Together, Megan and Don blend their passions for music into Beirt le Chéile, producing their own powerful and emotive interpretations of much-loved traditional Irish songs.
Growing up in Wilmington, NC, MEGAN BENNETT IRBY began performing at a young age as a member of the All-County choir and later as a classical violinist throughout high school and at Wake Forest University. Despite pursuing an academic career that initially lured her away from music –yielding two master’s degrees and a PhD –it was only recently that Megan found the inspiration to pursue her love of singing once again. Megan’s musical interests have since turned earnestly toward performing in the Irish tradition, as she hunts to find and perform songs that will quake the soul with themes of revolution, liberty, loss, and love.
Though relatively new to the scene, Megan’s voice and vocal arrangements have garnered acclaim from prominent musicians, including John Whelan (7-time All-Ireland accordion player), Brian Conway (All-Ireland fiddle player), Bridget Fitzgerald (master sean nós Irish singer), Damien Connolly (All-Ireland accordion/melodian player), Sean Clohessy (recipient of multiple All-Ireland titles), Don Meade, (All-Ireland harmonica player), and Máirtín de Cógáin (Singer, bodrhan player, and All-Ireland story teller). Megan will surely tell you that such acclaim is owed to the backing of seasoned DADGAD guitarist, Don Penzien, to whom Megan also credits her own love for Irish music.
DON PENZIEN has long been a top-flight performer of traditional Irish music, and truly is a masterful guitarist with the remarkable ability to compliment and elevate the performances of those with whom he shares the stage. In addition to his work with Beirt le Chéile he frequently tours nationally playing concerts and festivals with The Máirtín de Cógáin Project, John Whelan, Jil Chambless, Captain Mackey’s Goatskin & String Band, Legacy, and Gailfean (formerly known as The Pure Drop; featuring Brian Conway, John Whelan, & Máirtín de Cógáin). Don’s dexterous work on DADGAD guitar provides solid, driving rhythms to traditional tunes as well as perceptive and sensitive accompaniments to songs and airs. When called upon, he also adds whistle, bodhran and vocals to arrangements.
Though a Michigan native, Don recently moved to Winston Salem, NC to serve as a Professor of Anesthesiology at Wake Forest School of Medicine, after having spent the prior 27 years in Jackson, MS. Don is the founder of, and served as director for CelticFest Mississippi for 25 years.
To add to their many talents, Drs. Irby and Penzien also partner in their professional careers as research scientists. With an interest in health equity, family studies, and community-engaged research, Dr. Irby studies social determinants of health and the role of family and community systems in addressing chronic health conditions, particularly chronic pain disorders. Dr. Penzien is a clinical psychologist renowned the world over for his work pertaining to the behavioral treatment of migraine and head pain.
Together, these two are Beirt le Chéile.