- 30 Jan 12
What better way to kick off the new year than with one of the country’s best trad festivals?
It takes nerves of steel to put on a festival so soon after Christmas. The days are gun-metal grey, money is in pitifully short supply and there’s fairly high odds that the weather will be unspeakably foul. All sane people are at home, hunkered round a pile of burning fossil fuel with a hot whiskey close to hand. So give up a cheer (go on, give the rest of the people on the bus a laugh – it’s January, they need it) for the brave souls behind the Temple Bar Tradfest, which has not only managed to keep going year after year, but has flourished and grown in scope and sophistication.
The general approach over the last few years has been to keep a level head in terms of the festival’s format but to expand it slightly. This eminently sensible approach continues in 2012. Once again, IMRO is heavily involved in adding an educational dimension to the proceedings.
I think it’s safe to say the latest line-up is about as tasty as is possible. Running until January 29, and taking over some of the choicest venues on the Temple Bar strip, there are an enormous number of options for concert-goers.
On Thursday Ralph McTell, celebrating over 40 years on the road with a concert in Christchurch Cathedral, vies for your attention with the harp and vocal combination of Moya Brennan and Cormac deBarra in City Hall. Over at the Button Factory, at precisely the same time, comes one of the most eagerly awaited album launches of the year.
For as long as I have known Dervish’s Cathy Jordan, fans have been asking her when she is going to make a solo album. The appearance a couple of years back of The Unwanted, the side project she has with Rick Epping and Seamie O’Dowd, was the first evidence she was going to step outside the familiar confines of Dervish. Well, her go-it-alone LP is finally here – and well worth the wait!
Friday sees the guns get bigger with Tommy Sands mixing song and story in a lunchtime show at City Hall before the darkness falls.Then the choice has to be made between Frankie Gavin (also appearing at City Hall), the hotly tipped Inishturkbeggers in which Kíla’s Lance Hogan mashes talent with ex-Fountainhead guitarist Steve Belton and The Dubliners’ 50th Anniversary Concert in Christchurch Cathedral. For The Dubliners it must surely be a bittersweet achievement to reach the half-century but to have lost so many great friends in recent years. It’s sure to be a rousing, if poignant, occasion.
They’re back for a second show on Saturday while over in City Hall another Irish institution, Cor Cuil Aodha, will be appearing.
You might expect Sunday to act as a kind of wind-down after such a flurry of greatness. Not a bit of it. Sunday night’s concerts feature a couple of the most interesting gigs of the festival. The Button Factory sees a Donegal Vs. Senegal head to head between Fidil and Solo Cissikho. In City Hall, at 5pm.
There is a gala concert in aid of the Pecker Dunne, the greatest living embodiment of traveller culture. Having sustained himself by singing, playing fiddle and banjo for more years than most men can forget, the proceeds of the concert will go directly to support him in his old age.
Add to that a couple of IMRO supported showcases in the New Theatre at 6pm. On Thursday and Friday, The Rapparees, Kavan Donohue and The Bonnymen will perform – the vigilant amongst you will remember they were one of my tips for ones to watch in the coming year.
There’ll be a masterclass programme taking place too, also supported by IMRO and taking place in the New Theatre, in this case on Saturday. It features the established masters of their respective arts Gerry O’Connor (11am – 1pm), whose banjo playing has taken him all over the world, and storyteller and songman (his own word) Tommy Sands (2pm – 4pm), whose travels have been no less far-flung.