Haley and Dylan Richardson
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Haley and Dylan Richardson

Elmer, New Jersey, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2008

Elmer, New Jersey, United States
Established on Jan, 2008
Duo World Celtic




"Listen to Haley Richardson play the fiddle and you can almost hear the future resound"

By Sean Smith
Special to the BIR
Here’s a little sampler of what New Jersey fiddler Haley Richardson has done over the past six years or so: Won Junior Fiddler of Dooney honors, plus seven Mid-Atlantic Fleadh and two All-Ireland Fleadh titles; performed on the worldwide FleadhTV webcast; was featured in Fiddler Magazine; and appeared on stage with, among others, The Chieftains, Mick Moloney, the John Whelan Band, and Paddy Keenan.
Not a bad six years, especially when you consider that the period constitutes about half of her lifespan – she turned 13 this past summer.

Haley, who has studied under the renowned Sligo fiddler Brian Conway, also has an album to her credit, “Heart on a String,” on which she is accompanied mainly by her older brother Dylan on guitar and bouzouki. When a recording showcases a 12-year-old musician, it might be easy to regard the album more as a benchmark toward future development, instead of appreciating the work on its own terms. And that would be a mistake, because while Haley shows every intention of continuing to refine her craft, on “Heart on a String” she already displays a command of the fiddle, and a focus and lift to her playing, that belies her age.
The arrangements on the album are straightforward, mostly just her and Dylan – Conway joins her on one track, Whelan on another; Flynn Cohen guest-stars on guitar for the slow air “Dear Irish Boy” – and thus put her firmly in the spotlight. And Haley doesn’t take the easy route when it comes to repertoire; sure, there are plenty of jigs and reels, but also slow airs, barndances and hornpipes – including J. Scott Skinner’s outrageously intricate “The Mathematician,” a high-wire act in and of itself – all of which exert their own particular demands and idiosyncrasies on the fiddler.
Yet while it’s important to assess “Heart on a String” on merits alone, rather than as a harbinger of things to come, it’s difficult nonetheless not to speculate on the progress of Haley’s music over the next few years. If a stray note or a phrase here and there might not sound quite so strong or smooth, well, these are the sorts of things that are typically resolved with time and practice. Perhaps she’ll make her arrangements more varied and adventurous, and perhaps there are collaborations down the road that will expand her perspective and creativity. The possibilities do seem endless, and that’s an undeniable part of her appeal.
Earlier this year, Haley and Dylan, along with uilleann piper Keegan Loesel – with whom they’ve begun playing as the trio Méara Meara (“Lively Fingers”) – traveled to Somerville, where they were the opening act for the Maírtin O’Connor Trio in The Burren’s Backroom series. With a combined age of only 44 – Dylan and Keegan at the time were, respectively, 17 and 15 – the three served notice that, as host Brian O’Donovan declared in his introduction, “There’s no danger of this music going away anytime soon.”
Before the concert, Haley took some time to talk about her music and life, and made an impression as a poised, polite, and altogether affable young woman, who’s probably going to be doing a lot of interviews.
Q. You began playing classical violin at age 3 and then started on Irish fiddle just a few years later. How did that transition take place?
“When I was almost 5, I went to a Kevin Burke concert, and I really loved what I heard. So I started teaching myself tunes by watching his DVD and listening to his CD. After that I began to study with Kathy DeAngelo, and then when I was six I played at the Mid-Atlantic Fleadh, and that’s where I met Brian Conway; a few months later, he became my teacher. Playing classical music was fine, but everything felt kind of cookie-cutter. With Irish, you can add your own variations and bowings, so it’s really a kind of a personal style. I still do play classical, because it’s a good way to learn technique.”
Q. How did the CD project come about?
“I’d wanted to do a CD for a while, and John Whelan approached us with the idea. But at the time I had a kind of a “small sound,” because I was playing a three-quarter size fiddle. So I had to wait until I found something bigger and deeper, and then when I did, John brought up the idea of doing the CD again. We did some of the recording at John’s studio but also in our basement.”
Q. What was it like to hear the final result? Did you feel good about it?
“Well, nothing is ever really perfect – you just have to accept that. But you may be the only one who notices anything wrong. Anyway, John was very helpful, and gave us a lot of advice, so that was definitely a plus.”
Q. What are some other helpful learning-type experiences you’ve had?
“I went to a nine-day camp called “studio2stage” in 2014, in which dancers and musicians work on a show together and then perform it. The whole thing really opened up my eyes to what kind of different experiences you can have with Irish music, because I wasn’t playing something that I had arranged; I had to be part of a bigger production, so it was a lot more deliberate and involved than I had been used to.”
Q. How do you work fiddle-playing into the rest of your life?
“ I’m home-schooled, so I have a certain amount of freedom to my schedule, although of course I have to make time to do assignments and other things. Some days I might busk for an hour, then rehearse for a few hours, and then go play sessions. But I don’t look on it as “work”; it’s just tunes.” - Boston Irish Reporter

