, he was asked by Saint Patrick what was the music that Finn and the Fianna loved best to hear. Remembering those days and the sunburnt companions who were long gone, he told the holy man that the best music was the music of what happened"

(from the ancient Irish Fenian Cycle, as re-told by Marie Heaney in Over Nine Waves, Faber & Faber, 1994)


Reviews of The Music of What Happened

"It's been a long time coming. Nollaig Casey has spent the best part of her career scaffolding others' music, from Shaun Davey to Riverdance, but finally she's airing her own selections. Hers is a world where classical sensibilities gel seamlessly with traditional roots that stretch from the 17th century The Clergy's Lamentation to a handful of fine original Casey tunes, including the magnificently orchestral The Last Lord Of Beara. Long noted for her superb fiddle playing, she finally gives due credit to her superb vocals here, too, their delicacy well paired with such gemstones as A Spailpín A Riúin. With Arty McGlynn's guitar and Sharon Shannon's accordion tiptoeing in alongside her, Nollaig Casey can hardly put a foot wrong."

- Siobhán Long in The Irish Times

"Not the third album as a duo with partner Arty McGlynn but a first ‘solo’ album from the great Irish musician with, yes, Arty - but also some pals from the highest echelons of Irish instrumental music. Among the expertly played dance tunes, The Clergy’s Lamentation shows off Casey’s ability to wring sweet poetry from ancient traditional melodies. The Last Lord of Beara casts a spell over shifting harmony, and she sings a version of the well-known A Spailpin A Riuin among rarer songs from her County Cork background."

- Norman Chalmers in Scotland on Sunday

"Nollaig Casey is best known in these parts for her work with guitarist Arty McGlynn and Donal Lunny’s Coolfin band, but she has worked with most of the major names in Irish music at some point. 

This disc is a fine showcase for her beautifully poised and expressive fiddle and viola playing, and she throws in a couple of charming vocal outings as well. Much of the material is traditional, but recast in attractive new arrangements by Casey and McGlynn. She revisits Simon Jeffes’s Music for a Found Harmonium, now firmly established in the Irish repertoire."

"One of Ireland’s most distinguished fiddle players, Nollaig Casey is best known through her duo partnership with guitarist husband Arty McGlynn, and as Dónal Lunny’s fiddler of choice, in line-ups from Planxty (on their 1987 Live In Dublin album) through to his current Coolfin project. Immersed from childhood in traditional music, she went on to train and work as a classical violinist, soloing in several premieres of major orchestral works by composers such as Shaun Davey and Evan Chambers.

The Music Of What Happened (a definition of “the best music”, according to Irish legend) is – remarkably – her first solo recording. The twin-track folk/classical schooling, often cited to explain Casey’s richness of tone and suppleness of expression, is to the fore in the album’s nine instrumentals. Most are Irish traditional fare, including silky duets with accordionist Sharon Shannon. Other guests include McGlynn, Rod McVey on keyboards and Liam Bradley on percussion.

Casey is less well known as a singer, and her mid-pitched, slightly husky voice is less commanding than her fiddling – but she sure knows how to articulate a song, and aligns that skill with striking backing arrangements."

- Sue Wilson in the Scottish Sunday Herald

"Despite being one of Ireland's most eminent musicians, fiddle player Nollaig (sister of renowned harper Máire Ní Chathasaigh) has only just got round to recording a solo album. Then again, this is hardly surprising I suppose, when you consider the staggering number of artists she's worked with over her 20-year-or-so career (many projects, notably Coolfin and Planxty, have involved Dónal Lunny, while there's also the matter of her striking presence as featured soloist in Riverdance.

Nollaig's playing style is powerful and distinctive, with a winning combination of ready virtuosity and lyrical expressiveness at her command, these qualities harnessed in tandem equally effectively on slow airs and vigorous dance tunes. Nollaig's individual profile on record has hitherto been primarily in association with her main musical collaborator Arty McGlynn (just two duo albums, made for the Round Tower and Tara labels respectively, quite some time ago), and Arty turns out to be the main guiding hand behind The Music of What Happened (that evocative title, by the way, comes from a telling phrase in Marie Heaney's retelling of the ancient Irish Fenian Cycle). He's jointly produced the album with Nollaig, and adds his signature filigree guitar virtually throughout. Other musicians (Sharon Shannon, Mairéad Casey, Liam Bradley, Rod McVey) help out, but Nollaig's personality is rightfully dominant. A handful of the tunes are Nollaig's own compositions, most of the remainder coming from the tradition and closing with a "gently storming" rendition of the hypnotic Music for a Found Harmonium (which Arty can probably claim to have introduced into the tradition in his time with Patrick Street !). It's sometimes forgotten that as well as being an exceptional fiddle player, Nollaig is a fine singer, and her vocals grace just four of the album's thirteen tracks, ranging from the beautifully intense A Spailpín a Riúin and the delicate Bonnie Blue-Eyed Lassie to the joyfully enunciated A Bhúrcaigh Bhuí ó’n gCéim to the light-hearted Kitty My Sweetheart. Altogether, this is a refreshing, sparkling set, with a delightful spring in its step; its 45 minutes just fly by."

- David Kidman in The Living Tradition

"MORE THAN TWENTY YEARS after she first toured Europe with Planxty, Nollaig Casey has finally found time to record this long-overdue solo debut. And a major treat it is, too. More than that, it’ll be a revelation for those who were unaware that in addition to being a brilliant fiddler and tune-writer, Casey is also a lovely singer. Joining her on the CD are her husband and long-time musical partner Arty McGlynn (who co-produced the album with Casey) as well as Sharon Shannon, keyboard-player Rod McVey, percussionist Liam Bradley and Casey’s sister Mairéad, who plays a fiddle duet with her on a jolly set of reels."

