With Attention Deficit Disorder seemingly rampant
among artists and audiences alike these days, it's the brave musician
who would embark on a musical project that extends beyond the 3
minute holy grail. Maurice Lennon has never been a musician to shy
away from that particular challenge. His long years of apprenticeship
with Stockton's Wing (phenomenally successful in the early 80's),
and his impeccable genetic and geographical inheritance (son of
the renowned Ben, nephew of Charlie Lennon, and flagbearer for the
tradition in Leitrim) have served him well. These days, Maurice
Lennon sets his sights on the broad canvas, all the better to dig
deep into the tradition and marry it with the 21st century music
that coarses through his own veins.
Brian Boru: The High King of Tara sees Lennon embarking on his most
ambitious project to date. A musical portrait of Boru, a 10th Century
Irish hero who defended his country against the pillaging Vikings,
Lennon's sweeping suite captures the passion, the terror and the sheer
villainy and epic heroism of the times with all the laconic ease that
we've grown accustomed to expect from this most understated of fiddlers
Swing shifting from the mournful to the celebratory
in the opening piece, 'Brian's Theme', Lennon's fiddle marks Boru's
territory and his charismatic leadership with mantra-like chord
sequences, bolstered by Noel Eccles' tiptoeing percussion. From
the opening sequence, it's the organic ensemble playing that leaves
the deepest impression. Orchestral in its sweep, yet more akin to
the cosiness of the session in its tone, this is a musical journey
that would welcome entreaties from snug and concert hall alike.
accuracy is a lynchpin of Brian Boru. Painstakingly retracing key
events such as the burning of Boruma - a ring fort on the west bank
of the Shannon near present-day Killaloe - and gathering the Dal
gCais, or faithful followers, rise to a gallop, fueled by Máirtín
O'Connor's trademark featherlite accordion, and Anthony Drennan's
lithe guitar. Donal Lunny lends his customary conglomeration of
offerings from bouzouki to bodhrán, guitar, keyboards and vocals,
while Brian Lennon's flutes and whistles cross-stitch their way
through the tunes with the agility of a Juillard graduate.
Then there's Sean Keane's guest vocals, sparingly
applied and pitch perfect on 'Aisling', an ode to the unfailing
commitment Boru felt for his native land, replete with foreboding
for the impending triumph and tragedy that was the Battle of Clontarf.
Maurice Lennon's meticulous scholarship and creative
energy are what define Brian Boru: The High King Of Tara. This collection
is a confluence of musical and historical passions that reaps richly
from the seeds Lennon has sown. Creative peaks seldom rise from
nothing, and Maurice Lennon's been tipping around its perimeter
for long enough to know a gemstone when he uncovers one.
Reflective, restorative music. Balm for the soul and
fodder for the imagination.
"There must be something in the Lennon Genes;
they've been great exponents of the Leitrim style of traditional
music for decades and now Maurice has finalised a 20-year old idea.
This is a musical biography of Brian Boru, certainly the greatest
of the High Kings of Ireland. Whatever about his methods, he certainly
made the office something to be reckoned with. No Ard Rí
before or since, made such an impact. We remember the battle of
Clontarf in 1014 the way the Scots remember 1314, and the English
With the exception of Brian Boru's March', which is given the menacing
treatment it deserves, and extracts from an ancient poem said to
have been written by Brian's own bard, this is all Lennon's own
work. The tunes are traditional in style, but they translate into
something much deeper, I suppose it would have been easy enough
to shoehorn tunes into place, but there's plainly been a lot of
thought gone into this work. It hangs together really well.
There are more instruments on this than you'd find at a fleadh,
played by the cream of the crop of musicians. There's not one I
wouldn't trust with my favourite tune. This has the feel of a concert
version of a much more complex production; I'd like to see it as
an open-air show. If Bill Whelan's listening....
This isn't a CD to dip into; it needs to be heard as a complete
work. Pour a glass of Jameson's or, better still, open a bottle
of Tyrconnel, and immerse yourself in a dark and bloody episode
of Irish history."
Mick Furey - The Living Tradition
"I don’t know why but on ‘Brian’s Theme’ the
opening track of Maurice Lennon’s Brian Boru project I’ve got the
song ‘Go Tell It On The Mountain’ running through my head. But I
digress. This is an album that has obviously been a labour of love
full of subtle nuances and decorative interweaving of rhythm changes.
This isn’t a case of just being clever for the sake of it as the
palette of musical colours creates an aural soundscape. With Maurice’s
fiddle at the helm surround by such luminaries as Donal Lunny, Mairtin
O’Connor and Anthony Drennan (taking time off from his role in The
Corrs) you couldn’t really fail. Noel Eccles brooding percussion
is used to full effect throughout without overwhelming the listener
with heavy-handed intrusion. In fact, the whole album is wonderfully
restrained and brings back memories of the Irish TV programme The
Session. On the vocal tracks ‘Aisling’ and ‘My Reign Is Over’ Maurice!
sounds uncannily like Dick Gaughan leaving you wondering why he
didn’t include more. OK, so it’s not an album that will push the
musical boundaries in say the way Stockton’s Wing did when they
were going but it is a worthy contribution to any Celtic music collection."
