Moving Hearts was formed in early 1981 and ceased regular touring in 1984. Despite many changes in personnel, Moving hearts recorded four critically acclaimed albums, and played many prestigious gigs including the Montreux Jazz Festival, The Bottom Line in New York and the Lorient Festival in Brittany. Many bands have acknowledged the influence of the Hearts including The Pogues.
The original Moving Hearts lineup included, Christy Moore (vocals, guitar & bodhran), Donal Lunny (bouzouki), Declan Sinnott (guitar), Davy Spillane (uilleann pipes), Keith Donald (alto sax) and Eoghan O'Neill (bass), amongst other. After the first year Christy left the group to pursue his solo career and was replaced by another of Ireland's top male vocalists Mick Hanly.
For a period after the departure of Mick Hanly the group performed as an instrumental group during which period the recorded the epic The Storm album for Tara. At this point the line up consisted of Davy Spillane and Declan Masterson on uilleann pipes, Donal Lunny on bouzouki, synthesiser & bodhran, Keith Donald on sax, Noel Eccles on percussion, Matt Kelleghan on drums, Eoghan O'Neill on bass and Greg Boland on guitar.
Since 1990, when they sold out Dublin's Point Theatre for a farewell concert, The Hearts have only performed a handful of concerts (occasionally with Flo McSweeney on vocals). However 2007 saw the band together again for some warm gigs in Donegal, before a run of dates in Dublin's Vicar Street.
"If you could copyright a musical idea, this would probably be the greatest publishing album of all time. It's been so ripped off. Saw them in Dublin must have been 1982, and they just blew me apart - they're a sort of Celtic Little Feat. The same aura, The same stumble on stage, the same couldn't-give-a-f**k attitude and them using their instruments like sabres. Most of the original Riverdance band was Moving Hearts, in fact. Poor bastards. Fifteen years later they were being paid by someone else to do something they had long ago done for themselves."
Chris Rea - Q Magazine, May 1998
"How to describe this! It's really Irish folk fusion. The traditional Irish sound of uilleann pipes, low whistle, reeds, reels and lyricism mixed with the modern urban sound of synths and saxes. And congas thrown in to really internationalise it. This was made in '85 when the band was at an instrumental peak. Bass player Eoghan O'Neill then went off to play with Chris Rea, synth man Donal Lunny produced Christy Moore, Paul Brady and Clannad, sax man Keith Donald was with mary Coughlan: they've all been around. What you get is a gentle sound, moving sweetly and never frantically but often with great danceability, occasionally breaking almost into jazz. But incontestably an Irish sound. A rarity."
TNT MAgazine - July 1987
Moving Hearts Royal Festival Hall, London.
"The news of this concert came as a welcome surprise. Part of an Irish cultural festival in London. It had apparently been advertised just within the Irish community until a few days before the event. Much gnashing of teeth ensued amongst non-Irish fans of Moving Hearts who found out too late; regardless, the place looked comfortably full.
This was the band's first gig since they threw in the towel at the end of last summer. As with their best-selling posthumous album The Storm, material from which was heavily featured, the set was entirely instrumental. I am a great admirer of both Christy Moore and Mick Hanly's singing, but to me the uniquely exciting thing about Moving Hearts is their instrumental blend. The last time I saw them live, they had just one piper (Davy Spillane) and were having a bit of a technical problem with making the interplay between him and Keith Donald's sax audible. As with the L.P. they now feature two sets of pipes, having been joined by Declan Masterson; they've also added a superb percussionist to complement Matt Kelleghan's drums, and a second keyboard player which fills out the sound texture when Donal Lunny is getting into power chords on his solid electric bouzouki.
The difference that sorting out the internal balance and having decided to concentrate on the instrumental side has made was obvious from the moment the pipes burst into action on McBrides. This really is a phenomenal band with every member an essential ingredient - no passengers. There is simply no disputing that they are now producing the most exciting blend of traditional music, modern technology and instrumental skill to be found outside of Africa. As a result, they also got the kind of audience reaction that the best African bands receive in this country as a matter of course - all available floor space up the front filled with joyously dancing people.
But it's not just the powerhouse production numbers like The Storm or The Lark that are the band's strong point Davy Spillane has increasingly become a focus of the band sans-vocalist, and not just for his piping. His low whistle work on slower airs like The Titanic and May Morning Dew is increasingly evocative and taking on something of the flavour of Japanese shakuhachi players.
The oriental connection was perhaps more oblivious because of an inspired choice of support -(missing line from my copy of review)- charming Corkiness, but the openers were the now three-strong Guo Brothers from China, rapidly becoming honorary Irishmen after touring with The Chieftains. Davy Spillane's low whistle playing shares many of the same qualities as Yue Guo's superlative bamboo flute work.
What a gig! the various hearts seemed thrilled by the experience of playing together again, and genuinely overwhelmed by the audience response. They're already billed for Preselli festival, so let's hope this time they can overcome the problems of keeping such a band on the road. At least they've proved for once and for all that their musical vision has no need for a singer."