Glossary entry for
Moving Hearts

Moving Hearts were the Irish band that backed Van on some tracks on the Sense of Wonder album. They were formed about 1980 and were a collection of seven musicians from all different facets of the Irish music industry.

Christy Moore - well known Irish balladeer. Now probably the most popular artist in Ireland.

Donal Lunny - Irish producer/musician who was, before this, a member of the famous trad group "Planxty" (with Christy Moore) and he has become famous since through his production. e.g. Sult

Declan Sinnott - Top guitarist - for many years since an arranger/musician/ producer for Mary Black, Sinead Lohan, etc.

Keith Donald - saxophonist in a jazz tradition

Eoghan O'Neill - bass player - since tours, inter alia, with Chris Rea

Davy Spillane - then very young pipe player - since has become a very successful solo artist

Brian Calnan - drummer - positively in a rock vein.

They were unusual at the time in three different respects:

  1. They were probably only the second band (after Horslips) that fused traditional and rock music - additionaly, they added jazz to their sources
  2. They were run on the basis of a co-operative with all expenses and profits shared equally between the seven musicians and their three road crew.
  3. They were very overtly political in that they were attempting to address as many different political issues in their music as they could. e.g. Jim Page's "Landlord" (the poor postition of tenants in Irish law at the time); Jim Page's "Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Russian Roulette" (anti-nuclear); Mick Hanly's "On the Blanket" (the plight of Republican prisoners and hunger strikers in Northern Ireland); Barry Moore's "Remember the Brave Ones" (plight of those involved in war); Mick Hanly's "Open Those Gates" (about an Irish prisoner, Nicky Kelly, who was allegedly falsely imprisoned here)

They also recorded some very good instrumentals which fused their musical influences, and perhaps it was here that they were at their best. Again, they gave the instrumentals names which were often political e.g. "McBrides" dedicated to Irish peace-campaigner Sean McBride.

The original line-up lasted for only about two years with Calnan being sacked over the usual "musical differences" and Moore leaving, after the second album, because, rumour at the time had it, that his throat was not able to withstand the demands of the often rather harsh vocals. Rumours of financial and political difficulties also were frequent.

Moore was replaced by Mick Hanly on vocals and Calnan was replaced by Matt Kellighan from the road-crew on drums. The band continued like this for another year or so until Hanly was replaced by a female vocalist called Flo McSweeney. This would have brought the band up until the mid-80s. After that they came together periodically with further traditional musicians with the the aim of reducing the bank overdraft which remained after the co-operative project failed.

It would be the latter variant on Moving Hearts that would have backed Van on the Sense of Wonder album in 1984. They had moved away from the ballad to become mainly instrumentalists by this time.

If you want to further explore the Hearts there are two albums that I would recommend:

  • Moving Hearts - eponymous debut album - good mix of ballads/instrumentals
  • The Storm - last album - consists of great trad. instrumentals.

Contributed by Denis Healy

Part of the unofficial website