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Live Reviews

37th EDINBURGH INTERNATIONAL HARP FESTIVAL - Edinburgh 30 March - 4 April 2018

Since Edinburgh's International Harp Festival made its home amid the beautiful surroundings of Merchiston Castle School on the outskirts of the city, it has been a source of great pleasure between the scheduled courses, workshops, afternoon recitals and evening concerts to be able to stroll around the school grounds with views of the Castle and the Forth in the distance. However, there was little opportunity this year due to the miserably cold and damp weather which culminated in a very snowy last day. Fortunately, in stark contrast, the music on display throughout this extended Easter weekend more than made up for the weather, living up to the festival's long standing reputation with a scintillating series of evening and afternoon performances along with the regular variety of courses and workshops on offer.

SHEFFIELD FOLK SESSIONS FESTIVAL - 30 March – 1 April 2018

Sheffield as a city is renowned for its eclectic music, and in particular its folk music; “The epicentre of the folk universe” as it was once described. A number of well-known folk artists live in Sheffield, and the university music department has a reputation for encouraging young folk performers along with an M.A. in Traditional Music of the British Isles. There are two of the surviving British traditional longsword teams; what often seems like innumerable morris, rapper and clog teams; and a pair of processional giants modelled on those found in Spain; add in The Sheffield Carols sung from November to New Year and it all makes for a very healthy scene.

WINTER WILSON - The David Hall, South Petherton - 14 April 2018

A most enjoyable evening’s entertainment from one of the folk world’s busiest and most entertaining duos, and the pleasure was enhanced by David Hall’s amazing acoustics (described by The Voice Squad as among the best they’d ever experienced). Kip Winter’s outstanding vocal talents and Dave Wilson’s stunning abilities as a songwriter, composer, guitarist and singer welded seamlessly to produce a most memorable evening that obviously pleased the very varied audience that the venue enjoys.

BBC RADIO 2 FOLK AWARDS - The Waterfront, Belfast - 4 April 2018

This year saw the award ceremony cross the sea to Belfast. A packed hall clapped and cheered throughout the presentations and some spirited performances from Lankum, Dónal Lunny, Olivia Chaney and Paul Brady. Cara Dillon sang a verse from Tommy Sands’ There Were Roses to remind us that we were only a few days away from the 20th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement.

FISHERMAN’S FRIENDS - Buxton Opera House - 17 February 2018

It may have been February but the Fisherman’s Friends brought a little summer sunshine and a taste of the Cornish coast to the Opera House in Buxton.

A visit with ‘family’ at Celtic Connections

There’s no indication the organisers of the first Celtic Connections, which took place in Glasgow 25 years ago, spared a thought for traditional music lovers like me who enjoy popping over from the continent for three or four days to attend what sometimes feels like an extended family reunion. The festival’s official explanation, that the dates were chosen to bring “much needed entertainment and economic cheer to the city during the darkest part of the year,” has charm from our perspective, too.

TEMPLE BAR TRADFEST GALA NIGHT - Dublin Castle - 27 January 2018

The venue was listed as “Dublin Castle”, the impressive 13th century building in the heart of the city, but Gala Night actually took place in the Printworks, a modern, 600-seat hall in the courtyard of the castle.

SCOTS FIDDLE FESTIVAL - Edinburgh - 17-19 November 2017

An unmissable event for devotees of Scottish fiddling, SFF is now in its 21st year. Since I last attended in 2013, a few things have changed. This year saw a new venue at Summerhall, a new artistic director in Rosie Munro, and a lot of new faces both on stage and off. The festival is one of the main events of the Scottish fiddle calendar and attracts a lot of visitors from near and far, taking its place in Edinburgh’s procession of festivals from harps to jazz to books to film. Despite its narrow focus, the Scots Fiddle Festival offers elements of all of the above, and much more.

TRIP TO BIRMINGHAM TRADFEST - 23-26 November 2017

We got delayed on the M6, so our particular trip to Birmingham was not the smoothest, but we made it in time for a lively session in The Spotted Dog. Our settee in the angle of the L-shaped bar enabled us to hear both groups of musicians at the same time. Great craic!

PATRICK O’KEEFFE TRADITIONAL MUSIC FESTIVAL - Castleisland, Co Kerry - 27-30 October 2017

If you’re a keen student of early 20th century Irish history, you may associate the Crown Hotel in Castleisland with the formation of a branch of the Irish Volunteers in 1914. Well-known speakers on the balcony of the hotel convinced huge crowds to join the nationalist cause. If you were in the Crown during this year’s festival weekend, you’ll have been involved in great sessions with musicians from this area of Kerry and beyond. Many of the tunes they’d be playing would be ones associated with Sliabh Luachra and maybe more particularly with one of the great exponents of the music of this area, Patrick O’Keeffe.