De Dannan - Joining the De Danann story'

Following in the illustrious footsteps of great box players like Jackie Daly, Mairtin O'Connor, and Aidan Coffey is a daunting challenge for any musician. But for Derek Hickey, still in his early twenties already an accomplished and practised musician who has served his apprenticeship, it was also like coming full circle, as the unassuming Adare man explained to me recently.

"When I started to listen to the music, the first album I ever bought was De Danann's "Song for Ireland'. I listened to it constantly, loved the sound, the way the lads attacked the music, the whole emotion and feel of the thing. Basically, it was Frankie Gavin's style of playing that fired my ambition to play the box.

Derek cities a myriad of influences. "I've learned from Davy Spillane, Matt Molloy, guitar players and others from within and outside traditional music. I studied music at school and that experience opened my mind to different kinds of music and other types of ornamentation."

Since March, 1995, Derek has toured Europe and travelled to Hong Kong with De Dannan. "In February we head for the States and then it's Hong Kong again, Kuala Lumper, Saudi Arabia, Abu Dhabi and Beijing in March."

Derek says he gets "a massive buzz playing with De Danann. I love it more than words can say. They're all very much in control and that has a calming effect on a new boy like me. I've been listening to Frankie for twelve years now and I know where he's coming from, even if I'll never understand how he has put it all together so well. 'Hibernian Rapsody' continues the De Danann 21 years success story. Derek feels the group are currently very true to the tradition, in the way they play old tunes. "It's a pleasure for me to play tunes with the boys in the way they were written. I feel that, on this album, we're playing the tunes in the raw, in a kind of Cooley style, the way they were intended to be played. I really enjoy playing 'George Ross's Hornpipes', two real beauties, and 'The Girl that Broke My Heart' is another gorgeous tune."

Derek Hickey is now very much an integral part of the De Danann sound. He also hopes to put a solo album together, possibly next year. With his fluid playing style and unquenchable enthusiasm for the music, the future seems assured for this most likable of young musicians.

December/January 1996/97