Celebrating 40 years of Folk & Traditional Music on the winding streets of Ballyshannon along the banks of the river Erne.
It’s back! The Ballyshannon Folk and Traditional Music Festival marquee in the Market Yard is back in 2017 for its 40th anniversary and already the excitement is mounting. Many of you will remember down through the years the festival marquee hosted a ticker tape of huge names in the Irish music scene, a veritable who’s who with Altan, Matt Molloy, Paul Brady, 4 Men and a Dog, Maura O’Connell, Sean and Dolores Keane, The Black sisters, Mary and Frances, Finbar Furey, ‘The Eleanors’ – Shanley and McEvoy – all stepping up to microphone in the famous Market Yard Marquee.
This year’s line-up is very exciting with a mix of traditional and contemporary artists to suit all tastes. We kick-off Friday night with No Crows, a dynamic folk orchestra celebrating 12 years on their musical journey with their fifth CD Why Us just launched at Christmas. Multi platinum record selling Mundy, who’s version of Steve Earle’s Galway Girl shot him to fame can stir the crowd into a hearty sing-along is next on Friday night’s bill and rounding off our first night in the Marquee is Donegal’s own, Altan who have entertained audiences and music lovers all over the world in the last 30 years.
Saturday night features Mairtin O’Connor Trio – the three members have each built reputations as masters with astounding skill, diversity and virtuosity. Together they produce a vibrant and charged experience that redefines one’s concept of Irish music. Máirtín’s fluid accordion style and wide musical influences blend perfectly with the fiddle playing of Cathal Hayden, an All-Ireland champion and member of Four Men and a Dog. Cathal is also a dynamic banjo player and just released his CD “Hooked On Banjo” to universal applause and the trio’s third member, Séamie O’Dowd, one of the most loved and respected musicians in the country. The Lost Brothers, who over the past 7 years have proven themselves to be one of the finest and hardest working bands around. With four highly acclaimed albums under their belt, their commitment to writing timeless crafted songs with well hewn melodies, compelling lyrics and beautiful harmonies has been well recognised and we are delighted to welcome them back to the main stage of this year’s festival. One of Ireland’s most innovative and exciting bands Kila, round off Saturday night with their unique sound which is rooted in tradition, yet inspired by a myriad of influences and ideas from all around the world.
On Sunday night we are delighted to welcome back to Ballyshannon Folk and Traditional Festival a band who played here for 25 years, The Sands Family from County Down who have played for over 35 years at festivals and even in Carnegie Hall; they will be joined by Na Leanai (who are the next generation of Sands Family) who are taking the Irish music world by storm – with fiddles flutes guitars and percussion they play haunting airs that speak to the soul, lively jigs to set the feet tapping and enthral with close vocal harmonies that will give you goose bumps. Singer/Songwriter Paddy Casey who launches his sixth album this year is next up to the mic with his eclectic mix of traditional and contemporary songs including Saints and Sinners. Making sure we go out on a high note we are delighted to have Stockton’s Wing headlining our Sunday night with an exciting blend of traditional and contemporary Irish music and song, performed with power and precision by some of the finest musicians in Ireland.
In 2017 Ballyshannon Folk and Traditional Festival look forward to returning to its ‘roots’ with a marquee style festival, lively pub sessions, street entertainment, workshops, busking competitions, fringe events and ceilidh’s – this leading festival still has something to cater for all tastes 40 years later – which is a testament to its adaptability! For Ballyshannon – the Folk Festival on the August Bank Holiday weekend is a permanent fixture in an ever changing world.
ALTAN - 30TH ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION
Altan have been long established as the best and foremost traditional Irish band to come out of Ireland. This was recognized on November 7, 2006, when the Irish Government through An Post (The Irish Postal Body), honoured Altan by issuing a postal stamp featuring the band. This award showed Altan’s immense impact on recent Irish culture at home and abroad and the growing popularity of Irish traditional music generally.
With their exquisitely produced award-winning recordings,their ground breaking ‘Island Angel’ recording going to no.2 in the Billboard World Music Charts in 1993, ranging dynamically from the most sensitive and touching ancient ballads all the way to the energetic foot-tapping reels and jigs, and their heart warming engaging live performances, Altan have moved audiances from Donegal all the way to Tokyo, to Sydney,Seattle and beyond.
Altan’s music is steeped in the rich and colourful heritage of County Donegal in the North West of Ireland. Co. Donegal has a strong fiddling tradition from which Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh and Ciaran Tourish get their inspiration and unique repertoire. Mairéad is also from the Gaeltacht area of Gaoth Dobhair(A Gaelic speaking region) where she learned many of the songs which Altan have recorded over the years. Altan have been touring consistently since their genesis in the early eighties, when Mairéad and her late husband ,Belfast flute player ,Frankie Kennedy decided to leave their teaching jobs and pursue a career in music and tour the world with their friends.
