The High Kings

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The High Kings
The High Kings.jpg
The High Kings performing in 2012 in Waterford, Ireland.
Background information
Genres Traditional Irish, Folk, Celtic
Years active2008–current
Labels Sony Music, Manhattan Records, Universal Music, Ard Ri Entertainment, Celtic Collections
Associated acts The Clancy Brothers, The Fureys, Sean Dunphy, Celtic Woman
Members Finbarr Clancy
Brian Dunphy
Darren Holden
Past members Martin Furey
George Murphy

The High Kings are an Irish folk group formed in Dublin in 2008. The band consists of Finbarr Clancy, Brian Dunphy, and Darren Holden. By June 2016, the group had released four studio albums, two live albums, and two live DVDs. Their first three studio albums appeared at number three or higher on the Billboard world music chart, [1] the first two went platinum in Ireland, [2] and all of their albums charted in Ireland.

Dublin Capital city of Ireland

Dublin is the capital and largest city of Ireland. Situated on a bay on the east coast, at the mouth of the River Liffey, it lies within the province of Leinster. It is bordered on the south by the Dublin Mountains, a part of the Wicklow Mountains range. It has an urban area population of 1,173,179, while the population of the Dublin Region as of 2016 was 1,347,359. The population of the Greater Dublin Area was 1,904,806 per the 2016 census.

Finbarr Clancy Irish folk singer

Finbarr Clancy is an Irish folk singer and musician. Early in his career he performed with The Clancy Brothers. As of 2019, he is a member of the group The High Kings.

Brian Dunphy Irish tenor singer

Brian Dunphy is an Irish folk singer and son of the famous showband singer Sean Dunphy, who represented Ireland at the Eurovision Song Contest in 1967. A well-known performer and member of the Irish folk band The High Kings, Brian Dunphy has toured the United States, Ireland and the United Kingdom. He got his start as the lead singer in Riverdance: The Show, which ran on Broadway in New York City. He also joined the Three Irish Tenors, who toured throughout the United States, and was also part of the band Druid. He released a solo album entitled, Timeless, as well in 2005. Dunphy has most recently been a member of the four-person Irish folk band The High Kings (2008–present), along with Finbarr Clancy, Martin Furey and Darren Holden. George Murphy has recently replaced Martin Furey in the group. The High Kings have released six albums and toured extensively in the United States, Europe and Australia. Dunphy typically plays the bodhrán and the guitar in the group.


After the release of their first album, the new group moved from a highly staged format to a more natural performance style. Their third album "Friends for Life" contains both traditional Irish songs, as well as some original songs. Since the inception of the band, The High Kings has toured Ireland, the United States, and Europe on multiple occasions. Together they play thirteen instruments during their performances. The group's motto is "Folk 'n Roll," and their singing is especially noted for its close harmonies. Although they sing mostly traditional Irish songs, they are known to sing arrangements of songs from other genres as well.


Finbarr Clancy toured the United States and Ireland in the 1990s with the Clancy Brothers, one of the most successful folk groups in Irish traditional music. He sang and played 5 string banjo, electric bass and flute with the group, which consisted at the time of Finbarr's father, Bobby Clancy, his uncles Paddy Clancy and Liam Clancy, and his cousin, singer-songwriter Robbie O'Connell. As part of this group, Finbarr appeared in the Clancy Brothers' filmed Farewell to Ireland performance in 1996, which has since been released on DVD. He also performed on three albums with this father. He usually plays the guitar and sometimes the banjo with The High Kings.

Bobby Clancy Irish singer

Robert Joseph 'Bobby' Clancy Jr was an Irish singer and musician best known as a member of The Clancy Brothers, one of the most successful and influential Irish folk groups. He accompanied his songs on five-string banjo, guitar, bodhrán, and harmonica.

Paddy Clancy Irish singer

Patrick Michael Clancy, usually called Paddy Clancy or Pat Clancy, was an Irish folk singer best known as a member of the Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem. In addition to singing and storytelling, Clancy played the harmonica with the group, which is widely credited with popularizing Irish traditional music in the United States and revitalizing it in Ireland. He also started and ran the folk music label Tradition Records, which recorded many of the key figures of the American folk music revival.

Liam Clancy Irish musician

Liam Clancy was an Irish folk singer and actor from Carrick-on-Suir, County Tipperary. He was the youngest member of the influential folk group the Clancy Brothers, who are regarded as Ireland's first pop stars. They recorded 55 albums, achieved global sales of millions and appeared in sold-out concerts at such prominent venues as Carnegie Hall and the Royal Albert Hall.

