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Irish Voice Entertainment
Irish Festivals of Note
February 14, 2008
From the hob
IF you have a passion for taking in great Irish music festivals but the wallet shies away from the high-season summer airfares, you will find February and March a good time to head over to Ireland to experience the craic.
Everyone knows the island is choc-a-block with musicians these days, and festivals are being well supported as a way of stimulating business in towns, especially in the off-season. In that vain, let me share some upcoming ones where you might be tempted spur of the moment to dash off and leave the parades behind.
The 9th Annual Gathering Irish Festival (www.thegathering.ie) convenes in Killarney February 20-24, and has celebrated the Sliabh Luachra tradition since the Millennium began in 2000 just west of those Rushy Mountains uniting Kerry, Cork and West Limerick into a cultural core that is one of the most vibrant traditions in Irish music.
Based in the Gleneagle Hotel and its Irish National Events Center is a mid-winter carnival (oops, sorry it is spring in Ireland now) that attracts the devout from Europe, Asia, North America and from all over Ireland and Britain.
There are pilgrimages out to Sliabh Luachra and even to the gravesite of one of its greatest exponents, John O’Leary, the box player. Dancers have the polka king Timmy “the Brit” McCarthy on hand with historian Pat Murphy, also a dancing master and five giant ceilithe with the likes of the Allow, Abbey and Five Counties Ceili Bands to stir them up.
Concerts and sessions take place over the long weekend as well, with the top bands being Lunasa, Pauline Scanlon Band, Martin O’Connor with Cathal Hayden and Seamai O’Dowd, Jackie Daly and Seamus Creagh with Paul deGrae, plus a very special appearance by Sean Keane and Liam O’Flynn.
Loads of great local musicians like Paddy Jones, Johnny Cronin, John Brosnan, Paddy Cronin and Kerry native Tim Dennehy for singing will be in the thick of it as well. RTE’s Peter Browne gives a summary lecture to put the music of Sliabh Luachra in context for the attendees on the Sunday.
The Corofin Trad Festival (www.corofintradfest.com) from February 25- March 2 assures us the Banner County will be heard from. Padraic O’Reilly has built this mighty festival lasting a week and now in its eighth year complete with workshops, lectures, ceilithe and organized sessions through the Clare village of Corofin outside of Ennis.
You can expect many of the Clare musical legions to be around. Special guests will include Brian McNamara, Timmy Collins, Michael Rooney and June McCormack, John Wynne, John and Jacinta McEvoy plus Sean Keane and Liam O’Flynn who have their own fond history in Clare. On Saturday afternoon there will be a special tribute to Mick O’Connor, a bandmate of Sean and James Keane in the seminal Castle Ceili Band.
The NYAH Festival (www.cavanmusic.com) takes place over 12 days in March (5-12) throughout Cavan. It is organized by Martin Donohoe, the wonderful rascal and box player who has done much to put Cavan back on the musical map.
There are workshops, lectures, sessions and concerts here that have blossomed to the point where over 300 artists from 18 countries are involved in some fashion, so you’ll have to wend your way through the website to glean what interests you.
One of the special features is the “Jig of Life” Nyah awards to be presented to Sean O’Se, Josephine Keegan, Gerry O’Connor, Seamus MacMathuna, Danny Meehan, Charlie McGettigan and John Kennedy at the Saturday concert.
Ceardlann Earraigh (www.ceardlannearraigh.com) takes place in Celbridge, Co. Kildare over St. Patrick’s weekend on Saturday, March 15. The one day festival is worth noting because this Comhaltas Ceoltoiri Eireann event has an outstanding lineup of musicians for workshops during the day and in concert at night, many of whom are CCE stalwarts.
Appearing are Antoin MacGabhann, Brid Harper, Kathleen Nesbitt, Noel Hill, Brian McGrath, Aoife Granville, Sarah Jane Woods, Danny O’Mahony, Carmel Gunning, Junior Davey, Tadhg Maher and piper Mick O’Brien.
Then there’s AR AIS ARIS Buncrana Traditional Arts Festival www.buncranatradfest.com (March 27-30th).
In its third year, this growing Donegal festival has reached outside the county to add to massive array of talent already assembled within its borders to include Sharon Shannon, Four Men and a Dog, Maire Ni Chatasaigh and Chris Newman and Micheal O’Suillabhain, who will debut a specially commissioned piece for the festival.
On the bill is an exciting new band called Moonlightin with Altan’s Ciarish Tourish and Dermot Byrne (Buncrana natives), joined by Michael McGoldrick, John Doyle and John Joe Kelly.
Buncrana native Liz Doherty is a leading figure behind this weekend, and Triona and Mairead Ni Dhomhnaill will also lead the Donegal performers that will include another PYRO reunion gig.
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