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Cover Design: Robert Ballagh with assistance from Paul Rattigan

Éalú (pronounced “Ay-lou”) means escape, evasion, (unheeded) elopement, passage (of time, of tide). As each of these meanings has significance for me on my continued journey through life, Éalú seemed an appropriate title for the album. Thirteen years have passed since my last musical journey, and it has been a privilege this time to work with 17 talented musicians and five singers from four countries – Africa (Nigeria and the DRC), America, Ireland and Japan. The album contains 10 new instrumental compositions of my own, most of which are contained in the title track, Éalú, which runs to 9.5 minutes.

It is also my privilege to feature four new compositions by other musicians – two by Alan Griffin, one by Roger Doyle and the last by an unknown Spanish composer.

Also included are two songs and five works from the Irish tradition. The new material recorded here, I believe, is all the better within this shared space, drawing on each participant’s recorded contribution, adding varied shades of colour to this album of foreign links.

A difference between this album and other recordings of mine is that I do not play any high whistles: I play Susato low whistles in the keys of C, D, Eb, F and G. Also, unlike other previous recordings, there are no reels featured.

:: Media ::

Éalú Animation

Directed and drawn by Trish McAdam, Motion Graphics – Marc Sherwin

The images in the animation are inspired by conversations Cormac had with Trish about his creative ambitions during the recording and writing of his new [concept] CD, Éalú (meaning escape) and Artist Robert Ballagh’s portrait of Cormac with birds, for the album cover. The short sequence inspired by Artist Gerald Dillon’s West of Ireland Landscape and the landscapes of fields the birds fly over, reflect on Cormac’s family connection to Wicklow and the West of Ireland and some people and objects relevant to Cormac’s own life.

The Cd’s edited music is taken from two main compositions: “Éalú” and “Slán + Breatnach”.

Vanessa Williams

Please note that Media relating to Cormac’s collaboration with Vanessa Williams can be read on the Media Page.

:: Buy the Album ::

Éalú can be purchased from the following sources, in CD format or digital format.

:: Concept ::

To read the concept to my new album, click on one of the languages below:


Concept: A Spoken Introduction

:: Track Listing & Listen ::

01 The Minded Set
02 The Universal Sun[audio:|titles=The Universal Sun]
03 Éalú[audio:|titles=Éalú]
04 All Saints[audio:|titles=All Saints]
05 1916
06 Spain & The Basque Country
07 Slán agus Breatnach[audio:|titles=Slán agus Breatnach]

:: Reviews ::

[expand title="PJ Curtis, April 2013" tag="strong"]This is a magnificent piece of work. Its range of moods and tones, the breath of its scope and the sheer brilliance of the musicianship involved is stunning. Gavin’s overall production is quite superb. All in all, this is a masterful work. You have forged a many faceted work here that embraces so many genres and styles that it will probably have to be presented internationally to find a truly appreciative audience.

I have listened again and am more impressed as I dig deeper.

The playing/production values and especially the mixing is superb (so, too, are the notes and cover art). I have to say that I can’t find a weak track on it.

I  feel the flow and sequence brings the listener on a journey of moods and shades that makes for a ‘wholeness’ and richness rarely found on albums these days. I loved it all.

My personal favourites (as you ask) on the album are ”The Minded Set” (loved the blues harp and you have breathed new life into “The
Butterfly”; “The Universal Sun” and “Spain & the Basque Country” (such beautiful melodies) and finally, “Slán agus Breatnach” (is a stunning and most moving piece of music).

I quite honestly believe that you have created a masterwork here.
Many congratulations to you on this achievement and to all who
contributed to the work. I wish you every success with it.[/expand]
[expand title="Living Tradition Magazine, March 2013" tag="strong"]Cormac Breatnach – Éalú, Dioscai Mandala DMCD003
This CD takes the listener on a remarkable journey through the complex and constantly evolving musical world of one of the most consummate low whistle players around. It’s an uncompromising business, whisking you from the comfort of the Irish tradition to the Caribbean, Europe, Africa and beyond in the company of no less than 17 guest musicians and five singers, all linked by Cormac’s playing and Gavin Ralston’s production. Much of the new material comes from Cormac’s own muse, while several compositions by other composers are featured. This in itself helps to create a sense of cohesion where it would be all too easy for such disparate parts to end up as a chaotic mess.