Live Review Maurice Lennon Glór Centre Ennis Co
Clare Saturday May 25th 2002
"Having read Morgan Llywelyn 's historical novel 'Lion of
Ireland ' some twenty years ago ex Stockton's Wing fiddler Maurice
Lennon has been fascinated by the legend that was Brian Boru. His
one wish in all that time was to try to put his life story to music.
His desire has been fulfilled with the release of his first solo
album Brian Boru -The High King of Tara. A 'concept' album telling
in music (with some words) the life story of Brian Boru -it highlights
Maurice Lennon's giftedness as a musician and composer within a
neo -traditional vein.
The first public concert airing of Brian Boru -The High King of
Tara took place in Ennis' new Glór Centre on Saturday May 25th 2002
as the Flagship evening concert of this year's Fleadh Nua. Coming
into Glór and eying its amenities-a long theatre bar, a gallery
and the auditorium one cannot but be impressed. Ennis at last has
a concert venue on par with any major arts centre/theatre in Ireland,
up to now a sorely lacking amenity in a town so renowned for traditional
The second, half was devoted to Maurice Lennon's epic work Brian
Boru The High King of Tara. While the first half radiated the relaxed
informality of Comhatas concerts, this half was a fully concentrated
contemporary work. Maurice Lennon's majestic fiddle lead Kincora
a full band complete with Rod Quinn's extensive percussion array,
Seamus Brett's keyboards, electric and acoustic guitars, uilleann
pipes, flute and accordion. When listening to Brian Boru The High
King of Tara on disc shades of Donal Lunny, Shaun Davey and Bill
Whelan's epic compositions seep through occasionally. However, Maurice
Lennon's work is imbued with a greater concentration of the melodic
nuances of traditional music. The Burning of Boruma and Gathering
of the Dal gCais hit supreme traditional/contemporary fusion form
while St. Patrick's Cross bathed in its melodic simplicity. Introducing
vocalist Sean Keane for the gently resigned My Reign is Over, the
event took on a fresh new colour. The lack of songs had not been
noticed until then but Keane's brief cameo was short sweet and stunning
in that order.
While Brian Boru The High King of Tara scales the musical heights,
to make the proverbial good thing better leads me to the following
conclusion-the possibility of using a narrator for live concerts
could be investigated to heighten the sense of occasion and help
an audience unfamiliar with the subject matter enter fully into
the underlying concept.
For Maurice Lennon the realisation of Brian Boru -the High King
of Tara both on CD and on stage is a triumph on a personal as well
as creative level. The adaptation of Brian Boru -the High King of
Tara for stage presentation marks his re-emergence both as a composer
and a musician. However, the treatment of the project from here
on in is what will mark its rise or fall - tonight was an impressive
start but much of Brian Boru -the High King of Tara's future success
and viability lies in the efforts made to reach out and capture
a wider general audience. Musically Brian Boru -the High King of
Tara contains work of immense compositional worth and value but
this show screams for a marketplace such as a Lorient, Celtic Connections
or Celtic Colours premiere-such is its major stance- anyone out
there willing to rise to the challenge? "
© John O'Regan June 2002
"Qui, s'intéressant un tant soit peu
à l'Histoire de l'Irlande, n'a entendu parler de Brian Boru,
le grand roi de Tara, surnommé le Lion d'Irlande? C'est en
1002 que Brian Boru se fit proclamer roi d'Irlande, Il y a 1.000
ans exactement. Et c'est l'année du millénaire qu'a
choisie Maurice Lennon pour commémorer l'histoire de ce roi
Originaire du Co. Leitrim dans le nord-ouest, Maurice
Lennon est un fiddler reconnu dans le monde de la musique irlandaise,
qui a fondé dans les années 80 le célèbre
groupe Stockton's Wing. Depuis toujours il compose musique et chansons.
Bill Whelan, Cherish The Ladies ou Natalie McMaster comptent parmi
les interprètes de sa musique.
Brian Boru voit Maurice lennon s'embarquer dans
un ambitieux projet : un portrait musical en 12 tableaux du héros
irlandais du X siècle. Pour ce faire il s'est adjoint les
services de quelques amis et non des moindres. Donal Luny en multi-instrumentiste
et producteur, dont on reconnait incontestablement la "patte".
Mais aussi Máirtín O'Connor, Noël Eccles ou Anthony
Drennan... ainsi que le chanteur Sean Keane.
Bref, une bien belle fresque historique qui se
conclut pars les vers du barde de Brian Boru, ecrits juste après
la mort de ce dernier."
