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Category: Core Members

Etain McCooey

Etain is an oboist, cor anglais and tinwhistle player living in Doolin, Co. Clare.  She has developed a uniquely ‘Irish’ oboe style by combining her classical oboe training with her knowledge of Irish whistle style and technique.   Etain plays with the Irish Memory Orchestra, world music trio ‘Jaskane’ and works as a session musician.

She has performed in South Korea, Denmark, Moscow and London as well as throughout Ireland.  Her interest in traditional and folk music developed while living in Dublin, where she introduced the oboe to trad music sessions.   Etain was commissioned to compose music for the Hidden History TV series (‘Duffy’s Cut’) and continues to compose new music for the trio ‘Jaskane’ . She recently released ‘Wildlands’ original trad style music on oboe and cor anglais inspired by the wildlife and landscape around Doolin.

Etain has created music workshops for children based on her children’s book ‘Deefer’s Day Out’ incorporating the story, newly composed music and songs for the characters, which have been performed at Lime Tree Theatre Limerick, Watchhouse Cross Library, Limerick and for a tour of Clare Library Service and Primary Schools in Co Clare.

She teaches oboe at Clare Music Makers and holds an MA in Community Music from University of Limerick.

Áine McGrath

Áine McGrath is a renowned fiddle player from Naas, Kildare, resident in County Clare where she lives with her husband Francis, of the famous Droney concertina-playing family and their children. She was the winner of the 1993 All-Ireland fiddle championship at the Fleadh Cheoil, the most prestigious award in Irish fiddle music.

She regularly performs as a member of the Droney family, and played many times with her late father-in-law Chris Droney, including at the TG4 Gradam Ceoil Awards, when Chris was honoured.

As well as having a firm grounding in the Irish fiddle tradition, Áine was classically trained as a violinist.

She first performed with the Irish Memory Orchestra as an Apprentice in 2013, after which she was appointed deputy fiddle. She has performed with the IMO many times since.

Bríd Harper

Bríd Harper is regarded as one of the leading Irish traditional fiddle players of modern times. She grew up close to the east Donegal village of Castlefinn and started playing the fiddle at the age of nine. There is music on both sides of her family. Her grandfather Stephen Harper was a fiddler and came from a musical family. On her mother’s side her uncle Frank Kelly is a well known fiddler.  

In the mid 1970’s  Bríd began taking music lessons with Pat McCabe at her local branch of Comhaltas. She was also heavily encouraged by her parents who brought her to sessions and fleadhanna. There was a lot of Irish music in the house in the form of LPs and Cassettes. 

She won all the underage competitions at the annual All Ireland Fleadh Cheoil both in the Slow Air and Dance Music categories.  In 1988 she won three prestigious titles – Senior All Ireland, Fiddler of Dooney and Oireachtas na Gaeilge.

She is an MA graduate of the Irish World Academy of Music & Dance at University of Limerick.  She has toured extensively and performed with many great musicians including Dermot Byrne, Steve Cooney, Tony O’Connell, Arty McGlynn, Nollaig Casey, Maeve Donnelly, Harry Bradley, John Doyle, Sylvain Barou Nicolas Quemener and more. 

Bríd is highly respected and much sought after as a teacher. She has tutored at Summer Schools and workshops throughout Ireland, The UK, The USA, Canada, many parts of mainland Europe, New Zealand and Australia.  

She has appeared on every major broadcast channel on the island of Ireland as well as BBC Alba Scotland. She has featured on local radio stations in France, USA, Canada, New Zealand and Australia. Her much anticipated solo recording “Bríd Harper” released in 2015 was described by as “solo fiddle of the most exquisite kind” and “ one of this year’s best traditional albums”.

Bríd is also a member of the SíFiddlers formed in 2018 which is made up of 13 female Donegal fiddlers. They released a recording in 2020 showcasing some of the most popular and better known Donegal repertoire. 

Bríd who resides near Dungannon Co Tyrone teaches fiddle on a one-on-one basis from her home and in recent times has begun  composing tunes in her spare time. She is a visiting tutor and performer at The Irish World Academy in Limerick University. 

Bríd first joined the IMO in 2013 as part of our Apprentice Scheme, she was then appointed Deputy Fiddle player, before becoming Co-Principal Fiddle in 2023.

Dave Flynn

Founder and Artistic Director of the Irish Memory Orchestra, Dave Flynn is a composer and guitarist equally at home in the worlds of classical, folk and rock music. His work, praised for its ‘’power and grittiness’’ by The New York Times, defies and challenges the concept of musical genre.

He has been commissioned by RTÉ, Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival, the Arts Council of Ireland, the Masters of Tradition Festival and the Contemporary Music Centre.

As a ceaseless cross-genre collaborator, he has worked with an array of internationally renowned artists including the RTÉ Concert, Irish Chamber and Prague Chamber Orchestras; the New Juilliard, Crash and Concorde Ensembles; the Con Tempo, Vanbrugh and Smith Quartets; Irish fiddle players Martin Hayes and Liz Carroll; singer-songwriters Declan O’Rourke and Vyvienne Long; Congolese guitarist Niwel Tsumbu; Estonian bagpiper Juhan Suits; jazz guitarist Hugh Buckley and Norwegian choreographer Gerd-Kaisa Vorren.