The result is a seven track offering, varying from under six to over nine minutes in length, each one of which takes you through Cormac’s reaction to a particular concept as perceived by himself and his collaborators. Inevitably, some of these concepts work better for one listener than for another, and there were times when I felt that the abrupt change from one musical genre to another was too sudden – I was being torn from my comfy torpor and made to listen to something too different; but hold on just a minute, I’m enjoying this now, and surely there are some linkages between the two? It’s that sort of feeling – it challenges you and takes you into its creator’s mindset, and it certainly repays repeated listening.

For me the final track Slan Agus Breatnach, a retrospective look at his parents’ lives, is undoubtedly the best thing on the CD and will stay in my top ten for a good while, in part due to Aoife Doyle’s gorgeous vocal intro. As with all the tracks, it is well introduced in the fulsome sleeve notes, along with full personnel credits for each track, and a background to the recording process itself. The notes certainly enhanced my enjoyment of the music and got me on the road to appreciating the concepts.

As the sleeve notes say, Breatnach is one of those people who is outside the comfort zone, probing and extending the limits of the tradition from within. Not every foray ends in success, but the great majority do. For anyone with a mind that’s even half open, I’d recommend listening to this recording; you might well surprise yourself.

John Waltham
[expand title="FolkWorld Webzine, July 2012" tag="strong"]Cormac Breatnach is a phenomenally talented whistle-player whose many previous recordings have pushed back the frontiers of tin whistle repertoire and technique. He has made a career of building bridges between jazz, classical and traditional Irish music, particularly with his own group Deiseal. This new collection, subtitled “Foreign Links”, extends those bridges to connect the traditional and contemporary music of Spain and Africa with Cormac’s native influences. The opening track serves almost as a CV for Cormac’s musical past. It combines three Breatnach compositions with two traditional Irish jigs, and involves ten other musicians, allowing Cormac to segue between almost straight trad and the modern jazz funk of El Mar Picado or the skat singing of Aoife Doyle on Bothy Band favourite The Butterfly. So that’s the story so far: what Éalú adds is a definite cool World beat, a lot of vocals (only one track is purely instrumental), and an enormous variety of musical landscapes from lush Latin to modern minimalist. It takes a lot of help to achieve this, and recognition is certainly due to producer Gavin Ralston (still wearing holes in guitars) and the score of mighty musicians enlisted by Cormac for this project. In fact, most of the time you’d be forgiven for wondering where the whistle-player is.

A quick run through the tracks shows the breadth of Éalú. After the scene-setting first selection, Universal Sun is a children’s song about sharing our solar system: a little cliched perhaps, in a style somewhere between Senegal and St Lucia. The title piece, almost ten minutes, combines Irish, classical and jazz in an extension of Deiseal’s approach – eight separate themes, a scant dozen musicians, composed and choreographed by Breatnach. All Saints is a well intentioned but musically unconvincing appeal to the goodness in Irish culture – anti-racist, charitable, defenders of the weak, repaying Ireland’s debt to the world which welcomed its countless emigrants. 1916 returns to traditional Irish themes, this time combining keyboards and rock band instrumentation with some very fine whistling. My favourite track is probably Spain, a medley of Spanish and Spanish-influenced melodies with all the hot-blooded blare of fiesta music. Cormac ends with Slán, a four-part farewell, moving and cathartic, dedicated to his departed parents. Eclectic, complex, absorbing at times, with copious notes – this is a serious album for a contemplative mood.

Alex Monaghan – July 2012[/expand]
[expand title="DLR Times, Spring 2012" tag="strong"]Tá dlúthdhiosca úrnua, Éalú, eisithe ag Cormac Breatnach a rugadh agus a tógadh i nDún Laoghaire agus a bhí páirteach i gceolchoirm mhór na Féile Pádraig in Amharclann an Pavilion.

