Sharon Shannon tops bill at Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann
A sell-out performance by accordion virtuoso, Sharon Shannon is expected at Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann 2017. She will perform with her band, on Saturday 19th August at the Shannon Aerodome in Ennis to the delight, not only of her home audience, but to Fleadh goers from all over Ireland and across the world. Sharon will perform music from her back catalogue but will showcase music from her new album Sacred Earth to be released on March 17th.The Kilfenora Céilí Band will return with another exhilarating performance at the same venue on Wednesday 16th August.
‘I am really thrilled and excited to be playing at the Fleadh this year,’ said a smiling Sharon. ‘This is where I was born and reared and performing at the Fleadh in Ennis is something very special and a great honour.’ she added. From Ruan, just outside Ennis, Sharon is not only a most accomplished and unique accordion player but she also plays a range of instruments from tin whistle to fiddle and melodeon. It’s the ease with which she plays, the energy she generates and the joy that she brings that makes her performance so distinctive.
Frank Whelan, Chairman of Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann 2017 has expressed his real delight that Sharon has accepted the Committee’s invitation to top the bill. ‘We could get no better news than confirmation that Sharon and her band will play at the Fleadh in August. Sharon was cradled in traditional music and grew under the tutelage of Frank Custy and a host of Clare musicians. She is a wonderful ambassador for traditional music, for the County and the Fleadh,’ he said. Working with the Waterboys widened Sharon’s musical horizons and she found the absence of rules wholly liberating. The Waterboys could move from a punk song to an old-time waltz to Irish jigs and reels so easily, it allowed her music to become very free. This is something that she has carried with her since. She has been open to influence from other genres, from reggae guitarist Denis Bovell aka Blackbeard to American rock and country star, Steve Earle, and has gone on to form collaborations with many world renowned artists.
In addition to Breton, Argentinian & American Country influences, Sharon has also mastered the African/Irish crossover with her new album Sacred Earth. English born guitarist and composer Justin Adams played on Sharon’s 2007 album ‘Renegade’ and has been a well-recognised expert in African and Middle Eastern music styles. ‘He is a generous musician and I love his fearless approach,’ she said.
Adams co-produced and played a vast array of instruments on Sacred Earth. Also included on the album are Abass Dodoo from Ghana on percussion, Greg Guy, son of legendary bluesman, Buddy Guy on electric guitar, Seckou Keita from Senegal on Kora and Californian maestro of the cello, Rushad Ecclestone. In fact Rushad’s cello parts were recorded at Jack Talty’s studio in Lissycasey.
Sharon Shannon’s debut album goes back to 1991 and it was the best-selling album of traditional Irish music ever released in Ireland. Her remarkable and adventurous career has seen her become a master-act and a tour-de-force. The Kilfenora Céilí Band on stage is a performance of the highest standards in traditional music and this was reflected in the 2,000 plus audience, who came to hear them play in the Shannon Aerodome at Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann in Ennis last year. The band’s interpretation of Michael Jackson’s “Smooth Criminal”, broadcast on Fleadh TV, was one of the big hits of the 2016 Fleadh last August.
The energy of their music, the expertly choreographed dancing by Michael Donnellan and the sweet singing of Edel Vaughan simply carries the audience to another time and space. Joined by other guests, this traditional super group allows the rich musical heritage of their North Clare home village to lift the hearts and set the feet tapping and will electrify audiences once again in 2017.
Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann is the most important event in the traditional music calendar. For many, it is the culmination of months of hard work and practice as they compete against fellow musicians, singers and dancers to achieve the recognition of being an All-Ireland champion. For others it is a unique and welcoming festival of the best of traditional arts that offers a wide range of activities to be enjoyed by all.
It is often said, as another Fleadh draws to a close, “This was the best Fleadh yet...!” And there is always some truth in that because each Fleadh builds on the success of its predecessors, adding the uniqueness of its own place and traditions to the experience gained by hardworking Fleadh Committees down through the years and each host town seeks to emulate the achievements of other towns that have earned Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann the reputation that it has today.
Fleadh Cheoil na hEireann 2016 in Ennis was an outstanding success, drawing almost 400,000 visitors to the town, recalling the magic of the 1956 and 1977 Fleadhanna. Now Ennis and Co. Clare are preparing to host Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann once again and through a co-operative effort involving Comhaltas branches, local authorities, business people, sporting organisations and local volunteers, we will work hard to ensure that The Fleadh Down In Ennis 2017 is not just the best Fleadh yet, but maybe the best Fleadh ever!
Photo Credits: (1),(7) Sharon Shannon, (2) Finbar Furey, (3) Hat Fitz & Cara, (4) Alyra Rose, (5) Seckou Keita, (6) Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann Ennis 2017 (unknown/website).