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June 2019
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2004-11-23 Weekender column leads to New York meeting with Oísin

In September 2004, the Celtic Tenors had been invited to perform at the Altamont Fair Irish Festival in up-state New York, alongside such other guests as Altan, the Glengarry Bhoys, and the Saw Doctors.


As we left the stage having made a successful festival debut, I was approached by a young gentleman carrying a fiddle, who said he had recognised me from my column in this paper. Small world I thought to myself, and realised just how small when I found out that this young musician was a member of Téada, who had given an electric performance to an enthusiastic crowd earlier in the day, and smaller still when I found out that this talented musician was Oisín MacDiarmada from Coolaney!

Téada are one of the most successful and justifiably busy touring acts in their genre to emerge from Ireland in the last decade. Their unique and infectious blend of instruments and vocals in a creative and organic traditional Irish idiom make Téada immensely popular the world over.

Coming originally from the musical county of Clare, Oisín and his family moved to Coolaney in County Sligo, on the edge of Coleman Country, when Oisín was just 11. Undoubtedly Oisín was hugely influenced by the indigenous and quite opposing musical cultures in both counties, as well as the ongoing support, interest and input from his own family.

Oisín studied piano with Seán Burke (organist at the Friary), and later with Gavin Egan, both teachers injecting Oisín with their youthful enthusiasm. Oisín went on to study music at Trinity College Dublin and the Royal Irish Academy where he was given a solid musical grounding as well as an exposure to the wide Classical repertoire  all in all receiving a well-rounded musical education.

Described by Earle Hitchner as "one of the most talented fiddlers in Ireland today", when 26 year-old Oisín is not touring, he spends some of his time as a fiddle tutor, as well as dabbling in journalism, lecturing and production work.

Of course between tours, Oisín also loves to return home to Coolaney and roam in the nearby scenic Ox Mountains. And in the evenings you might find him jamming at a session down in Fureys Bar in Bridge Street, run by his good friends from "Dervish", who he makes a point of singling out as one of his major supports and guiding influences throughout his career.

In April 2004, Téada  having scooped the award for "Best Traditional Newcomers in 2003"  performed to a packed and appreciative Hawks Well Theatre in order to launch their new album "Lá an Dreoilín". This album is also available online under the U.S.album title "Give us a penny and let us be gone".

Alongside Oisín on fiddle and vocals, the other talented members of Téada include John Blake (a multi-instrumentalist, but mainly guitar and flute) from London and now Galway, Laois-man Paul Finn on the button accordion, Seán McElwain (on banjo and bouzouki) from Monaghan, and Tristan Rosenstock from South Dublin on the bodhrán. Already this year, Téada have performed throughout Ireland, the UK, the USA, Canada, Austria, Germany, the Netherlands and Portugal, as well as at many Irish and Celtic Festivals worldwide. Téada head off to Australia in January, and then back to the USA for an extensive tour in February and March.

By the time Téada begin that tour to America, there will be a slight change in the line-up. John Blake will be leaving, and his place will be taken by another Sligo man, Damien Stenson  a 25 year-old talented, energetic and experienced Tubbercurry flautist, who will be well known for his weekly appearances also down at Fureys. The other band members also are well aware of the added allure of Damiens legendary I-pod album collection which will be welcome on those marathon tour-bus journeys.

2005 also sees the recording of another new album, as well as an extensive Christmas tour in the USA, employing an expanded line-up of musicians. On one occasion not so long ago, Téada were invited to perform for just 15 minutes by an Alabama preacher to his packed congregation. They received a blessing for their troubles, and a rather generous fee. The preachers reason for the booking  "When the Irish sound comes to town, God will be near!".