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Dáithí Sproule is a guitarist and singer of traditional songs in English and Irish, and a member of the widely acclaimed Irish band Altan. He was born and raised in Derry City in Northern Ireland and moved to Dublin in 1968 to attend university. In the late sixties and early seventies, he played with the pioneering group Skara Brae. Skara Brae highlighted the native Gaelic tradition of Ulster, which largely survives in Donegal, a county culturally part of old Ulster but politically part of the Republic of Ireland. It included well known Donegal singers and musicians Tríona Ní Dhomhnaill and Mícheál Ó' Domhnaill, who went on to form the Bothy Band, Relativity, and Nightnoise. Through his work with Skara Brae, Dáithí was one of first guitarists to develop DADGAD tuning for Irish music.
In 1978, Dáithí left his editing job in Dublin to play and record in the U.S. with Paddy O'Brien and James Kelly. He settled in Minneapolis/Saint Paul, home to a thriving music and dance scene. He played with the Northern Star Céilí Band, Miltown na nGael, and Peat Moss and the Turf Briquettes. The 1980s also brought recordings with Tommy Peoples, Séamus and Mánus McGuire, Peter Ostroushko and Sean O' Driscoll. It was at this time that two longer-term partnerships also originated. One was the group Trian, with Liz Carroll and Billy McComiskey. The other was a friendship with Frankie Kennedy and Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh, which led to a long involvement with the band Altan. Dáithí has toured all over the world with Altan, including appearances at the Albert Hall, the Hollywood Bowl and the Sydney Opera House. Dáithí has taught courses on Old Irish, Celtic culture and Irish traditional music at University College, Dublin, the University of Saint Thomas in Saint Paul and the University of Minnesota. In recent years Dáithí has toured and recorded with Randal Bays and with the trio, Fingal, which includes Randal and James Keane.
Robert Watt was brought up in the small town of Maghera, Co. Derry at the foot of the Sperrin Mountains. With a keen ear for Highland bagpipes from a very young age, he was first introduced to the instrument in the winter of 1985 in his local pipe band,Tamlaght O' Crilly. It was here that he took his first instruction from Pipe Majors David Taylor and John Crockett, strict and disciplined instructors. In 1998 Robert took an interest in solo piping and had the good fortune of meeting his current mentor, Pipe Major Norman Dodds. This was Robert's first introduction to Piobaireachd (the classical music of the bagpipe), and in a short time his name was appearing regularly in prize lists at home and in Scotland. In 2000, he competed for the Silver Medal prize at the Argyllshire Gathering in Oban and at the Northern Meeting in Inverness. He surprised many by winning this prestigious medal on his first attempt at Inverness and subsequently took the runner up spot at Oban, again making history as the first person in Ireland to win the Silver Medal. On the strength of these triumphs he qualified to compete for the much coveted Highland Society of London's Gold Medal, recognized by the piping world as the top prize. Robert achieved a very creditable third place in 2003. Robert is a much sought-after musician and performs regularly at home and abroad. He also has an increasing number of pupils attending his classes and private lessons.
Over the last few years, Robert has served his local community in another very important role: In 1997 he joined the Northern Ireland Fire Brigade. His music, however, remains his main priority.
Rediscover Northern Ireland:
In 2007, Washington D.C., the heart of the United States of America, will have the opportunity to meet face to face with people from Northern Ireland - people who contribute meaningfully and creatively to the society which has emerged from a troubled past and is now looking outward and forward to the future. As a complement to the sights and sounds America will experience at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, Northern Ireland has planned a program of events for Washington D.C., starting in March 2007, which will reflect other aspects of what happens here on a daily basis. This program is collectively entitled Rediscover Northern Ireland.
The American Folklife Center was created by Congress in 1976 and placed at the Library of Congress to "preserve and present American Folklife" through programs of research, documentation, archival preservation, reference service, live performance, exhibition, public programs, and training. The Center includes the American Folklife Center Archive of folk culture, which was established in 1928 and is now one of the largest collections of ethnographic material from the United States and around the world. Please visit our web site.
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