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.
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).
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/