Karen Ryan - Fiddle, tin whistle and banjo player
Artists ProfileA musician, teacher and promoter, Karen Ryan was born in London to Galway and Mayo parents It was a strong Connemara tradition of melodeon players and traditional singers on her mother’s side that initially fired her love of the music.
Karen started playing music at the age of nine, taught by the North Leitrim musician Tommy Maguire at the London Irish Centre, where she herself now teaches. It was here that she met lifelong friends and fellow fiddle players, Elaine Conwell and Teresa Connolly (née Heanue), with whom she won the under 12 Trio competition at the All-Ireland Fleadh in 1985.
Karen was fortunate to hone her musical skills through playing with a vast array of musicians in the vibrant London Irish session scene and during frequent visits to musical gatherings in Ireland and the US. Whilst gleaning much from all these players she cites Bryan Rooney, Brendan McGlinchey, Danny Meehan and the recordings of Andy McGann as having the most influence on her fiddle playing.
Awarded ‘Best Female Musician’ by the Chicago Irish American News, ‘Best Instrumental Album by www.liveireland.com, ‘Unsung Heroes Award’ for promoting music in the London Borough of Camden and a ‘Bliain na Cruinne’ for promoting Irish music overseas, Karen has been particularly busy since the release of her debut solo album ‘The Coast Road’ in April 2012 on Cló Iar-Chonnacht. The album has received extensive radio airplay in Ireland, the UK and the US, and the music from Karen’s Galway album launch was broadcasted in full on RTÉ’s Radió na Gaeltachta. The Coast Road has been extremely well received by the critics, garnering such quotes as:
'This is a very, very exciting album. This woman can play.’ www.liveireland.com Bill Margeson
‘The debut album by the London-born fiddler, banjoista and whistler Karen Ryan is an absolute gem … a remarkably coherent and convincing album’ fRoots Magazine
As a founder member of the renowned traditional Irish six-piece, The London Lasses and Pete Quinn, Karen has performed at some of the world’s most prestigious festivals and concert halls, including Dublin City Hall, Cambridge Folk Festival, the Concertgebouw (Amsterdam), Ennis Trad Festival, Glastonbury, Philadelphia Irish Festival and the Royal Albert Hall, where the band performed the first ever BBC Proms céilí in 2008. The band have recorded four albums to date. 2015 sees the release of the band’s fifth album ‘The One I Loved the Best’ - now joined by Chris O’Malley.
Whether as a teacher with Meitheal Cheoil in north London, a workshop leader or an adjudicator both in the UK and overseas, Karen continues to pass on the tradition to both young and old. Through her role as Director of the Return to Camden Town festival of traditional Irish music, song and dance, she is also an award-winning promoter. Now in its seventeenth year, the festival has become a key date in the Irish music calendar and celebrates the historical link between Camden and traditional Irish music.
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