The Armagh Rhymers behind the scenes at the Netflix show “Bodkin,” a darkly comic thriller that takes place in West Cork. [Photo via Facebook]

'Whirring Wings' is wonderful

I’ll start out this week by congratulating everyone who competed in this year’s Mid-Atlantic Fleadh, which concluded on this past Sunday out in Parsippany, N.J.  The young folks in our region are well known for their fierce competitive spirits, so everyone who came out is to be commended for the hard work and perseverance they put into preparations.  Now to get ready for Wexford Town, where the Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann will be held in August!  Keep up with the Fleadh Cheoil at

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 Congratulations, too, to Dawn Doherty, Siobhán Kelly, Niall Mulligan, and the family of Kathleen Collins (RIP) on their Mid-Atlantic Hall of Fame honors!  It’s a lovely feather in each person’s cap to be included in so august a bunch.  Finally, congrats to the Region’s leadership, led by Ann Marie Acosta, who rose to the challenge of another fleadh!  Great stuff!  Stay apprised of all things in the Mid-Atlantic Region through its website and mailing list,

 Speaking of Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann, the organization has recently unveiled a completely redesigned central website at  It’s sports a slick new look and improved functionality, giving the site a very fresh feel!  Lots to see, but one of its new features is a collection of tunes composed by pianist, composer and arranger Carl Hession.

 Hession is a prolific tunesmith and with this site redesign 150 of his tunes can be accessed for free.  His corner of the site includes audio recordings of all his tunes as well as notated version available in PDF and JPG form.  Lovely tunes that connoisseurs will enjoy poring over.  The Hession Collection can be found through Comhaltas’s address above by selecting “Compositions and Collections” under the "Music & More" dropdown menu.

 On a different subject: I don’t know how many of you out there are watching the highly enjoyable Netflix show “Bodkin,” a darkly comic thriller that takes place in West Cork, but one thing to be aware of as you watch is fact the Armagh Rhymers have provided the show with original costumes and extras.  They’re not in every episode, but it’s something to keep your eyes peeled for as you watch.  If you’ve not seen the beautiful and intricate masks the Rhymers are known for, or are perhaps ignorant of the Armagh Rhymers all together, I highly recommend visiting their site and checking them out for yourself at

 And next? Well, Boston trad power couple Matt and Shannon Heaton have recently come out with a new album called “Whirring Wings.”  The Heatons, Shannon (flute, voice) and Matt (guitar, bouzouki, bodhrán), are up to something that’s really interesting with this new one; I think it will keep listeners engaged.  The pair make wonderful music together, a thing that benefits the pair’s listeners well.

Shannon and Matt Heaton.

 “Whirring Wings” is the couple’s sixth duo recording and it includes 10 instrumental tracks and one vocal.  The music here is well considered and there’s a very clear and well developed musical vibe between the two players.  Each of the recording’s tracks is confidently rendered and every one features an excellent performance.  

 Standouts to me include “Maids of Selma /…,” a great set that begins with a wonderful tune popularized back in the 1980s by Mick Moloney and Jimmy Keane; “Golden Castle,” in which Shannon stars but also where Matt makes a mark, digging into the rhythm on the second tune as Shannon crashes down on the melody; and “Big Eared Brad / Mouse in the Toaster”, where the Heatons are joined by flute player Brendan Mulholland, who not only guests on flute but contributes a tune of his own. In addition to these, Shannon also renders the album’s only song, “Westlin Winds,” which she does in fine and able style.

 While the package’s fullness is what will sure attract listeners, it should be noted that Shannon composed 13 of the album’s couple of dozen tunes.  Heaton writes fluid, nuanced melodies that have fine balance and in context here they sit well with the more familiar traditional material.

 In addition to the album, the Heatons also offer a companion tune book, available as a physical item or as a download.  It functions as an extended set of liner notes with transcriptions of each of the album’s tunes.  The tune book itself is a by-product of Shannon’s habit of compiling an annual “tune scrapbook,” something she’s done since 2020, with the hope being the album might inspire folks to play a few of the album’s tunes at home.

 “Whirring Wings” is a wonderful album that really showcases Shannon’s characteristic style in particular.  Her playing is marvelous inviting, and accessible, especially when set together with Matt’s sensitive and well-rendered backing.  That the musical bond between the two is strong is admirably demonstrated on every track.  This, coupled with a cover by the great painter Vincent Crotty, makes the album a very compelling package, indeed.  To learn more and purchase, visit