Irish Times – Nuala O’Connor

Niall Vallely’s technical mastery and genius for improvisation are matched by apparently inexhaustible creative reserves.  The bending and reshaping is fresh and original, ever mindful of the tune’s delicate melodic structure.

Dirty Linen – Dan Willging

Vallely is on of Ireland’s newest musical treasures…He articulates his craft elegantly and precisely, leaving no style or mood untouched.

Evening Echo – Paul Dromey

This album is a snapshot recording of a virtuoso musician at the peak of his musical and imaginative power…His playing has the quality of quicksilver, his fingers flashing across the keys as he cajoles original nuances and snatches of artistic magic from timeless old tunes or conjures up ingenious new compositions…


The Irish Times, Siobhán Long

This is drawing room grandeur mixed with muscular belly punches to the solar plexus. Callan Bridge conjures the oddest of reactions to its catholic repertoire, with its haughty defiance of accepted notions of how sounds should meld within the tradition. Niall and Cillian Vallely, siblings and scions of the Armagh family that seems capable of populating virtually every traditional outfit this side of the Bothy Band, deliver a gorgeous herringboned collection of original and ancient tunes. Niall (ex-Nomos) tiptoes his concertina in between the air pockets of Lúnasa-member Cillian's pipes with enviable agility. Magnificent tune titles (Malfunction Junction) collide with spirit-shocking original pieces such as The Singing Stream; they lift and separate and then merge as though pleats and regulators had emerged from the one gestation. Glorious.

The Sunday Herald (Glasgow), Sue Wilson *****

Hardly the likeliest prospective matching of sounds, you might think, and yet their first joint recording is of such joyous quality it'll bring tears of gratitude from traditional music fans this Christmas. The brothers' telepathically close attunement goes beyond making their playing sound as one: it frequently makes it sound as though three or four musicians are at work. Time and again the meshing resonances of their nimble interplay somehow conjure up a phantom accompanying fiddle or flute, over and above the unfailingly sympathetic back-up on guitar (variously from John Doyle, Donal Clancy and Paul Meehan) and piano, from a third Vallely frere, Caoimhín. Seldom has the concertina sounded so assertive, or the pipes so melodiously sensitive as in the resplendent dance sets which predominate here, while both players take a solo turn in a brace of magnificent slow airs.

The Herald (Glasgow), Rob Adams

Best known respectively as the concertinist with the much missed Cork-based group Nomos and, currently, singer Karan Casey, and as the uilleann piper with Lunasa, the Vallely brothers recorded this brilliant CD of new and rejuvenated jigs, reels, hornpipes, and airs on both sides of the Atlantic in breaks between their touring schedules.
Nobody who recalls Niall's uncanny synchronicity with fiddler Liz Doherty in Nomos will be too surprised to learn that the same breath-taking characteristic is also a feature of this partnership. There's marvelously expressive solo playing from both brothers, too, and crackingly energetic but always deferential accompaniment from guitarists John Doyle, Paul Meehan, and Donal Clancy and younger Vallely brother, Caoimhin, on piano, on a recording that bristles with vigour and clearly inherited musicality.

Irish America Magazine, Don Meade

It’s been a good year for Armagh, with the men of Ulster’s smallest county taking their first-ever All-Ireland football crown. The release of this duet album from Armagh brothers Cillian and Niall Vallely (pronounced Killian and Nile VAL-luh-lee) is one more good reason for celebration in the Orchard County. Cillian is a member of trad super-group Lúnasa and one of Ireland’s very best uilleann pipers. Older brother Niall, who founded the group Nomos and now tours with singer Karan Casey, is one of the most original and virtuosic concertina players in the history of Irish music. Their collection of solos and duets features many rare musical gems, including some of Niall’s many original compositions and interesting older tunes culled from the pages of 19th-century manuscript collections.


