Arty McGlynn (1944-2019) Pioneering Traditional Irish Musician
The Arts Council of Northern Ireland has learned with great sadness of the death of the renowned Omagh-born guitarist and traditional musician, Arty McGlynn, who died yesterday (18th December) following a short illness, at the age of 75.
Arty McGlynn was born into a musical family in Omagh in 1944, his father playing accordion and his mother the fiddle. Arty showed a prodigious musical talent from an early age. At the age of five he was playing reels on the accordion; at eleven he got his first guitar and by the age of fifteen he was playing professionally with bands. During the 1960s and ’70s he worked as a session musician, touring and recording with some of the country’s most popular showbands, before recording his seminal solo album, ‘McGlynn’s Fancy’ in 1979. This ground-breaking album is widely credited with bringing the guitar into the mainstream of traditional Irish music. It also revealed his talents as an arranger and composer.
Arty would go on to collaborate with the major figures in the traditional and folk music scene, including Christy Moore, Frances Black, Paul Brady, Planxty, The Dubliners and Four Men and a Dog. He played guitar on Van Morrison’s 1983 album ‘Inarticulate Speech of the Heart’, 1989s ‘Avalon Sunset’ and 1995s ‘Days Like This’. He would eventually play on more than 400 albums. His long and successful musical partnership with his wife, the fiddle player Nollaig Casey, led to the highly-acclaimed original albums ‘Lead the Knave’ (1989) and ‘Causeway’ (1995), and their compositions feature on the film soundtracks for ‘Moondance’, ‘Waking Ned’ and ‘Hear My Song’. The two became known for their live performances together.
He was honoured with a Hall of Fame Lifetime Achievement award from the Baltimore Fiddle Festival, a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Irish Music Association of America for excellence in the field of Irish Folk Music and, in 2016, the TG4 Gradam Saoil / Lifetime Achievement Award.
Ciaran Scullion, Head of Music at the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, paid tribute:
“Arty McGlynn was a great guitarist and an exemplary musician who pushed the boundaries of traditional and modern Irish music. His music was pioneering and has influenced a generation of fellow musicians. The Arts Council recognised his achievement and his remarkable contribution to the arts in Northern Ireland with our highest honour in 2012, a Major Individual Artist Award. He was one of the giants of Irish music and he will be sadly missed.”
Arty McGlynn is survived by his wife Nollaig Casey, their two daughters and three sons.