Share on Facebook
Share on Twitter
E-mail this article
Leave a Comment
Print this Article

It’s likely audience members will be dancing in the aisles once The Chieftains start playing at George Mason University on the eve of St. Patrick’s Day.

The Celtic band with guest musicians and dancers will perform on Sunday afternoon at the Center for the Arts on the Fairfax campus.

The Chieftains

When: 4 p.m. Sunday

Where: Center for the Arts, George Mason University, 4373 Mason Pond Dr., Fairfax

Tickets: $30-$60

For information: 703-993-8650;;

There will also be a preperformance discussion before the show at 4 p.m.

The event will be one of “music, song and story,” not to mention step-dancing, said Paddy Moloney, 75, who founded the globally known band in Dublin in 1962.

In the 52 years since, The Chieftains have been credited with bringing Celtic music to fans around the world, including Japan and China.

Moloney plays the uilleann pipes, which are similar to lung-powered bagpipes but instead the air comes from a bellow pressed by the elbow.

Also in the band are vocalist and bodhrán player Kevin Conneff; flute and tin whistle player Matt Molloy; fiddler Jon Pilatzke; and harpist Triona Marshall.

Traveling with them are Canadian step-dancer Nathan Pilatzke, who dances the energetic Ottaway Valley style of step dance from Ontario, and Irish-American dancer and choreographer Cara Butler.

Also joining The Chieftains will be Scots Gaelic singer Alyth McCormack and Tim Edey, who plays acoustic guitar and button accordion.

“The audience will be up and dancing,” Moloney said about the festivities.

Going global

Back in the 1960s, Moloney was playing music and studying to be an accountant when he took over an independent record company.

The other members of the band also had to work regular jobs as they built up the Chieftains reputation and repertoire.

In 1975, The Chieftains sold out Royal Albert Hall in London. The following year, they won as Oscar for writing the score for the Stanley Kubrick film “Barry Lyndon.”

Since then, they have performed with orchestras, symphonies and the late opera singer Luciano Pavarotti, and have also collaborated with Van Morrison, the Rolling Stones, Alison Krauss, Willie Nelson, Joni Mitchell, Elvis Costello and Jerry Garcia and the Grateful Dead.

Despite changing times and changing music, Moloney said he goes to festivals today and sees young people with fiddles, which means to him that Celtic music will continue to appeal to people.

“Fans from years ago are now asking for tickets for their children,” he said.

In 2010, The Chieftains collaborated with guitarist/producer Ry Cooder to release the CD “San Patricio.”

The title refers to the San Patricio Battalion, a group of Irish immigrant conscripts who deserted the U.S. Army in 1846 to fight with the Mexicans during the Mexican-American War.

The CD featured Mexican and Mexican-American musicians, as well as narration by Liam Neeson and a piece featuring Linda Ronstadt.

The band is collaborating with Cooder again for The Celtic Sessions, an opportunity for those who sign up to spend five days with the band from July 7-11 at the Gideon Putnam Resort in Saratoga Springs, N.Y.

In 2013, the Gailician government in northwest Spain also honored The Chieftains for their work with Carlos Núñez, who plays the recorder and the Galician bagpipes.

Catholic pilgrims from all over Europe once trekked and still trek to the tomb of St. James in Santiago de Compestela, the capital of Galicia.

“We have lots of little trophies,” said Moloney about the band’s worldwide popularity. “Perhaps we did the right thing.”