© Kathleen O'Sullivan and Billy Teare 2010
About: Kathleen O'Sullivan
The Songster - a fine exponent of traditional Irish singing
The songster and the storytellin' man
For audio streams please go to 'CD' page.
From an interview with folk singer/storyteller Pete Castle. Full interview with Kathleen and Billy: 'Facts and Fiction' magazine. (Feb 2011).
PC Q: Tell me a bit about your background and your work - The London Lasses and what was before that ?
I was with trad Irish band 'The London Lasses and Pete Quinn' for seven years. I recorded on a couple of their Cds and toured England, Ireland, Europe and
America with them. My real, life-long passion however is for unaccompanied song. My dad was from Cork and my mum from Laoise. I learned to sing from her
- informally - I just picked it up as she sang 24/7. On stage I say that my mum only sang when she was busy. I was one of nine children, seven boys and two
girls, so she was ALWAYS busy and always singing. All my family played traditional Irish music and/or sang. I grew up with it. I got taken to London sessions
in my teens and met some of the greats of the Irish music scene. I was also part of Comhaltas and started going to regional, all Britain and all Ireland fleadhs.
PC Q: How did Billy and you get together and what do you do as a duo ?
Billy and myself met 8yrs ago when we were appearing as solo artists at Sidmouth international folk festival. We share the same sense of humour and
immediately saw the potential in combining stories and traditional songs.
Our work together has been mutually beneficial. Through Billy I have acquired a depth of knowledge about stories and folk lore that is invaluable to my singing
and sense of lyrics. With Billy I have visited the homes of Packie Manus Byrne, (whom Billy called to see only last week. Packie was just out of hospital, a little
frail but in good wit), John Campbell (rest his soul) and Colum Sands. Billy says he has gained too, through my knowledge of singers, songs and traditional
music and musicians.
We have hit on an organic method of selecting and arranging material: stories and songs
and when we are in front of a live audience, this is what we try to convey. I grew up in a
house where it was natural to have visitors in the home who would sing or play, not as a
performance, but in a social exchange. At our gigs, we try to make it as if we are sat at
the kitchen table and interacting with friends.
Billy Teare and Kathleen O'Sullivan at the 'Around the Fire'
storytelling festival, Hammersmith Irish Cultural Centre.
This video clip is their own arrangement of W B Yeats ' The
Stolen Child'. Kathleen has based the air of her refrain on
Kitty Gallagher's 'Keening Song'.
We work with all ages and abilities and have been extremely busy in the last wee while,
touring Cork county, Cork City, Meath, Donegal, Roscommon and all around the North of
Ireland. The more we spend time together
working, the more we generate new material. We
have been reviewing some of it in order to start
recording. We were surprised to find we could
easily produce 3 or 4 Cds and are excited to
make a start on that. We are also toying with the
idea of recording some of our live material. We do
enjoy the response we get.
PC Q: What form does your show take - i.e Do
you do alternate items, or both work together ? Or
. . . ?
Our shows vary according to the age of our
listeners. With school programmes, we usually
take turns with Billy telling stories and me doing
some of my poetry and increasingly we work
together on the audience participation. Also, at
this level, I will usually introduce ways to make
arts and crafts from recycled materials. This
relates to storytelling in that some of my little
characters are 'Little Red Recycling Hood', 'Plastic Bagpuss', 'Dorothy and the Tin Can
Man', the 'Three little pigs' (made from milk cartons). There are examples of my work on
a moving gallery on the 'Schools' link on our website.
For adults, we do a bit of everything. Billy is a very spontaneous person and confident in
understanding what particular audiences might respond to. We do turnabout for songs
and stories and tell some together, drawing inspiration from Packie, John Campbell and
others. We also include adapted versions of some of the tales collected by Seamus
McManus and work by W B Yeats