The Legend of Luke Kelly performed by Chris Kavanagh at The Civic

By Brendan Grehan

Dubliner Chris Kavanagh brings his show, The Legend of Luke Kelly, to the Civic Theatre on Saturday, September 21.

Chris who hails from Finglas and now lives in County Offaly, first heard the songs of the Dubliners as a three-year-old in his grandmother’s house.

Chris Kavanagh compressor

Chris Kavanagh

Chris told The Echo: “I remember on Sundays, we used to go down to my Grandmothers. She would have the record player on and would be playing the Dubliners and The Clancy Brothers.

That is where I first heard Luke Kelly’s voice.”

Chris is well known for his passionate performances of folk singer Luke Kelly’s songs with his successful band ‘The Legend of Luke Kelly’, but he is also an extremely skilled songwriter and composer.

In 2011, he recorded his first album ‘Voice of the People’ which showcased his songwriting skills.

In 2011, Chris was asked by the late Al O’Donnell to perform at one of his shows remembering Luke Kelly and it was there that he met The Dubliners for the first time. On hearing Chris’s album, John Sheahan asked him to perform with The Dubliners on their German tour.

Shortly after this, Chris was asked to perform with The Dubliners again at their 50th anniversary concert in Dublin’s Vicar Street, which is a regular haunt for Chris, as he performs a yearly concert to mark Luke Kelly’s anniversary.

With the regular attendance of John Sheahan and Luke’s family, as well as past special guests such as Damien Dempsey, Declan O’Rourke, Shay Healy and  Christy Dignam.

The Legend of Luke Kelly compressor

Chris Kavanagh will be in the Civic Theatre on Saturday, September 21.

Chris and his band have performed all over Ireland as well as abroad, in countries such as the UK, Germany, Switzerland and Australia.

He is currently working on a new album with his co-writer Hilary Kavanagh (bass guitar/vocals) and traditional musician Joe Finn, co-composer of the haunting tune ‘Falcon’s Call’ (uilleann pipes, flute/whistles, fiddle).

He is also joined on stage by Michael Howard (classical guitarist/composer).

The Echo caught up with Chris before his gig in The Civic Theatre.

How long have you been going?

We have been performing for the last 19 years. It goes so fast. We started off playing ‘Midnight at the Olympia’ on Friday nights. We like to play theatres now.

There is a circuit around Ireland now. We last played the Civic in Tallaght about a year and a half ago and we will be playing Draiocht in Blanchardstown as well.

What is your favourite Luke Kelly song?

It would have to be ‘Shoals of Herring’. They are all great songs but that is my favourite.

Do you follow a particular set list every night?

No we don’t follow a particular set list. We take it as it comes. There are songs that you have to sing every night like ‘The night visiting song’, ‘Scorn not his simplicity’ and ‘Raglan Road’ but we don’t have a set list. We are not the kind of band that has a set list, every gig is different.

Are you the only Luke Kelly tribute band?

I don’t really see us a Luke Kelly tribute band. We play songs by Luke and by The Dubliners but I don’t think that we are a tribute act.

There are a lot of young bands playing Luke Kelly songs and discovering his music.

What instruments do you play?

I play the five-string banjo. I also play the piano and guitar. Songs like ‘Scorn not his simplicity’ can only be done justice with the piano. ‘Raglan Road’ is sung with me on the banjo while we sing ‘The Auld Triangle’ acapella.

What is your most memorable gig?

I was in Dublin when Luke’s statue was unveiled down the docks. There was a gig in Liberty Hall later that night. We played with John Sheahan, and Glen Hansard sang a few songs with us. Glen is a really nice fellow.

Where have you toured. Do you follow the Irish diaspora?

We have performed all over Ireland, the UK, Germany, Switzerland and Australia. When we play in Australia, the crowd seems to be mainly Irish.

They are waiting for us and they are singing the songs.

What are your plans for the future?

In 2011, we recorded an album ‘Voice of the People’. The title track was a tribute to Luke. We would love to record another album. We would love to tour the United States.

We haven’t got over there yet. Maybe one day we will.

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