Karan Rising to the Challenge

Karan Casey

Singer-songwriter, Karan Casey, has developed an extensive repertoire of songs reflecting her concerns around social justice and the position of women – both in contemporary society and in history. One of her most memorable compositions, Down in the Glen – celebrating the love between two significant figures in the 1916 Rising, Julia Grennan and Elizabeth O’Farrell – was nominated for Best Original Song in the RTÉ Radio 2 Folk Awards in 2019.

In recent years, Karan has also incorporated theatrical dimensions into her performance. So her new collaboration with acclaimed director, Sophie Motley –The Women, We Will Rise – brings together all of these elements in an exciting project, inspired by the women of the Rising and War of Independence, but also offering perspectives on the future development of women’s role in society.

While the project is scheduled for a full-scale production in 2023, audiences will have a preview of the work-in-progress at the Cork Arts Theatre from July 6-9 in a series of lunchtime and supper events.

“We will be airing new songs focussing on the women of the rebellion,” says Karan, “including my own great grandmother, Agnes Ryan, from Doon in East Limerick who was a Cumann na mBan member. One of the other women I have written songs for is Kathleen Clarke.”

Karan is also interested in learning about any other women from that era who have been hidden from history. “If anyone has any information on women in particular from this era, we’d love to hear about it,” she adds.Julia Grennan and Elizabeth O’Farrell

Kathleen Clarke – founder member of Cumann na mBan, Teachta Dála and first female Lord Mayor of Dublin

Kilkenny Arts Festival returns before live audiences

Returning to a live in-person format this year from August 4-14, the Kilkenny Arts Festival will feature a number of traditional and folk performers alongside the classical, modern, dramatic and literary artists who make up the rest of an extensive cultural experience.

Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh and the Irish Chamber Orchestra will finally perform the remarkable Róisín ReImagined in front of a live audience. Covid meant that the performance was filmed last year for remote audiences – and a CD followed – but now it will come to life in person.

Martin Hayes features prominently in this year’s festival – performing with his Common Ground Ensemble for the festival finale, ‘conversing’ with Brían Mac Gloinn of Ye Vagabonds, and once again curating the Marble City Sessions – featuring many leading traditional artists.

As well as the multiple award-winning duo, Ye Vagabonds, the sessions will also Nell Ní Chróinín, Aoife Ní Bhriain, Cormac McCarthy and Kate Ellis, and Syrian folk artist, Maya Youssef.

Another highlight promises to be Saíocht – a collaboration between traditional musicians, Louise Mulcahy, Michelle Mulcahy and Neil Martin; poets Emily Cullen and Gabriel Rosenstock; and award-winning actor, Stephen Rea. Full proceeds from tickets for this event will go to Kilkenny Civil Defence Ukraine Appeal.

Louise Mulcahy to premiere new work for Willie Week

Ómós Ceoil – 50 Bliain Faoi Bhláth – a new composition by uilleann piper and flute player, Louise Mulcahy, will premiere at the Community Centre in Miltown Malbay on July 3rd as part of the opening concert of Scoil Samhraidh WIllie Clancy. The newly commissioned work celebrates the fiftieth Scoil Samhraidh Willie Clancy since its inception in 1973 and its continuously positive impact on the development of Irish traditional music, song and dance.

Reflecting her pride at being commissioned to compose the piece, Louise explains that the new work aims to commemorate the legacy of the master uilleann piper, Willie Clancy, and the school’s founding members: Muiris Ó Rócháin, Martin Talty, Séamus Mac Mathúna, Paddy Joe McMahon and Junior Crehan. “The new work celebrates the ethos of the school and the joy it brings so many people from all around the world each year,” she says.

An accomplished performer and tutor at the Willie Clancy Summer School, Louise has been coming to the Willie Clancy Week since she was a child and considers the school a formative influence on her musical development. “Throughout the years, I have very special memories attending Scoil Samhraidh Willie Clancy with my family,” she says. “The Summer School has been a hugely important part of my life from a very early age. I have been inspired on multiple levels by the musicians and people I have met. I feel so fortunate to be part of the Summer School each year. Like so many other people the first week of July is a very special part of my musical calendar.”

Louise comes from a noted traditional music family and regularly plays with her father, Mick, and sister, Michelle. She is currently researching the history of women in uilleann piping in the 20th century. Her research work and musical accomplishments have been widely recognised – including by two major awards: the Arts Council’s Markievicz Award in 2021 and the Liam O’Flynn Award, sponsored jointly by the Arts Council and the National Concert Hall in 2022.

