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Live Reviews

EIRE! Festival Internazionale di Musica Irlandese - Bondeno, Italy - 26-28 August 2016

“We must have a break,” we said. “We need a holiday and a chance to get away from traditional music for a while,” we said. “Italy would be lovely this time of year,” we said. But when we realised that one of Italy’s premier Irish traditional music festivals was happening only a few short miles from where we were planning to be, it was just too hard to resist. So Bondeno, about 28 miles to the north of the wonderful city of Bologna, was added to our schedule.

The Lossie Folk Festival - Lossiemouth - 15-17 July 2016

At 4.40pm on an overcast Friday afternoon, as another pulse of heavy rain makes its way along the Moray Firth, a man walks round a soggy campsite with a pen and piece of paper. He stops whoever he meets, looks into caravans and motor homes, and asks if anyone is interested in singing or playing that night. Malcolm Leiper is compiling the set list for the Friday evening concert at the Lossiemouth Folk Festival.

Sun, Strathspeys and Shanties in Shakespeare’s County - Alex Monaghan sampled the delights of Warwick Folk Festival 2016

With headliners this year including Show of Hands, Mike McGoldrick, Le Vent Du Nord and the Marmite sound of the Unthanks, the Warwick Folk Festival is a major event welcoming hundreds of performers and thousands of punters. Based in the grounds of Warwick School, just across the picturesque River Avon from the medieval town centre and one of the most impressive castles in England, the festival has its own fringe events which extend into various halls and hostelries in the town. Everything is within walking distance, and there is a bus which runs from the festival site through the town centre, passing most of the fringe venues. It was all extremely well organised, and when things went wrong - as they are bound to in an event of this size - they were swiftly remedied.

FASTNET MARITIME AND FOLK FESTIVAL - Ballydehob, West Cork - 17-19 June 2016

Hop on the ferry to Rosslare, drive along the nicest bit of coast road imaginable, taking in Dungarvan, Youghal, Kinsale and Skibbereen, until you round the corner at Roaringwater Bay (we are just off Fastnet Rock) arriving in Ballydehob. What a little beauty this is, just before Bantry - the friendliest people with a big Irish welcome. But hang on, there's a familiar face or two - it's Dick Miles and a whole host of friends. It's the Fastnet Maritime & Folk festival and well worth the trip.

Frankie Gavin and De Dannan - The Marlowe Theatre, Canterbury - 20 October 2016

Frankie Gavin and De Dannan was an inspired booking by the organisers of Canterbury Arts Festival. The band play all over the world these days – from Spain and Scandinavia to China and the USA as well as in their native Ireland, but sadly English audiences rarely get the opportunity to experience their unique brand of Irish music.

THE MCKEANEY SISTERS - Cashel Community Hall, Co Fermanagh - 30 June 2016

Rosie Stewart's fine traditional singing is well respected all over Britain and Ireland, but outside County Fermanagh, few seem to be aware that her four sisters are also first rate singers and musicians. Anna, Kathleen, Mary and Peggy joined Rosie for the launch of their first CD as a group in a community hall in the heart of the lovely Fermanagh countryside, with old friend Roisin White as M.C.

DOOLIN FOLK FESTIVAL - Doolin, Co Clare - 10-12 June 2016

Doolin, on the scenic west coast of Ireland has been something of a Mecca for traditional music over the years. The magical village with its quaint pubs was home to Micho Russell, a world renowned whistle player, and many other musicians have passed through the area and feel a great connection to it. Something of a victim of its own success, these days Doolin is teeming with tourists, stopping off for a pint of something cold and creamy on their way back from the famous Cliffs of Moher or the Burren, hoping to experience some genuine Irish music and craic. Inevitably, this has changed things somewhat, but Doolin manages to retain a great deal of its charm and is still a location well worth a visit.

ACROSS THE VALE: SONGS BY GRAEME MILES - Saltburn Community And Arts Associations Theatre, North Yorkshire - 10 June 2016

Tribute concerts are prone to be a disappointment, often because they highlight how much the original will be missed – can you imagine a Dave Swarbrick memorial concert that wasn’t about loss? This concert at Saltburn was different; Graeme wasn’t missed because his songs were still there and, unlike Ewan MacColl, he was never a great performer. Also unlike him, his songs haven’t become suddenly more familiar after his death but that was the point.

TRADFEST - Edinburgh - 27 April - 8 May 2016

Now in its fourth year, this festival of traditional culture living up to its billing of being “rooted in the past, resonating in the present”, has not only established its place in Edinburgh's calendar of festivities, but has expanded even further with more venues and more sell-outs - many evenings giving prospective punters even more choices to make. Once again promoted by TRACS (Traditional Arts and Culture Scotland) and based primarily at the Scottish Storytelling Centre with performances taking place all over the city, it was as previously scheduled to coincide with Beltane and May Day celebrations, and walks and talks featured strongly in the 12-day programme alongside the music, songs, stories, dance and other traditional arts and crafts.


This concert, in part sponsored by the Harris Tweed company and commemorating the 125th anniversary of An Comunn Gaidhealach (The Gaelic Society), stood out as being of special interest on initial perusal of this year's programme for Edinburgh's annual extravaganza of harp music. It proved every bit as enjoyable and instructive as anticipated, but before concentrating one's attention on this show, mention must be made, albeit briefly, of the variety of musical delights from all over the world that had been on offer during the three days leading to this showpiece.