Susan McKeown

Susan McKeown

Susan McKeown (born 1967) is an Irish songwriter and folk singer.

Early Years

Susan McKeown was born on February 6, 1967 to John Ryan and Jane Ann (Jeannie) McKeown in Terenure, Dublin, Ireland. She was greatly influenced by her mother, an organist and composer who died in 1982. Susan briefly attended the Musicipal College of Music, Chatham Row, (now incorporated into the Dublin Institute of Technology) Dublin as a teenager before abandoning a promised opera career in order to sing folk and rock. Together with John Doyle, McKeown formed The Chanting House in 1989. Mainly performing as a duo, they toured Europe with Donogh Hennessy and other musicians, the set list consisting of original songs and traditional tunes. They released a cassette-only album called "The Chanting House" in 1990.

Emigration to New York

Upon graduating from University College Dublin McKeown was awarded a scholarship to attend The American Musical and Dramatic Academy in Manhattan. So in 1990, with a bursary from The Arts Council of Ireland she relocated to New York City. Doyle followed and they were soon to join forces with Seamus Egan and Eileen Ivers with whom they recorded one live cassette and one track, "If I Were You", which they contributed to the album 'Straight Outta Ireland' in 1993. McKeown's musical collaboration with Doyle ended with his departure in the summer of 1993.

With new musicians, as "Susan McKeown and the Chanting House" she performed at clubs such as Sin-é, Fez, The Bottom Line and The Bowery Ballroom and recorded a cassette album - "Snakes" in 1993. But it was the release of "Bones" in 1995, an album of searing original songs with her take on a centuries-old keen (caoineadh) and a classic arrangement of Robert Burns' "Westlin' Winds" (later recorded by Fairport Convention) which secured her reputation as an inventive, emotion-centered singer-songwriter, and launched her solo touring and recording career. In 1997 she contributed to three albums, perhaps most significantly "Peter & Wendy", the soundtrack to the OBIE award-winning Mabou Mines theatrical production of the same name which was composed by Johnny Cunningham. She was beginning to divide her work into albums of traditional music ("Bushes and Briars" 1998) and singer-songwriter albums ("Bones", 1995, "Prophecy", 2002). McKeown suggested to Cathie Ryan and Robin Spielberg the idea of recording an album of songs relating to motherhood, resulting in "The Mother Album" (1999). Susan began producing with the albums - "Lowlands" (2000) and "Sweet Liberty" (2004), probably most successful among her traditional song releases, the latter earning a BBC Folk Music Award nomination for her clever setting of an English gypsy song with a Mariachi band.

In December 2003 world-renowned klezmer band The Klezmatics invited Susan to join them at 92nd Street Y in a concert of songs they had composed to lyrics by Woody Guthrie. She has toured with The Klezmatics annually since then, performing in Europe and across the US from Carnegie Hall to Disney Hall in LA. Together they recorded "Woody Guthrie's Happy Joyous Hanukkah" (2005) and "Wonder Wheel" (2006) which in 2007 won a Grammy for Best Contemporary World Music Album.


*"The Chanting House" (1990)
*"The Chanting House - Live" (1992)
*"Snakes" (1993)
*"Bones" (1995)
*"Peter and Wendy" (1997), with Johnny Cunningham, Seamus Egan, Karen Kandel and Jamshied Sharifi
*"The Soul of Christmas: A Celtic Music Celebration" (1997) Thomas Moore/Johnny Cunningham
*"Through the Bitter Frost & Snow" (1998), with Lindsey Horner
*"Bushes and Briars" (1998)
*"Mother" (1999), with Cathie Ryan and Robin Spielberg
*"Lowlands" (2000)
*"A Winter Talisman" (2001), with Johnny Cunningham
*"Prophecy" (2002)
*"Sweet Liberty" (2004)
*"Woody Guthrie's Happy Joyous Hanukkah" (2005) by The Klezmatics (guest appearance by Susan)
*"Blackthorn" (2006)
*"Wonder Wheel" (2006), by The Klezmatics (guest appearance by Susan)

External links

* [ Susan McKeown Official Website ]
* [ Interview with Susan McKeown ]

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