Kevin Conneff (born 8 January 1945 in Donore, Ireland) is more familiarly known as the voice and rhythmic heartbeat of the legendary Irish folk group, The Chieftains, through his talents as vocalist and bodhrán player. He joined the group in 1976, replacing Peadar Mercier who had been the second bodhrán player for the group. The move was unexpected — he'd been asked to contribute to "Bonaparte's Retreat" (Chieftains VI) and didn't know that Peadar Mercier was retiring until Paddy Moloney, over a pint or two of Guinness, asked Kevin to consider making the contribution permanent. Since then, Kevin has become an integral part of the sound of the Chieftains.
Kevin Conneff was born in Donore, a village near Drogheda, in County Louth, Ireland and raised in the Liberties, in the heart of Dublin. Music was an important part of his home life but, as he later related, "I didn't hear traditional music from the womb," as did other members of the Chieftains. It wasn't until he began work as a photographic assistant for a printing machine company, at age 18, that he was introduced to Irish traditional music. A group of his work mates would hire a car every week to drive to one of the many fleadhs (traditional Irish music festivals) within reasonable driving distance. Kevin was drawn in and hooked by what he saw, musicians poorly dressed, having incredible talent but only playing the music for leisure, a music with a long long tradition. That image has remained with Kevin ever since. Kevin began going to a session every weekend, picking up the odd song here and there and joining the musicians. He was heavily influenced by the traditional style of singing from the Donegal/Fermanagh region in Ireland, particularly the singing of Paddy Tunney. At just about that time he picked up his first bodhrán for three pounds in Newcastle West, County Limerick. He'd heard the bodhrán on the radio, including the playing of Sean O Riada with Ceoltóirí Chualann, and was amazed at the power of the simple goatskin Irish frame drum.
Kevin soon mastered the bodhrán and began playing and singing at sessions about Ireland, along with playing with Dublin traditional music circles. For many years, he helped run the Tradition Club, a haven for traditional musicians, including future Chieftains colleagues Paddy Moloney, Seán Keane and Michael Tubridy. In the early 1970s, he joined Christy Moore for what became a benchmark album, Prosperous. He maintained his printing job during this time, also looking after his elderly mother. The decision to join The Chieftains as a professional musician was difficult to make, given his prior commitments, but Kevin has poured his heart and spirit into the music, making an important contribution to the music of the Chieftains.
Kevin has three children, Peigí, Ruairí and Ella and lives in Wicklow.
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