Traditional musicians for new Resonate residencies

Three projects involving musicians with a traditional background have been named by Music Network among the six approved for this year’s second edition of its Resonate programme which places established professional musicians in creative residencies in six cultural spaces around Ireland between July and October.
Singer, Pauline Scanlon, and multi-instrumentalist, Barry Kerr (pictured above), will collaborate on a traditional singing project while composer and concertina player, Niall Vallely, will team up with cellist, Kate Ellis, and saxophone player, Kenneth Edge, to create new instrumental pieces. Irish-Dutch singer and guitarist Patrick Stefan Groenland will join forces with the Irish-Persian folk band, Navà, to create new songs with Irish, Persian and African folk influences. 
Focusing on traditional songs where feelings of longing for home, freedom, love, acceptance, and peace are central themes, The Longing project, led by Scanlon and Kerr, aims to create beautiful, contemporary arrangements culminating in a performance in Ionad Cultúrtha, Baile Mhúirne, accompanied by singer and harpist. Síle Denvir, and percussionist, Eamon Murray.

Meanwhile the collaboration led by Niall Vallely will create and perform a new series of pieces entitled Bearna which translates as a gap or space. The trio will explore the musical concepts offered by spaces that exist in between different genres of music and people’s varied musical perspectives.

With a shared a love of global music, Patrick Stefan Groenland and Navá will build on recent successful instrumental performances, adding vocals to complement their considerable multi-string sound palette. Their collaboration will be showcased at the Regional Cultural Centre, Letterkenny. 

Each project will also receive an award of €8,000 to support and facilitate the making of new work and creative partnerships. Audiences will have opportunities to enjoy the new material at live concerts in November and later online on social media platforms.

The other three projects are led by mezzo-soprano Naomi Louisa O’Connell, in residence at glór, Ennis; classical violinist, Patrick Rafter, at Triskel Arts Centre in Cork; and soprano, Elizabeth Hilliard, at The Dock in Carrick-on-Shannon.

Among the participants in the Resonate programme in 2021 were singer-songwriter, Emma Langford, uilleann piper, David Power, and.fiddler and singer, Clare Sands.

Niall Vallely
Kate Ellis
Emma Langford

BelfastTrad finds new home in Stranmillis College

From September 2022, BelfastTrad will deliver its entire programme of classes in traditional music, song and dance at a new home at Stranmillis University College in south Belfast. Otherwise known as the Belfast Traditional Music and Dance Society, BelfastTrad believes that Stranmillis provides “the perfect environment” for its traditional arts programme, with “its custom-designed music and dance spaces, set in a spacious tree-lined campus… great parking facilities, a café, performance spaces and much more.”

According to the Society, “the Music Department at Stranmillis, a stand-alone building with a circular layout of performance studios, is the perfect setting for instrument and singing classes and the Orchard Building provides rooms with excellent floors for dancing.”

Stranmillis College is enthusiastic about BelfastTrad’s presence on campus and working in partnership to develop BelfastTrad’s programme of traditional arts education in this new space.

“The last two years presented tremendous challenges to BelfastTrad due to the Covid-19 pandemic,” said BelfastTrad Chair, Conall Mullan,  “and we have successfully maintained a strong and vibrant society with the diligent hard work from our tutors, our dedicated volunteer board and the invaluable support from our members and student body.

“This autumn represents a new phase for BelfastTrad,” he continued, “as we welcome the return of in-person teaching for our complete programme of traditional arts classes at Stranmillis College.  We look forward to welcoming both returning and new students to our new home.”

With almost 300 members, BelfastTrad provides over 40 classes a week in traditional arts, including music classes in all instruments, traditional singing, solo dancing and set dancing. It specialises in providing classes for adult learners and provides instrument hire for those just starting out on an instrument for the first time.  In addition it also presents classes in tin whistle and fiddle for children under 12 years.

BelfastTrad supplements its weekly classes with other special events such as masterclasses, talks, céilidhe, sessions and student and tutor performances.

The next term of classes will begin in September. Enrolment will open online mid-August.

Inaugural Galway Folk Festival kicks off

The inaugural Galway Folk Festival which kicks off this evening brings some of the finest names in contemporary Irish folk music to the City of the Tribes with an extensive line-up for the five-day event including recent birthday boy, Andy Irvine,  with Donal Lunny (pictured above) Hothouse Flowers, Villagers, Séan Keane, The Henry Girls and John Francis Flynn as the headliners for the festival’s key sessions.