Éalú sa chiall teitheadh, athadh, imeacht (aimsire, taoide) atá i gceist aige. Seo mar a chuireann Cormac síos ar an gcoincheap a bhí aige:
“Mar go bhfuil tábhacht ag gach ceann acu seo dom agus mé ar mo thuras tríd an saol, bhraith mé gur teideal feiliúnach ar an albam é Éalú. Tá trí bliana déag caite ó chuaigh mé ar mo thuras ceoil deireanach, agus is pribhléid dom é an uair seo a bheith ag obair le seacht gceoltóir déag tréitheach agus cúig chantóir as ceithre thír – an Afraic (an Nigéir agus Poblacht Dhaonlathach an Chongó), Meiriceá, Éire agus an tSeapáin”.

Tá 10 bpíosa ionstraimeach nua a chum sé féin ar an albam chomh maith le ceithre shaothar nua ag ceoltóirí eile– dhá cheann le Alan Griffin, ceann le Roger Doyle agus an ceann deireanach le cumadóir Spáinneach anaithnid.

Tá dhá amhrán agus cúig shaothar ón dtraidisiún Gaelach ar an albam chomh maith.

Caoineadh atá san fhuaimrian deireanach ar an albam, saothar atá tiomnaithe do thuismitheoirí Chormaic, Lucy agus Deasún, a fuair bás laistigh de dhá lá dá chéile i mí Deireadh Fómhair 2007. Is é an teideal atá ar an gcaoineadh ná an beannacht teaghlaigh a bhí ag athair Chormaic agus é ag scaradh le daoine. “Slán agus Breatnach”, imeartas focal ar an mbeannacht Gaelach “Slán agus Beannacht”.

Tá ceithre chuid san fhuaimrian agus déanann sé déileáil le saol a thuismitheoirí in ord droim ar ais; (i) glaoch ón uaigh; (ii) a sochraidí; (iii) a saol; agus (iv) a gcéad análacha.

Is é an t-ealaíontóir Robert Ballagh a rinne an t-íomhá álainn atá ar chlúdach an albaim.

Tá an t-albam ar díol tríd an ngréasan agus tríd iTunes.[/expand]
[expand title="IMRO, March 2012" tag="strong"]Next week sees the release of Cormac Breatnach’s latest album, Éalú, thirteen years since his last musical journey. The new album has been quite a journey for Cormac, and features contributors from all over the world. In the run up to the album launch on 9th March, Cormac took time out to speak to IMRO about how it all came about.

While Cormac has always looked beyond his traditional Irish roots for influence, Éalú, as the title suggests, provided a further escape for him to expand the flavour of his music. “For many years now I have been meaning to give expression to a number of musical ideas I wished to work with. The ‘concept’ Album which is the culmination of these ideas came about once I decided to reduce the number of tracks.”

Cormac received support throughout the process from guitarist and co-producer, Gavin Ralston, who was influential in the use of electric guitars on six of the seven album tracks, a new direction for Cormac. “I have always loved the sound of the electric guitar with its many capabilities, whether used in blues, jazz, or in other genres, or with Irish music and I am very grateful to Gavin for his sympathetic musical approach taken throughout this album.”

The album contains 10 new instrumental compositions by Cormac, most of which are contained in the title track, Éalú, which runs to 9.5 minutes. “Universal Sun” a children’s song is penned by Cormac himself and is sung by Uché Gabriel Akujobi with Niwell Tsumbu. US singer and “Desperate Housewives” star, Vanessa Williams, also sings an arrangement of an Irish hymn with lyrics by poet, Theo Dorgan, entitled “Land of the Welcome?”

The involvement of seventeen musicians and five singers from Ireland, Africa, Spain, Japan and the USA provides an international dimension to this recording, allowing for more diverse influences and styles. Speaking of the logistical demands of recording with such a large number of contributors in various locations, Cormac tells us: “The time it took to record and especially mix the final sounds demonstrates in my opinion the ambitious nature of this project. I encouraged a certain amount of freedom, where possible, to each of the contributors and was open to their contributions and I loved the result.” The process was helped by the ease with which modern musicians can work together, even when located at opposite sides of the world. “Technology allowed for the outside recordings to happen in America and Japan without my physical presence, although I did travel to Madrid to oversee the Spanish band, La Musgaña, perform.”