Brian Dunphy got his first break as a performer in Riverdance: The Show. After two years as part of Riverdance, he became a member of The Three Irish Tenors. Dunphy had also been a member of the band Druid. He released a solo album entitled, Timeless, as well, in which Darren helped cowrite some of the original material. Brian is the son of Sean Dunphy, who represented Ireland in the 1967 Eurovision Song Contest. He typically plays the bodhrán and guitar with the group.

Riverdance is a theatrical show consisting mainly of traditional Irish music and dance. With a score composed by Bill Whelan, it originated as an interval performance act during the 1994 Eurovision Song Contest, featuring Irish dancing champions Jean Butler, Michael Flatley and the vocal ensemble Anúna. Shortly afterwards, husband and wife production team John McColgan and Moya Doherty expanded it into a stage show, which opened in Dublin on 9 February 1995. Since then, the show has visited over 450 venues worldwide and been seen by over 25 million people, making it one of the most successful dance productions in the world.

Sean Dunphy was an Irish singer who represented Ireland at the 1967 Eurovision Song Contest, achieving second place with "If I Could Choose". He was also the first Irish singer to record in Nashville.

Bodhrán Irish frame drum

The bodhrán is an Irish frame drum ranging from 25 to 65 cm (10–26 in) in diameter, with most drums measuring 35–45 cm (14–18 in). The sides of the drum are 9–20 cm deep. A goatskin head is tacked to one side. The other side is open-ended for one hand to be placed against the inside of the drum head to control the pitch and timbre.

Martin Furey, son of Irish folk musician Finbar Furey, formed the band Bohinta with his sister Áine in 1992. They had a top ten hit in France with the album Excalibur, featuring Jean Reno as Merlin. Bohinta released two albums, Sessions and Belladonna. Furey released Howl and concentrated exclusively on production and creative writing skills, working with Stuart Bruce (of Feed the World), Paul White (of SOS) and Martin Swan (of Mouth Music). He plays the banjo, bouzouki, guitar, and the modern low whistle, which his father had originally helped to create and develop. His singing style is characterised by frequent use of vocal ornamentation. Furey left the band in September 2017.

Finbar Furey Irish musician

Finbar Furey, is a multi-instrumental Irish folk musician, best known for his band of brothers, The Fureys who were formed in Ballyfermot, Dublin, where they grew up.

Áine Furey is an Irish singer. She is the daughter of the uileann piper Finbar Furey and the sister of Martin Furey. She and Martin founded a band Bohinta in 1992. They had a top ten hit in France with the album Excalibur, featuring Jean Reno as Merlin. Bohinta released two albums, Sessions and Belladonna. She has dueted with Martin and has accompanied others on various releases. Áine is a graduate of University College Cork.

Jean Reno French actor

Juan Moreno y Herrera-Jiménez, known as Jean Reno, is a French actor of Spanish descent. He has worked in French, English, Japanese, Spanish, and Italian productions, and appeared in films such as Crimson Rivers, Godzilla, The Da Vinci Code, Mission: Impossible, The Pink Panther, Ronin, Les visiteurs, The Big Blue, Hector and the Search for Happiness and Léon: The Professional.

Darren Holden, Finbarr Clancy, and Brian Dunphy perform at a High Kings concert in Iveagh Gardens, 2011. Darren Holden, Finbarr Clancy, Brian Dunphy - Donegal, 2011.jpg
Darren Holden, Finbarr Clancy, and Brian Dunphy perform at a High Kings concert in Iveagh Gardens, 2011.

Darren Holden starred in Riverdance: The Show on Broadway for eighteen months. He followed this success by appearing in the Broadway musical Movin' Out. Holden played the role of Billy Joel both on Broadway and on a national tour of the United States (January 2004 – January 2007), as well as tours of Canada and Japan in 2006. Holden has also released three successful solo albums. Suddenly was released in 1998 and yielded three top 20 singles in Ireland and one top 30 in Finland. Live and Learn was released in the United States in March 2003, garnering three top 40 airplay hits on the country music charts. Roadworks followed in 2006 with success in Japan where it sold 20,000 copies. It was produced by Bryan Steele and Tommy Byrnes (Stray Cats, Billy Joel). Holden plays the accordion, mandolin, guitar and keyboard with The High Kings. He continues to perform solo shows when not with The High Kings. Holden regularly represents the band on National Television and global radio interviews and is known in media circles as the group's main spokesperson.

