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Laurence Nugent revisits roots on return from Chicago

Laurence Nugent displays his remarkable ability to play two tin whistles at the same time.

Laurence Nugent displays his remarkable ability to play two tin whistles at the same time.

LAURENCE Nugent may have spent over half his life based in America and touring the world, but the flute and whistle virtuoso’s heart remains firmly at home.

The internationally renowned musician, who was brought up in Lack, was back in Ireland last week and popped into Boneyard Records in Omagh to promote his new CD ‘White Island’.

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Laurence’s first musical influences came from within his own family. His father Sean Nugent from Dromore was an All-Ireland fiddle champion and leader of the Pride of Erin Ceili Band, teaching traditional music throughout the Dromore area for many decades. And his grandmother was the sister of the famous poet and musician Felix Kearney from ‘The Hills Above Drumquin’.

So it was inevitable that Laurence had an upbringing steeped in traditional music and the arts, listening to some of the finest players in the land.

Like many musicians Laurence entered regional and national competitions held under the auspices of the Comhaltas. He took first prize in junior competitions three times, before going on to win the senior All-Ireland Championships at the Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann.

However, it was a trip to America at the age of 18 that would change Laurence’s life forever. Falling in with a number of bands, he jumped in a car to tour the States.

Some 27 years later, Laurence is living in Chicago and still touring America, Canada, Europe and Japan with scores of the top musicians including The Chieftains and Shane McGowan.

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The new CD ‘White Island’ joins Laurence’s past catalogue of work, the three critically acclaimed CDs he recorded for the Shanachie Record label; ‘Traditional Irish Music on Flute and Tin-Whistle’, ‘Two For Two’, and The Windy Gap’.

The album was officially launched in Carron’s Corner Bar in Ederney on Friday night, when he was accompanied by a who’s who of local traditional musicians, such as Steve Cooney and Brid Harper.

Earlier that day he gave an impromptu rendition of a few tunes to a gathered audience in Omagh’s Boneyard Records, which included playing two tin whistles simultaneously.

Laurence said, “Traditional music was always in my blood with my father teaching hundreds of kids traditional music for years and his mother was the sister of Felix Kearney and also loved traditional music.

“Music has taken me everywhere, playing with too many bands to mention.

“When I first landed out there I joined a couple of bands and we toured the whole of America in a car for two years, going to every state. I mostly play with trad groups but also some rock and jazz, I’ll chance anything, but I always love coming home.

“I do a lot of fishing when I am back home, out on Lough Erne, and when I was making the CD, I needed a title and named it after White Island on Lough Erne, it is a beautiful and inspirational place with amazing old ruins. The album is very easy listening with a lot of original compositions with a few old airs.”

• White Island is available to purchase from Boneyard Records in Omagh or you can download it from www.laurencenugent.com.

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