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Caitríona O'Leary

Caitríona O'Leary


Regularly described by critics as having ‘angelic’ and ‘ethereal’ vocal qualities, the early music singer Caitríona O’ Leary combines these attributes with an ability to express and convey to her listeners the full array of emotions contained in the words she sings. She has that rare quality: stage presence. Even before she opens her mouth to sing she has captivated her audience.LAM  General Management



Caitríona O’Leary is known for her intense and passionate performances of Early Music and Traditional Irish song.



In 2011 she served as music director and starred in eX’s production of Christ Lag in Todes Banden at the Regensburg Early Music Festival. She also performed Ansacht Na Ansacht, a duo-concert of early Irish music with harpist, Andrew Lawrence-King, at the Montalbâne International Festival of Medieval Music (Germany), an Irish tour of eX’s acclaimed production of Shipwrecked which culminated in a performance at the Ulster Bank Belfast Festival at Queens. She is featured on a new recording, Emblem, also released in 2011 with frequent collaborator, singer Clara Sanabras.



Caitríona’s performing activities in 2010 included a national tour of Australia with The Harp Consort, Possessed, a production which she performed in and created for the Galway Early Music Festival, performances as featured soloist in London, Portsmouth, Bristol and Cambridge for Harvey Brough’s Requiem in Blue. She also performed in a concert with University College Cork’s Gamelan Orchestra and toured throughout Ireland (sponsored by the Arts Council), in a concert titled Ecstasy with her band Dúlra.


As co-artistic director of eX, the Irish-based early music performance company she founded, she has conceived, led and sang in several critically acclaimed works for the stage. These include: Possessed (2010), a work exploring diverse cultural and psychological manifestations of trance and possesion which toured around Ireland in 2012; Shipwrecked (2009), a renaissance cabaret oratorio based on the adventures of a shipwrecked captain from the Spanish Armada; Motion of the Heart (2009), an English masque that celebrated the virtues of the human heart; Songs from a Gothic Room (2009), featuring music of the Ars Nova and Ars Subtilior with music direction by the celebrated medievalist Pedro Memelsdorff; The Rape of the Lock,  a baroque spectacle combining a staging of Alexander Pope’s poem interpolated with Handel duets with music director Christopher Hogwood; BAROCK, a staged concert of early German baroque cantatas with Konrad Junghänel; Christ Lag in Todes Banden (2007), a hallucinatory theatricalization of Bach’s first cantata and the sources that inspired it and Ex Tenebris (2006), a dance theatre dream work set to Christmas music of the middle ages and the renaissance.

As a member of the early music ensembles The Harp Consort, Sequentia and Joglaresa, Caitríona has toured throughout North America, Europe, Mexico, Australia and Israel, including such venues as The Royal Albert Hall, Lincoln Center, Radio City Music Hall and Cité de la Musique and has appeared at numerous festivals including, the Utrecht Early Music Festival, Festival Cervantino Guanajuato, Festival Interceltique de Lorient.


As a member of these ensembles and others she has made 17 commercial recordings.


She is a featured soloist on a number of releases on Heresy Records, three of which were released in 2012: Ecstasy (Dúlra), Shipwrecked (eX) and Motion of the Heart/¡Viva Frida! (Dublin Drag Orchestra). Her two solo CDs (with Dúlra), I am Stretched on Your Grave (BMG Classics/DHM) and Dúil, Irish Songs of Love and Nature (EMI/Virgin Classics) were released to rave reviews in 2000, and 2001, and continue to haunt radio playlists in Ireland and abroad.


While living in New York, Caitríona was a member of Banshee, a collective of Irish women artists whose offbeat performances became a fixture on the downtown scene. After relocating to Dublin, Caitríona wrote and starred in "The Stolen Child", a fully staged musical theatre work, which toured Ireland for over 30 performances.  She also wrote and performed the soundtrack to Emer Martin’s film “Unaccompanied”.



