County Roscommon native Tommie Cunniffe is a button accordion player and avid composer of Irish traditional music. While growing up between the towns of Ballinasloe and Athlone on the Roscommon/Galway border, Tommie spent 6 years with an Athlone based music ensemble which toured in Ireland, France, Denmark, Belgium and Holland. He was one of the founding members of the traditional Irish music group Taltarella who also performed across Ireland and Europe. In 1998, Talterella released the EP Six Reels of Joy, consisting entirely of music composed by Tommie. Tommie’s own tunes are inventive and they reflect his singular style of accordion playing.
Tommie moved to Cork City in 2000, and has spent much time playing the session scene there with various Cork based musicians such as Johnny Neville, Gerry McKee, Terry McKee and Karl Nesbitt. It was in Cork that Tommie met guitarist Brian Miller from Minnesota, US and percussionist Brian Morrisey from Nenagh, Co. Tipperary, both of whom accompany him on his full length solo album. This brand new CD, Unbuttoned, features many of Tommie’s own compositions along with a number of traditional tunes.
Here are some details on various musicians he performs with during the year:
Brian Morrissey – Percussion
Brian Morrissey, from Nenagh, Co. Tipperary, is a much sought after percussionist, banjo, bodhrán & whistle player, performing and recording with many groups & ensembles both at home and abroad. These include Mícheál Ó Súilleabháin, John Spillane, NORTH CREGG, Liam Lawton, Irish-American singer/songwriter Casey Neill, Armagh trio Niall Vallely, Paul Meehan and Caoimhin Vallely (collectively known as BUILLE), singer-songwriter Eoin Coughlan, accordion player Tommie Cunniffe, solo pianist Caoimhín Vallely and England-based Folk/Jazz group CARMINA. Brian holds an Honours Degree in Music and Gaeilge (1998) and a Higher Diploma in Education (1999) from University College Cork, and also an MA in Irish Traditional Music Performance (First Class Honours) from the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance, University of Limerick. He lectured in Irish traditional music on the BA Irish Music and Dance programme at the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance, University of Limerick from 2002-2006. Prior to this, Brian worked as a community musician, providing music appreciation workshops in primary & secondary schools, homes for the elderly and special needs groups all over Ireland, in collaboration with organisations such as Music Network, Gael Linn, and Artscope. He also completed a residency as ‘Composer in the Community’ with North Tipperary Co. Council in 2003, releasing a newly composed suite entitled “Blastán”. (Available on CD from madfortrad.com). Brian is a much sought after musician, performing and conducting master classes across the world
Brian Miller -Guitar
Brian Miller started playing Irish music as a 17-year-old in his decidedly non-Irish hometown of Bemidji, Minnesota. His first experiences with the music came through singing and playing guitar with The Gaels, a band he started with two friends who, like him, had no experience with Irish music. Miller quickly dove deep into the Irish tradition. Since 1998, he has lived in Minnesota’s Twin Cities where a vibrant and supportive community of Irish musicians has nurtured his evolving musicality. County Offaly accordion player Paddy O’Brien and County Derry guitarist and singer Daithi Sproule (both long-time residents of the Twin Cities) have been big influences. More inspiration and encouragement has come from plenty of time spent in his other adopted home of Cork, Ireland. Miller’s primary instrument has always been the guitar and over the years his backing style using the DADGAD tuning has earned him a strong reputation throughout the US and in Ireland. Rambles magazine praises Miller as a guitarist “who really understands the music and doesn’t just play the chords”. He began playing the flute in 2000 while studying Irish music in Cork where his first teachers were Padraig Kelleher and Conal O’Grada. Also a strong traditional singer, he is the founder of the Traditional Singers Club of the Twin Cities. As a member of a number of traditional Irish music groups and duos including The Tommie Cunniffe Trio, Norah Rendell and Brian Miller, Gan Bua, The Doon Ceili Band, 5 Mile Chase and Laura and the Lads, Miller has performed throughout the US and in Canada and Ireland. He is currently a flute, whistle and guitar teacher at the Saint Paul based Center for Irish Music.
Karl Nesbitt –Bouzouki & Bodhran
Karl Nesbitt is originally from Tipperary and now based in Cork city. Karl is from a family steeped in traditional music. Dabbling on the bodhran and the piano since a child, Karl started learning music at the relatively late age of ten, when he took up the flute. At fourteen, he became interested in the native Australian Didjeridu, and he was taught an authentic iso-rythmic style on the ancient instrument by renowned Steve Cooney, who influenced him greatly as a musician. At the age of sixteen he took up bouzouki, after seeing Donal Lunny use it on tv, another of Karl’s main influences. Karl’s first band experience was playing with Funk band The 4Players, using an alternatively tuned electric guitar. It was there he became aware of rock music first hand, having previously learned traditional melodies. He also befriended talented guitarist Clint Fitzgerald in the band, with whom he now works with frequently. In 1998 he formed a traditional band called “Meitheal” that performed two years in succession at the Interceltic Festival in Brittany, France. Since he moved to Cork in 1998, Karl began discovering the music scene there. In the year 2000, he studied the unique Music Management and Sound course at CSN and mixed with musicians from all backgrounds. It was there he met brilliant singer songwriter Niall Connolly, with whom he played with for three years and completed three albums and an EP. Karl produced Niall’s third album; “Future Tense”. Through his experience in these years Karl got to experiment with musicians from the genres of Songwriting, Rock, Drum and Bass and Dance Music. Karl used his own instruments, timber flute, bodhran and bouzouki to blend in with other band environments. Since then, Karl has played at various festivals in France, (Celtic Connections) Scotland, Germany, Italy, Portugal and Britain. In band situations with Mairead, he has supported the likes of Carlos Nunez, Hothouse Flowers, Juliet Turner and Bob Geldof. He has also supported Sharon Shannon, shared the stage with Begley and Cooney, Brian Finnegan, and worked with Manus Lunny, John Spillane and Scully from Metisse. Karl writes arrangements(vocals/strings/brass/percussion) for some of the acts he works with. He is currently writing and producing his debut album “Vista Point”, among other projects.