Maire Ni Chathasaigh and Chris Newman blend styles for Boulevard

(Photo by Con Kelleher)

Harp/guitar duo Maire Ni Chathasaigh and Chris Newman play a mashup of traditional Irish, classical, folk, swing jazz and bluegrass. That’s quite a heady brew, but this married couple makes it work remarkably well. They perform at Boulevard Music on Saturday, and they told the News about what they have in store for Culver City…

When did you start playing and performing? 

Chris Newman: I’ve been playing guitar since I was 4 years old (I’m 71 now) and decided that I’d do it professionally when I was 14 or so. I left school at 18 and within a few weeks, I’d joined an established band and found myself in a Ford Transit van bouncing around Germany. I’ve been doing it ever since – though not in a Ford Transit! I’ve been composing music for most of my life. The two of us met in 1984 at a festival in Spain where we were both appearing. Within a couple of years we’d decided to have a go at working together, made our first album and played our first tour. We haven’t been found out yet!

Maire Ni Chathasaigh: I started playing the harp when I was 11, though I had been playing the piano since the age of 6. I’ve been composing and performing since my teens and am probably best known for recording the first harp album ever to concentrate on traditional Irish dance music, The New Strung Harp – first released in 1985 and re-released in 2023. As Chris mentioned, we met in 1984 at a festival in Spain, where I was playing solo and Chris was playing with a singer. We got together the following year (and finally married in 2005). In 1987 we decided to make an album together and did our first tour. We came from very different musical backgrounds (mine was in Irish traditional and classical music, and Chris’ was in folk, swing jazz and bluegrass), and as far as we know we were the first musicians to create a harp / guitar duo, so we had a lot of fun creating both a new sound and a new repertoire!

Describe your sound…

CN: We play Irish harp and acoustic guitar on stage, and incorporate other instruments on recordings. The harp and guitar are both pretty versatile instruments and can produce music in many different genres. As well as the traditional Irish repertoire we’ve played swing jazz, bluegrass, baroque, old-time… pretty much anything. Except rap. Or opera.

MNC: Joyful, adventurous, fun!

What are your career highlights so far?

CN: Writing and producing a top-ten hit in the UK; playing with jazz icon Stéphane Grappelli and Celtic band Boys of the Lough; and touring the world with Máire. We have played as a duo in some extraordinary venues: the Shogun’s palace (Nijo Castle) in Kyoto, an Ottoman palace in Istanbul, London’s Barbican, Sydney Town Hall and the Philharmonie in Cologne, as well as countless theaters, arts centers, churches and village halls on five continents.

MNC: Being awarded Irish music’s highest and most prestigious honor, Gradam Ceoil TG4 – Musician of the Year – in 2001; and touring the world with Chris! 

Do you have recorded music available?
Yes. We’ve made seven duo albums, two quartet albums and five solo albums, all to be found at

Have you performed at Boulevard Music before? Any memories? 

We played there in March 2019 and still remember the warm and appreciative audience.

What can the audience expect from the set this time?

CN: A pretty eclectic mix of music from various traditions.

MNC: Irish music from five centuries, with forays into swing jazz, bluegrass and baroque, and some of our own compositions.

What else do you have coming up?

This will be our first visit to California since March 2019 so we’re looking forward to it very much. We were in the US four times last year but the nearest we got to LA were a few dates in Oregon – not that close. The US is a BIG country.

Maire Ni Chathasaigh and Chris Newman perform at 8 p.m. on Saturday, May 4 at Boulevard Music. Go to for more information about the show and for more about the duo.

Elsewhere this week

The Culver Hotel will be hosting the likes of Sylvia & the Rhythm Boys, and Scotty Bramer. Go to for more info.

There’s a full program of music at the Cinema Bar this week, as usual. The Hot Club of Los Angeles plays every Monday, and Wednesdays are singer/songwriter and open mic night. Other artists performing this week include Dinosaur Tooth, Dennis Spencer Group, Bob Street’s Stumpwater Experiment, and more. Go to for more info.