Celtic Women in Music

Celtic Women in Music - a Celebration of Beauty and Sovereignty, 1999, published by Quarry Music Press, Ontario, Canada, profiles the careers of thirty one artists, singers, musicians, and composers in the Celtic music genre.

Based on exclusive interviews, these musicians reveal the devotion to traditional Celtic culture that inspires their art and the sense of personal sovereignty that informs their lives as women.

Over sixty women from all over the Celtic World, Wales, Brittany, Scotland, Ireland, United States, Canada, and Australia, have been interviewed for this collection. Thirty women are featured in Volume One. Volume Two has yet to be published.

Cover art, portraying Siobhán Peoples and her parents by Catharine Kingcome

The Women: Volume One
Alternate Music Press has featured five profiles with artists from book one:
Dolores Keane, Máire Brennan, Sheila Chandra, Jean Ritchie, and Gay Woods.

Featured in Volume One:
Mary Bergin, Máire Brennan, Sheila Chandra, Mary Coughlan,
Connie Dover,
Ann Heymann, Eileen Ivers, Dolores Keane,
Alison Kinnaird, Mary Jane Lamond, Talitha MacKenzie,
Karen Matheson, Eileen McGann, Loreena McKennitt,
Susan McKeown, Máire Ní Chathasaigh, Maighread Ní Dhomhnaill,
Tríona Ní Dhomhnaill, Nóirín Ní Riain, Maura O'Connell,
Siobhán Peoples, Maddy Prior, Bonnie Rideout, Jean Ritchie,
Kate Rusby, Cathie Ryan, Mairéid Sullivan, June Tabor,
Kathryn Tickell, Gay Woods, GrĂ¡inne Yeats.

Several interviews have been published on Alternate Music Press
- Indexed under Features

-See a Tribute Gráinne Yeats here

Los Angeles Times

Don Heckman, LA Times, November 5, 1999
"If you want to find out about something, who better to ask than someone who does it for a living? And Celtic singer Maireid Sullivan was the perfect choice to be the author of "Celtic Women in Music," a collection of interviews with many of the major female Irish artists. The Los Angeles-based Sullivan is a highly regarded vocalist with a particular interest in exploring and sustaining the philosophical roots of Celtic culture. As such, she has interacted with her subjects in a fashion that has an impressive degree of forthrightness, both on a personal and professional level.

The 31 artists profiled range from such veterans as Dolores Keane and Grainne Yeats to such high-visibility current performers as Loreena McKennitt, Eileen Ivers and Sheila Chandra. Some of the most insightful entries are those in which Sullivan's interest are most in sync with interviewees: a fascinating conversation with singer Noirin Ni Riain touching on everything from gender issues in Celtic music and the Catholic Church to comparative thoughts on the pain and pleasure of performance; a historically informative interview with singer-harpist Maire Ni Chathasaigh; and an entirely different perspective on Celtic music from American-born singer Connie Dover. The book is an easy and fascinating read, with Sullivan's gentle but persistent questioning allowing her subjects to illuminate themselves in a fashion that inevitably provokes a desire to hear their music. "

Professor Frank Mills, (Celtic Studies) Marylhurst University, Oregon, USA
Editor of Brigit's Feast
(Celtic Journal), March 2000

I've been hearing about Celtic Women in Music for a little over a year. Now, it has at last been released, and it is everything that I anticipated that it would be. Afraid that maybe a male perspective would not do justice to the book, I have asked several female acquaintances, not Celtic musicians, to read the book and give me their opinions. Unanimously, they have agreed that this book is exactly what it claims to be, a celebration of beauty and sovereignty. For my part, the book has been anxiously anticipated because I fully expected Mairéid to insert her own particular application of Celtic spirituality into her questions. I had better interject here that Celtic Women in Music is not about Celtic women who musically perform, but, through the media of interview, Celtic Women in Music is the combined spiritual voice of thirty-one women who express themselves through the medium of Celtic music. What makes the book special that it is musical peer to musical peer. Mairéid, herself, is an accomplished artist with poetry and a number of exceptional CDs, to her credit. That Mairéid exclusively interviewed each of the women profiled makes Celtic women in Music all the more special. When someone such as Loreena McKennitt speaks of home being a community of friends and family, or Máire Brennan talks about the incredible yearning found in Celtic music, this is Loreena McKennitt and Máire Brennan from the heart, not some publicity piece seeking to puff up a tour or a recently released CD. It's not just a few speaking from the heart. It's every woman interviewed. Mairéid has a way about her that creates a deep intimacy with those whom she converses. Mairéid and I have discussed this. While she might disagree with me, I think it is her unique sense of her own spirituality that brings this about. Mairéid is on what she calls a "personal mission:" A mission that has no fixed boundaries, no preconceived expectations, just a deep desire to fulfill her life's purpose, however that unfolds. The book is but one example of this. Her music, too, is indicative of this spiritual mission. Australian writer Gary Lewis' interview of Mairéid at the beginning of Celtic Women in Music brings out Mairéid's sense of mission and sets the pace for Mairéid's interviews. The format is especially helpful for one who wants to research a particular artist's works further, providing, in addition to the interview, a brief bibliography and complete discography, along with a website URL if one is available. Mairéid's URL is

