The High Kings

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The High Kings
The High Kings performing in 2012 in Waterford, Ireland.
The High Kings performing in 2012 in Waterford, Ireland.
Background information
GenresTraditional Irish, folk, Celtic, Country
Years active2008–present
LabelsSony Music, Manhattan Records, Universal Music, Ard Ri Entertainment, Celtic Collections
MembersFinbarr Clancy
Brian Dunphy
Darren Holden
Paul O'Brien[1]
Past membersMartin Furey
George Murphy

The High Kings is an Irish folk group formed in Dublin in 2008. The band consists of Finbarr Clancy, Brian Dunphy, Darren Holden, and Paul O'Brien.[1] As of 2023, the group had released five studio albums, four live albums, two live DVDs, and one greatest hits album. Their first three studio albums appeared at number three or higher on the Billboard world music chart,[2] the first two went platinum in Ireland,[3] and all of their albums charted in Ireland.

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 group, it has toured Ireland, the United States, and Europe on several occasions. Although they sing mostly traditional Irish songs, they are also known to sing arrangements of songs from other genres.


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.

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.

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

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. Furey left the band in September 2017.

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. Holden plays the accordion, mandolin, guitar and keyboard with The High Kings. He continues to perform solo shows when not with The High Kings.[citation needed]


The High Kings' first album reached number two on Billboard Magazine's World Music chart. The album spent a total of thirty-six weeks on the chart.[2]

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

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

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.[2] 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.[2]

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

In June 2016 the band played all 3 stages at the Isle of Wight Festival, followed by a performance at Glastonbury Festival 2016 on the Acoustic Stage. The band also undertook a tour of the US in 2016.[citation needed]

"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. In late December 2016, the High Kings began their Grace & Glory tour. The event began on 27 December 2016 in Belfast.[citation needed] The related album contained traditional Irish music, ranging from religious songs to pub music.[citation needed]

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][non-primary source needed] 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] Murphy continued to perform with the group from 2017 to 2019 before announcing that he would be "stepping away to focus on his solo career". Paul O'Brien joined the group in 2019 to replace Murphy.[9] O'Brien plays the tin whistle, among other instruments.

The High Kings announced that they would be debuting an album in November 2017, titled Decade: The Best of The High Kings.[citation needed]

In 2024, the High Kings teamed up with Gaelic Storm for a co-headlining Mighty Tour II.[citation needed] The bands took turns performing first each night, and came together at the end of each show to perform a few songs together.[citation needed]


The group's first two albums went platinum.[10]

Title Date of release Media format Record label Chart positions
IRE US[11] US World[2] US Indie[12]
The High Kings 2008 CD Manhattan Records 7[13] 150 2
Live in Dublin 2008 DVD The Blue Note Label Group n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a.
Memory Lane 2010 CD Universal Music Ireland 5[14] 3 46
Live in Ireland 2011 CD Celtic Collections 11[15]
Friends for Life 2013 CD Sony Music Entertainment 5[16] 3
Four Friends Live 2015 CD/DVD Celtic Collections
Grace & Glory 2016 CD Celtic Collections 3[17] 11
Decade: The Best of the High Kings 2017[6] CD Celtic Collections 6[18]
Home from Home (live) 2020 CD Celtic Collections
The Road Not Taken 2023[19] CD Celtic Collections 2


  1. ^ a b "About".
  2. ^ a b c d e "Artists: The High Kings — Chart History (World Albums)". Billboard. Retrieved 2 July 2014.
  3. ^ Dyroff, Denny (22 March 2011). "Share the Magic of Irish Music". Daily Local News. West Chester, PA.
  4. ^ a b Ryder, Laura (29 November 2012). "The High Kings come to Offaly". Offaly Independent. Ireland. Retrieved 10 April 2014.
  5. ^ The High Kings. "New Album in the Works". Official Website. Retrieved 6 June 2013.
  6. ^ a b "The High Kings". Retrieved 7 September 2017.
  7. ^ "The High Kings Announce George Murphy Joining Them For Canadian Tour". The High Kings. 11 October 2017. Retrieved 11 August 2018.
  8. ^ Taylor, Colleen (12 July 2018). "High Kings: Irish folk band of 21st c." The Irish Echo. Retrieved 11 August 2018.
  9. ^ "Laois musician becomes newest member of popular Irish band". 5 September 2019.
  10. ^ "The High Kings Official – MEET". The High Kings Official Site. Retrieved 4 June 2014.
  11. ^ "Artists: The High Kings — Chart History (Billboard 200)". Billboard. Retrieved 2 July 2014.
  12. ^ "Artists: The High Kings — Chart History (Independent Albums)". Billboard. Retrieved 2 July 2014.
  13. ^ "Irish Music Charts Archive". GfK Chart-Track. 10 April 2008. Archived from the original on 16 June 2012. Retrieved 2 July 2014.
  14. ^ "Irish Music Charts Archive". GfK Chart-Track. 18 February 2010. Archived from the original on 14 July 2014. Retrieved 2 July 2014.
  15. ^ "Irish Music Charts Archive". GfK Chart-Track. 28 April 2011. Archived from the original on 24 September 2015. Retrieved 2 July 2014.
  16. ^ "Irish Music Charts Archive". GfK Chart-Track. 26 September 2013. Archived from the original on 12 October 2013. Retrieved 2 July 2014.
  17. ^ "GFK Chart-Track". Archived from the original on 17 June 2016. Retrieved 5 June 2016.
  18. ^ "IRMA – Irish Charts". Irish Recorded Music Association. Retrieved 11 November 2017.
  19. ^ "The High Kings 'The Road Not Taken' CD". Celtic Collections. Retrieved 28 June 2023.
  20. ^ "IRMA – Irish Charts". Irish Recorded Music Association. Retrieved 1 July 2023.

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