Rita was born and raised in Dublin in a family where singing came naturally to all. She cut her teeth on the Dublin music scene at the age of 14 with two of her sisters. Three years later The Connolly Sisters made their recording debut with the McGarrigle Sisters 'Heart Like a Wheel'. Thus began a long career as a performer and session singer.
It was through performing in Dublin that she met her husband Shaun Davey. For many years they worked together on recordings and TV and radio commercials, eventually broadening their horizons to include theatre and film. Rita has recorded songs for many films including 'Waking Ned' and the John Boorman film 'The Taylor of Panama'.
Rita has performed in many venues including, London's Albert Hall, The Stad de France and the Chicago Symphony Centre, and in many countries including, England, Scotland, France, Germany, Spain and the United States of America.
As well as collaborations with Shaun Davey - 'Granuaile', 'The Pilgrim' and 'The Relief of Derry Symphony'- Rita has also recorded two solo albums on the Tara label: 'Rita Connolly', and 'Valparaiso'. She recently recorded a new anthem for the Special Olympics world games 2003, composed by Shaun Davey, which Rita performed (with Ronan Tynan) at the opening ceremony in Dublin's Croke Park in June 2003. The song 'May We Never Have To Say Goodbye' also reached no. 1 in the Irish singles charts in June 2003.
One of Rita's most requested songs 'The Deer's Cry' was originally recorded for the closing titles of the Granada film 'Who Bombed Birmingham', a film which was instrumental in obtaining the release of the Birmingham Six. The song was later included in Shaun Davey's 'The Pilgrim' which has been performed widely - most recently in March 2003 at the Chicago Symphony Centre, Chicago.
This year, as well as performing with Béal Tuinne, Rita's singing featured in a series of concerts performed with fellow musicians, Liam O'Flynn, Sean Keane, Seamus Begley, Noel Eccles and Shaun.
Rita's first solo album, simply titled, Rita Connolly, was released in 1991. The album served to underscore her ability to cross musical borders effortlessly, on it she included songs ranging from a sea shanty, through The Beatles to classic blues linking them all together by the simplicity and purity with which she sings."The Vocal and instrumental accompaniment - from such luminaries as Liam O'Flynn, Davey Spillane, Mairtin O'Connor, The Voice Squad, Noel Eccles and Eoghan O'Neill - certainly strengthens and enriches this recording. While a truly great singer like Connolly could doubtless rise above uninspired accompaniment, when she's joined by Ireland's finest, well, it's simply the difference between a good album and a fantastic one."
Valparaiso, her second solo album, reaches out to the world and draws themes and musical influences from far off places but always returns to Ireland as home. It highlights her versatility as a singer and a songwriter and features some of her own compositions, such as the title track Valparaiso, as well as some songs specially written for her by Sebastion Barry and Shaun Davey and songs by Sonny Condell, Leo O'Kelly and Irving Berlin. It also features a re-recording of the Granuaile's 'Ripples in the Rockpools' and Shaun's 'The Quiet Land of Erin'. As with all of her work Rita delivers with a natural ease and clarity that never fails to please an audience.
"Rita Connolly is one of the great guarded treasures of Irish music. An immensely gifted and evocative singer, she scarcely gets mentioned in the roll call of greats in the idiom along with Mary Black, Dolores Keane and Mary Coughlan. This is partly due to her detachment from the usual De Dannan/Planxty Irish folk hierarchy, and partly due to the relative rarity of her public adventures."
"Hop aboard! This ship is sailing to the coastline -- any
coastline. Rita Connolly lifts her beautiful voice in songs of the
shores and surrounding seas. Listening to these two CDs could well
substitute for that long-needed escape to a tropical paradise. You
can feel the rhythm of the waves upon the sand, the warmth of the
sun. ... Although some of the music can be a tad heavy with the
percussion, and borders a bit on '70s pop at times, both recordings
offer a nice variety of music. There is some excellent solo work
by Michael Buckley on soprano and tenor sax, Liam O'Flynn on uilleann
pipes, Anthony Drennan on Dobro, Matthew Manning on oboe, Palle
Mikkelborg on horns, and Helen Davies on harp.
Rita Connolly, her first CD, starts off strong with "Venezuela," a wonderful rendition of a sea chantey that is reminiscent of Meg Davis. She follows this with a fun and exciting work by cohort Shaun Davey, "Miracles." Two more traditional work songs follow: "Factory Girl" and "Same Old Man," with some wonderful harmonies. It's hard for the rest of the album to live up to this incredible start, but there is a terrific middle-eastern sounding piece called "Alice in Jericho" and a beautiful closing lullaby called "Close Your Eyes."
Valparaiso, though not quiet as strong in musical content as the first, is a well-crafted collection. She reworked the traditional "The Quiet Land of Erin" quite nicely. (This listener would like to hear more of this sort of thing.) Especially nice on this album is a stirring remake of Irving Berlin's "Shakin' the Blues Away," and the hauntingly beautiful title song, "Valparaiso," an original by Connolly. These three songs alone make the album worth the price.
Jo Morrison - The Green Man Review
"On her first solo recording, Rita Connolly has shown herself to be a skilful producer/arranger, an adept lyricist, and a soulful interpreter of songs. But at the end of it all comes down to: The Voice. Hers is alternatingly commanding, caressing, revealing, soothing... but always magnificent."
"Rita Connolly's voice was a sheer delight to listen to."
"Specially written for Rita Connolly, this work (Granuaile) sets off her spellbinding voice."