RUNA, a Celtic vocal and instrumental ensemble from the Philadelphia area, was the top winner in the 2010 Montgomery Bucks Music Awards held Nov. 8 at the Triumph Brewing Company in New Hope, Pennsylvania.

Designed to help musicians and music businesses gain greater recognition and be honored by their peers and the public for providing entertainment and service, the awards were open to artists who live in Montgomery or Bucks County or perform there at least six times a year. They are modeled after the Lehigh Valley Music Awards, which also were presented recently (see article in the Awards & Contests section of

Award-winning photograph of RUNA by Jayne Toohey

“We are absolutely beside ourselves with surprise and excitement,” exclaimed Shannon Lambert-Ryan, who fronts the band with her rich, vibrant vocals and gentle piano playing, after claiming nine awards. RUNA was honored for Best Entertaining Band, Best Female Vocalist (Shannon Lambert-Ryan), Best Folk Act, Best All-Around Entertainer (Shannon Lambert-Ryan/RUNA), Best Overall CD (Jealousy), Best Original Song (“Falling”), Best Lyricists (F. De Barra, E. Galldubh, E. Wogan, A. Curtin, and P. Byrne for “Falling”), Best Music Photograph and Photographer (RUNA and Jayne Toohey), and Best Video.

Drawing on the diverse musical backgrounds of its band members, RUNA brings a contemporary and refreshing experience to traditional and more recently composed Celtic material. As revealed on Jealousy, its independently released 2009 debut album, and in concert, RUNA’s repertoire is a fusion of music from Ireland, Scotland, the Shetland Islands, Canada and the U.S. and includes both high energy and more graceful acoustic melodies.

Lambert-Ryan, formerly the lead female vocalist in the Guy Mendilow Band, a Boston-based world music group, also has performed as a vocalist with such artists as Moya Brennan, John Flynn, Joe Jencks, Iain Campbell Smith, and Bob Beach. She has had training and experience in classical music and musical theater as well.

With his innovative style of rhythmic playing, Lambert-Ryan’s husband and Dublin-born guitarist Fionan de Barra contributes new dynamics both to the band’s lively tunes and its captivating ballads. He started playing guitar professionally with Riverdance in the U.S. in 2001, has worked as musical director for popular Irish artist Moya Brennan (the voice of Clannad and sister of Enya), tours regularly with Fiddler’s Bid, and has also performed with such notable Irish artists as Solas, Eileen Ivers, Tommy Fleming and Frances Black.

Keeping the beat is Cheryl Prashker, a Canadian percussionist who now calls Philadelphia home. Prashker who also has performed with such artists as Jonathan Edwards, Full Frontal Folk, The Strangelings and Pat Wictor, brings a wide range of percussive styles to the music and adds to the versatility of the band’s arrangements.

More information on RUNA can be found online at

Among the other recipients of Montgomery Bucks Music Awards were Arianne Rox (Best Live Americana Performance), Craig Thatcher (Best Singer-Songwriter), Paint Box Acoustic (Best Duo) and The Puck (Best Venue).

Editor’s Note: As a communications and public relations strategist who promotes select concerts for RUNA, I could not be happier for Shannon, Fionan and Cheryl. I’m also delighted that RUNA will be joining Burning Bridget Cleary, another talented Philly area Celtic band, in closing out the Song Swaps at the Northeast Regional Folk Alliance (NERFA) Conference with A Celtic Set this weekend.