His work has been performed in New York’s Museum of Modern Art; The Kremlin, Moscow; Centre Culturel Irlandais, Paris; Dvorak Hall, Prague; Brisbane Conservatory of Music and Ireland’s National Concert Hall and at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, City of London Festival, Guitar Festival of Ireland, EBU Folk Festival and the Secret Festival, Sweden.

He has featured on RTÉ TV, TG4, Lyric FM and BBC Ulster. In 2009 an edition of John Schaefer’s New Sounds radio show was dedicated to Flynn’s music and broadcast throughout the US on WNYC.

Numerous awards and grants include the composers’ awards at the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival and Dublin Feis Ceoil, multiple grants from the Arts Council of Ireland and Culture Ireland and bursaries from the Bliss Trust, Guildhall Trust, Galway County Council and Michael Collins Memorial Foundation.

He has founded several performing groups including The Tune Makers and The Irish Memory Orchestra. His 2009 solo album ‘Contemporary Traditional Irish Guitar’ was acclaimed in folk and classical music publications.

Flynn completed his PhD dissertation ‘Traditional Irish Music: A Path to New Music’ through the Dublin Institute of Technology, where he also obtained his BMus Degree in Composition. He holds a Master’s degree in Composition from the Guildhall School of Music and Drama.

Recent achievements include winning the 2016 Galway Eamonn Ceannt commission award and receiving commissions for the Crash Ensemble and the Arts Council’s Cultural Programme for Ireland’s Presidency of the EU. An album of his string quartet music produced by Grammy winner Judith Sherman has been recorded for future release.

Flynn’s music has been published by Mel Bay, Reed Music and Frisbee Publications.

Alex Petcu

An Irish musician of Romanian origin, Alex is quickly establishing himself both nationally and internationally as a percussionist of the finest calibre. His debut album, “Alex Petcu: In Time”, released on the RTE lyric fm label, showcases both seminal works and new contributions to the percussion repertoire.

Alex performs in a wide variety of settings with a multitude of orchestras, ensembles and groups, however, his main specialty lies in solo and chamber music. As a soloist, recent appearances include performances at the West Cork Chamber Music FestivalKilruddery House and National Concert Hall to name a few. He has performed as a soloist with both RTE orchestras and the Irish Chamber Orchestra, and had successes in major national and international competitions such as the Irish Freemasons Young Musician of the YearTromp and A.R.D. International competitions.

Alex enjoys being involved in the creation of new music for percussion and regularly collaborates with composers. Examples of recent projects include “Beats, Bells and Bridges” and the Abbey Theatre’s production of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, both collaborations with composer Tom Lane“A Most Peculiar Wintry Thing”, a children’s show jointly commissioned by The Ark and Music Network with music composed by Brian Irvine and “Invitation to a Journey”, a dance/theatre/music collaboration with music by Deirdre Gribbin. He is a regular performer with the Crash and Hard Rain ensembles, two of Ireland’s main contemporary groups, and is a founding member of the Bangers and Crash Percussion Group, a new exciting percussion ensemble.

Alex also enjoys performing in an orchestral setting and is a regular extra player for the various professional ensembles in Ireland such as the RTE SymphonyRTE ConcertIrish ChamberIrish Baroque and Ulster orchestras.

Aside from his performing activities, he is also a keen teacher and currently teaches percussion at the MTU Cork School of Music. He has also given lecture recitals at Ireland’s universities, provided workshops for West Cork Music’s “Tuning Up” outreach scheme, Music Network, the ESB and more. He also holds an MA in music performance from the MTU Cork School of Music and an MSc and BSc in Physics from University College Cork.

Alex became a member of the Irish Memory Orchestra in 2019 as co-principal percussionist.

Katherine Mac Mághnuis

Katharine is a co-founder and the CEO of Athenry Music School, a not-for-profit community music school that houses eight orchestras and choirs, a chamber music programme, and serves over 600 students. She is ardent in her promotion of youth ensemble music making having founded her first youth orchestra 30 years ago. She continues to conduct and compose as director of the Athenry Youth Orchestra programme and is a co-founder and Director of the OURchestra Summer Camp.

Katharine is an active chamber musician and orchestral player; a founding member of Luminosa Orchestra and was appointed 1st deputy fiddle player of the Irish Memory Orchestra in 2017. She also enjoys playing with Vespera, Galway’s Baroque Orchestra, and is an avid traditional fiddler. She is passionate about increasing quality and access to all levels of music education and promoting opportunities for professional development.

She joined the first IMO Apprentice Scheme in 2013. She was then appointed deputy fiddle player, performing in the 2014 World Premiere of Dave Flynn’s Mná Brian Boru in Killaloe. In 2017 she performed in the premiere of Flynn’s 1st Symphony ‘The Memory Symphony’ at Christ Church Cathedral.

