Hanna Sisters bring music back home - Irish News

Posted on 30/03/2007

Saturday 24th March 2007
By Jenny Lee
The Hanna Sisters, Mary, Nuala and Breige, can’t really remember when they first started playing music. Their maternal grandfather was a fine exponent of the fiddle and their father’s family is steeped in traditional music. They were immersed in music from a very early age at their home in Maghery, Co Armagh, a stonesthrow from the shores of Lough Neagh. All three are classically trained in music and have teaching qualifications.But it’s their performances and distinctive harmonies which has gained they many plaudits throughout Europe. Having returned from a Scandinavian tour, last month the girls released their debut album, About Time, and embarked upon an Irish tour. “I suppose we decided early on that this was going to be an album that reflected us,” they explained. Whatever mix we bring together as the Hanna Sisters. 

“We didn’t try to write or produce a clever album that was geared towards a market segment, we simply sat down as three women, three sisters, three musicians and wrote songs. This album is an honest reflection of where we’re at in all those areas of our lives,’’ they say. 

The album title itself is a tongue-incheek reference to the length of time the album has been in gestation, at the very least two years, but it also alludes to the fact that time itself is a theme running through most of the songs. “We didn’t consciously set out to write songs with a common theme but we were pleasantly surprised when this is what happened. When we are songwriting we often work alone before coming together as a group to thrash the ideas into a song. The biggest surprise of all is that we were all in the same place without even knowing it.’’ About Time could be described as a pop-rock album with obvious traditional Celtic nuances, a natural consequence of the girls traditional upbringing and the instrumentation which includes fiddle and whistles. 

Between the three of them they can play an astounding range of instruments including piano and guitar (all) tin whistle and fiddle (Nuala and Breige) bongos and bodhran (Nuala) and uillean pipes (Breige). In concert, the girls showcase their musical skills and songwriting, interspersing their songs with jigs and reels to keep the audience on their toes and the whole effect is an enjoyable and invigorating nights entertainment. The girls good looks are of course an added bonus if not a slight distraction, for some, to the musical experience.
■ The Hanna Sisters play Riverside Theatre, Coleraine on March 30 (028 7132 3232), Ardowen Theatre, Enniskillen on May 12 (028 66323233) and Millennium Forum, Derry
on 19 May (028 7126 4455).