Rating: 9.5/10"

TAPLAS (Wales)
"It's surprising that this is fiddler Nollaig Casey's first solo recording, given that she's been performing with a variety of musicians for quite a number of years. This CD reflects the breadth of her musical interests, including a tune from Galicia and more classically orientated melodies like The Clarges' Lamentation, as well as a number of her own compositions. There are also four songs, three of which are in the Irish language.

Guest musicians include Arty McGlynn and Sharon Shannon and among the highlights is her own composition The Last Lord Of Beara, a mournful air to Dónal Cam O'Sullivan Beara, a relative on her mother's side, who was exiled to Spain in 1602 following the defeat of the Irish armies at the Battle of Kinsale. There's a good balance between these more reflective pieces and the driving reel sets and the album closes with what must be the definitive version of Music For A Found Harmonium, since Nollaig and Arty have been playing it together longer than anyone else - apart from the Penguin Café Orchestra.

- Nick Passmore in Taplas

"This is a particularly classy Irish album featuring the poised fiddle and Gaelic song of Nollaig Casey. Nollaig plays with a clear lyrical style and shows her virtuosity across the full spectrum of reels, jigs, hornpipes and airs. She clearly has complete mastery of the Irish fiddle genre. The album includes self penned material, a pipe tune from Galicia called Jota de Maia to start the album, and a cracking version of Music for a Found Harmonium. The guest musicians include Arty McGlynn on guitars and Sharon Shannon on accordian so this is a mighty package in which the listener will continue to discover new delights."

- Chris Mills in Shire Folk

"I’ve been looking forward to another album from Nollaig since Causeway was released in 1995. The long wait is justified (as you’d expect) and then some. The opening track the Galician tune Jota da Maia is a cracker with so much swing that I defy anyone not to be moved to engage in some dancing or, at the very least foot-tapping. Unlike say Planxty who would have given it a full-blown ensemble treatment Nollaig is joined by Arty McGlynn on guitars and some nice splashes of colour from percussionist Liam Bradley. And that’s the beauty of this album. If anything, it’s understated and kept so tremendously controlled that it comes seriously close to perfection on many of the tracks from this listener’s point of view. Again on The Clergy’s Lamentation the choice of adding violas brings the melody into another realm and if anything the arrangement sounds uncannily like something that Secret Garden might produce. There’s a lightness of touch that other fiddler’s (violinists) don’t have probably due to Nollaig’s classical upbringing and in much the same way that Peter Knight displays in Steeleye Span there is a sense that you have the performer totally at one with their instrument. Nollaig is also a fine singer and although I can’t get my head around the Gaelic lyrics (ok, so call me a philistine) the inclusion of the songs contrasts well with the more dynamic tunes. By the way, if you’re looking for something a little different check out the almost cinematic quality of The Last Lord Of Beara. The plaintive performance almost conjures up pictures of someone sitting outside a French café whilst contemplating life. Anyhow, that’s my interpretation of it. If this album were a work of art it would stand alongside a Picasso or even Edward Hopper for the darker edges."

- Pete Fyfe

A professional musician since the age of 19, firstly with the RTE Symphony Orchestra until joining Planxty some three years later when Bill Whelan was also in the line-up, we have Nollaig to thank indirectly for a whole slew of contemporary 'Erinama' since it was her fiddle playing that featured on the 1981 Eurovision interval piece which led to the Riverdance phenomenon! Since then, her pedigree is interesting: there aren't many Irish musicians with whom she hasn't worked, though her work with husband Arty McGlynn and with Donal Lunny's Coolfin band are perhaps the career highlights to date. This, then, is her first solo release as such, although she's joined by Arty on guitar and others including Sharon Shannon on a substantial piece of work which should bring her unique and meticulous style of playing into a more luminous spotlight.

A study in eloquence, whether she is creating evocative soulfulness on her own The Last Lord Of Beara or crafting the intricate rhythms of the Galician Jota da Maia, Nollaig's playing is both distinctive and thrilling to hear. She can make the tradition sound freshly-minted on The Clergy's Lamentation - her fiddle conjuring a solemn vulnerability, or her voice (there are 4 vocal tracks here) the epitome of airy warmth on the charming A Bhurcaigh Bhui o'n gCeim. With her collaborators subtly tinting the canvas without rag-rolling it into a farrago of textures, Casey can be proud of this intense, though satisfying album, due in no small measure to the impressive production by herself and McGlynn.

As ancient Fenian legend would have it, the best music is ... "the music of what happened", making this supremely tasteful album a treat for the discerning listener. Without doubt."

- Clive Pownceby

About The Music of What Happened

The Music of What Happened

The Music of What Happened Tracklisting

1. Jota da Maia 2. Cití na gCumann (Kitty my Sweetheart) 3. Ye Clarges’ Lamentation (The Clergy’s Lamentation) 4. The Harp and Shamrock/The Silver Strand 5. A Bhúrcaigh Bhuí ó’n gCéim (de Búrca the Fair) 6. The Last Lord of Beara 7. The Beehive 8. A Spailpín a Riúin (Spalpeen Aroon 9. )Song of the Seven Streams 10. The Yellow Wattle/Twins on a Swing 11. Two Sisters’ Set (The Mountain Lark/The Banks of the Ilen/The Sally Rod) 12. The Bonnie Blue-Eyed Lassie 13. Music for a Found Harmonium

About The Music of What Happened

Reviews of The Music of What Happened


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