Speaking of the development of the songs throughout the recording process, Cormac describes how a recording of this nature, and perhaps all recordings, will inevitably grow and develop from beginning to end. “Tracks can take on a life of their own. I was particularly happy with the charged-emotional lament I composed for my parents and how the track developed, including the unexpected lyrics which were specially written by Aoife Doyle.”

Cormac hopes that Éalú will inspire young composers and musicians in their own personal musical journey. He admits that the varied nature of the album may not appeal to all listeners, but he believes these variations are a strength and the album requires an investment of time to do it justice.

“It has been a labour of love involving familiar themes of awakening, love and loss but with a large sprinkling of fun for good measure. The work is complete. It is for others to judge its relevance and success.”

Éalú goes on general release on Friday 9th March.[/expand]
[expand title="Soundpost, Summer 2012" tag="strong"]Within Ealu, Cormac Breatnach has spread his wings far and wide, featurlng a range of individualist musicians, diverse traditions and musical genres that might be better understood as a programmatic endeavour with a narrative inviting imaginative correlations with the music.

Featuring expert musicians including Roger Doyle, Steve Cooney, Brian Dunning and more popular voices such as Vanessa Williams among notable others, Ealu opens out like a large concept board, where the artist offers an intuitive response to the influences, experiences, and performers that have shaped his music over time. The album is effectively produced by Gavin Ralston, it is quick shifting and emotive, a musical response to an extra-musical narrative that documents Cormac’s life as much as his music.

While clearly coming within the genres typically filed under Celtic/Irish/World, it is perhaps some-what unjust to try to contextualise this collection within our expectations or familiarity with these genres. Ealu appears as an outward exposition of the artist’s interest in expanding his expression and ultimately his sound. Increasingly today, high performing musicians are exploring their own musicality within what might be loosely termed as traditional and improvised music, sometimes taking us on an inward journey as experienced by way of Caoimhin O Raghallaigh among others, or as in Cormac’s case in outward, expansive gestures, more like a filmic collage drawing on jazz, popular, and romantic settings of the melodies.

Ealu is a departure on Cormac’s earlier discography, notably his more intimate and classical renderings of traditional tunes in the form of his duet with guitarist Martin Dunlea and released as Music for Whistle and Guitar (DM CD02, 2001). Listeners of Musical Journey (DM CD01, 1998), will also here experience his penchant for moving across genres. While the tracks are for the most part over six minutes long, favourites are Ealu, 1916, and Slan and Breatnach; while The Universal Sun and Spain and the Basque Country bring more familiar renditions of traditions styles. One might perhaps advocate a deeper exposition of some of the musical ideas explored, yet Ealu is irrepressible, and will not fail to move or delight the expectant listener.

Nollaig O Fionghaile is a developer; musician, and researcher.

Cormac Breatnach is an MUI member: in his CD sleeve notes, he declares: ‘I am a member of the following and l believe the world would be a lesser place
without them: Musicians’ Union of Ireland, SIPTU…’[/expand]
[expand title="The Irish Times, February 2012" tag="strong"]Éalú, Dioscai Mandala ***

Whistle-player Cormac Breatnach made his mark with Deiseal in the 1990s and, later, duetting with Martin Dunlea on 2001′s fine Music for Whistle and Guitar. Eleven years on, and Breatnach’s jazz, Galician and Basque influences are still tangible, but this time round he’s on an altogether more personal odyssey. Éalú, true to its meaning (“escape” or “evasion”), steals into shadowy corners where Breatnach’s whistle toys with a range of disparate shapes and sounds, straddling traditional Irish, original tune compositions and slow airs. Vanessa Williams is guest vocalist on the ineffably maudlin Land of Open Welcome, based on lyrics written by poet Theo Dorgan, seguing earnestly into Thomas Moore’s The Minstrel Boy. With guest musicians drawn from Africa, Japan, the US and Ireland, Éalú suffers from an excess of ideas, many of them struggling to find purchase in this ambitious melting pot.

Siobhan Long, The Irish Times
Download track: The Minded Set[/expand]
[expand title="Interfolk, 2012" tag="strong"]