Trad enthusiasts living in south Down are spoiled for choice next week with Celtic Fusion, Castlewellan Festival, and the Ulster Fleadh jostling for position. Bring it on, says Damien Murray
This year’s Celtic Fusion International Musical Arts Festival kicks off on Sunday with a great headline concert at Newcastle’s Slieve Donard Hotel, featuring the legendary Moving Hearts and Cara Dillon.
Playing only a few gigs each year, Moving Hearts — recently reformed to take care of “unfinished business” — remains one of Irish music’s biggest musical attractions.
So, it is a major coup for the festival to have secured this popular band as the headliner for its double-bill opening concert, with Cara Dillon as support.
Having recently made a successful comeback following time off to look after her baby twins, Dillon — who is soon due to release a new album — will no doubt demonstrate her continuing ability to relate a great story in song.
Now in its seventh year, the eight-day festival returns to the Castlewellan area until July 20 with an impressive musical line-up, combining world-class artistes with up-and-coming names from the local traditional music scene.
Tuesday is a special evening at the event for, not only are the Vallely Brothers with Karan Casey performing, but the coveted Celtic Fusion Award will also be presented in recognition of contribution to traditional music, with the identity of the recipient being kept a secret until the night itself.
On Wednesday, North — brought together by Francis McPeake of the legendary McPeake Family — brings its unique twist to traditional Irish music to Castlewellan, while ‘Scotland’s supergroup’, Session A9, are the musical attraction on Thursday.
The final weekend of the festival gets underway next Friday with the annual Singer Songwriter Evening, featuring Marian Bradfield and Thom Moore, while the ever-popular Hothouse Flowers also perform in the town the same night.
The brilliant Michael McGoldrick (of Toss The Feathers, Flook, Sharon Shannon Band and Capercaillie fame) is joined on Saturday July 19 by talented friends Ed Boyd, John Joe Kelly and Desi Donnelly in a concert with support from brother duo, Tommy and Colum Sands.
Celtic Fusion finally draws to a close on Sunday July 20 with a free open-air concert featuring Koshka, Park Bench Social Club and The Rapparees, while one of Ireland’s hottest musical experiences, Beoga, do the honours at the closing concert in the King’s Inn.
For full event details log on to www.celticfusion. co.uk, or to purchase tickets contact the Festival Hotline on 4372 2222.
ZZ Indeed, it appears that Castlewellan is the place to be this summer, for — as part of the Castlewellan Festival — Bagatelle is appearing at the festival marquee this evening, while The Ulster Fleadh, which follows Celtic Fusion, will pack concerts, ceilis, competitions, singing sessions and more from July 21-27.
Full details of the Castlewellan Festival and the Ulster Fleadh are available online at www. castlewellangac.com and www.fleadhuladh.com, respectively.
ZZ Despite both being hailed as one of Ireland's leading songwriters and well-loved for his warm and witty live performances, Kieran Goss has only now finally got around to releasing his first live recording, Kieran Goss Trio Live.
This excellent 17-song album, featuring Gareth Hughes on double bass and Ann Kinsella on backing vocals, captures all that is good about any concert by this extraordinary talent, from his high-quality songs to his masterful interaction with his audience, all delivered with natural humour and sincerity in his laid-back signature style. Get your hands on one.