Bono no longer has the voice for Clannad

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As Irish group Clannad prepare to return to the spotlight, Sally Williams speaks to guitarist and vocalist Noel Duggan about their unique sound and their certain friend by the name of Bono

by Sally Williams, Western Mail

It is more than 20 years since Ireland's spiritual group Clannad teamed up with their countryman Bono for the spine-tingling hit "In a Lifetime."

But, as the band prepare to visit Wales as part of their first U.K. tour for a decade, don't hold your breath for the U2 frontman to appear on stage with them.

Guitarist and vocalist Noel Duggan admits that Bono never performed the hit live and when Clannad sang it on Top of the Pops they did it without him.

Duggan says, "He (Bono) says he doesn't have the voice for it anymore. So we will have Bryan Kennedy (who has sung with Van Morrison) singing it in Belfast and there will be other guests on tour too.

"But we see Bono a lot, we are bound to bump into him in Dublin because it is such a small place."

Duggan says that while his close friend is world famous, he can enjoy life without getting mobbed in his native city of Dublin.

"When the public see him in Dublin it really is no big deal. They don't like to treat people as heroes," he says.

"It's a case of 'Hey, Bono is up there at the bar. Ah, so what.' He is free to walk down the road without being mobbed."

In one bar in Donegal, Bono even ended up serving pints of Guinness to customers.

"There was Bono pulling pints for locals, he is really down-to-earth," says Duggan, whose mother and father were schoolteachers but had instruments all over the house.

Clannad is made up of Duggan together with his niece, lead singer Moya Brennan, his twin brother Padraig and Ciaran Brennan.

It is 25 years since their timeless piece "Theme From Harry's Game" became a chart hit across Europe and 10 years have passed since their last studio album release, the Grammy Award-winning Landmarks.

"It's been a long time but I still crave the stage," says Duggan, now in his 60th year and living near Dublin.

"I've been in a group called Norland Wind, with my brother Padraig, in Germany. A lot of old groups are coming back together now. And together again as Clannad we've already played Glasgow and Dublin so somebody out there still likes us."

Duggan's other niece, the solo performer Enya, spent two years working with Clannad.

"She was a very shy little girl. We don't see much of Enya at all now.

"She lives in a castle at Killiney, she lives like a queen. She doesn't go anywhere; she is a recluse."

Clannad's trademark mystical trance sound has featured on a number of blockbuster movie soundtracks, including Patriot Games, starring Harrison Ford, Message in a Bottle and Last of the Mohicans.

Clannad have come a long way since winning a talent contest in Letterkenny in 1970.

They have since sold more than 10 million records and have also been honoured with an Ivor Novello and a Bafta award.

But Noel said most fans will remember the band for the song, "Theme From Harry's Game," which was featured in the television series, Robin of Sherwood, starring Michael Praed.

He adds, "'Harry's Game' took the group in a different musical direction and the record company asked us to go 'poppy.'

"But we did and still do hold on to our mystical Celtic roots.

"We like to sing in our native Gaelic and hope that our listeners who don't speak it still like the sound.

"I think it is important to explain what the songs are about though.

"We are really looking forward to playing St. David's Hall, we expect that the Welsh audience will be great. The hall has good acoustics for our pipers, fiddle players and harmonies.

"When we last played Cardiff, there was no Millennium Stadium or Wales Millennium Centre so we are expecting a lot of changes."

Duggan hopes to revisit Wales in future on holiday when he will have a chance to have a proper look around.

He adds, "I've never been on a tour around Wales, although I would really like to some day.

"I get inspiration to write the songs when the feeling takes me, which is usually when I'm walking the dog (a border collie cross spaniel dog called Woofie) in Dublin Bay first thing in the morning."

Duggan and his partner Barbara have written a history of Clannad called A Moment In Life which will be published shortly.

The 2008 11-date U.K. tour will end at the Philharmonic Hall in Liverpool on March 14.

The concerts provide a rare chance for audiences to see them performing material from across their entire ground-breaking career, dating back to the '70s.

Copyright © 2008 Media Wales Ltd.

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This page contains a single entry by Jonathan published on March 7, 2008 10:37 PM.

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