The best of the world’s trad is to be had at Temple Bar

best worlds tradfest Temple Bar

The best of the world’s trad is to be had at Temple Bar

TradFest Temple Bar is now one of the biggest festivals of traditional Irish music. Taking over some of the most iconic venues in Dublin and bringing together trad and folk talent from Ireland and beyond, it has become an unmissable event for music lovers. The Irish World spent the week in Dublin to see the best TradFest had to offer.

O’Brien Family and Mulcahy Family at Dublin City Hall

As trad music is typically passed down through the family, it was apt that the first evening of TradFest last Wednesday was a unique concert featuring two talented musical families. The O’Brien Family and the Mulcahy Family – both made up of a father and two daughters – succeeded in creating music as grand as the Dublin City Hall interiors and set a high standard for the rest of the festival.

First up the O’Brien Family – Mick, Ciara and Aoife – who filled every inch of the hall with their exquisite blend of pipes and fiddles.

best worlds tradfest Temple Bar
Mulcahy Family

The Mulcahy Family followed with an equally superb set, and when Mick on the accordion, Louise on the flute and Michelle on the concertina finished with a rousing rendition of the Galway Rambler, the audience jumped to their feet for a well deserved standing ovation.

best worlds tradfest Temple Bar
Tara Breen

Tara Breen at Dublin City Hall

Tara Breen hoped for a small intimate lunchtime concert at City Hall but she was flat out of luck. A sellout crowd awaited the in-demand fiddler who has played with the Chieftains and Stockton’s Wing. Proving to be a draw in her own right, Breen will have to start learning to enjoy revelling in the limelight. Still, her self deprecating humour was enjoyed by the audience. The jokes were a nice contrast to the music performance of a seriously talented fiddle player.

Maighread & Triona ní Dhomnaill and Andy Irvine & Donal Lunny at St Patrick’s Cathedral

It’s impossible to know whether the gaelic songs of sisters Maighread and Triona date back as far as this ancient cathedral, but they were certainly as eerie and beautiful as their gothic surroundings. Andy Irvine and Donal Lunny followed, and where their usual energetic and impish selves injecting some welcome humour to the night. They were re-joined by Maighread and Triona for a rousing finale.

best worlds tradfest Temple Bar
Jack O’Rourke

Jack O’Rourke at St Werburgh’s Church

Cork singer Jack O’Rourke followed Exeter duo Sound of the Sirens in this beautifully lit 11th century church. The talented songwriter – he won a top songwriting prize in Nashville in 2016 – he is far more concerned with how he sounds than how he looks as he wriggled and writhed with abandon over his keyboard. It was worth the effort.

best worlds tradfest Temple Bar
Jarlath Henderson

Jarlath Henderdon Band at St Michan’s Church

“This next one is a Willie Clancy tune,” announced the Co. Armagh uilleann pipe player Henderson to the pleasure of the crowd before adding, “but I’ve changed it a bit to make it sound better.” A playful hiss from the crowd followed but it was all part of Henderson’s teasing. A fun and informal night with a mix of tunes and short stand up routines from nearly every member of his excellent five piece group.

David Power & Tríona Marshall at Dublin City Hall

Uilleann piper David Power has recently had a concerto written for him which he will debut at Dublin’s National Concert Hall in March. But while he didn’t give this lunchtime audience a hint of what it would sound like, he offered more than a hint as to why he is one of the most sought after pipe players in the world. He was joined by harpist Tríona Marshall who are working together on a new show which TradFest was lucky enough to get a glimpse of.

Pierre Bensusan at Dublin City Hall

“Why are those two men at the back so serious?” asked the Pierre Bensusan good-naturedly during his show at Dublin City Hall last Friday as he proceeded to imitate their stern expressions until their faces cracked into embarrassed laughter.

Guitar virtuoso and vocalists Bensusan has been lauded with every accolade imaginable during his illustrious 44 year career — he even has a song even penned in his honour. But despite that, insists in taking himself he takes himself — and life in general — light-heartedly. In exquisite surroundings, audiences were treated to an unforgettable evening in the company of a true world music superstar.

Kaia Kater at St Werburgh’s Church

The Canadian singer and banjo player defies classification. But one thing is certain: she is a precocious talent who didn’t let lost luggage at the airport or being only 22 years old deter her from a mesmerising performance at St Werburgh’s church which is sure to have won her many new converts.

best worlds tradfest Temple Bar
Steve Wickham

Steve Wickham at St Michan’s Church

A treat for fans as former Waterboys fiddle virtuoso takes centre stage. He has played with everyone, from U2 to Bob Dylan, but you get the sense Wickham plays for the pure living breathing enjoyment of music itself. As he explains before his breathtaking performance of Stopping By The Woods, the Robert Frost poem of the same name became a song after it “sang to him” over thirty years ago.

Alan Stivell at Dublin Castle Printworks

There is something otherworldly about the man said to have done the most popularise Celtic music. Like a floating orb of consciousness, he appears to inhabits human form just so he has something to play his harp with. He has plenty of famous fans, with The Dubliners’ John Sheahan in the audience, but his mainstay is his hardcore following of fans who travelled many miles to see him play live, and will have returned home fully satisfied.

best worlds tradfest Temple Bar

Trad Gala at Dublin Castle Printworks

Gradam Ceoil Musician of the Year winner Frankie Gavin was undoubtedly the big draw here as he debuted his new Roaring 20s show based on the music of the Flanagan Brothers who enjoyed huge success during America’s jazz era with their mix of swing and Irish trad. In 2018, not many trad musicians can include a brass section, but Gavin pulls it off. Téada followed with their exuberant brand of trad, and they were joined by the inimitable Seamus Begley who was on top form. Not many people will have seen or heard of Scottish group Blazin’ Fiddles who opened the night, but they gave a show-stopping performance that won them an auditorium full of new fans.

Zoë Conway and John McIntyre Early Years Concert at The Ark

There couldn’t be anyone better to introduce trad music to young children than the playful Zoë Conway and the equally game John McIntyre, using music from The Butterfly and The Mockingbird. Any savvy TV producer in the audience would do well to snap this pair up and develop a show around them.

Tim Edey at St Werburgh’s Church

Tim Edey arrived at this lunchtime concert after a 2am finish in Derry; if this is how he plays after a late night and a long drive, it’s scary to imagine he could play better at full fitness. Edey is a performer as entertaining to watch as to listen to as he switches instruments mid-tune (with the help of a looper). The epitome of a virtuoso performer, the Kent born multi-instrumentalist lit up everyone’s Sunday afternoon.

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