The Shape I'm In: Donal Lunny, Music Maker

MUSIC is Donal Lunny’s world — his day, his night.

And so it naturally follows that when he speaks, his voice — like an instrument — lifts and lowers in rhythmical cadences, never missing a beat. Aged 66, this ease may have something to do with getting older and mellower.

“There is less angst,” he says.

Along with his exquisite ability on traditional string instruments, Lunny is a composer and record producer — Christy Moore, Bono and Mark Knopfler have all crossed his path in the recording studio.
While much of his adult years have been spent in sound booths or in concert venues, his childhood was a carefree adventure. “I spent a lot of my pre-teen years outdoors. As soon as school was finished I was out through the fields or went down by the river.”

In the last few years he has taken to playing with three musical combinations. “LAPD is one which I enjoy very much seeing as we have known each other for so long. I am also playing with Zoe Conway and Mártin O’Connor as a trio — that’s a joy. Also with Padraig Rynnee and Sylvain Barou — we sally forth every now and then.”

Living in Rathgar, Dublin, he is father to four children — Oisin, Cora Venus, Shane and Sora Chan, who are all, he says, “absolutely creative”. Liam Óg O’Flynn, Andy Irvine, Paddy Glackin and Donal Lunny, aka LAPD, will perform in concert at Calry Church, Sligo, as part of the Sligo Live Festival on Saturday, Oct 26. See

What shape are you in?

I wouldn’t say I am 100% fit but I don’t feel too bad. I don’t smoke. And I’ve become very careful about drinking. I also ride a bike — I don’t have a car. It has its disadvantages. But when I did have a car I found myself driving it 300 yards to the shops. I decided to stop driving many years ago — part of the reason was because insurance was so high for musicians.

Do you have you any health concerns?

I had a stent inserted a couple of years back. I had a funny feeling and got myself checked out and sure enough there was a blockage. I was amazed at the speed and efficiency the whole thing was done. I was in hospital for 36 hours and that was it. I am on a regime of medication and I don’t really have concerns about my heart or whatever.

What is your guiltiest pleasure?

if it was a warm sunny day I might have an ice cream. I wouldn’t go near a 99 — the ice cream freezes the chocolate. What would keep you awake at night?

Sometimes I have anxiety dreams but not so often these days. Many used to be about rushing to be at a concert on time and doors being locked, tripping over things and getting lost back stage, things preventing me getting on the stage to a waiting audience.

How to you relax?

I read a fair bit. I’ve just read Iain Banks’ last book, The Quarry. I’m sure I’ve read everything he has written.

What is your favourite smell?

Cowslips which are like freesias. I also love the smell of gorse flowers — there’s a hint of coconut in it.

What would you like to change about your appearance?

Years ago, I’m sure I did want to be different but I outgrew it. I’ve got comfortable with myself — not that I think I am perfect. What trait do you least like in yourself?

Untidiness. I am looking around a really untidy room here, wishing I could sweep it all into a big bag.

What trait you least like in others?

Egotism — I am very uncomfortable with it.

Do you pray?

I am not a church person. I was when I was young. I have no doubt that things don’t end with your death, that this is a transition of some sort. I don’t know what it is — in the way that caterpillars don’t know about butterflies.

What would cheer your day?

Sometimes a piece of music would put me in a really good mood.


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