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Chicago, Illinois, United States

Chicago, Illinois, United States
Band World Celtic


This band has not uploaded any videos
This band has not uploaded any videos


The best kept secret in music


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Still working on that hot first release.


Feeling a bit camera shy


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laira is a brand-new band whose goal is to explore Irish traditional music as an art form: a powerful means of creative expression independent of extramusical associations. It is about deep respect for the tradition based in its inherent beauty. It is about innovation and preservation, evolution and revolution, in equal parts. It is this delicate balance that is the foundation of a sound like no other.

laira's uniqueness is also the result of the unusual and beautiful combination of instruments and the equally rare talents of their performers. The harp, fiddle and uilleann pipes are the quintessential instruments of the Irish tradition, providing an extraordinary palette of tone colors capable of both contrast and blend.

There are few musicians who venture to study the complex instrument often considered to be at the heart of the Irish tradition: the uilleann pipes. Fewer still come close to mastering it. Brian Bigley is one of those who have succeeded.

Studying with Achill Island piper Michael Kilbane from the age of eight, Brian's sensitivity to the art of uilleann piping has developed into a high level of understanding. His musical ability is informed by his extensive training in the art of Irish dance, in which he is a world-class competitor. Aged only 22, he has already performed in New York's Carnegie Hall and Cleveland's Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and has toured extensively throughout Europe and the US, most recently as a soloist for Tomaseen Foley's critically-acclaimed "A Celtic Christmas."

Fascinated by the Irish pipe-making tradition, Brian studied intensively with pipemaker Seth Gallagher in Cold Spring, New York. He plays a fully-keyed applewood chanter which he made during his time there and continues to develop his talents in the art of pipemaking.

The harp is one of the world's oldest instruments and held a particularly significant place in the society of ancient Ireland, but its history in the modern Irish tradition only goes back to the 1970s. It's never quite found a mainstream identity as an ensemble instrument; all of the delicate nuance that goes into a solo performance of traditional music is hard enough to maintain in a duet or trio involving instruments such as the flute, fiddle or pipes, but in the case of the harp it can be nearly impossible to reliably deal with in a live performance situation. Thus another role for the harp must be found, and thus, perhaps, the rarity of harps in Irish bands.

Enter Marta Cook. A world-class harpist and former first-prize winner at Fleadh Cheoil na hEireann, her playing transcends "accompaniment." She's been compared to Deborah Henson-Conant as a harpist who defies the expectations and conventions of her instrument. Marta's role with laira is to create dynamic and interesting soundscapes in communication with the other players, informed both by her knowledge of traditional music gleaned from experience as a soloist and her professional training as an orchestral harpist. A traditional musician first, Marta's main harp influence is Maire Ni Chathasaigh. She also attended the Chicago College of Performing Arts where she studied with Sarah Bullen. Marta plays a Rees Aberdeen harp and thanks Rees Instruments for their support and sponsorship.

Though the fiddle may be a common instrument compared to the harp or pipes, there's nothing ordinary about Devin Shepherd's fiddling. No less a master than the legendary fiddler Seamus Connolly called Devin's fiddling "exceptional" and stated, "I haven't heard playing like that in a long time." Devin won nine consecutive first place awards in the Midwest Fleadh Cheoil, and has also served as an adjudicator. A Chicago native, he started playing at age 4 and had the advantage of growing up in one of the most dynamic music communities in the Irish diaspora; his first teacher was Kathleen Keane. When he was 12, the State of Illinois awarded him a Master-Apprentice grant to study with Liz Carroll. At age 18, he toured the US, performing at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., among other venues. Now 25, Devin is also a highly gifted composer and holds a degree in Music Composition from the Chicago College of Performing Arts; thus he brings to laira not only his truly extraordinary fiddling, but also a creative ability that has been in demand for compositional commissions since even before his degree was awarded.

(just add water and stir...)