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Caitríona O'Leary and Dúlra

Category: Ensembles

This unique ensemble is made up of musicians from Irish traditional, world music, contemporary and early music genres. It performs authentic Irish music from both the oral tradition and from 17th and 18th century sources.



DÚLRA was founded by singer Caitríona O’Leary to bring audiences a new way to experience traditional Irish song. Dúlra’s innovations include the marriage of traditional techniques and sounds with early music, world music and contemporary classical; interpretations that create a balance between stunning virtuosity and chant-like purity; the discovery and performance of unknown works; transforming the concert experience through an evocative use of staging and design.



Sleepsongs, Heresy Records 014

This in the final album from Caitriona in her trilogy of records exploring the old Irish music forms of Goltraí, Geantraí and Suantraí. She describes this CD as a posie of sleep songs, old and new which she has been singing for years. Her band includes Mel Mercier on bodhrán, Adrain Hart on fiddle, Emer Mayock on flute and whistle with Kate Ellis on cello. She is also joined by UCC’s Gamelan Orchestra.


Now before we get onto the music itself, a note about the booklet which makes up the complete package of this album. It is nothing short of a work of art. Stout board covers and one of the most evocative set of pages you are likely to find in any recording in any genre anywhere. The photography by Laelia Milleri is outstanding, with the individual shots meriting an exhibition in their own right. This is an homage to the pre–Raphalite sensitivity, the photographs have the look of Dante Gabriel Rossetti. The decorative pages are filled with features, which remind one of the finest William Morris wallpaper. Yes in its way it is a Victorian re–imagining of the romanticism of the 13th century. I’d recommend this for sale in the Earl of Bute’s bijoux Castel Coch in Wales, the quintessential Celtic Castle and a must visit if you are ever on the road past Pontypridd. In fact it should be on every CD rack in every medieval gift shop on the Irish Heritage Trail.

So let’s get to the music. Are the songs up to the art work? Yes they are. Do they send you to sleep? Well no they don’t, perhaps if they were dirge like or sickly lullabies they would be as soporific as midnight cocoa. The jigs on the dandling song Yellow Legs would keep a baby of any age giggling all night. Caitríona has achieved a fine balance here that lifts them beyond the ordinary. Cuirfidh Me fein Mo Leanbh adds clarinet an fiddle to give a chamber music effect, and this will be of as much appeal to the classical music community as it is to the fans of songs sung in Irish. (Incidentally she has violin in brackets when she writes fiddle in the notes, which indicates this album is designed to appeal beyond the knowledgeable Irish audience). Caitríona is not adverse to improvising words at times as she does on the snippet of Agus Seothhin which was collected in 1943 from Sile Bean Úi Ríordáin in Ballyvourney. There is great scholarship in the work here. Her notes on Codail Beagan say it was written by Somharile Mac Domhnaill exiled in Louvain in 1626. She gives both the Irish and Englsih words in the notes too. Exile of course concentrates culture and one of the tracks Suntraí Nua Eabhrac was written by Caitriona when she was living in Greenwich Village New York. Proof if it were needed that she lives these songs and they are more to her than academic or romantic exercises in contrived nostalgia.

A treasure to own and treasure to listen to. A masterpiece of a triptych.

Seán Laffey, Irish Music Magazine, March 2014


Warning! This CD should not be played in a moving car, as it could impair the driver’s attention. Caitríona O’Leary has already released a CD of Joy and Ecstasy and one of laments from her native Ireland. With this album of lullabies and songs on the theme of sleep she completes her trilogy of the three categories of traditional Irish song. Her charismatic voice always inspires a sense of devotion in the listener. Here it pleasantly lulls the listener without ever being dull. The accompanying ensemble comes from the Early Music scene. But with Sleepsongs Dúlra has found a sound that will win over world music lovers and surely every fan of Irish folk. Nevertheless, or because of this, in no case play this album in the car.

Winifried Dulisch, Audio Magazin Germany


Here is an album that has 17 songs and traditional Irish lullabies to help fall asleep.  Sleepsongs allows you to travel to the realm of dreams and help babies to sleep to the sounds of Irish music influences on early music styles contemporary classical and world music. The charismatic singer Catherine O'Leary to that angelic voice is ethereal and her musicians on violin, flute and cello and guests Deirdre O'Leary on bass and clarinet, Erin Headley , viola da gamba, Dave Redmond on bass, Francesco Turrisi percussion as well as the participation of the University College Cork Gamlan. An album that includes a booklet of beautiful photos of the mother and child, and history.

Brigitte Dunwoody, Lebabillart.com


Ecstasy, Heresy Records 002

"Here Caitriona O'Leary combines early music, world music and contemporary classical music and uses it to brew an intoxicating elixir that gives rise to the lost world of Ireland and its joy of life before our eyes and ears. Joy of life united with passion, debauchery, enthusiasm, dedication and exuberance in itself - it's the festival of Bealtaine and the music revels in this. Once again this is a first-class interpretation by this ensemble, which has already produced a number of surprises in the past.


As always, it is the voice of Caitríona O'Leary that captivates and captures the listener immediately. But the instrumentalists (Adrian Hart, Emer Mayock, Kate Ellis, Mel Mercier; and guests: Deirdre O'Leary, Erin Headley, Dave Redmond, Francesco Turissi) are at their best and the result is truly overwhelming. This is partly early music and partly world music. But one hears no separation between the two, nothing appears too modern or trendy, rather the result seems timeless and it goes immediately into the blood, the heart and the legs!"

