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Sweeney History


Tom Sweeney

Tom Sweeney is without a doubt the finest Irish ballad singer/entertainer of his generation. Steeped in the great heritage of the oral folk tradition, Tom carries on an unbroken line of family singers going back over 100 years. Many of the songs in his extensive repetoire come directly from the singing of his grandmother, mother, uncles and other family members who have gone before.

Tom's maternal grandmother, the late Sarah Makem, is regarded far and wide as the First Lady of Irish traditional song and it was from her that Tom inherited his unique gift of song, story and repartee. In rural Irish communities of past times, it fell on certain families to store and preserve the musical traditions of the area - Tom's family was one of these and it is from this rich and time honoured source of music that the man's boundless talent derives.

Folk music is an ongoing and ever evolving tradition and it is to Tom's credit that he keeps apace with the songs and events taking place in the Ireland of today, always making the audience aware of a song's proper place in the history of his country. This is, perhaps, one of the key elements in any Sweney performance, to find yourself listening to a two hundred year old song followed immediately by one written last week. Numerous critics have heaped praise on Tom's spoken introductions, always thoroughly researched, often uproariously funny and regularly given in the form of a poem from one of the many verses he carries around in his head. Indeed one writer in chicago said that Padraic Colum's famous line...

"...and still they sat, and still the wonder grew how one small head could carry all he knew..."

could have been written with Sweeney in mind! His encyclopaedic knowledge is legendary among his fellow performers. An evening with Tom Sweeney will take you on a roller coaster ride of human emotions ranging from heartbreaking ballads to hilarious songs and stories of Irfeland and its people. And you can sense immediately the deep respect he has for his material and his audience making the two inextricably linked. His onstage presence is stunning and if communication from heart to heart is the touchstone of performance generally, then Sweeney is top of the heap.

After travelling the roads of Ireland, Europe and North America for over twenty five years Tom was honoured by a personal invitation from President Clinton and the First Lady to perform at the White House for St Patrick's Day Banquet in 1998. He sang his self penned plea for peace in Ireland, "Anthem For The Children" to a standing oation and received a letter of commendation from the President afterwards.

On the recording front, Tom has four albums of Irish songs and five albums of children's songs available on his independent label "Gallows Hill Music". A good part of Tom's year is spent travelling Ireland with his show of songs and stories for children and more and more Irish festivals in North America are featuring his terrific package of a children's concert in the afternoon and his riveting performance of Irish songs and stories in the evening.

Tom Sweeney has been a regular and popular act at virually every major Irish festival throughout America including The Milwaukee Irish Fest, Gaelic Park, Chicago, Cleveland Irish Festival, West Palm Beach Irish Fest., Pittsburgh Irish Fest, Dublin Ohio Irish Fest, Hunter Mountain Celtic Festival, N.Y., Celtic Fest in Bethlehem, Pa. And a host of others. He has appeared regularly on television both at home and in the U.S. & Canada including CBS, The Nashville Network, CTV in Canada, BBC and UTV in Ireland and often on the PBS Network across the U.S. Tom's latest venture into television will be aired in the spring and summer of 2000 on PBS in Philadelphia. It is entitled "Off To Philadelphia" and is a one man show of songs, stories and verse relating to the Irish in that city.

Each January sees Tom take part in the famous Irish Festival Cruise to various locations in the Caribbean where a veritable Who's Who of the Irish music business entertain on the "Irish Festival At Sea".

From the Tom Sweeney Home Page

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