She has been mentor to IMO Youth Strings during the Apprentice Schemes.

Katharine was recently appointed to the board of the Irish Association of Youth Orchestras.

Aidan Dunphy

Aidan Dunphy studied drums and percussion at Trinity College of Music in London. Whilst in London he played Jazz and Classical music (English National Ballet, Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra) and appeared at both the ‘100 Club’ and Ronnie Scott’s legendary jazz club. Since moving back to Ireland he has worked as a freelance drummer, playing with a number of bands and singer-songwriters, including Paul Casey, Maeve Dunphy, Siobhan Pettit and Declan O’Rourke, with whom he toured and recorded on the multi-platinum selling album ‘Since Kyabram’ (2006). He has also accompanied visiting Jazz stars Digby Fairweather, Lee Koenitz and Scott Hamilton.

Aidan lives in his native Omagh where he teaches and maintained a residency in McCann’s bar as drummer in the band of legendary Irish guitarist Arty McGlynn.

As principal percussionist of the Irish Memory Orchestra Aidan has performed with some of the leading Irish traditional musicians including Martin Hayes & Dennis Cahill, Mairtín O’Connor, Liz Carroll, Mary Bergin and Johnny Óg Connolly.

Billy Mag Fhloinn

Billy Mag Fhloinn is a native of Limerick, Ireland. He holds a PhD in Irish Folklore, and a B.A. in archaeology, from University College Dublin. As well as lecturing and tutoring at university, he occasionally works in television and media, and makes and plays replicas of prehistoric musical instruments from Ireland. He also plays traditional music on the bouzouki, and is a tutor with the Online Academy of Irish Music.

Billy is one of the few living people who play and make the Bronze Age Irish Horns that were revived by Simon O’Dwyer in the 1980’s. A member of Ireland’s Bronze Age recreation society ‘Umha Aois’, Billy built his own replica of an Iron Age-style trumpet and can be heard playing it in the clip posted here. This is an experiment with four tracks, as the surviving Iron Age trumpet of Loughnashade was one of four identical instruments recovered from the lake near the mythic and archaeological site of Emhain Macha. Evidently, this type of instrument was meant to be played in concert with each other.

Alex Borwick

Alex is a multi-instrumentalist, currently based in Dublin, Ireland. Growing up in New Zealand, he spent his early years studying jazz trombone, receiving multiple awards at national jazz competitions, and performing with New Zealand’s premier big band, the Roger Fox Big Band. After studying at the New Zealand School of Music, Alex discovered Irish traditional music and picked up the banjo.

Since relocating to Ireland, Alex has dug out his niche in the local music community, performing regularly with groups such as indie-folk group The Young Folk, contemporary Irish ensemble The Irish Memory Orchestra, urban/trad group Aldoc, and Jamaican ska band Interskalactic. He has opened for Imelda May and South African legend Hugh Masekela, and shared the stage with musicians such as Lisa Hannigan, Martin Hayes, Villagers and Jape. Alex has toured internationally throughout Europe, Asia, North America, Australia, and New Zealand.

Alex also works as a recording engineer and producer, and is the house engineer at Grouse Lodge Recording Studio in Westmeath. When not working at Grouse Lodge he works as a freelance engineer/producer in Dublin..

Alex was invited to become Principal Trombonist of the Memory Orchestra after successfully completing the 2013 Apprenticeship Scheme.

Neil Yates

Multi-instrumentalist composer, arranger and educator Neil Yates studied music at Salford University and Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London. He stepped out into the professional music business in 1991, as a London-based jazz trumpeter working most notably for the BBC Big Band and Johnny Dankworth Orchestra. He moved on to higher profile session musician work in 1994, performing and recording with The Brand New Heavies, Supergrass, Black Grape, Lighthouse Family, Alison Moyet, Will Young, Raw Stylus, Suggs, Matt Bianco and Robbie Williams.

To address his own creative urges in 1999 Neil moved out of London and travelled the festivals of UK and Ireland for a year in a caravan, eventually settling in a North Wales beauty spot to write and record his award winning first solo jazz album “New Origins” and his new album “Five Countries”, released on Edition Records November 2011. He also became much involved in Celtic music, performing, writing and arranging for traditional music legends Michael McGoldrick and Kate Rusby. Through this work he has developed a unique ability to perform traditional Irish music on the trumpet.

As an educator Neil lectures in music at Salford University, Leeds College of Music, and previously taught at Birmingham Conservatoire, Royal Northern College of Music and Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama. He has also receives large scale commissions as composer, including an hour long suite for brass called “Sketches of a Northern town” and two hour antiphonal suite for jazz orchestra entitled “Surroundings”, nominated for British Composers Award 2011. Recently Neil returned to some commercial session work, including performances with Elbow, Katie Meluah and Rumer. He has just completed a four year PHD in Musical Artistry and is the winner of Arts Council Wales’ Creative Wales Award 2012.