Ireland is full of great musicians, but only a few set standards.
Noel Hill was born in Caherea in West County Clare, Ireland, into a big family with 7 siblings. His parents and grandparents were all concertina players. He was particularly influenced by his uncle, Padraig A Chnoic, (Paddy Hill). He lived in a house which was the last house in the area to hold the traditional Irish House dance, where musicians were always welcomed; particularly towards the end of the year when farm work was done. It was at these events that he learned his early tunes, rather than from the radio, books or records. He started playing at 9 and was lucky to have heard endless hours of Willie Clancy, Paddy Canny, Peter O’Loughlin, Paddy Murphy, and Micky Hanrahan. Much of the music in his repertoire today comes from the music he learned as a child from these great players. Noel wanted to be a piper, but pipes were not readily available. He played the concertina which had been initially purchased for his older brother.
Noel Hill joined up with Tony Linnane, Tony Callanan and Kieran Hanrahan to form the group “Inchiquin“. They recorded one album. Hanrahan and Callanan then left to form Stockton’s Wing. His most celebrated album is “Noel Hill and Tony Linnane” (1979) with Tony Linnane (fiddle), Matt Molloy (flute), Alec Finn (bouzouki and mando-cello) and Micheal O’Domhnaill (church harmonium). Inchiquin continued with Noel, Tony and Barry Moore (Luka Bloom) and toured Germany. He has been a professional concertinist since the late 1970s. In the mid 1980′s he lived in New York City.
His main recordings are as follows: 1) “Í gCnoc Na Graí (In Knocknagree)”, together with button accordionist Tony MacMahon, recorded live in Dan O’Connell’s pub with a group of Clare set dancers in 1985, 2) The Irish Concertina One 1988. It was voted the “Irish Folk Album of the Year” in 1988. 3) “Music of Dreams (Aislingí Céoil)” in 1993, with Tony MacMahon and Iarla Ó Lionáird and I. 4) The Irish Concertina Two 2005 with Alec Finn, Arty McGlynn, Brian McGrath, Liam O’Connor and Steve Cooney.
He has toured worldwide including Europe, USA, Canada, China, Hong Kong, and Australia.
He teaches concertina at the The Noel Hill Irish Concertina Schools in Ireland and throughout the United States. He now lives with his two children in Connemara in the Irish speaking region of southwest County Galway.
Among the many concertinas that he plays, he has a miniature made by Charles Jeffries, which is 2 inches by 2 inches. This is sometimes claimed as being the smallest concertina in the world.
Notes From the Heart Noel Hill is one of those standard-setting voices in Irish music today. Few musicians in any field or in any generation achieve a position where both audiences and experts agree on their preeminence and mastery of an instrument; Noel Hill’s virtuosity has firmly established him as the defining Irish concertina player of our time.
Noel Hill comes from County Clare on the west coast of Ireland, where the concertina tradition is so strong the instruments was nicknamed “the Clareman’s Trumpet” and legend has it there was once a concertina in every other household. It was into one of these households that Noel Hill was born, and as a young child Noel was forbidden to touch his older brother’s concertina. But he couldn’t keep his hands off the instrument and was always stealing away with it. One day when his brother was laboring through a hornpipe Noel gave himself away by taking the concertina and playing the tune with ease. That got everyone’s attention, and he’s had it ever since.Noel Hill has taken the humble concertina from the house dances of County Clare on the west coast of Ireland to stages throughout the world. The concertina, like Irish music itself, is currently enjoying a tremendous increase in popularity, and Noel Hill is at the forefront of this movement, not only as an awe-inspiring performer but as teacher and a well respected authority on Ireland’s music. In his hands the concertina is a new instrument, yet resounds with the integrity of generations, for Noel Hill makes the music new not through experimentation in other genres, but through consummate exploration and illumination from within traditional Irish music.