The Green Fields of America
Four decades ago, renowned musician and folklorist Mick Moloney gathered some of the finest Irish American musicians and dancers to perform at the Bicentennial Festival of American Folklife. Overwhelming interest in that program led Moloney and friends to form the Green Fields of America, the first group on either side of the Atlantic to bring together Irish vocal, instrumental, and dance traditions on the concert stage, sparking a renaissance that continues to this day. The group’s ever-changing lineup draws on the legacy of immigrant musicians who created a rich new repertoire in America out of diverse traditions from across the Emerald Isle. As Moloney says, “The personnel has changed but the concept has remained constant over the past thirty years: to show in one major ensemble some of Irish America’s finest musicians and dancers.” Their lineup at the 79th National Folk Festival includes:
Green Fields founder Mick Moloney is a stellar singer, tenor banjo player, guitarist, and mandolin player. A native of County Limerick, he learned much of his repertoire from older musicians in neighboring County Clare, and was a well-known professional musician in Ireland before immigrating to the United States in 1973 and earning his doctorate in folklore. For many accomplishments as a teacher, producer, performer, and scholar, he was awarded a National Heritage Fellowship in 1999, the highest honor in the nation for traditional artists.
1986 All-Ireland senior button accordion champion and 2016 National Heritage Fellow Billy McComiskey began playing accordion when he was eight years old in his hometown of Brooklyn, New York, studying with the late Sean McGlynn from East Galway and Paddy O’Brien of County Tipperary. After playing the Bicentennial Festival of American Folklife, McComiskey moved to Baltimore and has played a major role in the Baltimore-Washington, D.C., Irish music scene—and Green Fields—ever since.
San Francisco native Athena Tergis released her first album of fiddle tunes at age 16. Shortly after, she moved to Galway and immersed herself in Irish fiddling, playing with groups such as the Sharon Shannon Band. She has toured with the Dublin Symphony, headlined Riverdance on Broadway, and has been a member of Green Fields since 2001.
Vocalist Liz Hanley grew up in a musical family in Boston, learning to play traditional Irish tunes from her father and grandfather. While completing her Bachelor’s in Music at NYU, her professor, Mick Moloney, invited her to join Green Fields. After years living in Brooklyn, where she made a name for herself as one of the top young musicians in the New York Irish music scene, she now makes her home in Sheffield, England.
A former All-Ireland and World Irish Dance champion, Niall O’Leary performs as a soloist and with artists like Natalie MacMaster and Cherish the Ladies. Born in Dublin, he studied with legendary dancers Kevin Massey and Rory O’Connor. He now lives in New York, where he runs an award-winning dance studio and multiple dance festivals.