Chicago Reel brings some of the city’s finest musicians together for a new look at Irish traditional music. Fiddle, flute, banjo, and button accordion combine with piano to showcase a wide repertoire of reels and jigs – old and new – energetic and full of spirit.
While paying homage to the great Irish musicians of the past who influenced them most, the band brings a contemporary drive and energy to their music. Dan Neely of the Irish Echo lauded the group’s “smart arranging and nuanced ensemble work” and their “delightful dance band feel that harkens back to Chicago bands of an earlier era.”
Since their formation in 2010, the band has appeared at festivals and venues throughout the country, including the Milwaukee Irish Festival, the Catskills Irish Arts Week, the Indianapolis Irish Festival, IBAM, the Gaelic Park Irish Festival, Millennium Park and SPACE.
Jonathan Whitall is originally from Pittsburgh, where he grew up studying classical piano and violin. A family friend introduced him to Irish music in the mid-1990s, and he became interested in the tunes, studying the work of masters such as Tommy Peoples and John Doherty. He honed his technique playing with Donnybrook and other Chicago-area musicians. More recently, he has turned his attention to the distinctive style of Cape Breton music, taking inspiration from musicians including Glenn Graham, Joel Chaisson and Troy MacGillivray. Drawing from a variety of traditions as well as his extensive tune knowledge, he brings intricate, energetic and tasteful accompaniment to the band. He also fiddles with The Cosmic Otters, a contra dance band.
Pauline Conneely was born in Bedford, England. The youngest of four children, raised by Irish parents, economic migrants, who were themselves steeped in Irish Music, Dance and Culture. Like many such Irish households in the UK and America in the 1960's, these homes were filled with the sounds of music and dancing on a daily basis. The Conneely children were encouraged by their parents, and indeed their mentors (one of whom was Brendan Mulkere) to experiment with a variety of different instruments, with Pauline eventually electing to concentrate on the banjo, all the while continuing with other activities, such as, becoming a Champion Irish Step Dancer along the way.
Since her first visit to the USA in 1988 as a musician and dancer with Ceomhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann, Pauline has made her home in Chicago. And what a journey it has been! She has shared the stage with, and has become close friends with, most of the well-respected Irish artists performing on the world stage today. And there is no doubt that people like Liz Carroll, John Whelan, John Doyle, Daithí Sproule, The Chieftains, Cherish the ladies, Sean Keane, Mick McGoldrick, Troy MacGillivray, and countless others too numerous to mention, would return the compliment, to their friend and peer, Pauline Conneely.
Known to have a wicked sense of humor, and a story always at the ready, Pauline is at her most comfortable when playing her beloved banjo, surrounded by people who share her love of all things Irish, whether as a member of her own band Chicago Reel, or a guest of the Cape May Céilí Band as she was recently on the Cruise of Irish Stars, or simply sitting in with an impromptu session at the local pub.
Bernadette is a well-known New York Irish fiddler, music teacher and champion Irish step dancer. She is a veteran performer who is very active in the Irish traditional music circles.
As a member of the Cape May Ceili Band, she has played at numerous festivals and enjoys bringing the love she has for the music to the stage. She participates/organizes the traditional Irish music played at Niall’s on 52nd, Theatre 80 on St. Mark’s, St. Andrew’s and Cannon’s Blackthorn Pubs in New York.
Bernadette has played in concert with an on-going, growing list of Irish talent that includes: Morning Star Band; The Prodigals; Jerry O’Sullivan; Cape May Ceili Band including John Whelan; Peter McKiernan; John Nolan; Linda Hickman; The Young Wolfetones; McLean Avenue Band; Sean Keane Band Andy Cooney’s Cruise of Irish Stars; Allen Gogarty; Chicago Reel.