With members Mark Kelly (guitar),Ciaran Curran(bouzouki). Daithí Sproule(guitar) Ciaran Tourish(fiddle, whistles) and past members Paul O’Shaughnessy(fiddle) and Dermot Byrne(accordion0 and latest member Martin Tourish (accordion), Altan have been to the forefront of traditional Irish music worldwide.
KILA - CONTEMPORARY IRISH WORLD MUSIC
Formed at school in Dublin’s late 1980’s, Kíla have come to be considered one of Ireland’s most exciting and innovative bands. Their unique and ever evolving sound, while rooted in tradition, is inspired by a myriad of influences from all around the world.
Often defined as contemporary Irish world music, Kíla fuse Gaelic lyrics, Irish folk instruments such as Fiddles, Uilleann Pipes, Bodhrán, Bones and Woodwinds with Djembe, Congas, Drums, Mandolins, Brass, Bass, Acoustic and Electric Guitars. Kíla’s eight members come from the differing musical backrounds of traditional, classical and rock. The result is always a fresh blend of freewheeling instrumentals, furious jigs, and primal rhythms that transcend the traditional boundaries of Irish music.
Kíla have enjoyed collaborating with many renowned musicians and artists. They recorded a number 1 single “The Ballad of Ronnie Drew” with U2, The Dubliners, Shane MacGowan, Sinead O’Connor, Glen Hansard, The Corrs, Christy Moore, Damien Dempsey and a host of other artists with proceeds going to the Irish Cancer Society. The song was later included on a U2.com collaborations album DUALS (2012).
Kíla are widely renowned for their energetic performances and have played in over 30 countries in North America, Asia, Austral Asia, Africa and Europe, notable festivals include the Montreux Jazz Festival, numerous WOMADs worldwide, the Sziget Festival Hungary and closer to home Glastonbury and The Electric Picnic. The band have also had the privilege of playing at Special Olympics Opening Ceremony and Possibilities; the event that welcomed the Dalai Lama to Ireland. In 2016 Kíla closed the Cambridge Folk Festival with Imelda May joining them onstage.
MÁIRTÍN OCONNOR – CATHAL HAYDEN – SEAMIE O’DOWD
Since 2001 the current line up of the Máirtín O’Connor band has been steadily evolving into a cohesive musical entity. The three musicians have built a formidable musical relationship over the last few years gigging together frequently as well as collaborating in the studio. The catalyst for this was Máirtín when he invited the others to play on his ground-breaking ‘Road West’ album and again later on the ‘Rain of Light’ recording, much of which went down live such was the musical and personal rapport that had developed between them. Individually recognised figureheads of the tradition, they have built solid reputations as master musicians with astounding skill, diversity and virtuosity. Together they produce a vibrant and musically charged experience that redefines one’s concept of brilliance, verging on perfection. If this musical powerhouse does not get you to your feet, nothing will.
Máirtín O’Connor (accordion) is one of the most respected and best loved musicians ever to emerge from Ireland. As a soloist with the first Riverdance orchestra, through his work with De Dannan, Midnight Well and Skylark and also as a solo artist he has quite simply gone where no Irish accordion player had gone before.
Cathal Hayden (fiddle, banjo) needs no introduction to anyone even remotely familiar with traditional Irish music. A multiple All-Ireland Championship winner, he achieved world-wide recognition as one of the founder members ofFour Men and a Dog. He is one of Ireland’s top fiddlers and his solo banjo performances are quite simply show-stopping.
Seamie O’Dowd’s (guitars, vocals) musical abilities have become increasingly familiar at international level in recent years. Rooted deeply in the traditional music of Sligo, he has played in many genres of acoustic and electric music. He toured the world for a number of years with Sligo trad legends Dervish and recently has played both home and abroad with Liam O’Flynn, Matt Molloy and Mary McPartlan.
NO CROWS - DYNAMIC FOLK ORCHESTRA
NoCrows is a dynamic folk orchestra from the multicultural melting pot of Sligo’s music scene. Formed in 2005, NoCrows’ growing output of original material reflects its diverse musical roots, from Irish traditional to Latin rumba, classical, jazz, rock and Balkan music.
NoCrows celebrates twelve years of its musical journey in 2017 with a fifth CD, entitled “Why Us?”. The CD was launched at a special Christmas concert in Sligo last December, followed by an Irish tour in January and February 2017 and subsequent international tours to Switzerland, Germany, Austria and Belgium.
