Her great-great grandfather Peter played the melodeon and her great-great grandmother crooned traditional tunes to her grandchildren in “The Holla” near Kenagh, County Longford. Her great-grandfather Kevin played banjo for County Longford ceilis and house dances alongside his pipe-playing brother, Peter. Her grandfather Peter is a stalwart of Irish traditional music, renowned for his accordion and banjo playing, as well as the Manchester trad bands like Toss the Feathers, Skidoo and Good Tradition that he formed.
And her mother Angelina has performed with the all-girl trad group The Bumblebees, and is an outstanding banjo player whose flowing confident style is celebrated for being steeped in the tradition.
So it should come as no surpise that there’s a new kid on this musical block now, and she got to shine onstage at The Irish Center last week alongside her mother, Angelina, and her stepfather Martin Quinn. Shawna won’t turn 12 until August, but she has already discovered her own passion and talent for playing the fiddle.
“I’ve been playing the fiddle for about 7 years I think. I played the piano, too, but I got bored with it. I know 3 or 4 tunes on the banjo, and I took Kathleen Coneely’s class on the whistle at The Swannanoa Gathering in North Carolina,” Shawna told me when we sat down for a chat after her lovely performance. “I don’t really read by music, I learn by ear. Listening to the tunes and then learning them. Most days I practice for an hour. I did get really lazy for a bit, and went off it for a month,” Shawna laughed, “but now I’m always playing.”
Her teachers have included Connemara’s highly acclaimed fiddler Liz Kane, as well as step-dad Martin. “I like playing with him and my family. It’s more fun practicing with them.”
Shawna has so much fun playing with her family, in fact, that she has started a band with her aunt Roisin Carberry, 10, on the box, and her cousin Hannah Lane, 12, who sings and is learning the banjo and whistle. “We play in the pubs and at sessions. I like doing it, it’s really fun. We need more practicing but since we moved to County Longford from Galway last year we’re closer now and see each other more.”
Moving back to Longford also means she gets more lessons and encouragement from her grandfather Peter, as well. “Whenever I see him, he always asks ‘How are ya hon, have you been practicing?’ and if I say no, he says ‘Why not?’ and starts giving it out to me,” Shawna giggled. “But if I say yes, he says ‘Good woman. What tunes have you been learning?’”
All that practicing is paying off in a big way; Angelina revealed that Peter is going to ask Shawna to play on the CD that he’s currently recording. Pretty exciting stuff, as Shawna’s hazel eyes grew wide and her smile beamed even brighter, “He is? I didn’t know that!”
But for the next few weeks, this lovely and talented young musician is going to be kept busy touring the States. “It’s my third time here,” she says. “ I get to travel with my parents when I’m not in school and I like when I get to play a few tunes at the gigs with them.”
She also has found a way to preserve a little of the trip to take home with her, “When we’re going from place to place, I have my video camera with me, and I take video as we’re driving, telling a little bit about where we are.”
Her mother smiled as Shawna relayed this information, clearly quite delighted with every facet of her daughter–this brightly emerging talent in the next generation of the Carberry musical dynasty.
If you missed the Carberry-Quinn concert, and can’t wait for Shawna’s appearance on Peter Carberry’s upcoming CD, listen to her here.
And see even more photos of the event.