Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 1 October 2014

Forget the Stones, Glastonbury's star attraction is the Armagh Rhymers

Armagh Rhymers
Armagh Rhymers

You can't always get what you want when it comes to variety at music festivals – but between the Rolling Stones and the Armagh Rhymers, this year's Glastonbury should keep everyone interested.

The Northern Irish mumming troupe will share a bill with the ageing rockers as they bring their unique blend of songs and stories to the circus tents of the UK's biggest summer festival.

Unlike the Stones, this is not their first visit – the Armagh Rhymers performed several times in the 1980s and 90s. Now after more than a decade, they're performing a festival circuit comeback with new recruits.

The masked performers say they will be making it up as they go along, but promised music, song, poetry and storytelling.

"They should be scared of us and get a laugh at us at the same time," mummer Eoin Kelly said.

Ray Dunne said they should be performing a snapshot of what is a 2,000-year-old ritual rooted in pagan traditions.

"We will give them a snapshot of a mummers' visit to a house," he said. "There will be a poetry battle. We wear animal mask baskets made out of willow and our costumes are made of hessian sackcloth."

Meanwhile, the troupe are going to do their best to ensure we all get a fine summer after the recent vile weather.

"When we're over in Glastonbury we'll be making sure to do our ritual up in the Druid's Field to welcome in the midsummer on June 21. It's a few days later but we'll be working with the druids to bring everybody a brilliant summer," Ray said.

The mummers are part of an ancient tradition and would have visited homes in rural areas in the winter, he said. The current line-up is Dara Vallely, Eoin Kelly and Ray Dunne – but don't rule out an appearance by Annaghmore Harvey, the donkey from just outside the Moy in Tyrone.

Factfile

The Armagh Rhymers are one of Europe's most celebrated folk theatre ensembles, a professional group of entertainers who have delighted audiences for more than 30 years with their unique blend of mumming, poetry, music, drama, song and dance. Their style is deeply rooted in the old Irish mumming traditions and they are easily recognised by their willow masks.

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