Many of the shows will take place on stages in and around Monroe’s Live in Dominick Street Upper, Galway. Among the other artists also announced for Galway Folk Festival are Zoë Conway and John McIntyre. Emma Langford, Aoife Scott, The Frank and Walters (acoustic), The Frank & Walters (acoustic), Peter Broderick (Efterklang),  Brídín, The Raines, .

The festival is also committed to shine a spotlight on some exciting emerging talent, including Lorraine Nash, Robert John Ardiff, I Draw Slow, A Smyth, Stevie Appleby, Laura Duff, Woven Kin, Seba Safe, Sonny Casey, King Pallas and Les SalAmandass.

The running order:

  • Wednesday evening: Monroe’s Mainstage: Villagers (acoustic), Peter Broderick and Brídín
  • Thursday evening: Monroe’s Mainstage: John Francis Flynn, I Draw Slow and Ultan Conlon
  • Thursday evening: Monroe’s Backstage: Dani Larkin, Woven Kin and Sonny Casey
  • Friday evening: Main Stage: Andy Irvine & Donal Lunny, The Raines and Emma Langford
  • Friday evening: Backstage: Zoë Conway & John Mc Intyre, King Pallas and Robert John Ardiff
  • Saturday Afternoon: Mainstage: Seán Keane
  • Saturday Evening: Mainstage: Hothouse Flowers, Frank & Walters (acoustic) and Aoife Scott
  • Saturday Evening: Backstage: Lorraine Nash, Stevie Appleby and A. Smyth
  • Sunday Afternoon: Mainstage: The Henry Girls and Les SalAmandas
  • Sunday Evening: Closing Party: Rowan, Clare Sands, Seba Safe and Laura Duff 


Tickets for the event – which include a five-day pass or seperate admission to each show – with two shows (afternoon and evening) on Saturday and Sunday – are available from https://galwayfolkfestival.ie/buy-tickets/

In addition to the ticketed event, the Cuppa TV stage, located beside Monroe’s, will feature a number of free performances on Saturday and Sunday afternoons. The Saturday gig will feature Cyril O’Donoghue and Blackie O’Connell, Katie Theasby, Dave Sanders and Felim Ó Caoileáin, and Sonny Casey. The Sunday show will be headlined by Ger O’Donnell and Trevor Sexton, supported by the Davies Brothers and Dunluvly.


The Henry Girls
The Leitrim Larks Project Reduced (1)

The Leitrim Larks Project

Leitrim has a rich and varied tradition of song which has been passed down through generations. While some of these songs remain well known, many are no longer performed and survive in manuscripts and archives.

The Leitrim Larks Project is being led by renowned traditional singer Fionnuala Maxwell and aims to celebrate, rediscover, and revive traditional songs from Leitrim by engaging both established singers across the County and by engaging and facilitating individual members of the public from across the County to discover and sing these Leitrim songs.

This webpage will be updated as the project progresses throughout 2022. If you are interested in taking part in this traditional singing project please contact the Heritage Officer: Sarah Malone, Email: smalone@leitrimcoco.ie, Tel: 071 9620005 Ext. 516

A video on Traditional Singing in Leitrim with Fionnuala Maxwell can be viewed at Traditional Singing in Leitrim video

Belfast Tradfest line-up finalised

Back with a bang after the hiatus caused by Covid, the summer edition of Belfast TradFest returns with a week packed full of traditional music, song and dance, featuring some of the best traditional musicians, singers and dancers from across these islands from July 23 to July 29.

“Belfast TradFest is a distinctive and progressive music festival which reflects and nourishes the traditional music of the whole community of the North, by representing both the Irish and Scots musical traditions,” explained Festival Director, Dónal O’Connor.

As always fans and students will be spoilt for choice in a festival schedule that runs morning, afternoon, evening and late night. Broadly speaking the mornings are devoted to the summer school, while the afternoons will feature five album launches and 31 workshops and lectures conducted by leading musicians and singers, including Bríd Harper, Steve Cooney, Muireaan Nic Amhlaoibh and Gradam award-winning musician Angelina Carbery.The evenings are about performances in concerts, céilí and sessions. Rounding off each day will be a ‘gig after the gigs’ in the festival club.

This year’s festival headliner is the Sharon Shannon Big Band at Ulster Hall on Friday July 29. Opening the show will be Hothouse Flowers’ frontman Liam Ó Maonlaí, performing a rare solo set with grand piano, bodhrán and tin whistle.

