Gerry Dignan has been singing in Irish gathering places for some twenty plus years now. His love for the Celtic music and his pride in his family’s ancestry have only deepened over time. In this beautiful and unique anthology “Heart’s Desire -- Celtic Songs of Love”, Gerry’s soulful voice evokes the fiery passion, the whimsical dream and the haunting, wistful yearning of the Celtic heart.
On “Heart’s Desire”, Gerry and his wife, Denise, have chosen some of their most beloved traditional ballads for this special collection. The songs express both the sweetness of love fulfilled and the poignance of the brokenhearted. All of the songs are sung with the hope that you will sense the passionate and deep spirit of life that the Celtic peoples have expressed in song for countless generations past.
You can contact Gerry for performances of traditional songs from the Celtic world.
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Gerry's singing encompasses a broad array of genres and cultural influences. He has sung with Holy Family Gospel choir for over twenty years and he was a member of the world-renowned Chicago Symphony Chorus for seven years.
Gerry also extensively studied self-expression through improvisational music, with one of the world's great teachers of musical improv -- David Darling, Grammy-nominated maverick cellist.
Gerry also appears as "Uncle Gerry" with the internationally acclaimed family music program "Music Together", founded by Ken Guilmartin.
He has enjoyed liturgical music all his life, singing of the depths and the Mystery of Life.
Gerry and Denise work on staff with the Jean Houston Mystery School, leading participants in festive and tender moments singing together and dancing international folkdances.
Song and dance are great ways to build community. Denise and Gerry are very committed to this joyful work of building community through the music, especially in our modern-day society, in which the process of striving to be true to our own individual path can also foster isolation for the individual.
Gerry and Denise also hold their own workshops -- "Healing Song" and "Begin Within", and do deep exploration of our lives through music, movement, meditation and contemplation of the world's great Spiritual Paths & Teachers.
Gerry and Denise have worked with the United Nations Young World Leaders Conference, leading participants from numerous cultures. The music and the movement along with deep intention bring people from diverse cultures of the world to a place of great heart for one another, cultivating a desire for mutual well being.
Gerry Dignan has been singing traditional Celtic music since he picked up a guitar in his college years in the early 70’s. Musically inclined relatives – from his Irish tenor father to his two Aunt Mary’s, both of whom played piano gloriously by ear, to the numerous musical cousins in his large extended family -- first inspired him to delve into the musical aspect of his beloved cultural heritage.
Gerry began to attend Irish musical events in his hometown of Chicago – when the Comhaltas Ceiltoiri Eirann champion singers, dancers and musicians would come over from Ireland – he began to see the authentic expression of the age-old and noble musical tradition of his Irish ancestors and the larger ancient Celtic culture.
Gerry spent a year as a university student in Barcelona, Spain, where coincidentally, he expanded his knowledge of the Celtic culture, learning of the traditional music of the region of Galicia in northwest Spain, where the bagpipe is still the traditional instrument.
While in Spain, he decided to fulfill a lifelong dream – to see where his grandparents had been born and spent their youth -- Ireland. He traveled to Ireland in June of 1975 – it was a different era then – Franco was still the dictator in Spain and Ireland was still a land where there were more cattle than cars and more leisurely time than telephones.
Gerry explored the traditional music and was deeply influenced by the art of great legendary singers, musicians and groups of the time – Dolores Keane & John Faulkner, Mary Black, Mick Moloney, the Chieftains, Tommy Makem & the Clancys, the Bothy Band, Clannad, Mary Bergin, Planxty, to name a few. He studied the styles and forms of traditional singing and music and was deeply entranced by it all.
He returned to Ireland several years in a row and stayed as long as he could in the summers from 1974 to 1978 and had an extended six-month stay in 1979, always traveling all around Ireland – by train, bus, bike, foot or thumb -- getting to know the country people of those days, enchanted by their way of life, and ever evoking their tales of life in old Ireland, which resonated deeply within him.
While there, Gerry had the great honor of connecting with his relatives – descendants of his grandparents’ siblings. He visited numerous cousins’ homesteads and was deeply touched and enriched by their generous welcome and great sharing with him of their stories, songs and dances, as well as learning some of the farm tasks – footing the turf, milking the cows, making the hay. These were very rich times in Gerry’s life – which touched him deeply. His extended family in Ireland forever altered his life with their great hearts and souls.
In his travels around Ireland, Gerry met wonderful, warm-hearted and welcoming people, giving great credence to the expression “Irish hospitality”. As he would be walking through the countryside, it wasn’t unusual to come across a farmer or a family, strike up light conversation, and then be invited into their cottage for a cup of tea and some brown bread, biscuits, or a lovely tomato sandwich. They would sit by the fireside and the stories would most naturally begin, so eloquently told in the old country way of weaving words and wit in the thick brogue of the old people in those days.
Ellen Quinn, Gerry’s great-aunt who lived in a small cottage with no running water in the far west of the County Roscommon, left a particularly indelible impression on Gerry during this chapter of his life. She was one of the greats from an age gone by – she came from a generation that pre-dated the television and radio, a generation that grew up weaving the great stories of everyday life that they themselves lived – stories woven with magic and mystery, yearning and fear, mischief and delight – stories that spoke of the fairies and the little people and the banshee, stories that taught how to ensure good luck and what brought the bad, stories of the English and emigration, the famine, the pub, the parish priest, the holy wells and fairy hills, homemade cures for ailments, and on it goes. Many was the hour that Gerry and his Aunt Ellen spent by her turf fire, with “a drop o’ the craithir” in one hand and a “fag” in the other, as her stories led Gerry through a magical doorway into an ancient time and place that were no more.
The songs Gerry sings on his unique CD “Heart’s Desire” open the doorway to that mystical place that the Celts of old knew so well, where the soul and heart of the Celtic spirit live still. They sang hauntingly of it, spoke poetically, danced ecstatically, cried mournfully and carried on courageously!