John Williams Bio

John Williams

John Williams is internationally regarded as one of the foremost players of Irish music today. With five All-Ireland titles to his credit, John is the only American-born competitor ever to win first place in the Senior Concertina category. His additional talents on flute, button accordion, bodhran, and piano distinguish him as a much sought after multi-instrumentalist in the acoustic scene around the world.

Born and raised on the Southwest Side of Chicago, John spent his summers during college on the Southwest coast of Ireland in his father’s village of Doolin, Co. Clare. Like Chicago, Doolin became a major musical crossroads for John and countless other local and international musicians to meet and exchange music. Gigging every night in the pubs of Doolin and Lisdoonvarna soon led to performances in Galway, Cork, Dublin, Belfast, Paris, Britanny, Zurich, and New York City. 

Forming the groundbreaking Solas in 1995 with Seamus Egan, Winifred Horan, Karan Casey and John Doyle, Williams received wider recognition playing to sold out audiences internationally and earning two NAIRD awards and Grammy nominations for the ensemble's 1996 and 1997 releases Solas and Sunny Spells and Scattered Showers.  The Irish national broadcasting network RTE has featured Williams as the subject of the radio program The Long Note, the television series The Pure Drop,  and the Gaelic language and music programs Geantrai and Failte.

Outside of traditional music, John has collaborated on productions with Gregory Peck, Doc Severinson, Studs Terkel, Mavis Staples, jazz pianist Bob Sutter, bluegrass legend Tim O'Brien, Syrian oud player Kinan Abou Afach, Oscar winning director Sam Mendes, the London Symphony Orchestra, and the Irish Chamber Ensemble. U.S. audiences recognize Williams from numerous appearances on Mountain Stage, A Prairie Home Companion and The Grand Ol' Opry as well as guest performances with The Chieftains, Nickel Creek, and Riverdance. 

On the silver screen, John Williams appears as a bandleader, music consultant, and composer in Dreamworks' classic Chicago thriller Road to Perdition. Centrally featured in the Academy Award-Nominated score by Thomas Newman, Williams' autumnal Perdition Piano Duet  was released on the 2002 Universal soundtrack album as performed in the film by stars Paul Newman and Tom Hanks. Regarding the original piece by Williams, The Los Angeles Times wrote “Closeness is beautifully and wordlessly conveyed in a quiet piano duet...a lovely thing.”  Reviewing the entire score, The Denver Post printed “Brilliant, beautiful, brutal...the music in the film feels almost like a character itself.” 

In August 2003, Chicago Magazine selected Williams in their annual Best of Chicago issue as one of the city's finest instrumentalists. His acclaimed duet album Raven with guitarist Dean Magraw was released last year on Compass Records of Nashville.  John has recently performed in Scotland with Dean Magraw and Solas to capacity audiences at the  Trongate Theatre and the Royal Concert Hall of Glasgow as well as recording a live radio special for The Folk Show on BBC Northern Ireland. The music and the fun were flowing this Easter when John Williams swung back into O’Connor’s and McDermott’s Pubs of Doolin for ten incredible nights with Christy Barry, Eoin O’Neill, Kevin Griffin, Noel O’Donoghue, Michael Kelliher, Sean Tyrell, Amy Shoemaker, and Terry Bingham.


John Williams returns to the Dublin National Concert Hall on June 14th for a concert with Japanese samisen player Masahiro Nitta and guitarist Dean Magraw in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of Japan/Ireland diplomatic relations. This multicultural trio is in concert at Cork City Hall on June 16th and at Donegal Tullyarvan Mill on June 18th joined by percussionist Jimmy Higgins.

Dennis Cahill Bio

Dennis Cahill

 Dennis Cahill is considered one of the world's finest guitarists in traditional Irish music. His unique playing, accompaniment, and arranging are acknowledged as a major breakthrough for guitar in the Irish tradition. He has played for presidents and prime ministers. “Brilliant” (NPR) and “crucial” (Folk Roots UK) are some of the descriptions of his spare, essential playing.

Dennis is perhaps best known in his long musical partnership with Irish fiddler Martin Hayes. Of the acclaimed duo, The Irish Times wrote, “Starting out as players with considerable talent, they've metamorphosed into musicians of unconscionable virtuosity. They play with a concord and an affinity that most musicians lust after, but few ever acquire.” (Siobhan Long)  Dennis is also a founding member of The Gloaming, a new Irish supergroup who has astounded critics and audiences alike, winning the 2014 Meteor Choice Prize (Ireland's “Grammy”) for their debut album.