Philippe COUSIN - le peuple breton
Brian Boru: A Musical Portrait
Largely based on the novel “Lion of Ireland” by Morgan Llywelyn,
“Brian Boru” depicts the life story of the most famous of all the
High Kings of Ireland through music and song. Composed by fiddler
Maurice Lennon (former member of Stockton’s Wing), the actual performance
of this musical biography is in the hands of the usual suspects,
who include Donal Lunny, Mairtin O’Connor and Anthony Drennan, as
well as a welcome guest appearance by Sean Keane. The Donal Lunny
influence is most tangible – he leaves an indelible stamp on every
project he touches.
Undulating between glory, triumph and grief, the musical content
is vast. The accompanying notes are useful for those not in the
know about the history of Brian Boru, in that they provide a guideline
to the process, musical and biographical. The opening track, “Brian’s
Theme” is glorious, full of hope and expectation, with fiddle, percussion
and Uilleann Pipes taking control. “Stone of Destiny” is perhaps
the most instantly accessible of all the tracks, and marks the great
occasion of Boru’s coming to the throne. The unfaltering march of
“Tree of Sorrows” depicts the infamous and tragic battle of 1014,
and Lennon captures the emotion of the event most aptly.
The downfall, of course, on a set of works such as this, is that
the individual qualities of the musicians rarely get the chance
to penetrate the sound as a whole. Nonetheless this album is, undoubtedly,
packed full with high class playing and beautiful melodic moments.
A great soundtrack to a life. Jennifer Byrne - World
Brian Boru, a musical journey for Maurice Lennon
After 20 years in a successful traditional band
like Stockton's Wing, what's a man to do?
That's what fiddle player Maurice Lennon wondered
to himself after he parted company with the band about five years
"All good things must come to an end" he told the Longford
News "I'd had enough and it was time to move on."
But he didn't sit on his rear for long. Soon he was working with
Sean Keane, whom he describes as "an amazing vocalist".
But after two years doing that, he went back to something that had
been floating around his head for a long time.
"Years ago, when I was in Stockton's Wing, I read a book by
an American, Morgan Llywelyn, called Lion of Ireland. It was about
Morgan is really well known in the States and has sold 40 million
I loved the book and it was on my mind that some day I would put
the story to music. And that's what I have been doing for the past
Along with Donal Lunny, and other well known musicians, including
Anthony Drennan (who plays with The Corrs), Maurice has been working
on his latest production, an album called Brian Boru, A Musical
For Maurice, the electrical guitar represents the
spirit of the land, and the fiddle represents Brian Boru, which
is why the two are the main instruments used on the album.
"Brian Boru stood for an awful lot that was quintessentially
Irish. And there's much more to him than someone who just died in
the battle of Clontarf." "He was crowned High King 1,000 years ago
this year, and this has not been commemorated."
Maurice's immediate plans are to bring his unusual album, which
tells the story, track by track, of Brian Boru, to America, where,
he believes, there is a growing market and a lot of interest.
Conor McHugh - Longford News
"Maurice lennon's new album, 'Brian Boru
- The High King of Tara', is a musical portrait of the great man,
and features an impressive line-up of Musicians.
The album has an all-star cast. Lennon is a relation of Leitrim
fiddle player Charlie Lennon and was a member of Stockton's Wing.
The album was produced by Donal Lunny, and features Mairtín
O'Connor and Sean Keane.
As befits a 'concept ' album, the music is epic, and cinematic in
its sweep, yet, there is no trace of self indulgence. The music
always sounds powerful, emotional and purposeful. The main melodic
themes are led by Lennon's fiddle playing which impresses throughout
and shows a great stock of fresh ideas.
The opening track 'Brian's Theme' sums up all of these qualities
as does 'The Burning of Boruma', 'Lá Ollamh' and a powerful
reading of the venerable 'Brian Boru's March'. There are a number
of rock influences, but this is kept to a minimum allowing the traditional
music to shine through. Sean Keane also provides beautiful vocals
on 'Aisling' and 'My Reign is Over'.
Whether Brian Boru joins O'Riarda's Míse Éire or Shaun
Davey's The Relief of Derry Symphony in the stakes of great musical
interpretations of Irish history remains to be seen, but no doubt
a live performance with the same personnel as on the album would
be some event. As an album of modern trad, Lennon can be justifiably
proud of this work."
A HUGELY interesting suite from the mind of a Major
fiddler....It dose however successfully integrate modernism to several
fine tunes excellently played, particularly on fiddle. Donal Lunny
is the production hand, with a strong colouring from Noel Eccles'
percussion and Mick O'Brien and Mikey Smith on uilleann pipes.
Fintain Vallely - Sunday Tribune - (4 star rating)
"Maurice Lennon, one time member of Stockton's
Wing, stays true to his trad roots on this CD. He embarks on an
ambitious task of depicting 10th Century Irish hero Brian Boru in
a musical style that blends traditional with some classical and
contemporary influences. Maurice's great strength lies in his ability
for storytelling and depicting history through his music."