“Why Us?”, the band’s fifth CD, contains thirteen original musical delights, five songs and eight instrumentals and was recorded in Rían Trench’s Meadow studios in Wicklow in September 2016. The band’s most mature recording to date includes compositions by all six members and displays the growing presence of multi-instrumentalist singer-songwriter, Ray Coen. “On this album” says Coen, “we have tried to capture the feel of our live performances, with all six of us recording together in one room. We believe that we have captured the essence of NoCrows on this CD”.
NO CROWS ARE: Felip Carbonell – guitar, percussion, voice Ray Coen – guitar, fiddle, voice Anna Houston – cello, mandolin, voice Eddie Lee – double bass, electric bass, voice Oleg Ponomarev – violin, voice Steve Wickham – fiddle, mandolin, viola, voice.
SANDS FAMILY / NA LEANAI - TWO GENERATIONS OF SANDS FAMILY!
Ulster’s First Family of Folk, The Sands, continue to enthral fans of Irish music 40 years after they first took to a stage. Founded in the 1970s the band played a significant part in the creation of the phenomenal world-wide interest in Irish folk and traditional music. Their appearances at Ballyshannon Folk Festival were an annual pilgrimage for folk fans from all across Europe.
The Sands Family’s skilful mix of traditional Irish music and song with their own thought- provoking compositions propelled them to stardom, winning awards worldwide, spawning tribute bands in Europe and America, and focussing international attention on the rich cultural heritage of their home. Renowned as performers, writers and presenters, Anne Ben, Colum and Tommy Sands have remained at the centre of Irish music for a generation and show no evidence of running out of inspiration, enthusiasm or energy.
But a new generation of this phenomenal clan has emerged to claim the right to be at the forefront of Irish folk. Na Leanai is Irish for “the children” and the band consists of Anne’s daughters Sorcha and Eimear, Ben’s daughter Ryanne , and their cousin Fra Sands. With fiddles flutes guitars and percussion Na Leanai play haunting airs that speak to the soul, lively jigs to set the feet tapping and enthral with close vocal harmonies that will give you goose bumps. Their first album, “Kindred Roots” was released in 2015 and promptly named BBC Radio Ulster’s album of the week.
Their musical talent, stage craft, and heavenly voices are the proof of the well-known saying “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree..” for Na Leanai learned their craft as children listening and watching at the back of the the marquee in Ballyshannon as audiences were enthralled by the infectious performance art of The Sands Family. They have inherited the musical talent of a band whose professionalism lies in allowing their audience to become participants in, rather than observers of, a unique cultural experience. Now, back where it all began, The Sands and Na Leanai come together, on stage in Ballyshannon on Sunday August 6th. This truly is the living tradition...
STOCKTONS WING - CELEBRATE 40 YEARS 1977 TO 2017
After a very successful run of gigs at The Temple Bar TradFest 2016, and a headline show at the Fleadh in Ennis, the band have decided to get back to play venues and festivals in 2017 to celebrate 40 years and perform from their vast and eclectic back catalogue of recordings.
Stockton’s Wing began their career in Ennis sometime in 1977 with Kieran Hanrahan on banjo, mandolin and harmonica, Paul Roche on Flute and whistle, Maurice Lennon on fiddle, Tommy Hayes on Bodhran, spoons and bones and Tony Callinan on guitar and vocals. The name Stockton’s Wing came from a Bruce Springsteen song, “Backstreets” from the album “Born to Run”. “ Slow dancing on a moonlit street at Stockton’s Wing, where desperate lovers park to meet the last of the Duke Street Kings.”
In November 2003 Stockton’s Wing held their first reunion concert in their hometown of Ennis, Co. Clare, which was a huge success with over 1200 people packed into the West County Hotel. In the words of the band’s producer PJ Curtis “what an extraordinary, amazing, mind-blowing concert the Wing delivered last night. I’m still spinning from it. It was TRIUMPHANT! No other word for it. Such an incredible turn out… and the music and the vibe, Ronnie Dress too who was pure magic as usual, made it a NIGTH TO REMEMBER!!! It rates as one of the top gigs of the decade for me…”
Stockton’s Wing is planning shows for 2017 to celebrate forty years since their inception in Ennis back in 1977. The line up for the shows will include Mike Hanrahan (vocals & guitar), Paul Roche (flute & tin whistle), Steve Cooney (guitar), Tommy Hayes (percussion) and they are joined by Clare musicians Tara Breen on fiddle, and Karol Lynch on banjo and mandolin.
Photo Credits: (1) (by The Mollis); (by Walkin' Tom); (unknown/website).