Dennis Cahill was born June 16 (Bloomsday – the day made famous by James Joyce's “Ulysses”) in 1954 in Chicago, Illinois to immigrant parents from County Kerry, Ireland. Displaying a keen interest in music from childhood, he started studying guitar at nine years of age. He subsequently studied the instrument at the highly regarded Chicago Music College, training under Howard Levy, Manuel Lopez Ramos, Steve Klein and Robert Becker. Throughout the 1980s and '90s, Cahill developed into one of the most respected and innovative guitar players in the world of traditional Irish music. Not just content with accompanying tunes, he has developed a unique approach to playing traditional and neo-traditional Irish music, incorporating the ornaments and subtleties used by the various instruments utilized within the Irish music genre. He has performed and recorded with many acclaimed Irish traditional music practitioners (including Kevin Burke, Liz Carroll, Seamus Egan, P.J. Hayes, Eileen Ivers, Arty McGlynn, Iarla Ó Lionáird, Liam O’Flynn, and Jimmy Keane), and has appeared in concert halls and festivals throughout the USA, Europe, China, and Australia. 

Dennis met traditional fiddle player Martin Hayes in Chicago in the 1980s. Hayes, although not yet the superstar of Irish music he is today, was a prodigy from County Clare who grew up learning from his famous fiddler father, and had won six All-Ireland championships by the time he was 19.  He landed in Chicago where he met up with Dennis, by then a respected member of the local music scene. The two formed the jazz/rock/fusion band Midnight Court which allowed them to experiment with a variety of new music styles. In the early '90s Dennis and Martin again teamed up, this time forming one of Irish music's most acclaimed duos of all time. Their concerts have become legendary. Beginning with the lyrical music of East Clare, they play long, sometimes thirty-minute multi-tune sets, starting from the simplest of melodies, building in intensity, but never abandoning musicality and ideas. Their touring schedule has taken them to Australia, Japan, Europe, the U.K., Ireland, the US, Canada, Hong Kong, Beijing, Shanghai, Poland, India, and Mexico City.

They have three recordings together. In 1997 they released their first duo album, “The Lonesome Touch”, followed by “Live in Seattle” in 1999, a concert recording hailed for it's vitality and innovation, and the telepathic chemistry between the two musicians. After a ten-year hiatus they released the studio album “Welcome Here Again.” All are available on the Green Linnet label through Compass Records.

Dennis and Martin have collaborated or played with such artists as Sting, jazz guitarist Bill Frisell, Grammy-winning bluegrass and country star Ricky Skaggs, newgrass artists Darol Anger and Mike Marshall, and the Irish Chamber Orchestra.  They've appeared in Australia, Japan, Italy, Germany, France, Holland, Scandinavia, Canada, the U.K., and Ireland as well as stops in Hong Kong, the People’s Republic of China, Poland, and Mexico. In 2011 they were the featured performers at the White House for President and Mrs. Obama, the Vice-President, and the President of Ireland.  With The Gloaming, they performed in Brussels in 2013 to celebrate Ireland’s Presidency of the European Union, and in 2014 at London's Royal Albert Hall for the historic first state visit by the Irish President.

In 2011 Dennis helped form The Gloaming, a new Irish "supergroup" which has transfixed music fans in Ireland and around the world. The Gloaming's debut self-titled CD won Ireland's highest music award in 2015, the Meteor Choice Music Prize, and landed on many best-of year lists including The Guardian and NPR, NPR described it's "abundant virtuosity and sheer beauty...the rare album that might well transform the syntax of a whole style.”  The Gloaming, which also features celebrated Irish sean-nos singer Iarla O Lionaird (Afro Celt Sound System),  New York downtown pianist Thomas Bartlett, and Irish fiddler Caoimhin Ó Raghallaigh, has been selling out major concert halls from the Dublin National Hall to the Sydney Opera House to Mexico City's Teatro de la Ciudad.

Dennis also appears each August at the Masters of Tradition Festival held in August each year at Bantry House in Bantry, West Cork, where Ireland’s most distinguished traditional musicians are invited to play in an exquisite chamber music setting. 

Dennis Cahill is a subtle guitar master. With Cahill you get delicate support. It’s a rhythm that keeps the tune in; that accents and colors but never overtakes. It’s brilliant restraint that serves the music and perfectly suits his partner. 

Cahill's gentle, supportive accompaniment adds precisely the right touch. (Los Angeles Times)

Dennis Cahill's symbiotic guitar accompaniment is a crucial foil for Martin Hayes' … displays of charming brilliance. (Folk Roots, UK)  

Dennis Cahill's style of playing has never been anything less than inspiringly cerebral. He chooses the space between the notes as his playground, pirouetting with the agility of a Nureyev, with guitar and gorgeous mandolin as his only safety net. 
(Irish Times)