Moya Brennan , the ‘First Lady of Celtic music’, to showcase Voices & Harps IV album at Pocklington Arts Centre

Moya Brennan: Playing Pocklington Arts Centre for the first time next Tuesday

IN the words of Bono, Moya Brennan has “one of the greatest voices the human ear has ever experienced”.

In the wake of her Celtic family band Clannad calling time on 50 years together in 2023 after a farewell tour spread over two years, the Irish singer is picking up the reins of her solo career once more at 71.

Promoting her new album, Voices & Harps IV, her 12-date English, Welsh and Scottish tour opened last night (14/3/2024), arriving  at Pocklington Arts Centre on March 19 for her only Yorkshire show.

This will be Dubliner Moya’s first appearance in The Press territory since Clannad’s November 3 2021 concert at York Barbican on their valedictory In A Lifetime travels. “That was a great night,” she recalls. “It was fantastic to include York in our farewell tour as we hung up Clannad’s touring boots for good.

“It was nice to finalise everything. I love my brothers to death but when you travel with them for 50 years, it can be trying!  But I like touring and I enjoy doing it under my name, because it’s done on a different level, much more relaxed, without loads of crew and big tour buses. Not that I didn’t enjoy everything with Clannad.”

Joining Moya in Pocklington will be daughter Aisling Jarvis, on guitar, bouzouki and vocals, and son Paul Jarvis, on keyboards, percussion and vocals, after performing on the last Clannad tour.

Alongside them will be fiddler and whistle player Cathal O’Currain and harpist Cormac De Barra, her accompanist on the latest album. “He’s one of the finest harp players in Ireland,” says Moya, who is well placed to make that judgement as a harp player (and pianist) herself.

“We’ve done our own tours together and recorded several albums under the Voices & Harps banner. We have the new one for this tour, recorded as a tribute to the great Mary O’Hara, who was huge in the Fifties and Sixties, playing the Royal Albert Hall, Sydney Opera House and Carnegie Hall in New York.

“The first well-known band to come out of Ireland were The Clancy Brothers, and she was as popular as them, performing these beautiful Irish Gaelic and English songs, with over 20 albums to her name.”

Voices & Harps IV is available on Moya and Cormac’s own label, BEO Records, ‘beo’ being the Gaelic word for ‘alive’. “There were times when I was busy with Clannad so I didn’t have time to record my own albums,” she says. “But Cormac has been playing with me for 19/20 years, so we’ve done four records now – and we have the best of fun on stage together.”

“I feel blessed that I can sing,” says Moya Brennan. Picture: Tim Jarvis

Moya has released nine solo albums in all. “There’ll be a lot of those songs within the show but because people know me as ‘Moya from Clannad’,  there’ll be a couple of well-known Clannad songs, without the big drum sound, but if you like the harp and vocal harmonies, you’ll like it.”

The intimate scale of this month’s shows brings its own pleasure. “People love hearing the different ways you sing, how you share the singing, and they enjoy you telling stories about the songs,” she says.”More and more people are attending concerts again after Covid, and it wasn’t until the lockdowns that they realised how much they’d miss them.”

Moya, native Irish Gaeilge language speaker, ambassador for Irish culture and “the First Lady of Celtic music”, has garnered such honours as the RTE Radio Folk Awards Lifetime Achievement award, presented to her in October 2019 by Irish president Michael D Higgins, who said that “her name would be forever etched in the history of Irish music”.

When she was conferred with an Honorary Doctorate from Dublin City University, her citation at the May 2022 award ceremony read: “Moya has an innate ability to find the heart of music, to reach the essence of a song or a tune, and to make the ordinary extraordinary.”

“It was an extraordinary day. Being acknowledged in that way was very humbling. My whole family was there; I’m the eldest of nine siblings, and my mother was able to go too,” she says. “That honour is something you don’t expect because it’s so removed from what you do on stage. I didn’t even go to university, but here I am, a doctor!”

In her 50 years as the voice of Clannad, the band achieved 15 million record sales worldwide and a string of awards, a BAFTA, Ivor Novello, and Grammy among them. And yet… “It took me ages to realise that I enjoyed my own voice, as I’m not really a rock’n’roll singer, which I would have liked to have been,” says Moya.

That voice, “quiet and breathy” in her own description, continues to connect through the years: a magical power that had her thoughts turning to her fellow Dubliner, the late Sinead O’Connor.

“I knew Sinead well,” she says. “She was so shy, but once she was on stage, she could feel the audience’s presence inside her. When you sing, you find you find yourself enjoying giving pleasure – a transcendent feeling, where music makes people feel alive and puts a smile on everyone’s face.

“They leave their troubles at the door, and for two hours you can bring joy to them. I feel blessed that I can sing. Singing makes you feel so well afterwards, it takes ages to come down from that high as it’s such a lovely feeling.”

Long may that feeling continue, as the honours roll on too. Next up, Moya will be attending a gala ball in April to receive the honour of Donegal Person of the Year for 2023. Irish tour dates will follow in the autumn, that voice conjuring magic once more.

Moya Brennan, Pocklington Arts Centre, March 19, 8pm. Box office: 01759 301547 or