Billy Joel American singer-songwriter and pianist

William Martin Joel is an American singer-songwriter, composer, and pianist. Commonly nicknamed the "Piano Man" after his first major hit and signature song of the same name, he has led a commercially successful career as a solo artist since the 1970s, having released twelve studio albums from 1971 to 1993 as well as one studio album in 2001. He is one of the best-selling music artists of all time, as well as the sixth best-selling recording artist and the third best-selling solo artist in the United States, with over 150 million records sold worldwide. His 1985 compilation album, Greatest Hits Vol. 1 & 2, is one of the best-selling albums in the U.S.

On 10 October 2017, the High Kings announced that George Murphy would be joining the group for their Canadian tour dates. He continued to perform with the group from 2017 to 2019, playing guitar and banjo, as well as providing vocals. Murphy is from Beaumont, a suburb of Dublin. He is best known for his appearance on the RTE program "You're a Star." [3] On 29 May 2019, Murphy announced via Facebook that his time with the High Kings has come to an end, and that he would continue work on his solo career.


The High Kings' first album quickly climbed to the top of the Amazon music charts worldwide. The self-titled release also reached number two on Billboard Magazine's World Music chart. The album spent a total of thirty-four weeks on the chart. [1]

In 2008, the High Kings toured the United States with "Celtic Woman" as the opening act.

In 2011, the High Kings toured the US again, playing in Chicago, Albany, New Haven, Philadelphia, Boston and Atlanta to promote their new album release "Memory Lane," which eventually reached the third spot on Billboard's Top World Albums chart. [1] On St. Patrick's Day, they played for an American audience on "Live with Regis and Kelly," and performed on stage in Boston that night.

On 18 March 2012 the High Kings headlined the Mayor of London's St Patrick's Day celebrations in Trafalgar Square to an estimated 15,000 people.

On 20 March 2012 The High Kings were invited to perform at the Official St Patrick's Day Celebrations at The White House in Washington DC, United States. The event was hosted by US President Barack Obama and attended by Taoiseach Enda Kenny. [4]

On 6 July 2012 The High Kings were invited to perform at the residence of the President of Ireland Michael D Higgins. [4]

On 12 March 2013 The High Kings announced a forthcoming third studio album produced by Sharon Shannon and John Dunford, consisting of eight original songs and a selection of classic ballads. [5] On 23 September 2013 The High Kings released Friends For Life on the Sony record label. The album reached number three on the Billboard Top World Albums chart. [1]

In 2016 the band performed at RTÉ's Centenary Concert to mark the 100-year anniversary of Ireland's Easter Rising.

In May 2016, The High Kings released their 4th studio album 'Grace & Glory' to huge acclaim which saw the band enter the iTunes Charts in the USA, UK, Germany and top the Independent Artists Irish Albums Charts.

In June 2016 the band played all 3 stages at the Isle of Wight Festival, followed by a career-defining performance at Glastonbury Festival 2016 on the legendary Acoustic Stage. The band will undertake their most extensive Tour of the USA in 2016 with almost 50 shows confirmed.

"Hand Me Down My Bible" was released as a single in July 2016 and quickly became played on many radio stations in Ireland to much acclaim.

The High Kings perform on stage in London, December 2011. (l-r) Darren Holden, Finbarr Clancy, Brian Dunphy, Martin Furey The High Kings on stage.jpg
The High Kings perform on stage in London, December 2011. (l-r) Darren Holden, Finbarr Clancy, Brian Dunphy, Martin Furey

In late December, the High Kings began their Grace & Glory tour. The event began on 27 December in Belfast, and (as of this edit) has not ended yet. The album contains very traditional Irish music, ranging from gentle religious songs, to rousing pub music. The instrumentals for the music are all provided by the High Kings themselves.

In September 2017 the band announced that Martin Furey would be retiring from The High Kings, and that an announcement would be made later regarding his replacement. [6] In October 2017, they announced that George Murphy would join them on a Canadian tour, [7] and he was later added as a permanent member of The High Kings. [8]

They also announced that The High Kings would be debuting a new album in November 2017, Decade: The Best of The High Kings.


The group's first two albums went platinum. [9]

TitleDate of releaseMedia formatRecord labelChart positions
US [10] US World [1] US Indie [11] IRE
The High Kings 2008CDManhattan Records15027 [12]
Live in Dublin2008DVDThe Blue Note Label Groupn.a.n.a.n.a.n.a.
Memory Lane 2010CDUniversal Music Ireland3465 [13]
Live in Ireland 2011CD Celtic Collections 11 [14]
Friends for Life 2013CDSony Music Entertainment35 [15]
Four Friends Live2015CD/DVD Celtic Collections
Grace & Glory2016CD Celtic Collections 113 [16]
Decade: The Best of the High Kings2017 [6] CD6

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