Recommended Players

Photo © Tony Kearns


Thanks to Hervé Yésou of Strasbourg, France for his many contributions to this list.

If you’re a beginner and just want a short list of influential players with widely available recordings that’ll expose you to a range of styles, here are my five personal recommendations, in alphabetical order: Harry Bradley, Catherine McEvoy, Matt Molloy, Conal O’Grada, and Mike Rafferty. I also think any Irish flute player would benefit from listening to older recordings of seminal figures such as Paddy Carty and John McKenna, and to seek out recordings of players with strong personal or regional styles such as Joe Bane, Jack Coen, Kevin Henry, and Cathal McConnell. Beyond Irish, I’d recommend listening to Jean-Michel Veillon and Chris Norman for their sheer virtuosity and musicality. If you’re looking for more modern-style players (most of whom are perfectly capable of playing in pure traditional styles as well), start with Sylvain Barou, Conor Byrne, Kevin Crawford, Brian Finnegan, and Mike McGoldrick. You can also get a good introduction to a variety of flute-playing styles through the Wooden Flute Obsession CD series.

If you have trouble finding recordings, try any of the following distributors: Ossian USA, Claddagh Records (Ireland), Elderly Instruments (USA), or Custy’s Music (Ireland). Many of these should also be available through Amazon and other online sources such as iTunes. Doing Google searches will usually turn up recordings, and it’s worth looking through youtube and vimeo for videos; that’s a great way to hear and see a wide variety of flute players.

NOTE: Be sure to check out the excellent discography of Irish flute music on Gordon Turbull’s web site, The Flow.

If you’d like to suggest a player who’s not in the list, please contact me.

First NameLast NameDescriptionWebsiteWebsite 2
Deirdre Havlin Excellent flute and whistle player from Co. Antrim; recorded with the group Deanta Deirdre can be heard on the first Wooden Flute Obsession CD
Dan Healy The late South Sligo flute player had a classic traditional style The Wyndy Turn, with Ciaran O'Raghallaigh
Skip Healy Flute and fife player (and maker) living in Switzerland Skip's website lists his recordings
Tommy Healy London-based Sligo flute player "Memories of Sligo," Topic Records
Shannon Heaton Boston-based flute player Matt and Shannon Heaton website
Kevin Henry Chicago-based flute player and storyteller, originally from Chicago "One's Own Place" CD
Marcus Hernon Brilliant flute player from Connemara, also makes flutes Marcus Hernon website
Seamus Hernon Sligo-based flute player, son of accordion player P.J. Hernon from Galway Seamus Hernon Facebook page
Peter Horan The late, legendary flute player from Killavil, Co. Sligo Wikipedia page
Niall Keegan Inventive and forceful flute player, teaches at U.C. Limerick Niall Keegan's page on the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance
John Kelly Excellent Roscommon flute player Album "Fourmilehouse" with brother Alan Kelly on accordion
Liam Kelly Great Sligo-born flute player best known for his work with the band Dervish Liam Kelly bio on Dervish website
Frankie Kennedy The late Frankie Kennedy was a Belfast flute player; he played with the band Altan Wikipedia page
Nuala Kennedy Fine contemporary-style Irish flute player and singer from Dundalk Nuala Kennedy's website
Barry Kerr Flute player, singer, songwriter, and visual artist from Armagh, now living in Belfast Barry Kerr website
Michael King Won two All-Irelands on the flute in 2003 and 2004. Comhaltas video of Michael King
Grey Larsen Expressive and versatile flute player from the US. Grey Larsen recordings
Christopher Layer Great New York-based flute player and piper Chris Layer's blog
Fionnghuala Leahy Excellent flute player based new New York City. Galway/Sligo style with uilleann piping technique. West of Connacht band webpage Ground Plan band webpage
John Lee Leitrim flute player "The Missing Reel" with Seamus McGuire, Fiona McGuire, and Arty McGlynn