Cathy Jordan
Niamh Parsons
Síle Denvir

More Tradfest Highlights

The Fiddle Monologues is a play about four women from 1679, 1789, 1889 and 1959 and their relationship with the violin (Sunday July 24 at The Black Box)

Cathy Jordan from Dervish appears with her trio, The Unwanted. (Sunday July 24 at The Black Box)

Song and Fiddle with Niamh Parsons and Graham Dunne along with TG4 Gradam Ceoil/Belfast City Council bursary recipient Sinead McKenna (Sunday July 24 at The John Hewitt)

Fiddles feature again in the Fiddle Concert in memory of Seán Maguire which will see performances by Bríd Harper, Jesse Smith, Dónal O’Connor, Ciarán Ó Maonaigh, Méabh O’Hare and others (Monday July 25 at the Duncairn).

A tribute to the Belfast Harp Festival of 1792 will feature leading harpist Máire Ní Chathasaigh, guitar virtuoso Steve Cooney and piper Brìghde Chaimbeul among others (Tuesday July 26 at Áras Mhic Reachtain)

With Fife and Drum explores the traditions of Scotland and Ireland with some of the world’s finest pipers and drummers including Alastair Roberts, Mike Smyth, Gareth McLees and Tommy Hayes (Tuesday July 26 at Strand Arts Centre)

Ceoil Beirte features two husband-and-wife duos – Ciarán Ó Maonaigh and Caitlín Nic Gabhann and Barry Kerr and Síle Denvir – among others in a celebration of duet playing (Wednesday July 27 at An Droichead)

TradFest partners with Belfast Pride to host the Pride Céilí with music by Ciaran Kelly and friends and with dances called by Ronan Eastwood (Wednesday July 27 at Oh Yeah Music Centre)

Flutopia brings together leading traditional flute players and whistlers including former Gradam winners Mary Bergin and Harry Bradley (Thursday July 28 at The Deer’s Head)

The Sunflower Folk Club will host two emerging artists Dáibhidh Stiúbhard and Miadhachlughain O’Donnell (Thursday July 28 at the Sunflower)

Tá Bean In Éirinn will celebrate some of Ireland’s finest female traditional musicians, singers and dancers, including Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh, Caitlín Nic Gabhann and recent TG4 Gradam Ceoil recipient Edwina Guckian (Thursday July 28 at Cultúrlann McAdam Ó Fiaich).

Máire Ní Chathasaigh
Mary Bergin
Caitlín Nic Gabhann

Of course Tradfest would not be Tradfest without the opportunity to encounter many of the concert headliners in more informal musical sessions. So the Belfast TradFest Session Trail will encompass over 40 sessions in a wide range of venues – all with free admission. Also free are the album launches at Raidió Fáilte which will feature recent releases from Mairéad Walls; Dylan Pearse; Grainne Milner-McLoone; Brian Hughes and Dave Sheridan; and the Glengormley School of Traditional Music.

The festival programme also makes room for a special showing of the recent released film, Seán Ó Riada Mo Sheanathair, to be followed by questions and answers with the film’s presenter, Doireann Ní Ghlacáin, and director Feilimí O’Connor.

The TradFest Festival Club will also return to provide more music for the insomniacs among us from performers like Gino Lupari of Four Men and A Dog, Gerry ‘Banjo’ O’Connor, Damien Mullane and local trios, Briste and Tróda.

Running alongside the concerts, céilí and sessions is the summer school which includes daily masterclasses from 10am to 1pm from Monday July 25 to Friday July 29 at Ulster University, York Street. The summer school’s team of tutors is made up of internationally acclaimed performers with proven track records as teachers across music, song and dance. There are a range of classes to suit all ages and abilities from beginners to advanced. The impressive line-up of tutors includes:

  • Mary Bergin (tin whistle)
  • Tara Bingham (flute)
  • Harry Bradley (flute)
  • Kieran Brady (tin whistle)
  • Angelina Carbery (tenor banjo)
  • Brìghde Chaimbeul (small pipes)
  • Steve Cooney (guitar accompaniment)
  • Síle Denvir (harp)
  • Mary Dillon (traditional singing)
  • Alastair Donaghy (bagpies)
  • Edwina Guckian (sean nós dancing)
  • Bríd Harper (fiddle)
  • Tommy Hayes (bodhrán)
  • Barry Kerr (flute)
  • Brian McGrath (traditional piano)
  • Gareth McLees (snare drum and pipe band percussion)
  • Dave Munnelly (button accordion)
  • Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh (amhránaíocht)
  • Caitlín Nic Gabhann (concertina)
  • Máire Ní Chathasaigh (harp)
  • Doireann Ní Ghlacáin (fiddle)
  • Méabh O’Hare (fiddle)
  • Ciarán Ó Maonaigh (fiddle)
  • Sharon Shannon (button accordion, fiddle and tin whistle)
  • Jesse Smith (fiddle)
  • Mikie Smith (uilleann pipes)

