Desi Wilkinson is an internationally acclaimed Irish traditional musician with wide ranging experience of professional music performance. Known for his eclectic musical interests, Desi is an experienced and popular performer and teacher. Originally from Belfast, Desi has a distinctive Ulster style and technique but with influences from the flute traditions of Sligo and Roscommon. He plays concert flute, tin whistle, fiddle, bagpipes and clarinet, and he has a strong interest in traditional song. He has performed and recorded with a wide range of artists from the world of Irish traditional music and has played at national theatres and festivals throughout Europe, North America and Japan. A founder member of the group Cran, Desi has recorded and toured extensively with the group and has released two solo albums to date.
During the 1990s Desi was involved in several international music projects, including Hent St Jakez (the story of the Santiago de Compostela pilgrimage in music and words) and The West Wind (a fusion of musical traditions, sponsored by the theatre La Villette in Paris and the theatre Quartz in Brest, which took place during L’imaginaire Irlandaise). Other significant projects include La Traversée (2001), ‘Senegal to Donegal’ (2002) and most recently ‘Buffalo in the Castle’ (2009) in which connections between Irish music and American ‘Old Timey’ music are explored.
Prior to his forthcoming appointment as Traditional Artist in Residence at UCC, Desi worked as a full time lecturer at the International Centre for Music Studies at Newcastle University. His book on the dance music and socio-political world in Brittany entitled ‘Call to the Dance’ is due out in November 2015 (Pendragon Press, New York) and he has published several articles about the social and aesthetic aspects of Irish traditional music.
Paul Flynn, Head of Traditional Arts at the Arts Council, welcomes the appointment, ‘Desi is recognized as a driving force behind the development of traditional music since the 1980’s. He has been involved with ground breaking ensembles such as Cran and Lá Lugh which have influenced the traditional music landscape. The Arts Council is excited at what Desi will bring to the residency and what he will gain as an artist from this experience ’.
Wilkinson will be hosted by The School of Music and Theatre at UCC where the study of Irish traditional music has been pioneered for many decades. He will be warmly welcomed there by a team of internationally recognised traditional musicians that includes Bobby Gardiner, Matt Cranitch, Connie O’Connell, Colm Murphy, Mary Mitchell-Ingoldsby and Mel Mercier.
“Desi is one of our finest musicians; his playing of dance music has a rhythmic, emphatic style based on the Sligo-Leitrim tradition. He is an articulate and humorous presenter of the music, deeply committed to exploring genres and traditions beyond Ireland. If traditional music is about searching, absorption, retention and change, so is Desi.” - Ciaran Carson, poet, writer and musician.