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About IONA

IONA's music is a unique, acoustic weave of the traditional music of Scotland, Ireland, Wales, Cornwall, Brittany (France), the Isle of Man, Asturies and Galicia (Spain), as well as their transplants in America. Blending songs, dance tunes, and aires into a rich and stunning tapestry, their style is outstanding in an arena where these traditions are seldom intertwined.

Conceived in 1986, IONA was the musical offspring of lead singer, bouzouki, guitar and bodhrán player Barbara Ryan and wind section, Bernard Argent. With fiddler Jim Queen (banjo and vocals as well) and bass guitar player Chuck Lawhorn, IONA has become the leading Celtic group in the Mid-Atlantic region.

They are all seasoned performers: entertainers who involve their audiences with the history and cultural backgrounds of the music, with teaching words to the songs -- even those sung in a Celtic tongue, with leading simple Breton dances, with humor, and with every emotion in the spectrum.

An IONA show is known for:

  1. Traditional Celtic Material The haunting songs, toe tapping dances and the humor of the Celtic peoples from Scotland to Brittany provide IONA with an incredibly varied repertoire
  2. Original Acoustic Arrangements All the members of the band play several instruments, often switching within a piece to achieve their unique sound. They weave tunes from different countries around their songs, pursuing complex rhythms with deft professionalism.
  3. Lively Entertaining Presentation Above all, IONA's performances are FUN! Barbara and Bernard teach audiences words to their songs (some in Celtic languages!), lead them in clapping and even encourage them to dance!

Picture of Barbara
Barbara Tresidder Ryan
Barbara's vocals have been described as "smooth and sweet as dark honey". A folk singer in the 60's, she studied voice for 10 years, and has been a vocal coach ever since. Barbara's vocals are IONA's mainstay. She has accompanied herself on guitar since she was 12, and enjoys experimenting with different tunings. In 1983 she acquired her first bodhrán (Irish drum). Now the proud owner of 3, she is a skilled and effective percussionist.
Her most recent instrumental contribution is a four course Celtic bouzouki. Barbara has performed throughout the British Isles and Brittany, at concerts and festivals all over the U.S. with IONA, and has sung for Voice Of America broadcasts, and for the National Geographic Explorer Special. She and Bernard have gained international recognition as the founders of the Potomac Celtic Festival. They also organize the Winter Concerts at the Old Brogue.
Bernard Argent is IONA's charming historian and yarn spinner. He studied music through much of his youth and at university in England. After performing in several orchestras on trumpet, he ventured into folk realms as a blues guitarist. Inspired by the renaissance of Celtic music in the ‘70's, he took up the tin whistle and progressed to wooden flute, which have become as much a trademark of IONA's sound as Barbara's vocals. Bernard also backs the group on doumbek and occasionally on guitar. He is the bass in IONA's "precise and pretty" harmonies. He and Barbara travel extensively through the Celtic lands, collecting material for their repertoire and his scholarly interjections... Picture of Bernard
Bernard Argent
Picture of Chuck
Chuck Lawhorn
IONA's bassist not only owns just about every bass guitar conceived by mankind, but plays them all expertly. Says Chuck,"My approach to the bass has been as both a support and a melody instrument that just happens to have a lower range than most." He also dabbles in whistle and sings a mean tenor harmony with the group, although he describes himself as mostly "responsible for low notes and low humor".
Born in Washington, DC, Chuck grew up in Maryland, where he started playing bass in 1967, and where he lives still. Over the past three decades as a bass guitarist, he spent 13 years travelling all over the country in different dance and show bands, and was a member of the Fabulous Potato Heads from 1995-2001.
Jim Queen comes to IONA as a veteran of 30 years performing with the Air Force Band. Master of many instruments, his primary contributions are fiddle and vocals, although he brings a touch of banjo and guitar to the mix as well. Having performed all over the world and in just about every state, for presidents, heads of state and luminaries in every field, Jim continues to entertain as a soloist and teaches in Accokeek, MD. He has played just about every fiddle/violin style in the book, from Mozart to mariachi, but his fascination with Irish and old timey make him the perfect foil for this band of Celtic eclectics! Picture of Jim
Jim Queen

Copyright © 2018 Barnaby Productions, Inc.

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Page updated March 8, 2018 - Bernard Argent