- 30 Oct 13
The recession has not been good news for festivals – but Sligo Live has defied the odds by continuing to thrive.
Roaring into life at the end of the Celtic Tiger, Sligo Live has gone where few festivals would dare tread. Happily, the event has established a clear identity, with a bill that combines local and international acts. This year it features Texas indie band Midlake, alongside Villagers, LAPD and Imelda May and hometown faves Dervish, Rackhouse Pilfer and Seamie O’Dowd. To mark The Gathering, there will also be an emphasis on traditional music and Sligo’s unique contributions to the genre.
In the ’20s players from south Sligo were among the first to record Irish traditional music. They included Michael Coleman, who had emigrated to New York, fiddlers James Morrison, Patrick Killoran and Lad O’Beirne and flute master James McKenna from Leitrim. The release of their 78-rpm records breathed new energy into trad throughout the country during a time of hardship.
Indeed, it could be argued that these musical documents sustained Irish traditional music at a time when, all over Europe, the old ways of handing down folk were dying out. The emigrant fiddlers of Sligo brought the county’s vibrant style to millions and, in turn, reinvigorated traditional music in Ireland. As musicologist Harry Bradshaw puts it, “Without the renaissance spearheaded by the Sligo musicians in the 1920s, we might very well not have the vibrant live tradition we have today”.
Ever since, a deep creative connection has existed between Sligo and New York. Following the footsteps of Coleman, Morrison, Killoran and O’Beirne, artists such as Joe O’Dowd, Fred Finn, Peter Horan, Seamus Tansey, Kevin Burke, John Carty, Deirdre Collis, Dervish, Philip Duffy, Carmel Gunning and Seamus and Manus Maguire have further enriched the relationship with the United States.
Sligo Live celebrates this link each year by placing a strong emphasis on the musical connections between the county and America. Liz Carroll, John Doyle, Solas, Hayes and Cahill, Brian Conway, Tony De Marco and Kevin Burke are some of the US-based folk musicians to have graced the event. This year Maurice Lennon continues the tradition. Central to the celebration is the ‘Coleman’s Call’ concert at The Hawk’s Well Theatre on Friday October 25, which brings together some of the world’s finest players in celebration of The Gathering. The evening will feature Liz Carroll, Téada, Tony DeMarco, Seamus Tansey, Seamie O’Dowd, Jesse Smith and others. The following afternoon the exploration of the influence of Coleman, Morrison and Killoran continues with a musical conversation hosted by Jesse Smith and Oisín Mac Diarmada. In addition to some illuminating discussion, they will illustrate their points by dipping into the songbook of the county’s past masters.