Backstage with the Band - Riverdance

Backstage with the Band

For the first time in the history of Riverdance the Barrow Company currently touring Germany have an all female 4 piece band. Negah Santos on Percussion, Emma McPhilemy on Saxophone, Tara Howley on Consortina/Whistles and Ceilidh Briscoe on Fiddle.


I caught up with the girls on the bus to ask a few questions about them and their Riverdance experience so far…


Negah, you come from Brazil, is this your first time travelling in Europe? What is your favourite thing about it?
‘Yes this is my first time in Europe. Its very different here, the atmosphere is not what I am used to’. My favourite thing about Europe is the history, my mother is a history teacher and I can now see here the things I was taught about as a child’

When did you get introduced to Irish music?
‘I started learning Brazilian music at age 15 and transitioned to other sounds soon after. Joining Riverdance was my introduction to percussion with Irish Music.’

What is your favourite number in the show?
‘My favourite number in the show is Countess Cathleen. I love the feeling it gives me when I play. The Strength and power portrayed inspire me.’


Tara, what age were you when you started playing music?
‘I was 4 when I first started, I am the youngest of 3 and my two older sisters played music, I used to take their instruments and run off to my room and try and play them, so then I got my own’

Is this your first time being away from home on tour? what do you love about touring with Riverdance?
‘Its not my first time, I toured Ireland and the UK last year for a few weeks. This is amazing, its completely different touring with lots of people, I love Riverdance. Its an fantastic opportunity to work with such a talented cast and crew, its like a dream’

Where did you study music?
‘My two sisters and I received scholarships to the Cork School of Music. I am now continuing to pursue my musical education in the BA Irish Music and Dance programme at the University of Limerick. I was studying classical and traditional music at the same time, I started on the violin then transitioned to other instruments. I think my parents always wanted us to have the understanding of classical music as a basis for traditional music (proper techniques, posture etc) Traditional music is often played by ear but being able to read music was very important to me.’


Emma, where do you come from and how did you get introduced to jazz?
‘I come from Brighton, I started playing the flute at age 6 and was introduced to classical music as I grew and heard Jazz I knew that was where my passion lay. I started playing Jazz when I was 14 in my school Jazz orchestra. I am currently studying music at the Royal Northern College of music in Manchester, I am just about to start my 4th year’

What did you find most rewarding about working with Grammy award winning composer Bill Whelan?
‘After completing a video audition I made it down to the last 3 and was honoured that Bill chose my sound to be part of the show. Before the tour we had a few weeks rehearsal with him in Dublin, it was great to have recorded with him in the studio’

Where would you most like to perform in the future?
‘I don’t think its a specific venue, I would love to continue travelling and perform all over the world, and in the future have projects of my own on tour’


Ceilidh, what is your first memory of hearing the score of Riverdance? How did it influence your musical passion?
‘I probably first heard it in my dance class (Ceilidh was also an accomplished Irish Dancer) My father bought me my first violin at age 4. My mother kept my sister and I involved in dance and this eventually lead to my passion for traditional Irish music’

Where did you study music? Is this your first time in Europe?
‘I trained classically at the Victoria conservatory of Music in Vancouver Island, BC. My real start with trad music was at an Irish music and dance camp in Vancouver where I was introduced to my teacher for the next many years, Brian Conway a 5 time All-Ireland fiddle Champion.’

Where has been your favourite city on the tour so far?
‘CAMBRIDGE, I want to live there some day’


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