Port na Gael is made up of four musicians who play "mostly Irish most of the time." Our unique style of vocal and instrumental arrangements, soul-stirring harmonies and lively tunes are our defining characteristics. We perform at coffee houses, festivals, house concerts, and at various performance venues in B.C and Washington. Yes, we know that in proper Irish, our band name should be Port na nGael, but we feared no one would ever pronounce it correctly. It means “Tune of the Gael.” We like to say that we play “mostly Irish, most of the time,” but as you will hear, we do make exceptions. We hope you will enjoy our work.
While Port na Gael's music is clearly "Celtic," individual band members come from varied musical backgrounds, bringing those rich influences with them into the musical knit.
Gerry Bradley, fiddle – is unabashedly and solely a creature of Irish traditional music, and often travels to Ireland to play in sessions and renew his love affair with the country and the culture as well.
Barbara Denz, vocals – blames 60s folk artists and the British Commonwealth folk music for her musical tastes, but can be heard tearing into sea shanties and Scandinavian folk songs at the least provocation.
David Denz, Uilleann pipes, Irish flute, vocals, cittern, guitar (and whatever else is lying unprotected within reach) – claims an Irish musical background, with frequent forays almost anywhere.
Sasha Pawliuk, vocals, Irish flute, whistles and bodhran (only when musically necessary) – has never quite recovered from her attempts to channel Joni Mitchell in her youth, but has allowed other folk music into her psyche before being overwhelmed by Irish traditional music.
Port na Gael is the culminating event of a collaboration that started in the late 1990's in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, at Chris Norman's Boxwood Wooden Flute Festival. Since then, Port na Gael has played at a variety of folk festivals and venues on either side of the border.
CD Liner Notes:
1. Oh No, Not I /Tommy Peoples' Reel (3:15) Trad
I feel like I’ve known this song forever – it’s traditional, but I first heard it performed by the late, great Stan Rogers sometime in the early ‘90’s. The reel that follows is one of many attributed to the Donegal fiddle player, Tommy Peoples. Sasha
2. May Morning Dew (air) / Blarney Pilgrim / The Black Rogue (4:34) Trad
I learned May Morning Dew from a recorded performance by Dolores Keane and adapted it as an air on the pipes. Blarney Pilgrim and Black Rogue are well known session tunes that date back to the 19th century at the very least. David
3. Both Sides the Tweed (4:25) C 1981 Topic Records Ltd., used by permission
Sasha and I fell in love with this Dick Gaughan song separately and had each wanted to sing it without the other knowing. Since Port na Gael is “mostly Irish, most of the time,” I never thought I’d get to do a Scottish song with her. This was our first, but not the last on the CD. Many thanks to Tony Engle for his kind permission to let us do this and Dick Gaughan (and others) for recording it. Barbara
4. Joe Ryan’s (3:14) Trad
I got this lovely set dance from a recording of a house concert featuring Claire Keville given to me by a friend of mine, and I have never heard it anywhere else. The likely thing would be to assume that it gets its name from Joe Ryan, the great fiddle player from Inagh, Co. Clare...but in Irish music one never knows. Gerry
5. A Sailor’s Life (2:36) Trad, arranged by Barbara and David Denz
This is one of many traditional “Dead William” songs out there with a similar plot line. I borrowed from many, in the true folk process, and rewrote those where the story didn’t track where I wanted the song to go. What emerged is a song I love to sing. The harmonies are David’s, and yes, I’m singing all of them, too. Barbara
6. Pigeon On The Gate / Ryan’s Rant (2:19) Trad
Pigeon on the Gate is an old favourite and I first heard this unique version played by Mary MacNamara. I learned Ryan’s Rant from Ben Lennon, the first gentleman of the fiddle, at the Willy Clancy School back in 1995. Gerry
7. Lagan Love (3:00) Trad
This is a traditional Irish song with a mysterious past – depending on who you listen to it either dates back to the 15th century, or was written by Joseph Campbell (1879 – 1944)…or both…speaking for myself, I discovered it over a romantic dinner at an ersatz Irish restaurant in Charlottetown, PEI. Sasha
8. Otter’s Urchin (3:28) C 2010 David Denz
The image I had in mind when writing this tune is the way seals and otters move in the water. Barbara and I are partial to otters, and one of the sea otter’s favourite snacks is the sea urchin, so this one is for all those contented otters. David
9. Chief O’Neill’s Favorite / One Misty, Moisty Morning (2:55) Trad
The tune was written for Francis O’Neill, editor of the original collection of Irish tunes called O’Neill’s Music of Ireland. He was also the Chicago Chief of Police in the late 1890’s. One Misty Moisty Morning is traditional, but Sasha and I both learned it from Steeleye Span’s recordings in the 1980s. Barbara
10. The Virginian / Maude Millar (2:42) Trad
These are two old tunes you often hear played back-to-back in Sligo circles, likely recorded that way by one of the early masters. We try to give them a jaunty treatment here. Gerry
11. Siúil A Rúin / The Orphan (4:29) Trad
Every summer for the past many years the lovely little lakeside town of Goderich, Ontario, hosts the Celtic Roots Festival and College. I learned Siúil A Rúin from the wonderful Irish singer Sean Keane a few years ago at the College. The jig, The Orphan, comes from the playing of Kathleen Collins. Sasha
12. Burntcoat / Whelan’s Fancy (2:26) C 2001 David Denz / Trad
I wrote Burntcoat several years ago, but it went untitled till Barbara and I happened to visit the Burntcoat Head Community Park in Nova Scotia. The tune seemed to fit the restless quality of wind and water there. Whelan’s Fancy is a widely known session tune. It is often associated with Tommy Whelan, a flute player in the Ballinakill Traditional Dance Players during the 1920’s. David
13. Two Sisters / Miss Monaghan’s (4:49) Trad
This is where it all started. The four of us first sang this together in 2001 at a participants’ talent show at Chris Norman’s Boxwood Festival in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia. I first encountered this on a Clannad album in the early 80’s. Miss Monaghan’s is an old chestnut heard wherever Irish music is played. Sasha
14. Auld Lang Syne (3:47) Trad
David and I have always loved this particular version of Robbie Burns’ famous song precisely because it isn’t the one everyone else does. The arrangement is David’s and all four of us can be heard singing – a first for Gerry on this project. Barbara