Sligo born Carmel Gunning is both a composer and a musician who has been one of Ireland‘s most accomplished tin whistle players for many years.
A native of Geevagh in South County Sligo, Carmel Gunning‘s rich tapestry of culture and tradition stems from her iconic homeland, a region steeped in native music and culture, her introduction to music took place at an early age and was nurtured by her parents who recognized her rare talents.
In 1969 she sang in her first band, “Carmel and the Chrystals“, when they played at local dances in Keadue, Geevagh, Boyle and surrounding areas. Playing in the band with Carmel was her brother, Tom Nangle, Tony Mullaney, Kevin Conlon and his brother, Cullen.
Carmel is highly regarded by her fellow traditional musicians for her fast-paced modern whistle style. She has also worked hard to pass on the Sligo musical tradition to younger players and recently celebrated her 25th anniversary as a music teacher. Alumni of her Queen Maeve School of Music include flute and whistle masters Liam Kelly of the group Dervish, Damian Stenson from Teada, Olivia McTiernan and June Ní Chormaic (McCormack).
Gunning‘s reputation in the wider world was boosted by the release of her first solo recording, The Lakes of Sligo, which features four unaccompanied songs as well as 14 tracks of virtuosic tin whistle playing.
One reviewer noted that “the music she plays is in a matured and confident manner” and singing is “rich voiced”. Vallely and that “it was quite common for musicians to attempt to play tunes beyond their style and capabilities, not so with Carmel, who, although a master, still plays within a comfortable range with music that suits her style and personality. This talented lady is an accomplished singer and composer, as well as a dynamic musician”.
Another reviewer of her music noted that “no modern tin whistler can escape comparison to Mary Bergin, and Carmel‘s playing does indeed remind some of the Dublin-born star. If anything, however, Gunning plays reels with a more insistent headlong drive. Her ornamentation is also more diverse, featuring many tongued triplets in imitation of the bowed embellishments popular among Sligo fiddlers”.
As well as teaching at annual Scoil igse school organised by Comhaltas Ceoltoiri Eireann where she passes on her music, songs, singing techniques and her love for those songs to hundreds of young singers, Carmel has also brought Irish music to the world through playing concerts from Norway to Australia and from America to Japan.
In addition, Carmel runs the Carmel Gunning International Summer School Festival of Irish Music Song and Dance, a Traditional Irish Music summer school of music and dance, which is held annually in August in Sligo Town and attracts pupils from across Ireland, Great Britain, Europe and the United States.