WORLDWIDE fame was certainly not on the agenda when Moya Brennan set out on her musical career back in the family pub in Ireland.

Indeed, the plan was that she would become a music teacher.

But now, almost 50 years on and with a string of hits behind her either as the voice of Clannad or in a solo capacity, the ‘first lady of Celtic music’ as she has been described is still very much in demand.

She will be kicking off her latest tour at Rhosygilwen on Wednesday, March 27, bringing with her a unique voice and sound that has captivated audiences all over the world.

But it could all have been so different in the early days.

“We were a young band from Donegal, growing up with the Gaelic language and very much did our own thing,” said Moya, who remains still very much a champion of Irish arts and culture.

“We were messing with tunes and doing things that no-one had done before and were given a hard time because you were not supposed to touch these precious songs.

“Dad had opened a pub in 1968 and what it meant for us was the chance to play on a stage. When everyone had gone home we would get up and play Joni Mitchel, the Beatles, Gaelic music, whatever.

“Then we started doing performances during the holidays. We performed for 20 minutes and then half an hour and people would come and listen to us and that was a real surprise. It all seemed a very natural thing.

“It was all about enjoying ourselves and it never occurred to us about making money. I remember going to Dublin to play and getting a fiver each and thinking ‘wow, you can get paid for doing this’.”

There was already a string of albums behind Clannad when they burst onto the international stage with the haunting music linked with the TV programmes Harry’s Game and Robin of Sherwood.

“We already had a strong base to what we were doing and the reaction was amazing but we were so unaware of it. People could not believe the sound but it was simply what we did,” says Moya.

“It was earthy and had an ethereal quality to it. It came to us naturally rather than us looking for it.

“It just felt so unreal – these rednecks from Donegal singing Gaelic on Top of the Pops. Our whole lives changed.

“We suddenly had record companies knocking on the door.”

Success and a string of awards followed – 15 million records sold worldwide, Ivor Novello, BAFTA and Grammy recognition - but for Moya, even after all these years, it is still very much about the music and enjoyment.

“I just love to play anywhere but I like to play intimate venues such as Rhosygilwen - that creates a special vibe and it’s also important for me to enjoy it. This is not painting by numbers,” she said.

“I have a fantastic band with me and we will be playing a variety of music from some of my latest albums to old Clannad tracks.

“Most people know me for that and you have to do one or two Clannad songs but variety and diversity in music is so important and healthy.

“I still remember being so excited about buying an album and playing it to death – there was nothing quite like it and it’s a shame people don’t experience that so much anymore, though it is great to see vinyl making a comeback. That’s wonderful.”

And what does the future hold.

“Well, it will be 50 years since Clannad formed next year and we are thinking of doing a two-year farewell tour. It will be very relaxed, maybe going out on the road for three weeks at a time,” adds Moya.

But for now, she’s simply still happy to be playing music.

Tickets for the Rhosygilwen concert on Wednesday March 27 (8pm) are £18 and are available at or by calling 01239 841387.