First came to prominence as fiddle player with the Cork band North Cregg but has established himself as one of the most interesting and individual piano players on the Irish music scene from his work with Buille and with singer Karan Casey.
Caoimhín began tin whistle lessons at the Armagh Pipers Club at the age of seven before moving on to the fiddle with his mother Eithne. At the same time he began going to classical piano lessons with local maestro Romeo Forte and after a while started experimenting with traditional Irish music on the piano. On leaving school he went to study music at University College Cork and on completion of a B.Mus degree moved on to the University of Limerick where he completed an M.A. in Traditional Music Performance under the tutelage of among others Prof. Mícheál Ó Súilleabháin.
While still studying in UCC he co-founded the group North Cregg with whom he recorded three albums and toured extensively over ten years. He then went on to co-found the ground-breaking group Buille with his brother Niall Vallely, and also became a full-time member of the Karan Casey band. Buille released their self-titled debut album in 2005 and went on to release 2 further collections – Buille 2 (2009) and Buille Beo (2015). Caoimhín features on Karan Casey’s albums ‘Ships in the Forest’ (2008) and ‘Two More Hours’ (2014).
Alongside these he has guested and recorded with many different bands and individuals over the years including his other brother Cillian Vallely, Brian Finnegan, Alan Kelly, Fiona Kelleher, Dónal Lunny, Mícheál Ó Súilleabháin & Mel Mercier, Cormac Breatnach and the Crash Ensemble.
In recent years he has developed a deep interest in related European folk musics and has been involved in collaborative projects with Jean Michel Veillon and Jacky Molard (Brittany), Morvan Massif/Double-Double (Central France), Tejedor (Asturias), La Musgaña (Spain), and Dàimh (Scotland) among others. A highlight of 2019 was taking part in a project put together by composer/educator Dominique Forges, entitled ‘Étrange Éire’, featuring Karan Casey, Buille, Blackwater Trio and the Ensemble Musique Traditionelle de Nevers – over 80 performers!
In 2005 he released to universal critical acclaim his debut solo piano album – “Strayaway” – which is still one of the very few albums of traditional Irish music on the piano. A self-titled follow-up appeared in 2016. It encompassed just over 75 minutes of near continuous music, exploring unconventional tonalities and harmonies, creating new soundscapes full of unusual colours and textures.
His most recent project has been a collaboration with singer/composer Fiona Kelleher and film-maker Dónal Ó Céilleachair. Entitled Do Chuala Ceol, this is described as a “live musical and visual odyssey through the mythical dreamscape of Múscraí.”