The High Kings (Ireland)
For the First Time Ever in Australia, The High Kings from Ireland are a traditional folk group who give new life for a new generation of Irish and Celtic music fans alike.
The High Kings reenergize the songs of days gone by and put their own twist on them bringing them into the 21st Century
The High Kings keep the Tradition Alive and have the audience on their feet, cheering and clapping along.
“it`s great to watch and sing along with all the old favourites”
“I don’t think I stopped smiling and singing along all night long”
“great band… amazing energy”
“swashbuckling, old-country fun that left hearts dancing jigs”
“you wont be disappointed if you love traditional Irish music”
The High Kings are a contemporary Celtic quartet from Dublin. They formed in June 2007. The band’s current line up consists of Finbarr Clancy, Darren Holden, Brian Dunphy and newest member, Paul O’Brien and was launched under the musical direction of David Downes of Riverdance fame. The group has released five studio albums, four live albums, a greatest hits album and two live DVDs. Their first three studio albums debuted in the top three of the Billboard world music chart. Their first two albums are platinum records in Ireland. The band has developed and grown over the years moving from performing a highly staged format of traditional Irish folk songs to a more natural and organic performance style featuring original music, re-arrangements of popular songs from other genres alongside traditional numbers. The group has toured Ireland, Europe and the United States on multiple occasions.
The High Kings formed when Finnbar, Brian and Darren were asked to join a new Irish ballad band by David Kavanagh. Kavanagh had conceived of and managed the Irish folk phenomenon Celtic Woman and saw a gap in the market for a male equivalent specialising in traditional Irish music. During their first rehearsal together, the group realised the way their individual voices blended and harmonised meant they were at the start of something special. Combined, the High Kings play 13 instruments between them, their multi-instrumental skills forge the unique sound and atmosphere they showcase to this day.
Each member of the High Kings came from an acclaimed and accomplished musical background. Finbarr Clancy is the son of Bobby Clancy, in addition to being a successful solo artist, Bobby was one of the Clancy Brothers, a legendary group in the world of Irish Folk. A band credited with popularising the genre in the 1960s. In the 90’s, Finbarr toured the United States with his father as part of the Clancy Brothers which also consisted of his uncles, Paddy Clancy and Liam Clancy along with his cousin, the singer-songwriter Robbie O’Connell. Finnbarr sang and played five string banjo, electric bass and flute on the tour. Finnbarr appeared in the Clancy Brothers’ Farewell to Ireland performance in 1996 which was filmed and released. Finbarr also recorded 3 albums with his father. He plays guitar and banjo with the High Kings.
Brian Dunphy also came from a musical family. Brian’s father, Sean Dunphy was famous in Ireland as the lead singer of The Hoedowners. Between 1966 and 1973, Sean Dunphy and the Hoedowners had fourteen singles in the Irish charts. In 1969 they had two number one hits with “Lonely Woods of Upton” and “When the Fields Were White with Daisies”. Sean Dunphy also represented Ireland at the 1967 Eurovision Song Contest. Sean came second place with “If I Could Choose”. Sean was also the first Irish singer to record in Nashville.
Brian Dunphy got his first opportunity as a performer as part of Riverdance: The Show. Dunphy was part of Riverdance for two years after which he joined The Three Irish Tenors. Dunphy also joined the band, Druid. Brian recorded a solo album entitled Timeless, which featured some co-writing credits with future High Kings member, Darren Holden. Brian mostly plays the bodhrán and guitar with the High Kings.
Darren Holden was a star on Broadway. Darren starred in Riverdance: The Show for eighteen months before appearing as Billy Joel in the musical, Movin’ Out. Holden played this role on Broadway and on a national tour of the Unite States along with tours of both Canada and Japan. Darren is also an acclaimed solo artist having released three solo records. His album Suddenly was released in 1998 and had three top 20 singles in Ireland and one top 30 in Finland. His follow up album, Live and Learn came out in 2003 and landed three top 40 airplay hits on the Country music charts in the United States. In 2006 he released Roadworks which sold over 20 000 copies in Japan. Holden plays mandolin, accordion, keyboard and guitar with the High Kings. Darren Holden continues to perform as a solo artist when not on the road with the High Kings.
The High Kings released their self titled debut album in 2008. The album delivered classic Irish folk songs with a contemporary twist, adding modern rhythms and elaborate harmonies. The debut showcases a wide range of moods and emotions from the rousing “Rocky Road to Dublin” to the eerie “The Parting Glass” through to the buoyant “The Wild River”. The High Kings reached number 2 on Billboard Magazine’s world music chart and spent a total of thirty-six weeks on the charts. This led to the High Kings touring the United States with Celtic Woman as the opening act. The album’s promotion was bolstered by a PBS television special taping of the High Kings’ performance which was broadcast nationally in the United States in commemoration of the St Patrick’s Day holiday. To celebrate the success of their debut internationally, the band toured their homeland and in March 2009 they played five consecutive sold out shows at Dublin’s Olympia Theatre.
