Biography of Shay Black


Shay’s most regular gig these days is the weekly “Starry Irish Session” at The Starry Plough pub in Berkeley. At 8 o’clock on Sunday nights a talented group of fiddlers, flute players, tin whistlers and other musicians gather and rip into reels, jigs and polkas for the best part of four hours. Shay intersperses the music by calling on individuals in the pub to give a song or other performance.

Shay has lived in Berkeley for ten years, after spending a great chunk of his life in Liverpool, to where he still has close family ties. He worked there as a public health nurse and a teacher of child care and development, and for many years organized festivals, folk music clubs and sessions. He has also toured and recorded with the illustrious Stan Hugill and the fabled sea shanty group Stormalong John and Irish band Garva.

Apart from his current Irish session, he plays with a myriad of other musicians and singers in the bay area, including Nauticus, a sea music band, and De Dannyboyz, an occasional group that plays weddings, sessions, parties and wakes. He had a very successful live engagement with the California Revels when they performed their “Irish Revels” in Oakland, CA, some years ago. Shay has recorded and performed with the California Revels, Shira Kammen, Peter Kasin and Richard Adrianovich, Sharon Knight, Steve Baughman and many others. He continues to be an avid songcatcher and is known for his extensive knowledge of sea music and sea songs, and loves performing songs from the Irish, English and Scottish traditions.

Since his arrival in the US, he has been involved with Parental Stress Service, a family support agency, and is now on their management team. In 2004, he produced a benefit concert with sister Mary as the headliner in Oakland’s Paramount Theater. In conjunction with this benefit, he produced with Tesser Call a compilation album of songs celebrating the parent-child relationship, “Hold My Hand”. This included contributions from such noted artists Joan Baez, John McCutcheon, Steve Seskin, Maria Muldaur, Linda Tillery, and others.

Shay regularly tours in the United States and Canada and performs with brothers Michael and Martin as the Black Brothers, and also with sisters Mary and Frances as the Black Family.