Biography - Fil Campbell
Fil (or Phil) Campbell grew up in Belleek on the Co. Fermanagh/Donegal border in the North of Ireland. She was brought up on the folk songs that were popular in that area and spent her childhood immersed in music. With both ceilidh bands and singers in the family, music was all around and performance was part of everyday life, both at home and at school. Belleek is the home of the world famous Belleek Pottery, where Fil's father worked all his life, and where she in turn spent several Summer holidays working.
After several years of touring and performing her own material mixed with traditional songs, Fil returned to her roots in 2005 for a multi media project called Songbirds – a TV show, touring show, CD and DVD which profiled the lives of women singers in Ireland who had recorded the popular folk songs of the 30s, 40s and 50s.
Fil has now recorded three CDs of this material and these songs, which had formed the musical background to Ireland of the first half of the 20th century, now form the basis for her current themed touring show, Just A Song At Twilight. This show can usually just be seen in theatres in Ireland – it’s a fun night of songs to join in with, interspersed with stories about the singers and the songs.
“Fil Campbell … has been likened to a lot of female performers, but can be compared to none. She has a unique voice and a knack of making every song her own.” The Word (Ireland)
Fil has been working as a full time performer since the late 1980s. Throughout the 90s she toured extensively throughout Europe, Ireland and the UK building up a strong and loyal following on the folk circuit, mainly across Germany, Holland and Belgium, accompanied by her husband and musical partner, percussionist Tom McFarland.
Her first CD, The Light Beyond the Woods, was recorded in 1992 in the world famous Spring Studios in Rostrevor, home of the Sands Family. Dreaming was recorded in 1996 - the title song, a commentary on life in Northern Ireland during the turbulent 90s, was written while travelling in Germany. It won the prestigious Letterkenny Song Festival. Beneath the Calm was a further collection of Fil's songs, released in 2002 and had the beautiful “I Still Think of You” which she wrote in memory of her father.
- The Light Beyond The Woods (1992)
- Dreaming (1996)
- Turn of the Day (with the band Jaimidi) (2001)
- Beneath The Calm (2002)
- Songbirds (2005)
- Songbirds DVD of TV Series (2006)
- Farewell To Cold Winter (Songbirds Part Two) (2011)
- A Place of My Own (2012)
A lifetime in music
* While performing has always been Fil's passion, she has also worked in many other areas of the music business in Belfast – as a promoter, radio presenter, booking agent, voice coach, backing vocalist ….
* She currently runs a community choir for people who say they can't sing!!
* Fil is the Irish spelling of Phil – she changed her name from Phil to avoid confusion with the male Phil Campbell’s in the music industry of which there are many. In fact, there is a town in America called Phil Campbell?!! True!! Her full name is Philomena.
* She has a degree in Arts from Queen’s University, Belfast - one of her main subjects being Music.
* For 7 years she was a radio presenter for BBC Radio Ulster in Northern Ireland, presenting folk-based evening and daytime shows, including ‘Folk Club’ for 3 years, as well as health documentaries and some late night programmes. She had to choose between touring and presenting in the mid 90s and chose to follow her passion of performing on stage.
* While working as a music publicist/promoter she helped promote major shows like Queen at Slane Castle, the Bolshoi Ballet, and Rod Stewart. She also promoted shows for Ulster Television, local radio stations, and even promoted a Dolphin Show (!)
* Fil was a backing vocalist for RTE Television and for several studio sessions; sang in a cabaret band in the Middle East and sang in several operas. She plays flute, piano and guitar and has also played harp.
* Together with a school friend, Fil was writing winning songs as early as 1977 when she was a prize winner at the Manorhamilton Song Contest and in a special teenager’s song contest in Dublin.
* While she was still at school Fil reached the final stages of the Voice of Ireland competition, represented Ulster in the Scor na nOg and sang with several showbands in a series of Peace Concerts across Northern Ireland.
* The year she graduated Fil directed the Belfast Fringe Festival and was the first promoter to give U2 a gig in the North of Ireland. They supported Squeeze.!
“…one of the most sensitive accompanists on the folk scene” - Folk Roots
Tom McFarland is a talented multi instrumentalist, backing vocalist and studio recording engineer who comes from Belfast where he started studying drums as a teenager. In recent years his studio interests have expanded to include video editing and web design.
Tom’s interest in percussion stretches to instruments from all over the world - in his live work he plays, among others, the bodhrán, the African Djembé, Latin American congas and bongos, the cajon, and basically anything else that can be shaken or hit. For recording, he also plays drum kit.
Tom has toured with his wife Fil Campbell since the early 90s and the duo built up a very loyal following right across Europe, and earned the following quote in Berlin’s Zitty Magazine – “vocals and rhythm, the basis of music”. He has also toured for a while with David Knopfler and worked on his CD “Wishbones” (David founded Dire Straits with his brother Mark); he has also toured with Ben Sands of the world renowned Sands Family; has guested on stage with Finbar Furey.
Tom’s recording credits include work with the late John Wright, with Tommy Sands, Rosemary Woods, Briege Murphy, David Knopfler, Colum Sands, and Ben Sands.
Between tours and sessions he teaches drums and percussion to adults and regularly presents workshops in percussion for handicapped adults and for cross community groups in Northern Ireland. He is also a passionate computer buff, Tom also has a studio at home in Ballyneddan Cottage..
Born in Ballyfarnon, Co. Roscommon, Brendan Emmett is one of the finest mandolin/guitar players on the Irish music scene today.
Much sought after for his studio work, he has recorded with such music greats as Ralph McTell, Frances Black, Maura O’Connell and Makem and Clancy.
Brendan has also toured extensively with Christy Moore, Frances Black, The Woman’s Heart Tour, Eleanor Shanley and with his own band The Boys of Sligo. He is also a regular member of Charlie McGettigan’s band Jargon.
Musically Brendan’s playing covers a wide range of styles, from Irish Traditional to folk, blues and jazz. His life long passion for bluegrass music has brought many highlight, such as playing at the Tonder Festival in Denmark with headliner Eleanor Shanley and American guitar and mandolin legends Dan Cray and John Moore.
A fine composer, some of his tunes can be heard on his recordings with The Boys of Sligo and on recordings of Mary Black’s bassist James Blennerhassett.