"Official "Online Album Release"/Heart on a String"

Welcome to the Tradconnect Official Album Launch Series. For members and readers this series of articles will introduce you to a new traditional album for the first time. We are working with artists to bring a little bit more excitement to the “online launch”. The first time you share a track from a new recording with your fans and audience is important and we are delighted to be the first in highlighting these new releases.
Much has been said about New York fiddle sensation Haley Richardson over the last few years. Her talent became evident at a very early stage to New York fiddler Brian Conway who inspires, and usually at some point teaches most of New York’s up and coming players. “I first heard Haley play at the ripe old age of six at a fleadh in NY, and immediately knew this young lady had talent.” he says in the liner notes to Haley’s debut album. Brian goes on to say that her playing “is infused with an integrity that comes from disciplined hard work and unwavering focus on one simple goal : to play the music with a traditional Irish sound.”
For this launch we introduce a track from the new album and talk to both Haley and her mother Donna. Haley’s initial inspiration came at the age of four when she attended a Kevin Burke and Cal Scott concert and Donna recalls those early years and that concert in particular.
“Haley told me she wanted to play violin when she was two” she says. “She started classical violin lessons around her 3rd birthday. We didn't know anything at all about Irish music. A couple of months before her 5th birthday, I saw a sign in the local library advertising a Kevin Burke concert and thought it would be nice for her to hear another style of music played on violin. Haley sat in the front row, enthralled by the music and said, "I want to play that." At intermission, she begged me to buy a CD and Kevin's How to Play Celtic Fiddle DVD. We played the CD all the way home and the next day I put the DVD on and left her in the room with her fiddle. A few minutes later I heard her playing the first tune.”
“I think what has held her attention, besides the music itself, is the community of people who have come into our lives through the music. Through sessions, lessons, camps, workshops, and performances (hers and those of other musicians) we have met so many amazing, friendly, and encouraging people who have all played a part in Haley's life.” - tradconnect.com

"Margeson on the Music May 2015"

