In Memoriam: Dennis Cahill (1954 – 2022)

Dennis Cahill (June 16, 1954 – June 20, 2022) was an American guitarist who specialized in Irish traditional music. He was born in Chicago of parents from County Kerry, Ireland. Cahill began playing guitar at the age of nine and studied the instrument at the Chicago Musical College. He was active in the Irish traditional music scene in Chicago in the 1980s and 1990s.

In the late 1980s he and Irish fiddler Martin Hayes formed a band in Chicago called Midnight Court which combined traditional music with rock and roll. The band, in which Cahill played a Fender Telecaster and Hayes an electric fiddle, was active between 1989 and 1992. After its demise Cahill and Hayes continued to work together and formed an acoustic duo in 1996, developing an “unrushed, lyrical, highly expressive interpretation” of traditional Irish music. Cahill’s chordal accompaniment uses standard tuning.

In 1999 a New York Times reviewer described Hayes and Cahill’s approach as “stripping old reels and jigs to their essence, leaving space between the notes for harmonics and whispered blue notes,” resulting in “a Celtic complement to Steve Reich’s quartets or Miles Davis’s Sketches of Spain. ” Hayes and Cahill toured extensively and released three recordings on the Green Linnet label: The Lonesome Touch (1997), Live in Seattle (1999), and Welcome Here Again (2008). Cahill and Hayes, along with singer Iarla Ó Lionáird, fiddler Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh and pianist Doveman, were the members of The Gloaming, an Irish-American supergroup whose first album was released in 2014, winning the Meteor Choice Music Prize for Irish album of the year.

Dennis resided in Chicago with his wife Mary Joyce.

A post on his website confirmed that the musician passed away on Monday evening with his wife Mary by his side:

Hi folks, Jimmy Keane here on Tuesday, June 21, 2022

Our dearest Dennis passed away peacefully on Monday evening, with his beloved Mary by his side as she has throughout his journey. Just moments before — we were comforting Dennis while The Lament for Limerick from Dennis’ album with Martin was on in the background — and as the track advanced to My Love is in America, Mary turned off the player, leaned over to hug and kiss Dennis one last time – and then he was gone…

Too heartbroken to write any more…

Play a tune today. Sing a song. Tell a corny joke. Sip a whiskey. Cherish a memory…

My loving condolences to Mary, Cliodhna, the Cahill family, and all of Dennis’ many friends…

Love you Dennis and rest gently in peace…

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