In the late 1970'ies Belfast musician Frankie Kennedy used to spend his summers in Co. Donegal in Ireland where he learned to play irish tunes on his flute. Here he met Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh, a native singer and fiddle player from Donegal. They married in 1981 and in 1983 they released the album Ceol Aduaidh. The album featured Eithne Ní Bhraonáin, who later became very successful as Enya.
In 1987 they released an album named after a lake in Donegal called Altan. Shortly after they formed the band with this name, with some of the musicians from the record, like Ciarán Curran and guitarist Mark Kelly.
In 1989 Altan released their first album, Horse with a Heart, which was well received. The following album, The Red Crow won the Celtic/British Isles Album of the Year award, later to be won by two other Altan releases.
Before the next album, Harvest Storm in 1992, Altan was joined by Dáithí Sproule. At this time Frankie Kennedy was diagnosed with a rare type of cancer. He continued working with Altan during his treatment, but in the automn of 1994 he passed away. Following this, Altan retired for a period before resuming their activities. During Kennedy's illness Altan released Island Angel, one of the best selling folk albums of the year.
Up until 2005 Altan released albums regularly. In 2001 they played on Dolly Parton's Little Sparrow album leading Parton to sing on the 2002 release The Blue Idol. In 2010 Altan released a DVD and a 25th anniversary release with new recordings of old material, featureing the RTE Concert Orchestra.
Several members of Altan have released solo albums, like Ciarán Tourish, Dáithí Sproule and Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh.
In honour of Frankie Kennedy, the The Frankie Kennedy Winter Music School (Scoil Gheimridh Frankie Kennedy) take place in Donegal each year in january.
Frankie Kennedy and Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh
- Ceol Aduaidh (Music of the North) (1983)
- Altan (1987)
Altan studio albums
- Horse with a Heart (1989)
- The Red Crow (1990)
- Harvest Storm (1992)
- Island Angel (1993)
- Blackwater (1996)
- Runaway Sunday (1997)
- Another Sky (2000)
- The Blue Idol (2002)
- Local Ground (2005)
- 25th Anniversary Celebration (2010)
- Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh - Imeall (2008)
- Dáithí Sproule - A Heart Made of Glass (1995)
- Dáithí Sproule - The Crow in the Sun (2007)
- Dáithí Sproule - Lost River, Vol. 1 (2011)
- Ciarán Tourish - Down The Line (2005)
Altan live from Balconytv.com
Altan with the
RTE Concert Orchestra
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