IONA: America’s pan-Celtic band

IONA: America's pan-Celtic band


Tell us about yourself and your music

IONA’s music is a unique, acoustic weave of the traditional music of Scotland, Ireland, Wales, Cornwall, Brittany (France), the Isle of Man, Asturias and Galicia (Spain), as well as their transplants in America. Blending songs, dance tunes, and airs into a rich and stunning tapestry, their style is outstanding in an arena where these traditions are seldom intertwined.

Conceived in 1986, IONA is the musical offspring of lead singer, bouzouki, and bodhrán player Barbara Tresidder Ryan and wind section, Bernard Argent (flute, whistles, bombard, percussion). With fiddler Jim Queen (banjo and vocals as well) and bass guitar player Chuck Lawhorn, IONA has become the leading pan-Celtic group in the Mid-Atlantic region. They are all seasoned performers: entertainers who involve their audiences with the history and cultural backgrounds of the music, with teaching words to the songs — even those sung in a Celtic tongue, with leading simple Breton dances, with humor, and with every emotion in the spectrum.

Talk to us more about your latest release

“Signature”, IONA’s 30th anniversary album was released, somewhat belatedly, in December 2017. The title refers not only to the band’s sound, but also to the multiple time signatures involved in the album’s many arrangements: every signature from 4/4 to 9/8 to 11/16! All aficionados of timing, from jazz to classical, dance mavens to international experts should enjoy Iona’s explorations!

What inspired you to write this release?

There are far too few music lovers aware of the astoundingly evocative music of the Celtic cultures. Iona’s mission has always been to disseminate the knowledge and appreciation of the traditions that have informed American music from the getgo. We hope, that in exposing the fruits of our research, to educate and seduce audiences for this essential element of our cultural heritage.

Describe the writing and recording process

The “writing” of our material happened a long time ago in the traditions of Celtic music. Now and then, we need to provide tunes for a bridge between time signatures and/or the “feel” of our arrangements. Fortunately, our deep well of knowledge about the Celtic genres and our musical education provide the necessary tools for composing tunes that tie arrangements together.

We have recorded with Shuman Recording in Falls Church, VA since 1996. It is so very important to work with a recording engineer that understands the goals of a band. Our music is often driven by strict dance tempos and we are scrupulous about laying down click tracks as well as being aware of pitch issues: many engineers resort to slapping pitch correction on everything. We pride ourselves on pitch, as well as tempo precision. What you hear on the recording, you will also experience on stage.

Any plans to release a video?

Any plans to hit the road?

Having been endorsed by both the VA Commission for the Arts and the MD State Arts Council, our “tours” have often been within the Mid-Atlantic States area. Most of our upcoming gigs are relatively local, but we HAVE toured throughout the US and Canada, as well as in the British Isles. Upcoming gigs are registered at

As an indie artist, how do you brand yourself and your music to stand out from the rest of the artists out there?

We are serious traditional Celtic musicians and LOVE what we do!!! NO ONE else out there explores the vast horizons of the music that has informed American genres: we bring you Appalachian/Old Time/Country roots; Cajun/Quebecois/Cape Breton roots; Folk/dance roots, and do it in a way that illuminates the history and human aspects of our culture that very few musicians understand.

Who have you been listening to lately?

We enjoy groups like the Tannahill Weavers, Dervish, Le Vent du Nord, Altan, Llan de Cubel, Nolwenn Monjarret, Cruinn, etc.

Who are your biggest influences?

All traditional Celtic music and dance.

Tell us about your passions

Playing Celtic music! We all grew up during the diverse folk revivals in the 60’s and 70’s and “jamming” became a passion for so many of us. Fiddler, banjo, guitar player Jim served in the Air Force Band for 30 years and continues to teach and play all kinds of music as often as possible. Lead singer, Barbara, studied voice for 10 years after playing in coffee houses and singing at anti-war rallies in the 60’s. She performed in operas and as a chorale soloist, has sung for the VOA and National Geographic Specials, and continues to teach voice, which is her passion. Bernard and Barbara travel to collect music and inspiration from all the Celtic areas. Bass guitarist Chuck has dozens of basses, from a fretless 6 string to an electric standing bass, and plays them all! Bernard is currently building a hurdy gurdy to add to his Breton bombard, diverse flutes and whistles, didgeridoo, djembe, doumbeks, and a host of noise makers.

What else is happening next in your world?

We gig regularly, but are touring less as we age. We’ll be recording some singles later in the year…



Thanks for an awesome interview, IONA



Connect with IONA

Website: https://www.ionamusic.comFacebook:

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