Posted July 10, 2006
I became somewhat of a Nightnoise groupie attending concerts in Charlotte, Maryland, Washington, DC, Asheville, Burlington, Durham, Clemson, Morganton and Raleigh. Mícheál always welcomed me backstage. He even helped teach me to play the penny whistle and coached me on guitar technique. He was always honest. Once he said: “Bill, you write some marvelous melodies but you need buckets of practice!” He was absolutely right.
He also encouraged me to give up broadcasting and pursue music full-time. Mícheál grew up in a family of musicians and that seemed the only way of life for him. His family spoke Gaelic and sang and played hundreds of old Celtic melodies handed down from their Irish ancestors. In addition to guitar and whistle Mícheál played piano and harmonium beautifully. Some have called him the greatest Irish guitarist of all time. His incredible sense of rhythm, unique strumming technique and meticulous finger picking set a standard in folk and Celtic music. I loved his whistle playing especially on “The Cricket’s Wicket,” his huge Windham Hill hit. The first time I heard that song was at Spirit Square in Charlotte. Tears streamed down my face. At that moment I knew there must be some Celtic music deep inside of me just waiting to be tapped. I now have four of my own CDs. My new one "I Am A River" to be released in October 1 , will be dedicated totally to Mícheál.
Mícheál’s career started with his two sisters Triona and Maighread in a group called Skara Brae. He then went on to co-found the legendary Bothy Band which played traditional Irish music with enough energy to power the planet. While working with Nightnoise Mícheál found time to play with another group called Relativity which had two superb albums. He also played frequently in Chapel Hill when his sister Triona lived there and played piano for the popular group "Touchstone." He also recorded two albums with fiddler Kevin Burke. After Nightnoise folded a few years ago Mícheál spent much of his musical energy working with Irish fiddler Paddy Glackin. They recorded the album “Reprise.”
I will miss my dear friend Mícheál Ó'Domhnaill whose life was cut way short by a heart attack at the age of 54. But his music lives on. Driving back from the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games yesterday after hearing the news I turned on the radio. The first song I heard on my favorite satellite channel was “Shuan” by Mícheál and Nightnoise. It reminded me of how fortunate I am to have known him and his glorious music.