The Chieftains’ Paddy Moloney talks about his iconic Irish band and what’s in store for their Philadelphia stop next week.

-Brenda Hillegas
Photo courtesy of the Kimmel Center

Paddy Moloney, who founded The Chieftains in Dublin in 1962, calls his career a “long journey of music and friends” and rightfully so. The band has over 40 albums, countless collaborations with big name musician, six Grammys, credits on an Oscar-winning soundtrack, and are considered by many music experts as the group that brought traditional Irish music to a worldwide audience. The Irish government even awarded The Chieftains the honorary title of ‘Ireland’s Musical Ambassadors’ in 1989. I assure you, there is no better way to celebrate the upcoming St. Patrick’s Day than with these guys. Paddy says there will be plenty of singing and dancing on stage! Tickets for their show on March 11th at Kimmel Center’s Verizon Hall are available here.

Q: What or who inspired you to learn the pipes?
A: My family. My grandfather, mom, father all played. It was a source of entertainment. We had no TV or radio- except on Sunday to listen to football. My mom bought me a tin whistle at the age of six and I taught myself to play. My neighbors invited me every Monday to big music sessions with pipers, fiddlers. I was always given permission to play. My friends thought of me as the pied piper! I would play my whistle and they would all march behind me!

Q: What are some bands or musicians that inspire you?
A: I admire pipers. Leo Rowsome- a pipe maker and teacher. When his music school [he was teacher of the uilleann pipes at Dublin’s Municipal School of Music for 50 years] asked for someone to play, Leo would ask me.

Q: Who have you enjoyed performing over the year?
A: Recently- John Montague, Ireland’s poet laureate. We made an album together with poetry and music. And people come from all over like China and Japan to record albums in Dublin, so they’ll ask for pipes to be recorded with them. I can’t forget the greats either- Sting, The Rolling Stones, Paul McCartney- he was the first person I recorded with as a soloist. I can’t leave out Van Morrison- he’s the best and great fun to be around. We made a collaboration album (Irish Heartbeat). Van’s version of “Shenandoah” is the best I’ve ever heard.

Q: What do you have planned for the Philly stop next week?
A: We will have a local Philly choir, local dancers and local pipe bands. It’s a big show, not just the three of us playing away! We even have an astronaut at some shows- Cady Coleman- she’s also a musician and brought my tin whistle and Matt [Molloy’s] flute into space for six months.

Q: Any new music in the works?
A: We have so many outtakes and orchestral pieces. I just finished a piece called “Fionn” in honor of my grandson who is seven. I started writing it when he was born. We’re performing it in Pittsburgh this week.

Q: What do you love most about touring and performing your songs to audiences around the world?
A: There are so many things out there to do. We played with the Tokyo Symphony Orchestra three years ago. There’s a group in Tokyo called The Lady Chieftains. They play all of our songs note for note.

Q: Is there anything else you’d like me to add before I say goodbye?
A: We have a six minute video montage at the beginning of our shows with the people we’ve met and musicians we have performed with over the years, like Tom Jones and Dolly Parton. For my 70th birthday, I received a photo of Dolly and I from the capitol building. It was signed by Dolly and said “I will always love you.” She plays the tin whistle!

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