Irish Times - **** - Siobhán Long

It's seldom that instruments are reinvented by individual musicians. Larry Adler did it with a harmonica; so did Pierre Bensusan with his acoustic fingerstyle guitar. And now Niall Vallely has done it again with the humble concertina, a vastly underrated instrument in the traditional firmament. Vallely has penned some 14 original tunes for this dynamo of an album: full of fire-breathing verve (1st of August/2nd of August), lonesome odes (To Mullacreevie, ingeniously paired with The Dunmore Lasses, one of only two non-Vallely originals), and matrimonial celebrations (Tiarnán and Stephanie's) that burst with vitality. With Paul Meehan on guitar and brother Caoimhín on piano, Buille is as fresh a breath that's blown through traditional (and roots) circles in a long, long time.

Irish Music Magazine/Living Tradition - Alex Monaghan

Irish concertina genius Niall Vallely has been quiet of late, but this recording with brother Caoimhín on keyboards and Paul Meehan on guitars is a timely reminder of his brilliance and style. Buílle is mostly Niall's own tunes, often in the Irish or Scottish idiom, and invariably played with the type of flair and musicality which most of us can only wonder at….This CD should join Niall Vallely's excellent previous albums as a classic of new Irish music. Miss it if you dare.

Hot Press - nine/ten - Sarah McQuaid

There was a time when the concertina was viewed as a 'lady's instrument', soft of voice and delicate of constitution. The briefest of listens to the bracing, muscular pair of reels that opens this superb CD would be sufficient to disabuse any holdouts of that notion.  In Niall Vallely's hands, the smallest of instruments is more than able to hold its own in the spotlight. The clarity and precision of sound also help to highlight his inventiveness as a composer. With the exception of two traditional tunes, all the material here is original….

Irish Echo Top Ten Cds Of 2006 – Earle Hitchener - (9) BUILLE

Remember what I said about Ireland's neo-trad movement? Well, here's an exception of exceptional merit. With Thoreauvian boldness Buille marches to the beat of a different drummer. In fact, the trio's name in Irish means beat (as well as blow or stroke), and a boundary-pushing musical perspective is what they attempt to deliver on this self-titled debut CD. Comprising 14 melodies written by Niall and two traditional tunes, the album mixes Irish traditional with jazz and classical strains and stylings that collectively refresh the shopworn "hiberno-jazz" category of music. The best realization of a trad-jazz blend on the CD is the medley of "1st of August/2nd of August," Niall Vallely tunes played by him with stirring, almost puckish glee on concertina. If Niall Vallely, brother Caoimhin Vallely on piano, and Paul Meehan on acoustic guitar have not quite hit upon something startlingly new in sound, they have most assuredly raised that sound to a new level of skill, sophistication, and soul worthy of any Irish traditional music devotee's interest.


Irish Times **** - Siobhán Long

With such tune titles as Dog à l’Orange and the Oblique Jig, it’s clear that the pursuit of hummable ditties is a low priority for Niall Vallely, Buille’s anchorman, concertina player and composer. Still his dry sense of humour apparently remains intact. Buille (with Vallely’s brother Caoimhín on piano and Paul Meehan on guitar) follow their genre-defying 2005 debut with another spine-tingling collection that bursts with originality. Jazz and classical influences rip through Sailing from Rathmullen, while the Lock-In weds the lonesome reed of Vallely’s concertina with Brian Morrissey’s sensual percussion. Buille’s is a broader church, with room for Zoe Conway’s fiddle, Kate Ellis’ cello and Cillian Vallely’s pipes (among others), which add further texture and depth to the mix. A thoroughly challenging collection that will stimulate brainwaves and pelvic girdles in equal measure.


