It seems like there isn't a venue they haven't played or a musician they haven't collaborated with - and with six Grammys in hand, no award they haven't won. Widely credited with popularizing traditional Irish music and making it accessible to the international music scene, The Chieftains were named Ireland's Musical Ambassadors in 1989, and with more than 40 albums to their catalog, they've been a busy band in their five-odd decades.
The Chieftains' background
The Chieftains were formed in Dublin in 1962 by Paddy Moloney, who recruited some of Ireland's best fiddlers, flutists, tin whistlers and bodhr��n players to form a largely instrumental traditional Irish folk band. It wasn't until 1975 that they began playing together full time, celebrating the event with a special performance at London's Royal Albert Hall. The same year, they released their first album, The Chieftains 5.
The Chieftains have since released dozens of records. Their work has led them to collaborations with some of the greatest names in music, including Van Morrison, Madonna, the Rolling Stones, Sinead O'Connor, Art Garfunkel, Sting, John Williams and many others. The Chieftains have won six Grammy Awards and been nominated for 18 others, as well as winning an Emmy for their work on the soundtrack to The Long Journey Home: The Irish in America. They were presented with the Lifetime Achievement Award at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards in 2002.
In 2012, the band celebrated its 50th anniversary by releasing Voice of Ages, an album that featured collaborations with such artists as Bon Iver and The Decemberists. It even included astronaut Catherine Coleman playing a flute belonging to one of the Chieftains that had been sent up to space.
The Chieftains' historic performances
In 1979, during the Papal visit to Ireland, The Chieftains were tapped to perform before an audience of millions. In 1983, the Chinese government invited the Chieftains to perform with the Chinese Broadcasting Art Group, whereupon they became the first western musical group to perform on the Great Wall of China. The Chieftains were also the first musicians to perform inside Washington, D.C.'s Capitol Building.