By the end of 2009, The High Kings had signed a deal with Universal Music Ireland to license their second studio album, “Memory Lane”. “Memory Lane” was released in February 2010 and following a successful Irish tour, the album went platinum within four months. “Memory Lane” featured many songs that had previously been performed by the more established relatives of several of the High Kings’ members, songs such as “The Irish Rover”, “The Green Fields of France” and “Boolavogue”. Memory Lane features faithful renditions of songs like “The Fields of Athenry” – a tale of the Great Potato Famine and “The Rising of the Moon”, a ballad recalling the battle between the Irish and British armies in the 1798 Irish Rebellion. The album also featured the Irish national favourite, “Whiskey in the Jar”, a song made world famous by renditions by both Thin Lizzy and Metallica. “Memory Lane” also marks the High Kings first foray into original music with the track “Leaving of Liverpool” which fits in seamlessly alongside the heritage and history displayed on the rest of the album. The album saw the band once again tour the United States playing shows in Chicago, Albany, Philadelphia, Atlanta, New Haven and Boston. This helped the album reach number three on Billboard Magazine’s Top World Albums chart. On St Patrick’s Day 2011, the band performed on a nation-wide broadcast of “Live with Regis and Kelly” in the United States.
The High Kings followed their sophomore album with the live record, “Live in Ireland”, this received widespread acclaim for showing off the band’s kinetic chemistry and energetic live performances. By the end of 2011 the band had largely outgrown most of the venues they were performing in and thus began playing in larger halls, not only in Ireland, but in the US and Europe as well. Fans began to follow the band on tour attending multiple shows. The High Kings’ new take on traditional Irish ballads and folk songs enchanted audiences of multiple generations.
2012 saw the High Kings perform many landmark events. On the 18th of March the band headlined the Mayor of London’s St Patrick’s Day celebration in Trafalgar Square. There was an estimated attendance of 15000 people! Two days later, the High Kings were invited to perform at the Official St Patrick’s Day Celebrations at the White House in Washington DC. The event was hosted by US President Barack Obama. On the 6th of July, the band was invited to perform at the residence of the President of Ireland.
In 2013 the band had built a global following and fandom which saw them sign to Sony Worldwide for the release of their third studio album entitled, “Friends for Life”. Produced by Sharon Shannon and John Dunford, “Friends for Life” featured a change in direction, hinted at by “Leaving of Liverpool” on “Memory Lane”. “Friends for Life” featured eight original songs written and composed by the band alongside a selection of classic and traditional ballads including “Galway Girl”, a song written by Steve Earle and originally recorded with Sharon Shannon. The album again reached number three on the Billboard World Albums chart. Touring with a set that included their original songs broke new ground for the High Kings, but it wasn’t long before the audience was singing along with the likes of “Ireland’s Shore” and “Oh Maggie” alongside traditional classics and old favourites.
In November 2014 the band recorded “Four Friends Live” at the Millennium Forum in Derry. This was their first combined CD/DVD since 2008. In 2015 the High Kings were invited to the Pentagon to perform as guests of General Martin Dempsey, who was the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The band performed alongside the US Marine Corps band. The same year, to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Irish Rugby anthem, “Ireland’s Call”, the band were contacted by the original composer, Phil Coulter to record a new version in the High Kings’ signature style, this was then included as part of a TV documentary on the track.
In early 2016, the High Kings returned to the studio to record their fourth studio album, “Grace & Glory”. The album reached number 1 on the Irish Indie charts and was again acclaimed by critics and fans alike. Grace & Glory saw the band return to their roots, forgoing original compositions and focusing on well-loved classic Irish (and American) songs and re-arranging them for modern audiences. The album was heralded for its diversity with songs ranging from religious music to pub tunes. The album included songs such as “The Green Fields of France”, “Schooldays Over”, “Follow Me Up to Carlow” and “Ride On”. Song writer, Phil Coulter added a third verse to “Hand Me Down My Bible”, specifically for The High Kings.
In 2016 the band play many unique shows including a performance at RTÉ’s Centenary Concert to mark the 100-year anniversary of Ireland’s Easter Rising. In another milestone, the band played all 3 stages at the Isle of Wight Festival, followed by a performance at Glastonbury Festival on the Acoustic Stage. “Hand Me Down My Bible” was released as a single in July 2016 and quickly became a hit on many radio stations in Ireland. The band spent the latter half of 2016 with an extensive US tour comprising almost 50 shows and followed this with a tour of Ireland in late December.
By 2017, the High Kings celebrated a decade of performing together with the compilation album, aptly titled, “Decade: The Best of the High Kings” – this compilation also included five new recordings. In September the band announced that founding member, Martin Furey would be retiring from the group, he was initially replaced with George Murphy for a Canadian tour. Murphy would go on to become a permanent member of the High Kings until 2019 before leaving the band. Paul O’Brien joined the group in 2019 and continues to perform with the High Kings performing instruments such as the tin whistle among others.
After a break from recording, The High Kings announced a new album in 2020, “Home From Home” – an album recorded live at Concert Deck in Dublin. The band explained that “The idea behind this album was to bring our fans on a journey across the world, to some of the places we call home when we tour, via some of the classic folk songs that have inspired us.” As the group could not tour due to the pandemic, the High Kings still wanted to give their fans a live experience “Each city, each tour, seeing familiar faces in the crowd, and the welcoming we get year after year – that is our home from home… and to be separated during this last year has been so hard for us” says Darren Holden, “we decided to come together to record and film these songs for release at a time when we should be playing them live to our fans.” Brian Dunphy adds, “this album is our effort to bring us all together until a time when we can meet in person again.” The album also features a guest appearance by Brian Kennedy on the iconic Irish folk song “Carrickfergus”.
The High Kings continue to set the bar for Irish Folk bands across the world and are widely regarded to be at the forefront of the genre. The High Kings perform in sell out venues across the globe to their ever-growing army of loyal fans that now span several generations.