Bette Timm, NAPRA ReVIEW,

Music Scene, January/February 2000

Celtic Women In Music: A Celebration of Beauty and Sovereignty is a new Book by Celtic singer/songwriter Mairéid Sullivan. ... In it are 31 short biographies of the genre's top female songbirds and instrumentalists, along with full color photos and a transcription of Sullivan's interview with each artist. A tremendous resource for the Celtic fan, the book includes a recommended reading list and a list of Celtic websites. Among the stars included in her shining net are Máire Brennan, Sheila Chandra, Mary Coughlan, Loreena McKennitt, Susan McKeown, Nóirín Ní Ríain, Bonnie Rideout, and Kate Rusby. Need I say more?

Greg Ozimek, PhenomeNEWS
Detroit, Oct. 1999

Celtic Women In Music is an intimate book that reveals the insights of authentic women who live for music. It is skillfully woven from exhaustive interviews with each artist by a woman who herself has recorded two solo albums.
Celtic Women In Music is about bonding and the nurturing spirit these women bring with them. The reader delves into the most intimate thoughts of these Celtic women as performers, artists in their own right, and can make connections between them that perhaps have never been made as most of these women are independent artists who don't personally know each other. Even though the artists appear alphabetically there is a story that flows from the simplicity of tin flute player Mary Bergin to Steeleye Span's vocalist Gaye Woods' weavings of the ancient archetypes about Danu, earth mother and Dagda, male god of concepts of knowledge. One interview steps to the next ,cultivating a texture of diversity. Ms. Sullivan's knowledge and insight into Celtic life,historical, ancient, and present day is vast. She both keeps her artist interviewees on their toes and maintains their pace. This book also contains a fascinating interview with the author. Naturally omitted--lost in the transcription and publishing process--are the brogue and vocal intonation that carry the soul of these wonderful Celtic ladies of music. Thankfully, each soul's voice and life's intent are captured and preserved here for our inspiration, ...we eagerly await Volume Two.

Publisher's Press Release


Celtic Women in Music
A Celebration of Beauty & Sovereignty
by Mairéid Sullivan

QUARRY MUSIC BOOKS is pleased to announce the release of Celtic Women in Music: A Celebration of Beauty & Sovereignty, comprised of interviews with internationally renowned Celtic women musicians, conducted by recording artist Mairéid Sullivan.  "Traditionally, the women were the ones who carried the songs and passed them down from generation to generation." Mary Black, Celtic Tides. Celtic music and dance have taken North American culture by storm, becoming the soundtrack of our age. Riverdance, Braveheart, Gael Force, and Celtic Tides are just a few of the shows featuring Celtic music. Aside from such notable male acts as The Chieftains, this music has largely been written and performed by women, either as solo artists or as band leaders, whose work has been compiled, somewhat anonymously, on such CDs as A Woman's Heart, Celtic Voices: Women of Song and Women of the World: Celtic. But who are these women? What inspired them to perform? What do they feel about traditional and contemporary Celtic culture? Based on exclusive interviews, Celtic Women in Music profiles the careers of 31 artists, including Maire Brennan (Clannad), Dolores Keane, Eileen Ivers (Riverdance), Karen Matheson (Capercaillie), Loreena McKennett, Maddy Prior, June Tabor, Talitha MacKenzie, Maura O'Connell, Sheila Chandra, Noirin Ni Riain and Jean Ritchie and a special interview with the author, Mairéid Sullivan, conducted by Australian historian, Gary Lewis. These artists reveal the devotion to traditional Celtic culture that inspires their art and the sense of personal sovereignty that informs their lives as women.

"I believe there is so much interest in Celtic culture because it is so deep," Maire Brennan explains in her interview. "I think it's more than just a phase or a fad because of the ancient aspect attached to it: the treasures attached to it, the origins and the ancestries, and the bonding. There's a bond there that people feel, even people who have no Celtic connections to speak of. There's a bond because the Celts have traveled the globe."

"Thirty women artists, musicians from all over the Celtic world, Ireland, Scotland, Canada, the United States, India and Australia, fill these pages with their wonderful personalities, insights and stories," Mairéid Sullivan writes in her Introduction. "Gathered here for the first time are the 'keepers' of traditional Celtic music with the composers of 'innovative' Celtic music, musicians reclaiming ancient techniques of playing the harp, for example, with others setting new lyrics to old melodies, all leading lights in contemporary music, world music, new age music, folk music, classical music, and jazz. There can be no doubt that these women have helped to inspire the current renaissance of Celtic music. Anyone who reads these interviews will understand immediately why the genre is flourishing."

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