Legendary trad guitarist Dennis Cahill dies aged 68

Speaker Michael D Higgins led tributes to legendary trad guitarist Dennis Cahill, who died four days after celebrating his 68th birthday.

One of Irish traditional music’s most acclaimed guitarists had his birthday on Bloomsday, June 16.

Friend and fellow musician Jimmy Keane announced Cahill’s death on his website on Tuesday.

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“Our dearest Dennis passed away peacefully on Monday evening, with his beloved Mary by his side as she did throughout her journey,” he wrote.

“Moments before – we were comforting Dennis while The Lament for Limerick from Dennis’ album with Martin was in the background – and as the track progressed to My Love is in America, Mary turned off the player, s leaned over to hug and kiss Dennis one last time – and then he left…

“Too heartbroken to write more… Play a tune today. Sing a song. Tell a corny joke. Sip a whisky. Cherish a memory…

“My heartfelt condolences to Mary, Cliodhna, the Cahill family and all of Dennis’s many friends…I love you Dennis and rest gently in peace…”

In a statement, Speaker Higgins said: “It is with great sadness that those who love Irish traditional music across Ireland, his native Chicago and the world will have heard of the passing of Dennis Cahill.

“Dennis brought a unique and innovative style to his guitar playing, whilst being deeply respectful of the essence of traditional Irish music. He will of course be remembered for his collaborations with Martin Hayes both as a duo and within of the group The Gloaming.Together they explored new musical territory and helped create a phenomenal interest in traditional music among a whole new generation of people, both in Ireland and around the world.

“I have had the pleasure of hearing Dennis perform on many occasions and I will always remember in particular the performance of The Gloaming as part of the ‘Ceiliúradh’ concert, held at the Royal Albert Hall in London. in 2014 as part of my State visit.

“On behalf of Sabina and myself, I want to express my deepest condolences to Dennis’ wife, Mary, his family and all of his friends and colleagues around the world.
“Tá oidhreacht luachmhar cheoil fágtha ag Dennis do na glúinte atá le teacht. Suaimhneas síoraí dá anam uasal.

Cahill is well known for his long-standing musical partnership with Martin Hayes and, alongside the Irish fiddler, was a founding member of supergroup The Gloaming.

On their Facebook page, they simply captioned a black and white photo of Dennis: “June 16, 1954 – June 20, 2022. RIP We love you Dennis.

Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media Catherine Martin was among those who paid tribute to Cahill online following the sad news.

“So sorry to hear that Dennis Cahill has passed away,” she wrote. “His unique guitar playing had a huge impact on Irish musical tradition; he left a fine catalog of music behind him. My thoughts are with his family and friends. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam.”

Born in Chicago, Illinois to County Kerry parents, Cahill studied at Chicago Music College. He met Hayes in Chicago in the 80s, and the two formed the band Midnight Court.

He was considered one of the most respected and innovative guitarists in traditional Irish music, developing his own style of playing and performing his music around the world.

Dennis and Martin have collaborated or performed with artists such as Sting, jazz guitarist Bill Frisell, bluegrass and country star Ricky Skaggs, newgrass artists Darol Anger and Mike Marshall, and the Irish Chamber Orchestra.

Together they have performed at venues in Australia, Japan, Italy, Germany, France, the Netherlands, Scandinavia, Canada, the UK and Ireland, as well as Hong Kong, People’s Republic of China, Poland and Mexico.

In 2011, they were the star performers at the White House for the President and Mrs. Obama, Vice President and President of Ireland.

With The Gloaming they performed in Brussels in 2013 to celebrate Ireland’s Presidency of the European Union, and in 2014 at London’s Royal Albert Hall for the Irish President’s historic first state visit.

Martin and Cahill had previously spoken about their friendship together.

Cahill previously told Hot Press, “I think we’re both in agreement on when it works in the studio. We would both listen to something and we would know if it was a case where something was not there.

Hayes said: “I’m a bit impatient and obsessive-compulsive. So I’ll probably go crazier in the studio than Dennis. I find that the studio can sometimes be a very depressing place. I’m not always looking forward to going there. But at the same time, I just judge things by intuition, you know.

“And when it comes to our own working relationships, we know each other very well. And somehow, we’re lucky enough to be able to tolerate each other’s whims. But you have to have some pretty close kind of friendship if you’re going to drive around the world and jump in a rental car in Sydney and then do the same in California a week later. We hang out a lot, but we also try to give ourselves as much space as possible.

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