Ansacht na nAnsacht - Love of Loves at Beethovenfest, Bonn 2013


The concert in the Church of St. Evergislus Brenig on Friday night was an experience of a special kind. The Irish ensemble Dúlra presented to around 180 listeners native folk music from the Renaissance to modern times. Under the theme "Ansacht na nAnsacht - Love of Loves", Caitríona O'Leary sang of the rich and complex facets of love.


The Dublin singer not only scoured archives to unearth old, almost-forgotten melodies. She herself keeps traditional Irish music alive. Her passion for music sung in Gaelic was seen and felt in her stance, in her facial expressions and not least in her interpretations of the songs.


Even if the audience understood nothing linguistically, the sometimes happy, sometimes sad, sometimes sentimental songs illustrated whether it was a lullaby, a suicide or a lament for the dead. With a clear and concise voice O'Leary gave an insight into the mentality of her countrymen.


It was a premiere for the ensemble as well as for the audience because it was the first time the Irish were at the Beethoven Festival. And visitors love it. Whether as sung, a capella pieces or with light musical accompaniment, O'Leary's voice always formed the main instrument. Because the music shows a special vocal art, Sean-nós singing.

This promises music in the old style, in which the voice is clear, sometimes nasal and very direct. In this singing style, O'Leary is a master. She created a subliminal hum by the elongation of some consonants, so that the emotions of the text were generated. The playful skills of the ensemble were grandiose. Outstanding was the Italian percussionist Andrea Picciono, who presented a melodic game with two hands on his "bodhrán", the Irish frame drum


The Irish violin, the fiddle (Adrian Hart), the "uilleann", Irish bagpipes, played with the elbow and used by Éamonn Galldubh in a fantastic solo, also reinforced the medieval character of the music through their limited tonal range. "It was a wonderful concert. The audience was thrilled," said Helmut Pojunke, Commercial Director of the Beethoven Festival.


Susanne Träupmann, General-Anzeiger Bonn, 27.09.13


Ecstasy, Irish Songs of Joy at Beethovenfest, Bonn 2013

Beyond jigs and reels there exists another dimension to Irish traditional music; this music and tradition is called sean nós, Gaelic songs in the "old style" which originate from the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, they are simple yet so beautiful.


It was this repertoire that was featured in the Volksbankhaus for an evening of a very special kind by Catriona O'Leary and the quartet Dúlra. O'Leary performed these songs from her homeland - which are not for the pub but rather reserved for very special intimate occasions - with a radiant clarity and a sensitive and minimalist accompaniment from Dúlra. Everything was geared towards featuring O'Leary's impressive vocals which were characterised by perfect intonation and her ornamentation of the ancient melodies.


The chamber music character of the concert yielded nothing but advantages. This format resulted in O'Leary dispensing with greeting or speaking to the audience. Whereas during the first half of the concert this approach seemed stiff and distanced, as the concert progressed Dúlra was given more reign, creating a lively and energetic second half to the evening. While the programme included many slow songs justice was done to the title Ecstasy, Irish Songs of Joy. this was especially true for bodhrán and tamburello player Andrea Piccioni whose performance was greeted with enthusiasm.


Catríona O'Leary enchanted the audience with the moving "Ceann Dubh Dilis" while the musicians of Dúlra (in addition to Piccioni, Adrian Hart on the violin, Éamonn Galldubh on flute and uilleann pipes, as well as Kate Ellis on cello) continued to turn up the gas with their playing.


Thomas Kölsch, General-Anzeiger Bonn, 26.09.13


It was in [Caitriona O'Leary's] performance of Carolan’s lamentation for his dear friend MacCabe that O’Leary revealed a mastery of Irish singing, achieving Andrew Lawrence King’s ambition for the ensemble of taking the audience ‘on a journey- not just to a place, but also to a time.’

Jennifer Gall, The Canberra Times (May 2010)

… sung with haunting grace by Caitríona O’Leary.

Steve Moffat, The North Shore Times (May 2010)

O’Leary sang two Gaelic love songs with a pure light soprano… Carolan’s Lamentation for Charles MacCabe proved a rich field of sensitivity and vocal flicks.

