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Mary Dennis

Mary started out playing piano as a youngster but as she grew older her interests shifted. In high school she taught herself to play the guitar after watching both of her brothers learn, playing mostly folk music jamming with friends. Mary had listened to her Dad sing Irish songs around the house while she was growing up.

In the spring of 1992 after many years of music deprivation, Mary decided to learn the fiddle. She bought a violin from a friend and began to teach herself to play using books and tapes. She attempted to take lessons for a while but found that the classical players she worked with just didn't know how to teach her what she wanted to learn. So she continued to use books and recordings to help her learn the traditional Irish style that she was really looking for. In the meantime, her brother Tim was taking an interest in learning to play the flute. He and Mary were soon playing together the simple melody lines of old Irish ballads. Pretty soon their older brother Patrick joined in as well, backing them up on his guitar.

Pat's girlfriend talked the owner of a popular local pub where she worked into having the group play for St Patrick's Day the following year and she joined the band as well as a vocalist. Mary and her band mates chose the name of Paddy's Night Out for their newly formed group after a song made popular by the Wolf Tones. The group worked in earnest over the following months often rehearsing 5 or 6 times each week, and by the time St Patrick's Day 1993 rolled around they had developed a full repertoire and added another band member, Bob Midden on bass. Paddy's Night out continued to perform together for about 5 years and then dissolved when Mary's brothers both moved away.

Mary and Bob decided to form a new group that would focus more on the traditional dance music of Ireland. Bob had redirected his flute playing style from Western European art music to traditional Irish music and both he and Mary were learning many new dance tunes. Mary continued to work with recordings and books to develop her style, gleaning as much as she could from occasional interactions with other fiddle players. Mary studied with Cape Breton fiddler, Dan MacDonald, from 2002-2004 who played with “Toraigh” during that period. She has also studied briefly with Patrick Ourceau and a few other well-known traditional Irish musicians at music camps around the country. Mary's musical interests continue to grow and along the way she has also learned to play the bodhran and is currently learning the tenor banjo and mandolin.
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