FolkWorld article by Christian & Michael Moll:

Molly Blooms in exile

Ann-Marie Riley from Arklow found her way to Irish music through Germans in Germany

The Molly Blooms; photo by The MollisEverywhere in the world you can find emigrated Irish who have started a new life far away from their home country. Here we have in Ann-Marie Riley an Irish playing together with German Anke Dammann and Austrian-born Ariane Böker in an all-female Irish/American folk band, 'The Molly Blooms'. An interesting point in this story is that Ann-Marie found her way to Irish music through Germans in Germany.

Born in Arklow, Co. Wicklow, Ann-Marie's musical background was not traditional. She had to learn the violin at school and sang soprano in the choir. She hadn't had any contact to traditional music.
In 1985, Ann-Marie went to study in the German town of Wuppertal, Northrhine-Westfalia. She soon got in touch with the local 'Folktreffs' (folk meetings). During that time there was a big folk musicians' scene in Wuppertal. Ann-Marie was surprised to find so many Germans playing Irish music. "There were people who knew Ireland and its music better than me; it was a great feeling for me to come there as an Irish."
Unforgettable for her is when she quickly bought her first book with folk songs then, to learn something to sing at a 'Folktreff' two weeks later. "I have had less contact to music at home than over here. It's ironic that I have found my way to Irish music in Germany."

After a time she went back to Ireland, but returned soon to Wuppertal. There she met accordionist/whistle player Anke, and they decided to form an all-female band. They were joined by Ariane on mandolin, banjo and other instruments. Anke and Ariane both have first learned classical music in a music school. After a while they found that this wasn't their type of music, and discovered their passion for folk music. They all had played in several German Irish folk bands before.

The Molly Blooms; photo by The MollisThe three called themselves 'The Molly Blooms', in accordance to the female main character of James Joyce's Ulysses. "And as Joyce says himself, Molly Bloom personates his wife Nora,", Anke explains. "He has lived with Nora during his years in exile, and for him she was a bit of his Ireland that he took with him." It's a good name for the band that also reminds of its female aspect. Their repertoire contains mainly of Irish songs and tunes, but also some from America; and the strength of these women lies in creating a very relaxed atmosphere. Ann-Marie has a beautiful voice, and the Molly Blooms also do fine harmony singing.

And what is it like for an Irish playing Irish music with Germans? "It's good fun. I have learned a lot over here. It's an honour for me." - Anke: "It's good luck to have her with us. There are certain songs which Ann-Marie knows better to introduce and sing because she knows the content from her own experience, like emigrating and homesickness." Generally, Ann-Marie enjoys living in Wuppertal, although sometimes she gets homesick. But she is happy about having always two possibilities: staying in Germany or going home. "It's a good feeling that I can enjoy two worlds."

They are planning to record their first CD during this year. Another plan is to play some time in future in Ireland - Ariane has never been to Ireland yet. Maybe you will meet them then...

Newsflash: The Molly Blooms have just added a new member - also female and playing the guitar...

Photos by The Mollis

For booking, you can contact: Anke Dammann @ tel +49 202 556925

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