Irish festivals… Great craic and thoroughly Celtic!

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By: Eric Johnson
The Celtic Force

In the last years, we’ve noted an interesting and pleasing trend. Scottish heritage events such as Highland Games are not really limited to “things Scottish” anymore. Increasingly, we see a blend of influences from related cultures that could be called “cousins” to our own Scottish heritage.

Today, event organizers (and their audiences!) welcome contributions from all the Celtic-rooted cultures of Ireland, Wales, Galicia, etc. as well as even more distantly-related ones such as Native American and African-influenced. Celtic Force contributes to the trend by integrating a broader range of Celtic performing acts into our music festival lineups.

Much in the same fashion, Irish heritage festival events are expanding. Scottish-themed artists with whom we regularly work are increasingly booked into “Irish” events. Naturally, Celtic Force’s scope of interest has expanded accordingly. Recently, we’ve participated in several Irish festivals and thought you might be interested to share in our experiences.

For starters, simply said, Irish festivals are awesomely fun. In a Gaelic word, Irish fests are great “craic,” a phrase heard so often.  “What’s the craic?” asking what’s delightfully fun in a high-spirited, often beverage-drinking, musically-oriented setting is a classic Irish greeting. That certainly tells you something about priorities of life!

Irish festivals are so welcomingly fun that attendance at the largest events reaches well over 100,000. This past month, we had opportunity to join in the festivities at two of the largest:  the Milwaukee Irish Fest and the Newport (RI) Irish Fest.

Newport’s 3-day Labor Day weekend event, right on the picturesque Newport Waterfront, was a delight. It was the 13th annual festival here and it draws upwards to 40,000 attendees each year. Newport offers that broader Celtic variety of performing talent showcased on 5 stages of continuous music including names you should recognize. The lineup for 2009 featured the Tartan Terrors, Black 47, Screaming Orphans, Shenanigans, Town Pants, and Glengarry Bhoys, with headliners being Eileen Ivers and the Immigrant Band.

Also appearing at Newport were one group of artists with whom we work…The Killdares. You may recall seeing them a couple years back at Grandfather Mtn.  Well, I caught up with them in their first-ever performances at Newport.

Over the weekend, The Killdares offered several inspired performances of their cutting-edge, Texas-infused, alternative Celtic rock music which audiences from all over the U.S. have come to appreciate. Talking with both Tim Smith and Brek Lancaster, they were quite pleased with standing-ovation results, having met many new friends as well.  They even took in some of Newport’s sights including the grand mansions of America’s Gilded Age.

I also chatted at Newport with the Screaming Orphans, those delightful gals from County Donegal, Ireland. We first met at Bill Reid’s Midwinter Valley Forge fest, when the Orphans were on the program with our colleagues in Celtic madness, Albannach.

Well, just as at Midwinter, The Orphans, those 4 sisters named Diver, were definitely one of the highlights of Newport. They rocked the audience with their performances so much that headliner Eileen Ivers asked them back on-stage to share in her own closing numbers of her already sizzling set.

If you haven’t seen a Screaming Orphans performance, you’re in for an experience. The Screaming Orphans are four funny, high-spirited, musically-obsessed sisters with roots in traditional Irish music, flavoured with diverse set of influences ranging from Simon & Garfunkel to REM, strongly focused on melody-driven songs with pop and rocks strains. For a group of Trinity College of Dublin School of Music grads, their zanily fast-paced and staccato music accompanied with continual banter, are refreshing. It’s a joy to see them play, or even chat with them. And, in comparing notes, we know they’re already booked to come back for Midwinter.

Newport was a superb success, for sure. Then… well… there’s Milwaukee Irish Fest.

Part II coming soon……………

For more information check these out:

http://www.newportwaterfrontevents.com/
http://www.thescreamingorphans.com/

http://www.killdares.com/

The Celtic Force – Visit our website: www.thecelticforce.com

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