Darren Maloney
Darren Maloney will be in concert this Saturday night. Photos courtesy of KCT concerts

Blending tradition and innovation

Posted August 30, 2007

On Saturday, Sept. 1, Katharine Cornell Theater (KCT) Concerts present the tenor banjo player Darren Maloney.

Fiddler Vonnie Quinn, and guitarist/vocalist/drummer Shane O'Sullivan will join him.

Maloney is fast becoming recognized as a premier Irish tenor banjo player, noted for his blend of traditional and innovative new music. Since the release of his critically acclaimed debut album, "Who?," on which electric and acoustic banjo is heard as well as the mandolin and bouzouki, he has signed an artist endorsement deal with Deering Banjos, one of the world's renowned banjo makers.

"Finding consummate musicians to represent our banjos is not always an easy task. Maloney falls into a level of musicianship that has a limited membership. His technical expertise is beyond compare," says Carolina Bridges, the Marketing Manager at Deering Banjos.

Darren was heavily influenced during his early musical days by Irish banjo greats like Mick Moloney, Cathal Hayden, and Gerry O' Connor, but it was an interview with Béla Fleck, who some consider to be the world's premiere banjo player, that had the most influence on Darren's music and composition. Having already won numerous prizes and toured worldwide in the United States, Scandinavia, Europe, and Sri Lanka, Maloney set about recording his debut solo album. He composed over half of the pieces on "Who?" and drew on all the genres which were influencing him, from Fleck to J.S. Bach. He also took on the role of producer, arranger and engineer to get exactly what he was hearing in his mind.

His album has received worldwide acclaim, including a glowing Irish Times feature: "'Who?' by Darren Maloney. Just when you thought Gerry O'Connor had utterly cornered the four-string banjo market, along comes the brash, risk-taking young talent of Cavan's Darren Maloney on tenor banjo. He answered the cheeky one-word question of his solo CD title with emphatic flair and imagination. Cavan Tenor Banjoist Darren Maloney answered the question 'who'? with 'wow' on his solo CD," wrote Earle Hitchner.

Darren received the ultimate of endorsements when he was asked to play at Carnegie Hall. In April 2006, Darren decided to relocate to New York City to further his musical experiences. He was invited, along with 15 other top string instrumentalists, to participate in a professional training workshop Carnegie Hall. The event crossed a multitude of musical genres and was hosted by a panel of top acoustic musicians such as Edgar Meyer, Mike Marshall, Béla Fleck, Jerry Douglas, and Matt Glaser, who all played a part in hand picking the participants. The highlight of the week was the final performance in Carnegie Hall where Darren performed some of his latest compositions.

Vonnie Quinn
Vonnie Quinn joins Darren Maloney and Shane O'Sullivan at the Katharine Cornell Theatre.

While living in his hometown of Cavan, Ireland, Darren often played with fiddler Quinn and they appeared many times on RTE [Public Broadcasting Service of Ireland] Radio One's Ceilihouse. Vonnie moved to New York City two years ago to pursue her career in journalism. She is a trained classical violinist having studied first at The Limerick School of Music and then under Greg Ellis of the Vanbrugh String Quartet. She achieved performance and teaching diplomas from The Associated Board of Music and Trinity College London and performed with The National Youth Orchestra of Ireland. Vonnie, now a producer with Bloomberg Radio, can be seen performing in New York with Smirk, a band she co-founded.

This year, Darren brings with him the multi-talented Shane O' Sullivan, adding guitar, vocals and percussion. Born in England, Shane has traveled the world through his music amassing a wealth of playing styles from folk to rock.

Darren Maloney Band, 8 pm, Saturday, Sept. 1, Katharine Cornell Theatre, Spring St., Vineyard Haven. $10 advance tickets; $15 at the door; children under 12 are free. For tickets and information, call 508-693-6996, or visit

Information provided by KCT concerts. KTC is a non-profit organization with an all-volunteer staff devoted to traditional music.