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Harp on Tap

Clannad vocalist Moya Brennan brings her emerald fantasy to the stage.

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It was 5:30 in the morning when Moya Brennan made the 45-minute drive from Dublin to the time-honored tribal grounds at Tara. She looked up from her hilltop perch to see dawn breaking. "It's very brisk and cold, very clear skies, and this full moon is coming down, and the sun is rising," she recalls. "It's like two horizons coming together."

Racing back home, she scribbled in a notepad. Within two hours, she had sketched a storyboard for her new album, Two Horizons -- a wispy, 15-track concept CD about a girl in search of an ancient Irish harp.

At first, Brennan -- singer for Clannad, the Celtic group she formed with her brothers and uncles 34 years ago -- struggled with the idea of putting the majestic instrument on a pedestal, because of its ubiquity as a musical symbol of Ireland. "But the harp kept winking at me, and I kept winking at the harp, and I said, 'No, no, no. Stay where you are,'" she jokes. "Then I thought that the harp transcended this kind of feeling that, if the harp was found, it would bring back that peace we so long for within ourselves."

Four years removed from her last trip to the U.S., Brennan has found peace on a tour that brings her and a four-piece band to town Sunday. "I think [Americans] are very appreciative of this kind of music," she says. "If you hear an Irish band, you hear a lot of dance and rhythmical music, but mine is more vocally inclined."

Brennan's haunting voice has always been Clannad's focal point (younger sister Enya briefly shared vocals in the early '80s, before bolting for a successful solo career); her music has been featured in numerous movies, while she has performed duets with Bono and Robert Plant, and snagged Grammy nominations with Clannad. Not bad for a band whose first gig was at the Donegal pub still owned by Brennan's 78-year-old dad.

"We can't break up," she says jokingly. "We're a family."

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