Journal of Music - Niall Keegan

This recording from two brothers forming a Cork outpost of the Armagh artistic dynasty is the second recording of the Buille ensemble. The recording is very much rooted in the compositions of the senior of the two brothers, Niall, who writes twelve of the thirteen tunes – the other is written with his younger brother Caoimhín – and the performances are very much centred around Niall’s concertina.
Quite simply this album represents the best of what contemporary traditional music is feared to be. Most of the tracks are built around single tunes. There is an innovative flair to the style of arrangement incorporating the diverse strings of Zoë Conway, Karen Dervan, Kate Ellis, Ed Boyd and Paul Meehan (who formally featured as a band member but perhaps has been drawn away by his duties with Lúnasa). The ensemble is further enhanced by the percussion and banjo of Brian Morrissey and the incomparable Neil Yates who bangs out tunes on his trumpet with an ease that sounds native.
Tunes and their basic structure are left more-or-less alone (although they are sometimes a little quirky), but there are often improvised breaks and jazz-style solos that will surely annoy many. Focus shifts easily from the dominant ensemble as in track one (‘Coburg St Nights’) to the occasional explosions of hair and teeth when Niall reveals his astounding and idiosyncratic technique, such as in track seven (‘Dog à l’Orange’). However it is the arrangement and especially the string arrangement that impresses most, in that you can hear an unusual marriage of traditional sensibilities and a lack of fear often motivated by the realisation of the otherness of the string idiom.
I have occasional minor quibbles with the quality of some of the synthesised sounds and the style of production which is ubiquitous to a generation of musicians around Cork, but this is hardly worth a mention. Niall Vallely’s compositions have grown in stature through the development of a minimalistic bent most obviously heard in track three (‘The Oblique Jig’) which has a pentatonic structure and a range of less than an octave. Caoimhín’s keyboard commentary is sparkling through its economy, letting us know what the tunes are trying to say through their confining forms. Again this seems to be achieved through a less busy approach than in his previous outing with Buille.
I spend a lot of time bemoaning the lack of originality in traditional ensemble work heard today, which is dominated by the echoes of sounds established nearly forty years ago. If we are going to avoid the artistic cul-de-sac of endless variations of the same formulae to a dwindling audience of cultural tourists, it is artists such as Niall and Caoimhín Vallely who will put up the signposts we need.


Belfast Newsletter (30/10/07) - Andrea Rea

Thursday evening saw a celebration in words and music of the Flight of the Earls, for the 400th anniversary of that legendary slice of history. Mícheál Ó Súilleabháin led the way in the Grand Opera House with an impressive line-up of singers and players….The centrepiece of the evening was a new work by composer Niall Vallely who along with his brothers headed an ensemble that mixed traditional and classical idioms. Ó Súilleabháin conducted the complicated work, placing the O'Carolan orchestra in some danger of taking flight of a different sort, lost without trace. The performance was stunning, however, and in a good way, illustrative of all that is possible when you combine the best musicians of whatever genre.


Journal of Music in Ireland (JMI) - Terry Moylan

One item calls for particular comment - the bonus track, a part of The Singing Stream, a piece for four uilleann pipes composed by Niall Vallely and played by Cillian Vallely. This is a lovely, nicely structured piece of music, skillfully written and performed. It is not material for the session, but that's no bad thing - perhaps the session has outlived its usefulness. An excerpt of a more substantial work, it makes me want to hear the whole. Perhaps the publishers would make it available? Like Liam O'Flynn's playing, it brings piping to a different place and exposes possibilities that we are only beginning to discern, a generation after the start of the revival.

Madfortrad Concertina CDRom tutorial

review by Ken Coles from

Are you trying to teach yourself anglo concertina without a teacher nearby? Paul has listed a compilation of tutor books for quite a while. Now we can add a digital product: the CD-ROM Tutorial for Anglo Concertina by Niall Vallely and published by MadforTrad. Many other Concertina.netters have commented on this tutor (and gone through more of it than I) before I got this review written, so I am including their comments from the forum below.


The style of playing here is Irish traditional dance tunes and some slow airs. Vallely's style reminds me of, but is different in some details, from that of other Irish players I've been privileged to observe closely. If you don't know this sort of playing, I won't try to describe it. Instead, I will direct you to the Listening page. I got to hear Vallely at a fine concert in Pasadena, California a year or two ago, and it is interesting to note that he played some more contemporary sounding music. Irish trad is certainly not his only style. I find he takes an interesting view of how to play Irish on anglo, and clearly is a good choice for this tutorial.

One interesting feature is that Vallely varies the fingering from early on. Rather than use the same button for a given note, he varies the choices. Teachers and experts will differ on this idea, but it is an interesting inclusion and allows for intermediate and more advanced players to jump into the "beginner" tunes with some interest. For example, Vallely alters fingering in Little Bag of Potatoes. It is no big deal, he just includes it. All experienced players I know vary their fingering, but some teachers introduce these variations early and others later. As Randy Merris commented, there is no home row or scale pattern in Vallely's approach.