Clive O’Connell, The Age (May 2010)

Singer Caitriona O’Leary has a voice free of modern operatic vibrato and projection… [she] created intense and pure sweet notes in Carolan’s Lamentation for his friend MacCabe.

Peter McCallum, Sydney Morning Herald (May 2010)

Caitriona O'Leary sang beautifully with lovely folk-like, Gaelic nuances...

Gillian Wills, The Australian (May 2010)


“[O’Leary’s] caressing tones…fit seamlessly into a consistent fabric of sound and expression”

The Wall Street Journal


“The gentle tones of Caitríona O’Leary were lovely”

The Boston Globe


“Do not hesitate for a second!  Caitríona O’Leary has one of those incredibly crystalline voices that roots you to the spot”

La Vie.


“It is singing a cappella that Caitríona O’Leary is at her most moving and where she best presents a very rare and very lovely repertoire.”

Le Monde de la Musique


“downright angelic”

St. Louis Post-Dispatch


“I relished the flavors of the individual voices and characters…the focused calm of Caitríona O’Leary”

Boston Bay Windows


“The clear voice, like a flowing river, and gracious silhouette, of Caitríona O’Leary has also accompanied the ensemble Sequentia and the Harp Consort”

Valeurs Actuelles


“Spreading a poignant pall over the proceedings, O’Leary’s lamenting voice rose and fell flawlessly, entrancing the audience with heart-wrenching songs.”

The Irish Echo


“Vocal grace, majestic formal fluidity, from traditional Irish ballads to early music: a disc (Dúil, Irish Songs of Love and Nature), which unites tradition and sensuality”



“Her singing style, clear articulation, and beautiful soprano voice – with or without accompaniment – are brought to great effect in these and all the songs in Dúil”

Irish Music Magazine


“Here is a disc (Dúil, Irish Songs of Love and Nature) that revels in the joy of singing and of making music and the joy of being alive”

La Marseillaise


“Wonderful interpretation by Caitríona O’Leary and her band” Femme Actuelle “[O’Leary] creates an elegiac atmosphere with her clear voice and authentic Gaelic pronunciation”

The Plain Dealer


“seamless, ethereal sean nós voice”

The Irish Echo




2014 SleepsongsCD Cover

Caitríona O’Leary & Dúlra

Heresy Records / Naxos












2013 PossessedCD Cover Possessed

eX Early Music Ensemble

Heresy Records / Naxos













2012 Motion of the Heart & Viva Frida

The Dublin Drag Orchestra – Double Album

Heresy Records / Naxos












2012 Shipwrecked

eX Early Music Ensemble

Heresy Records / Naxos


2012 Ecstasy


Heresy Records / Naxos


2004  Magdalena,  Medieval Songs for Mary Magdalen




2003  Miracles of Notre Dame

The Harp Consort

BMG / Deutsche Harmonia Mundi


2001  I am Stretched on your Grave

Caitríona O’Leary and Dúlra

BMG / Deutsche Harmonia Mundi


2000 Dúil, Irish Songs of Love and Nature

Caitríona O’Leary and Dúlra

EMI / Virgin Classics


1999  La Púrpura de la Rosa – Opera by Tomas de Torrejón y Velasco

The Harp Consort

BMG / Deutsche Harmonia Mundi

1998  Ludus Danielis

The Harp Consort

BMG / Deutsche Harmonia Mundi


1997  Carolan’s Harp: Music of Turlough O’Carolan

The Harp Consort

BMG / Deutsche Harmonia Mundi


1997  Aquitania – 12th Century Aquitanian Polyphony


BMG / Deutsche Harmonia Mundi


1996  Shining Light – 12th Century Aquitanian Polyphony


BMG / Deutsche Harmonia Mundi


1996  Saints – Music of Hildegard Von Bingen


BMG / Deutsche Harmonia Mundi


1994  Dido and Aeneas – Opera by Henry Purcell

I Musici di San Cassiano

Vox Classics