This is depressing. Things are getting out of hand. The walls are closing in. The fog of old age descends. Last month, we reviewed a terrific album, Oga, by a wonderful 15-year-old Texas fiddle player, Hailey Sandoz. Let me repeat. 15 years old. She is terrific. A fabulous fiddler, we raved—and, we were right.
We had just settled back into our old ways and easy chair. We were fully prepared to go on and pretend that Miss Sandoz was a one-off, a rarity come forward from the fervent Irish musical scene that has grown up around the annual North Texas Irish Festival.
Then came a note. Would we be interested in hearing a new album from another Haley—Haley Richardson? We responded immediately that we would be interested, indeed. Somewhere, deep in the haze, we remember talking to our friend, Manus McGuire. Manus is considered by many as the best of all Irish fiddlers. So, when he tells you he has just heard a phenomenal new talent, you are well advised to listen carefully. That talent is Haley Richardson. Her brand new album is called Heart on a String and features the wondrous Haley, accompanied on guitar by her brother, Dylan. There is so much about this album that is so very, very good. Critically, Haley shows a masterful musical maturity in her tempos, and a deep understanding of the music. She is taught by the fiddle playing New York prosecuting attorney, Brian Conway. Conway is a terrific fiddle player and in the succession of the masterful Andy McGann and other magnificent players. New York joins Texas in a very active trad scene. Out of these creative cauldrons come Haley and Dylan. Her first tune on the CD is a version of Porthole of the Kelps, which we remember from the playing of the iconic, Bobby Casey. The playing of the set includes a Liz Carroll tune, The Brocca. There are airs, jigs, fabulous reels, and barn dances. Each is played flawlessly, with great taste. Haley and Dylan have resisted the urge so ruinously common in much of Irish music to play everything at 375 miles per hour. No, these tempos are perfect, as they are meant to be in Irish music. It gives us room to hear style and ornamentation. On that first tune of the album, the aforementioned Portholes, we feel it could be Maurice Lennon playing. Haley is that good.
Oh, did we mention she is 12 years old? Let that sink in, dear reader. 12. Her brother, Dylan, is the old man of the operation. He is 17. By the way, his accompaniment is just about as perfect as Haley’s playing. If my math is correct, she was born in 2003. I’m stunned. I’m thrilled that the tradition is in such good hands. The only danger is that Hailey and Haley are so young that they may decide to go off and be doctors and cure cancer, OR decide to be President of the United States! If they can play like this at this age, there is nothing that they can’t do! Find this CD and hear the long-range future of the music. You will be as thrilled as I am to know that it is in such capable hands.
Socks in the Frying Pan is out with their brand new cd, Return of the Giant Sock Monsters from Outer Space. That’s right. And if you think the title is something, wait until you see the album cover! Socks is another incredibly young group of musicians, though compared to Haley Richardson, they are ready for their old age pensions. They are in their early 20’s. They will be tearing up the summer festival scene this year, as they did last year. By the time you read this, they will have already had their American cd launch at Chief O’Neill’s in Chicago on April 24th. The big deal here is that Socks, We Banjo 3, and now Jigjam are all highly successful young groups, and point the same direction. All three of them are combining Americana, Bluegrass, and Irish Trad in a music of wide and immediate appeal. All the groups play these tunes wonderfully, sing these songs with great feeling, and are immediately accessible. They will serve as gateways to Irish Trad in its more pure forms. But, this is no place for purists. Return of the Giant Sock Monsters from Outer Space is new, great fun, and played brilliantly. This is all part of a wonderful youthful music in popular Irish Trad, and it is going in new directions. Never mind the ‘auld ones who insist on a rigid adherence to the way Coleman or Morrison played a tune. These youngsters are very capable musicians, and seem to be writing new rules. They all share certain attributes. They are very good, young and attractive. Don’t underrate the latter. They put on a great show. None better than Socks, and long may they be in the Frying Pan. Good work, lads! This trio of the Hayes Brothers, and Aodan Coyne are on the stove, in the pan and hot, hot, hot.
We’re going to save space for a review of the Jeremiahs new album next month. They are wonderful and we want to give them due attention.
We must squeeze in a review of the album Ireland: Crossroads of Art and Deign 1690-1840. This CD is a musical accompaniment, really, to an exhibition of Irish Art and Culture that is at the Art Institute of Chicago until June 7th of this year. It is fantastic, and so is this album. Marty Fahey and our own Liz Carroll put together a lot of this and are joined by many of our great local musicians including Liz Knowles, Kieran O’Hare, Jackie Moran, and others in a gorgeously produced and sumptuously presented album of music designed to perfectly accompany the exhibition. Liz composed a number of these tracks, specially commissioned to correspond to the exhibition and its themes. Perhaps there could have been more tunes from the actual periods represented in the exhibition directly. Let us not argue. Liz, Marty, and this album are fab, and so is the exhibition. Go see it. It is a blessing that it is in Chicago. It is also a blessing that you can get this CD. This is the real Ireland. This is the culture of Ireland. Not some drunken hash of a mixer at an Irish pub on St. Patrick’s Day. No, this is the real Ireland. And it is wonderful. - Bill Margeson

"New Release: Haley Richardson with Dylan Richardson"

Haley’s debut album of traditional Irish fiddle music, at the age of only 13, is exceptional. Having won the 2015 Junior Fiddler of Dooney competition in Sligo and the 2013 All Ireland in both under 12 solo fiddle and under 12 fiddle slow airs, she is already a player to be reckoned with.

She has performed with many of the most well-known names in Irish music today, including The Chieftains, Altan, Dervish and Pride Of New York, and is a regular member of The John Whelan Band.

Accompanied here by her brother, Dylan, himself a multi-instrumentalist, on guitar and Irish bouzouki, this young musician from New Jersey is clearly one to watch out for. Liz Carroll should be quaking in her boots! A superb album. - The Living Tradition


Still working on that hot first release.



Haley Richardson is a young traditional Irish fiddler making her mark in the Irish music world. Over the past eight years, she has amassed a long list of accomplishments and performed at venues all over the United States sharing the stage with many of the icons in Irish music. Haley with her highly ornamented Sligo style, perfected under the tutelage of fiddler Brian Conway, is the 2015 Junior Fiddler of Dooney and in 2013 won All Ireland Championships in both fiddle and fiddle slow airs. In addition to multiple All Ireland medals, she is an 8X MidAtlantic Fleadh Champion, winning her first championship in the under twelve age category at only six years old. She was featured in an article in Fiddler Magazine’s Fall 2015 issue. Haley, accompanied by her brother, Dylan, released her debut album, Heart on a String, in March 2015. Find out more about Haley at www.HaleyRichardsonMusic.com. Dylan is a multi-instrumentalist (guitar, banjo, and bouzouki). He also performs with the trio Poor Man's Gambit.

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