Musical Couple Hits A Celebratory Note

By Anita Guidera

The marriage of two musicians from traditional group, Altan, whose relationship blossomed out of separate personal tragedies, was celebrated yesterday in the windswept Donegal Gaeltacht.

Fiddler and singer, Mairead Ni Mhaonaigh, whose first husband, Frankie Kennedy, a founder member of the group, died of cancer five years ago, developed a close friendship with child prodigy box player, Dermot Byrne, whose own girlfriend and brother had been killed in a car crash in Donegal nine years ago.

Yesterday, a packed Church of the Sacred Heart, in Dunlewey at the foot of the majestic Errigal, the highest mountain in Ulster, erupted in spontaneous applause and music as the marriage ceremony concluded. Chief celebrant, Fr Michael Sweeney PP told the congregation the event was made all the more beautiful because both Mairead and Dermot had lost loved ones from their lives.

Dermot has been there to help me through a lot of hardship in my life and he knew what I was going through because he had been through it too. I would not have survived without a soulmate, said Mairead. Some of the country's top traditional musicians gathered in the scenic valley to celebrate the occasion which ended with fellow musicians from Altan, Daithi Sproule, Mark Kelly, Kieron Tourish and Kieran Curran breaking into a rousing version of Haste to the Wedding.

Also performing at the two-hour bilingual ceremony were Mary Black, traditional singing sisters, Triona and Maighread Ni Dhomhnaill, Seamus Begley and Chieftans Matt Molloy and Kevin Coniff. And then it was off to the Highland Hotel in Glenties where the wedding party joined the annual fiddlers' gathering for a weekend of non-stop celebrations.

Moments later the same church opened its doors to Manus Lunny, brother of Donal and his Donegal Gaeltacht bride, Yvonne Gillespie and yet another assembly of traditional musicians.