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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.

First on were Blazin’ Fiddles playing music from the Scottish highlands and islands. The band, who is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, comprises five fiddles, keyboards and guitar. The majority of the sets, as their publicity says, was a “fiery blend to excite your senses” – and their fast sets certainly whipped the audience into a frenzy of excited applause. There were a few slower pieces which provided a well-judged contrast. One of these started as a haunting solo played on guitar by multi-instrumentalist Anna Massie, then led into another fast fiddle tune. Blazin’ Fiddles are virtuoso musicians committed to spreading the music of their homeland far and wide. They went down a storm in Dublin.

Next was a new line-up playing the music of The Flanagan Brothers, stars of Roaring Twenties New York. The hub of the band was Frankie Gavin (fiddle), Emma Corbett (melodeon), Martin Murray (banjo) and Carl Hessian (piano). This quartet was augmented occasionally by a clarinettist, a double-bass player and a brass section. Frankie Gavin has said that he belongs spiritually to the American/Irish music scene of the 1920s – a time when expatriate musicians like The Flanagans, Michael Coleman and James Morrison made their recordings for homesick compatriots, as well as for millions back in Ireland. This was a successful attempt to recreate a sound of a golden age of Irish music, and hopefully it won’t be the last outing for this high-octane band. My only regret is that they didn’t include a few of the Flanagan Brothers’ humorous songs – their 1920s hit My Irish Molly O or Maloney Puts His Name Above The Door, for example, would have gone down well.

Top of the bill was the wonderful Téada, who seem to spend most of the time these days travelling the world spreading their take on traditional Irish music. Their line-up consisted of fiddle, flute, accordion, bodhran, guitar and keyboard. In addition to playing, the keyboard player Samantha Harvey did some impressive step dancing. Téada started off with a standard set of reels but followed this with an original medley comprising a march, a polka, a fling and a reel. About half-way through their set they brought on their secret weapon, singer and accordion player Seamus Begley, who has recently joined the band as a vocalist. Begley’s opening words to the audience were, “They told me I was coming to a session.” With his gentle humour and warm voice he treated us to three songs during the evening. Téada’s tight, polished performance brought the evening to a rousing conclusion.

Simon Haines