Four Shillings Short are the husband and wife duo of Aodh Og O’Tuama from Cork Ireland and Christy Martin from San Diego, California. Blending music of India, Ireland, Scotland, Medieval and Renaissance Europe, the Americas, Blues, Folk and Original compositions, “the international duo have carved out a musical identity all their own." (River Stages, Dubuque IA)
Since its inception in the San Francisco Bay Area, Four Shillings Short has always had an experimental streak. Co-founded in 1985 by Aodh Og O’Tuama and Ernest Kinsolving, the band has included a changing cast of Northern California’s Irish, Folk, Jazz and Classical musicians. Since 1995, the current partnership of Aodh Og O’Tuama and Christy Martin have formed the core of Four Shillings Short.
In 1997, the duo began their first tour of the US and have since toured continuously, staying with friends along the way, camping and traveling as the bards of old once did.
Born in Cork, Ireland to a family of poets, writers, musicians and teachers, Aodh Og O’Tuama grew up in an Irish speaking home and began working in the theatre as a teenager alongside his father, Sean O’Tuama, a noted poet, writer, playright and university professor of the Irish Language. After receiving his degree in music at University College Cork (UCC) in Ireland, he moved to Germany where he organized theatrical and music productions for the US Army. During his 5 year residence in Germany he formed the Stuttgart Early Music Consort which was later re-named The Driveling Druids. The Druid’s shows were known for their adept, audacious performances of Medieval and Renaissance standards on authentic instruments.
Aodh Og came to California in 1983, on a music fellowship awarded to him by Stanford University in California. At Stanford you performed with The Early Music Singers under William Mahrt, The Renaissance Wind Band under Herb Myers, and Gai Saber, a Medieval music group and did Gregorian Chant and Renaissance Masses with the St. Anne’s Choir in Palo Alto and various other Choral groups. He began to pursue Celtic music in 1984 and together with Earnest Kinsolving, a folk musician from Phoenix, AZ, formed the band Four Shillings Short. Along with guitarist Karl Franzen, the band played regularly at the famed Bay Area folk hangout St. Michael’s Alley. For 10 years the band played monthly at the venue, entertaining college students, families and locals. Says O’Tuama, “It’s lovely to meet people in their 20’s who tell me they grew up listening to Four Shillings Short.
Californian Christy Martin grew up in a family of musicians and dancers. Her mother trained as a classical ballerina, her grandmother was a famous dance teacher and her father has played trombone in Swing Era music bands since he was in his teens. Growing up in a household with rich musical tastes from Opera to Hawaiian, to Jazz and Classical genres it’s no surprise that Christy would gravitate towards world music. At the age of 10 she became interested in the music of India when her mother gave her a Ravi Shankar Sitar album for her birthday. Christy became interested then in Yoga, Meditation, Indian music and philosophy. By the age of 15 she had been listening to Indian music for 5 years, had saved up enough money to buy a Sitar and had found a Sitar teacher, Tony Karasek, a protégé of famed sitar maestro Ravi Shankar. She also studied Sitar under Maestro Rahul Sariputra, a student of Ustad Allaudin Khan.
After a decade of study in Classical North Indian music, Sanskrit and Indian Philosophy, she was introduced to the music of Ireland which would become her next area of study. One day in San Francisco at Ghirardelli Square she heard a Hammered Dulcimer being played by Glen Morgan, who would later become one of her dulcimer teachers. Within a year she bought a Hammered Dulcimer and a mandolin and co-founded the folk band Your Mother Should Know along with J-B St. Leger and Greg Hines.
Your Mother Should Know also played at St. Michael’s Alley. In July 1995, Christy came along to hear Four Shillings Short at St. Michael’s Alley where she and Aodh Og were introduced. Two weeks later, the two were in love and a musical and lifelong partnership began.
By the end of 1995, Four Shillings Short was beginning to change into the duo of Aodh Og and Christy. In 1996 they started playing in Southern California and by 1997 began touring nationally. Their first tour was a 3 month whirlwind of 60 concerts in 90 days in 30 States covering 30,000 miles playing in Irish Pubs and Coffeehouses from California to Louisiana and from Massachusettes to Washington.
In 1998, after returning from their 2nd National tour they decided to stop paying rent and go permanently on the road. Since then the duo has expanded their tour to include 45 States and Ireland.