The spirit and sound of Altan, who make a very welcome return to Trad Week, comes from the deep and rich musical tradition of their native County Donegal.

On one of his many visits to the Donegal Gaeltacht of Gaoth Dobhair, Belfast born flute player Frankie Kennedy met fiddler and singer Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh, sparking off a deep musical connection, marriage in 1981, and a journey that took them all over the world.

Their vision was to bring the unique repertoire of Donegal music to the world and that mission is still as strong as ever.

In the mid 80s, Mairéad and Frankie recruited bouzouki player Ciaran Curran from Fermanagh, whose intricate counterpoint is at the centre of the Altan sound, and guitarist Mark Kelly from Dublin, whose mastery of a wide palette of guitar styles and harmonic vocabulary add a breadth and depth of colour.

In 1992, the album Harvest Storm brought with it Dáithí Sproule on guitar, himself one of the pioneers of guitar in Irish traditional and folk music, having played with the wonderful Skara Brae with the O’Domhnaill family and Buncrana native Ciaran Tourish who excelled in fiery counterpoint fiddle.

One of the band’s finest hours came with the release of Island Angel in 1993, which was recognized by Billboard World Music Charts as the second biggest selling world music album globally in 1994 and in the same year, Altan performed for Bill Clinton at the White House.

The band would play for US Presidents over the course of their career as well as accompanying Irish Presidents on their state visits. Shortly after the release of this album, the legendary accordionist Dermot Byrne joined the band.

Sadly, on September 19th,1994, the band and wider world of music was dealt a devastating blow with the death of founding member Frankie Kennedy. His vision, artistry and sense of fun is still at the heart of Altan and his legacy is carried and celebrated in every note.

Martin Tourish a past TG4 Young Musician of the Year, took the accordion seat in late 2013 and the band recorded their album The Widening Gyre in Nashville with many of the great Bluegrass and American performers, such as Mary Chapin Carpenter, Jerry Douglas and Alison Brown.

The Regional Cultural Centre, Letterkenny is proudly funded by Donegal County Council and Arts Council Ireland.