Guth Ar Fán

Marta Cook, Brian Ó hAirt and Devin Shepherd combine their many talents to create an alluring performance that explores the many corners of the Irish tradition—from the world of the Gaelic harp, to the lyrical nature of sean-nós singing, with plenty of time spent fiddling in the dimly lit pubs of Chicago’s past. All award winners and highly respected in their fields, these musicians bring with them stories that give context and connection to their music while delighting audiences with a sound full of exuberance, lift, and subtlety. Fiddle, concertina, harp, voice, and feet create an event not often experienced on this side of the Atlantic. Come join them for an evening of enchanted music that celebrates the many facets of the tradition and the experience of the ever-wandering Irish—guth ar fán—a wandering voice.    

Guth Ar Fán: Marta Cook, Brian Ó hAirt, & Devin Shepherd

Marta Cook: harp

Brian Ó hAirt: concertina, voice, dance

Devin Shepherd: fiddle    

Marta Cook has committed herself to realizing the potential of the modern lever harp as a classic instrument within the Irish tradition. Her approach to technique and musicianship is greatly inspired by her love of the music of the fiddle and uilleann pipes, and particularly influence by the legacy of those traditions in her community of Chicago, Illinois. Marta is also well-known as an accompanist with an interest in developing the harp as a rhythm instrument and an instrument for the accompaniment of voice. In recent years, Marta has traveled extensively, performing and teaching throughout Europe and North America, including every major North American harp festival. Having worked as a studio musician in Chicago and New York City, her playing has been featured on many albums including Yo-Yo Ma's GRAMMY award winning 2010 release Songs of Joy and Peace. Marta is greatly indebted to the teaching of pioneering Irish harper Máire Ní Chathasaigh, which has greatly influenced her approach to harping as well as her creative process. Additionally, Marta studied musicology at the University of Chicago and holds an honors degree in harp performance from the Chicago College of Performing Arts, where she studied with the legendary Chicago Symphony/New York Philharmonic Principal Harpist, Sarah Bullen. Marta is a sponsored artist of William Rees Instruments. 

Devin Shepherd began learning Irish music at the age of nine. His mother Sue, a lover of the music, immersed him in the deep-rooted Irish music community of his hometown of Chicago, Illinois. As a result of his early dedication and promise, he was awarded an Illinois Arts Council Master-Apprentice grant to study with famed Liz Carroll when he was twelve years old. Aside from Devin’s formal study with Liz Carroll, Kathleen Keane, & Noel Rice, he learned much of his music during many hours spent with native-born, non-professional musicians in Chicago’s community such as Phil Durkin, Pat Cloonan, Frank Burke, Albert Neary, Úna McGlew, and Anne Scully. Another formative experience came when Devin took classes from master fiddler James Kelly, who stressed the importance of legendary fiddle masters such as Bobby Casey, Michael Coleman, John Doherty, and Julia Clifford. During these years, he won first prize in the Midwest Fleadh Cheoil fiddle competition nine times. For several years as a young adult, Devin also resided in New York City—another highly respected community for Irish traditional music—learning and absorbing the history and tunes of Irish musicians there. Since 2000 he has been a full-time teacher and performer of Irish music throughout North America and abroad. Devin founded The Shepherd School of Irish Music in 2016. He thoroughly enjoys passing on the tradition to the younger generation, while striving to continue his own development as a musician. Devin earned his degree in music composition from Roosevelt University. He is a member of respected Irish music group, Bua.

Brian Ó hAirt was born in Saint Louis, Missouri to parents from rural southern Indiana and grew up exposed to the older dance music and songs of the Upland South. A natural singer from very early on, this exposure inspired him to venture deeper into the singing traditions of Ireland later in his youth. Along with singing, Brian learned old-style step dance and dance tunes on the tin whistle, button accordion, and concertina in his late teens. It was also during these formative musical years that Brian was introduced to Áine Meenaghan (Nan Chamuis), a native Irish speaker and singer from the Conamara region of western County Galway now residing in Chicago, Illinois. Brian learned many songs from her repertoire and in so doing enriched his singing style and elevated his Irish language skills toward an uncanny fluency. Given his affinity to West Galway, his instrumental style on accordion and concertina is rightly influenced by the melodeon music and rhythmic patterns associated with the sean-nós dancing of this region—also one of Brian’s passions. The culmination of his early dedication to these traditions came when Brian became the only American to ever win a senior title at the 2002 Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann; adding his name to the award's long list of noted All-Ireland Champion singers including his current singing partner Len Graham of Glen Arm, County Antrim. Brian has taught and toured throughout North America and Ireland and is also a member of Bua.