He encourages you to accept the bellows reversals of the anglo and not fight "gives rhythm," and you "don't run out of air." How true!

It is also interesting to have reels before jigs. This goes counter to the comments many of us make that jigs are easier when we are starting out. Nevertheless, my impression of the Beginning section is that the tunes are graded in difficulty and it is wise to do them in order.

I would suggest some changes in any future editions. The "ABOUT" section (on READING MUSIC) is probably MadforTrad boilerplate for all their tutorials, but how about some sound clips here to play along with/learn from? This section is essential for those completely new to music and maybe some small sound files demonstrating note-values, rhythm, pitch, etc. would fit on the CD. Some of the music gifs could stand redoing; the last bar of the notated Little Bag of Potatoes is very crowded to read.

I would also like to urge MadforTrad to branch out. If they would look through the British Isles to find a tutor for English dance music and for Morris dances on anglo (would John Kirkpatrick be willing?) and someone to teach an English system concertina tutorial (perhaps on how to accompany song?), I think they would find a market for the result. Finally, they might consider some repertoire CDs, where one could learn new Irish tunes from video clips. One tune might be presented using fiddle, another on pipes, and so on. A slow and a full-tempo version could be included. It would mimic learning tunes from others in a session for those of us who don't have one handy.

Overall, this tutorial presents a useful approach to learning Irish music on anglo concertina by an experienced, knowledgable teacher. Technically it is well done within the limits of the CD-ROM format and the great variety of computers it will be used on.

Papers of the International Concertina Association, Roger Digby

Teaching has always been a part of the Irish tradition, both formal lessons and the simple sharing of ideas and techniques by older players who have always been keen to encourage and help the next generations of players and dancers. (I have been present at Irish sessions in London pubs where the age range of the musicians has spanned over 50 years!) It was inevitable that the digital world of the CDRom would enter this, as all other forms of teaching.

Niall Vallely is a player of exceptional technical ability and comes from a family firmly rooted and active in Traditional Irish music and with a number of notable players. He is also an experienced teacher.

This CDRom falls into four sections, with navigation being very straightforward. There is a basic introduction to the instrument with a useful and clear section on basic music theory. I firmly believe that those who play by ear should have this knowledge if only because it is the language in which musicians communicate. What is here is sound and sufficient. Next there are two sections of tunes: ‘Beginners’ and ‘Advanced’. The tunes are given in conventional musical notation with some opening remarks and then are available in a simple performance of the separate parts with both ends of the concertina clearly visible by the use of an inset. (I found this hard to assimilate; perhaps it takes time.) The more advanced tunes are also played in full at the appropriate speed. Vallely pays particular attention to the use of ornamentation. It is not possible to view the musical notation and the performance simultaneously (unless you use two screens and two browsers), but the printable version of the score is perfectly adequate if a viewable copy is required. The fourth section is about Niall Vallely himself and contains some brief personal comments on the music.

It is possible to teach technique; it is much harder to teach style and musical understanding, both of which are essential in good Irish music. Style and feel come by absorption and osmosis, and when the teacher is a machine this is far removed. Vallely himself says ‘...people have to learn the tune as well as the the Cds...absorb the feel...’.


Songlines – Michael Quinn

Vallely’s arrangements are grand and symphonic but they manage to frame and support individual and group contributions from Lunasa with a sure, often sublime touch.

Fatea Magazine – Neil King

Let’s just say that this is one of the best folk and orchestra combinations I’ve heard and leave it at that, the arrangements are simply sublime.


Irish Echo – Daniel Neely

Niall Vallely, who produced the album, also played a major role in this album’s success. In addition to concertina and keyboard he also wrote the album’s standout string arrangements.

Irish Voice – Paul Keating

…Niall Vallely who produced the CD and also created the lush orchestral arrangements that bathe the new work so wonderfully.

The Living Tradition – David Kidman

…introducing the string arrangement that recurs on a few other tracks…this scoring is a masterstroke provided by Karan’s husband Niall Vallely, who also produced the record and plays concertina and keyboards on the sessions.