Anne Geaghan really enjoyed this year’s 19th Return to Camden Town festival of traditional music
Trad music enthusiasts from all over the UK, Ireland and also further afield enjoyed concerts, ceilis, album launches, workshops, sessions.
People are really drawn to this festival which continues to attract high quality musician, singers and dancers. On Friday night Artisan Row, a band which includes festival director Karen Ryan and husband Pete Quinn, opened the concert at Kings Place, London.
Karen and Elma McElligott played one of their own compositions on the tin whistle. Conor Doherty from Derry, a friend of Pete’s from university, completed the Artisan line up and their shared musical history gave the quartet a tight-knit feeling.
Noel Hill from Caherea in West Clare played not one but three concertinas during the concert and chose just the right instrument for the particular tune he played.
He glided through reels, jigs, hornpipes, polkas, slow airs and laments – all played expertly and with ease.
The poignant Lament for Limerick, Carolan’s Fanny Power and Tabhair dom to lamh were most memorable. The Bucks (of Aranmore) was one of a number of favourites requested by the audience.
Noel was accompanied on keyboard by Brian McGrath, another skilled musician from Fermanagh. Everyone went home energised.
The London Irish Pensioners Choir were on stage again under the direction of Sally Mulready to open the Saturday night concert at the London Irish Centre.
Sally conducted and the audience joined in with Galway Bay and My Home in Donegal. Cross Harbour were also welcomed back.
The band continues to innovate with a new album to be released soon and singer Rosie Hodgson sang beautiful songs from Irish and English folk traditions. The Bonny Men made their first appearance at Camden and what a treat it was.
The seven-piece Dublin band have a Gaelscoil background and each musician has achieved distinction in All-Ireland Fleadhanna and other major competitions.
Natalie Ni Chasaide (pianist) is the ‘Rose’ among thorns but the other six bonny men have blossomed too with her brother Maitiu showing all the makings of a master piper.
Turlough Chambers (fiddle) Moss Landman (flute), Adam Whelan Bouzouki, Barry Lyons (guitar) and Conor Lyons (Bodhran) made sound trad music and all contributed to two wonderful vocal renditions of Tunnel Tigers and The Sun is Burning.
Sunday afternoon saw the visiting ceili band renamed The Stars (rather than the singular Star) of Munster as they and the set dancers graced the McNamara Hall for three hours.
The seisiun at the entrance to Camden Irish Centre grew throughout the day as musicians and friends shared their tunes non-stop.
Three new albums were launched, Karen Ryan, Pete Quinn and Andrew McNamara played tracks on Camden to Tulla, harpist Janet Harbison played slow airs and Brian Hughes introduced his latest tin whistle and flute collection.
During the weekend many tributes were paid to the festival sponsors, organisers and volunteers.