Robert Stobl, Toccata Alte Musik Aktuell, Jan 2014



Ansacht na nAnsacht - Love of Loves at Beethovenfest, Bonn 2013

The concert in the Church of St. Evergislus Brenig on Friday night was an experience of a special kind. The Irish ensemble Dúlra presented to around 180 listeners native folk music from the Renaissance to modern times. Under the theme "Ansacht na nAnsacht - Love of Loves", Caitríona O'Leary sang of the rich and complex facets of love.


The Dublin singer not only scoured archives to unearth old, almost-forgotten melodies. She herself keeps traditional Irish music alive. Her passion for music sung in Gaelic was seen and felt in her stance, in her facial expressions and not least in her interpretations of the songs.


Even if the audience understood nothing linguistically, the sometimes happy, sometimes sad, sometimes sentimental songs illustrated whether it was a lullaby, a suciide or a lament for the dead With a clear and concise voice O'Leary gave an insight into the mentality of her countrymen.


It was a premiere for the ensemble as well as for the audience because it was the first time the Irish were at the Beethoven Festival. And visitors love it. Whether as sung, a capella pieces or with light musical accompaniment, O'Leary's voice always formed the main instrument. Because the music shows a special vocal art, Sean-nós singing.

This promises music in the old style, in which the voice is clear, sometimes nasal and very direct. In this singing style, O'Leary is a master. She created a subliminal hum by the elongation of some consonants, so that the emotions of the text were generated. The playful skills of the ensemlve were grandiose. Oustanding was th Itealian percussionist Andrea Picciono, who presented a melodic game with two hands on his "bodhrán", the Irish frame drum


The Irish violin, the fiddle (Adrian Hart), the "uilleann", Irish bagpipes, played with the elbow and used by Éamonn Galldubh in a fantastic solo, also reinforced the medieval character of the music through their limited tonal range. "It was a wonderful concert. The audience was thrilled," said Helmut Pojunke, Commercial Director of the Beethoven Festival.


Susanne Träupmann, General-Anzeiger Bonn, 27.09.13


Ecstasy, Irish Songs of Joy at Beethovenfest, Bonn 2013

Beyond jigs and reels there exists another dimension to Irish traditional music; this music and tradition is called sean nós, Gaelic songs in the "old style" which originate from the Middle Ages ad the Renaissance, they are simple yet so beautiful.


It was this repertoire that was featured in the Volksbankhaus for an evening of a very special kind by Catriona O'Leary and the quartet Dúlra. O'Leary performed these songs from her homeland - which are not for the pub but rather reserved for very special intimate occasions - with a radiant clarity and a sensitive and minimalist accompaniment from Dúlra. Everything was geared towards featuring O'Leary's impressive vocals which were characterised by perfect intonation and her ornamentation of the ancient melodies.


The chamber music character of the concert yielded nothing but advantages. This format resulted in O'Leary dispensing with greeting or speaking to the audience. Whereas during the first half of the concert this approach seemed stiff and distanced, as the concert progressed Dúlra was given more reign, creating a lively and energetic second half to the evening. While the programme included many slow songs justice was done to the title Ecstasy, Irish Songs of Joy. this was especially true for bodhrán and tamburello player Andrea Piccioni whose performance was greeted with enthusiasm.


Catríona O'Leary enchanted the audience with the moving "Ceann Dubh Dilis" while the musicians of Dúlra (in addition to Piccioni, Adrian Hart on the violin, Éamonn Galldubh on flute and uilleann pipes, as well as Kate Ellis on cello) continued to turn up the gas with their playing.


Thomas Kölsch, General-Anzeiger Bonn, 26.09.13



Caitríona O’Leary and Dúlra

Catalogue # HERESY014

Heresy Records


SLEEPSONGS is an album of Suantraí – ancient Irish lullabies and songs on the theme of sleep. Suantraí along with Geantraí (songs of joy and happiness) and Goltraí (laments) comprise the three strands of traditional song in Irish mythology. This album completes Caitríona O’Leary & Dúlra’s trilogy of albums based on this repertory. I am Stretched on Your Grave, an album of Irish laments (Goltraí), was released in 2001 by BMG Deutsche Harmonia Mundi and Ecstasy, an album of Irish songs of Joy and rapture (Geantraí), which was released in 2012 by Heresy/Naxos.




1. Cuirfidh mé féin mo Leanbh a Chodladh (I will Put my Baby to Sleep)

2. Agus Seoithín (And Lulla, Lullaby)

3. An Seóthó (The Lulla)

4. Seobá mo Leanbh (Shush, my Baby)

5. Uiseó (Hush o)

6. Codail, a Leanbh (Sleep, Child)

7. Rachaidh Sé (He will Go)

8. Cosa Buí Árda (Little Yellow Legs)

9. Ar Mhullach an tSídhe (On the Fairy Mound)

10. Tá Mé ‘mo Chodladh (I Am Asleep)

11. Codail Beagán (Sleep a Little) – C. O’Leary

12. Seoithín mo Leanbh (Lullaby my Baby)

13. Suantraí Nua Eabhrac (New York Lullaby) – C. O’Leary

14. Lollai Littl Child – C. O’Leary

15. When I Was Young

16. Cucú-ín (Little Cuckoo)

17.  A Bhean úd Thíos ar Bhruach an tSrutháin (O Woman Beside the Stream)


Caitríona O’Leary & Dúlra


Caitríona O’Leary (voice)

Adrian Hart (fiddle)

Emer Mayock (flute & whistle)

Kate Ellis (cello)

Mel Mercier (bodhrán)


Guest Artists


Deirdre O’Leary (Bb & bass clarinets)

Erin Headley (bass viol & lirone)

Francesco Turrisi (percussion)

University College Cork Gamelan (Director, Mel Mercier)


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