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Irish musician went from busking on Grafton Street to performing at top US music festivals
Dubliner Enda Reilly said moving to the US in 2019 'broadened his musical horizons'
Article by Fionnuala Boyle of IrishStar.com
Enda Reilly busked on the streets of Dublin (Image: Dave Keegan)
An Irish musician has gone from busking on Grafton Street and touring the pubs of Temple Bar in Dublin to performing at top Irish music festivals in the US. Enda Reilly moved to Detroit, Michigan with his wife in 2019.
Since then, the 42-year-old from Tallaght, who is an IMRO Christy Hennessy Songwriting Competition winner, has been able to "reinvent himself" by turning his hand to folk music and creating fresh arrangements of Irish classics.
As a singer and guitarist, Enda has his own albums including New Songs in Irish, Whorls songs created from the poetry of WB Yeats and songs about the environment. A fluent Irish speaker, or Gaeilgeoir, he most recently brought his music to Milwaukee Irish Fest alongside acts including The Coronas, Hermitage Green, Roisin O and Wallis Bird. He will perform at Pittsburgh Irish Festival and Michigan Irish Music Festival next month.
"The Ancient Order of Hibernians and Irish American Club Gaelic League of Detroit welcomed us into the fold when we first arrived in the city," Enda told IrishStar.com. "The AOH hosts musicians every Friday so that gave me the chance to sing folk songs like Caledonia, The Lakes of Pontchartrain, and Danny Boy, as well as original material.
"In Ireland, I'm more known as a singer-songwriter so this was an opportunity to reinvent myself and sing songs I wouldn't normally sing back home. Funnily enough, being in the US has broadened my horizons of Irish music.
The 42-year-old performed in The Irish Room at the University of Pittsburgh (Image: Zoe Fuller)
"I performed two shows in The Gaeltacht Tent at the Milwaukee Festival. I went to all Irish-speaking schools growing up so I've always had a connection to older songs in the Irish language. I'm also going to do a talk on Irish geology in Pittsburgh, too. I'm always thinking about something different I can bring to the Irish community in the US.
"My American wife had been living in Ireland since 1996 and we'd never thought about going to the States until another musician friend, Aoife Scott, mentioned how many great Irish festivals there are, and maybe we should consider going. One thing led to another and we decided to go for it and see what the US had in store for me.
"I'm a real home bird but music and family drove us, and now I'm here for the foreseeable future."
Enda's parents, from Co Mayo, were so intent on working and getting by on farms that music took a back seat. His eyes were opened in school, though, when he learned Irish songs and how to play the violin, fiddle, and tin whistle.
Picking up a guitar aged 16, Enda immediately started writing songs. He found the process particularly cathartic after the sad death of his father as a young man, as songwriting gave him an emotional outlet.
Playing the Dublin circuit was also a formative experience for the then-budding musician, particularly towards the end of the Celtic Tiger, when the city's music scene was vibrant and thriving.
Enda traded Dublin for Detroit in 2019 (Image: Enda Reilly via Facebook)
"I was writing songs and going around pubs with I band I had called The Mongrels, and then another called The Lazy Band who I performed with for ten years," Enda explained. "We would do the Stones and The Beatles in venues like International Bar or Bewley's Cafe Theatre but there was always an Irish folk element to it.
"Older, more experienced musicians would be floating around so it was great learning from them about how to work a crowd and project your voice. Irish music is kind of like GAA. It's an amateur sport but done to a high level.
"It's difficult to make a living out of it in Ireland, though, because it's not valued monetarily as much as it should be. It's inherently valued for its own sake. I also have a project where I put the poetry of WB Yeats to music which people are intrigued by. I've taken what could be a fairly academic, dry thing and made it interesting.
"I've been involved with various productions related to Yeats as an adult and even traveled to India and Japan with Irish Nobel Laureates for one particular performance. There's something about Yeats' work - he was writing for the ear and not the page, and he's got good meters, so there's a lyricism to his poetry that lends itself well to music."
Enda is always seeking out Irish spaces he can perform in. He sang a song on the deck of the 80-year-old USS Sullivans, dedicated to the five Irish American brothers who died in WW2, at Buffalo Naval Park, New York. He also recorded a three-part video series in the Irish Room, a medieval oratory located at the University of Pittsburgh.