Clannad have given a unique voice to modern Irish music. They have combined a deep love of traditional strains with a bold approach to writing and recording. Their legacy is a hugely impressive collection of albums, touching on folk, rock, ambient, jazz and world music. Many of these records have featured lyrics in their native Gaelic tongue, while others have been performed in English. Either way, those vocals have plugged directly into the popular imagination.
They grew up in the parish of Gweedore, Donegal, in the secluded north-west. Maire, Pol and Ciaran Brennan sang and played from an early age in their father's bar, Leo's Tavern. Soon they were accompanied by their uncles, Padraig and Noel Duggan, winning a talent contest in Letterkenny in 1970. Their first album, 'Clannad' was released in 1973. They were celebrated at home, and found an appreciative folk audience in Germany. The 1982 album , 'Fuaim', featured sister Enya.
'Theme From Harry's Game' was released in the winter of 1982. Radio programmers and audiences were captivated by the dense harmonies and the Gaelic words. It leapt into the Top five in the UK charts. The 'Magical Ring' album followed in 1983, and by now brothers Pol and Ciaran were writing evocative and powerful music. This was furthered on 'Legend' a soundtrack commissioned for the television series, 'Robin Of Sherwood' in 1984. During this period, the band received numerous awards including an Ivor Novello and a BAFTA for their ground-breaking work on this album.
This primed the band for one of their most mesmeric records. 'Macalla', released in 1985, featured more electronic arrangements, while Maire's voice was reaching the extremes of joy and melancholy. A chance remark to their friends in U2 resulted in Bono singing a duet with Maire on the track 'In A Lifetime'. This charted twice, in 1986 and again in 1989. The follow-up, 'Sirius' was completed in Los Angeles with some of the city's most famous musicians, as the Clannad sound took another unscripted change.
'PastPresent', released in 1989 brought the music of Clannad to an even bigger audience. Summarising their first four RCA albums it became a much-loved fixture in the UK chart eventually going Top 5. The BBC had obviously noted the huge success of the soundtrack to Robin and commissioned a project that would become the outstanding album 'Atlantic Realm'. This was followed in the same year by Clannad's first soundtrack work on an animation, 'Angel And The Soldier Boy'.
Maire, Padriag and Noel were writing more now, supplementing Ciaran's work. The latter was also honing his skills as a producer. Their 'Anam' album made the top 20 in 1990. 'Theme From Harry's Game' featured on the 1992 film Patriot Games, featuring Harrison Ford, raising the band's profile again in America. The band's music was increasingly in demand for soundtrack work, appearing on Last Of The Mohicans, (1992) and Message In A Bottle (1999).
The 'Banba' album once again gave Clannad a Top 5 hit in the UK charts in 1993 and marked a momentous anniversary; 20 years together as a professional group.
They released the albums 'Lore' (1996) and the Grammy Award winning 'Landmarks' (1998), again proving that no other act had such a distinctive imprint, such a variety of style and tone. It was time, they sensed, to pursue other projects, with the full knowledge that family business would resume in the near future.