I just received the sad news from Jeff Johnson that Micheáll Ó Domhnaill, the guitarist and composer with The Bothy Band and Nightnoise passed this weekend after suffering from a heart attack. He was only 54.
I first heard Micheáll in the 1970s when The Bothy Band was among a host of groups kick-starting a renaissance in Irish and Celtic music. The Bothy Band came together in 1975 with guitar and bouzouki player Dónal Lunny from Planxty, uillean piper Paddy Keenan, flute and whistle player Matt Molloy, fiddler Paddy Glackin, and accordion player Tony MacMahon. But it was the arrival of siblings Mícháel Ó Domhnaill on acoustic guitar and Tríona Ní Dhomhnaill on clavinet and vocals that gave the band its signature sound. The band split up in 1979, but not before Windham Hill Records founder Will Ackerman had heard them.
Anybody who has ever heard The Bothy Band, you know, what can you say? To hear Micheáll and Tríona in The Bothy Band, that Old Hag You’ve Killed Me. Incredible record. And so I guess we were doing the soundtrack for Country at the time and Tom Bocci, who was in publishing at Disney, said hey listen, I’ve got this thing that I think you might be interested in. And he played a little of it for me and I said God, there’s something in here that’s really familiar to me. And he said, well do you know The Bothy Band. And I just went nuts. And he said this is Micheall, you know, and I said God, great, I love it. So get me more. And that’s where Nightnoise came from. It was my love of Bothy Band.
Nightnoise was the band that Ó Domhnaill founded with violinist Billy Oskay. Quickly, Ó Domhnaill’s sister, Triona, and Irish flutist Brian Dunning joined the group and along with Clannad they helped launch the second Celtic renaissance where Irish music expanded to embrace modern ambiences and global sounds. With Nightnoise, Ó Domhnaill was able to become a composer in his own right, and wrote many of the band’s best known songs like “The End of an Evening,” “Mind the Dresser” and “Shuan.”
Micheáll Ó Domhnaill from Echoes interview: We were pretty handcuffed and anchored by the tradition so we could still write music outside of the strictures of 6/8 time or 4/4 time, but they couldn’t but sound Celtic because I’m Irish and whatever I write would have elements of the sum total of the listener experience I’ve had throughout my life. So the Celtic music is still there, the structure of the music is just different.
Nightnoise released several wonderful albums on Windham Hill and they remain staples of Echoes to this day. They officially called it quits last year, but had effectively been defunct for nearly a decade.
We had the pleasure of interviewing Nightnoise and having them perform live on the the show. Everytime, Micheáll was a joy to be around, a realist with a sardonic sense of humor, playing the music of fantasy and imagination, myth and mystery
Comment posted by
at 8/7/2006 8:52:19 AM
Thanks for the words, Gary. People would indeed do well to check out the back catalogue of Micheall pre-Nightnoise, especially the Bothy Band. Between those groups, Micheall is really at the genesis of the Celtic Renaissance which is still ongoing today and heard in bands like Solas, Flook, Grada and many more.
Comment posted by
at 8/6/2006 12:00:30 PM
It was the late 80’s when I first heard the music of Nightnoise, but had no idea who it was or its origins. The music sunk into my soul and tugged at me incessantly until I found out about the band. The music encapsulates a person so you can be fully immersed in the depths of the bands genius. I never realized until reading all of the history, what impact Micheall had on Irish music. For us fans of the genre and its roots, we are truly greatful for his contribution and those of his bandmates over the past four decades. My thoughts are with the O’Domnnaill family and friends. Continue to push the envelope and keep us refreshed in music inspired not just by Micheall but by everyone involved in the nurturing of Irish and Celtic music. I think Micheall would like that most of all.
Comment posted by
at 7/13/2006 12:15:20 PM
Our deepest sympathies to the family, friends and surviving members of Nightnoise from all of us at SRO Artists Inc. It was our pleasure to work with Micheáll from 1989-1997 and we will mourn his passing.