The festival will also include a free art exhibition by Lorcan Vallely at the John Hewitt, a free fiddle and fife exhibition at Ulster University which will also host a free céilí called by Ronan Eastwood.

For bookings and more information about Belfast Tradfest, go to https://www.belfasttraditionalmusic.com/

New fleadh for Dublin’s Smithfield

Thomas MacCarthy
Sibéal Davitt
Cormac Begley

Smithfield Fleadh is Dublin’s newest family-friendly event addition to the city’s events calendar. This free, folk and traditional music event is taking place in Smithfield Square on June 18 and 19. The fleadh will kick off at midday and finish at 6pm both days.

Among the performers already confirmed for the event are two Gradam award winners: singer Thomas MacCarthy and fiddler Paddy Glackin. They will be joined by virtuoso concertina master Cormac Begley; the Irish-Iranian band, Navá; sean-nós dancer Sibéal Davitt; and the instrumental trio, The Dublin Lasses. Broadcaster and fiddle player Doireann Ní Ghlacáin will host proceedings on the main stage.

Various members of the Mulligan family will. be involved in a series of sessions in the Cobblestone Tent which will also include members of Ballyer Trad Hub.

The fleadh will also include an outdoor street performance area called ‘An Stáitsín Fánach’ which will stage performances from the Fingal Mummers; a piping session with Louise Mulcahy and friends; as well as a special presentation by The Night Before Larry Got Stretched called The Megaphone Project – a series of pop-up performances of Irish traditional song in the modern day inspired by the archival recordings of John Martin, a lively street singer who travelled around the fairs of Ireland in the 1950s.

In the festival tent (Puball Éigse) will include a celebration of the musical legacy of the Traveller community by Mickey Dunne  and friends. Na Píobairí Uilleann will also present a  ‘Try The Pipes’ workshop.

“We are thrilled to announce more than 20 acts will perform over the weekend,” said the Lord Mayor of Dublin Alison Gilliland. “There will be a mix of music and dance for all ages to enjoy, and we also invite people to engage at a number of workshops scheduled. We hope people will come to Smithfield to experience this new event. We have a great programme for its first year and hope we can keep coming back every summer.”

For the full programme (which may be subject to change) check www.Dublin.ie/Smithfieldfleadh

Louise Mulcahy
Paddy Glackin
Doireann Glackin

Fleadh to go live in Mullingar at last

A Kind of Homecoming

The annual celebration of traditional music, song and dance, Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann, will return as a fully live event in Mullingar from July 31-August 8, after a two-year hiatus caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The event makes a long overdue return to the County Westmeath town where Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann was founded in 1951. Having waited patiently to mark the seventieth anniversary, Mullingar is more than ready to welcome fleadh from Ireland and around the world to join the celebration which will be opened by President Michael D. Higgins.

At the heart of the Fleadh Cheoil are the multiplicity of competitions in music, song, dance and Comhrá Gaeilge involving qualifiers in various age categories from around the world. Another core element of the fleadh is Scoil Éigse, involving workshops, lectures and sessions.

As well as street performances and impromptu music sessions, performances will also take place on two ‘Gig Rigs’ – open air performance platforms and indoors in more conventional concert settings.

Among the artists already confirmed for the week are Martin Hayes and the Common Ground Ensemble, Sharon Shannon,  Daithí Gormley, Frankie Gavin and Catherine McHugh, Téada, Ímar, Séamus Begley, Seán Keane and Emmett Cahill, Anúna, the Kilfenora Céili Band, the Bridge Céili Band, Damien Mullane and Moxie.

Fleadh Executive Committee Chairperson Joe Connaire, has highlighted the fleadh’s huge potential for encouraging local initiative and community spirit within the host town. “We’re calling on as many locals as possible to get involved, whether it’s playing music, offering accommodation, volunteering or supporting official events. We want the excitement of the Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann to be felt throughout the town.”

Martin Hayes
Sharon Shannon