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Category Archives: Summerfolk43

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Sun Times Article 2: Irish roots

Every year Artistic Director James Keelaghan writes a series of 12 articles for the Owen Sound Sun Times previewing the Summerfolk Music and Crafts Festival

By James Keelaghan

Surprise! I’m not in Owen Sound, or even in Canada. As you read this I am just leaving Achill Island on the west coast of Ireland. The last time I was on AchiIl was when I was here as a backpacker in 1979. That excursion ended well, though I ended up sleeping on a beach in an October gale, but that’s a story for another time.

 

My Da was from County Monaghan which entitles me to Irish  citizenship. I go to Ireland regularly, to play, to visit relatives and friends, and to do what I am doing now—leading music- based group tours. But that first trip, as a 19 year old, was an eye opener.

 

The Clancy Brothers and The Dubliners dominated the musical landscape when I was growing up. My exposure to Irish music was mostly ballads and songs and I learned hundreds of them. I could sing Roddy McCorley with the best of them in my corner of traditional music.

 

One night, on that first backpacking trip, I found myself in the little town of Spiddal in County Galway. There was a celebration in town until the wee hours of the morning. A whole group of local musicians had gone north to a music competition, a feis, and had come back with all the prizes. Music reigned supreme in the four pubs that adorned the four corners of the crossroads

 

The music tended to the instrumental rather than the vocal—jigs, reels and marches. I hadn’t heard this much instrumental Irish music at one time ever. Occasionally, the players would yield the floor to the singers, but instrumental ruled the day.

 

I think I got to bed at three or four in the morning, shortly after the Garda had shut down the last pub. But that night stayed with me until this day and I came back with so much Irish instrumental music that I had to abandon some clothes to make room for vinyl and cassettes. I’ve been hooked on the instrumental side of Irish tradition music since.

 

The great thing about Irish trad is that it’s alive—living and breathing and every year more young people come to the music. There are well-established schools and organizations that promote learning the music and, of course, hundreds of pub sessions as practice grounds.

 

We have one of the finest young Irish bands appearing at Summerfolk this year. They met at Limerick’s Irish World Academy and, with critical acclaim piling up, Goitse have become one of the leaders of the new generation of traditional Irish ensembles.

 

Goitse—pronounced gwi-cha—has released four critically acclaimed recordings and maintains a year round touring schedule that includes performances throughout Ireland and the United Kingdom, Germany, France and the United States.

 

The strength of Irish traditional music is that it evolves. The canon isn’t static with new tunes added all the time. Goitse moves the tradition forward with their own original compositions. Their distinctive sound comes from the meeting of those compositions and traditional tunes from the countryside of Ireland and abroad.

 

Laying the foundations for the music are World and All-Ireland bodhrán champion, Colm Phelan. The bodhrán, a large open frame drum, is the beating heart of Irish trad. A band without a solid player is simply not going to go anywhere.

 

Colm is not the only All Ireland champion in the band— Tadhg Ó Meachair plays a wicked accordion and is the All Ireland traditional piano champion.  Conal O’Kane rounds out the rhythm section of the band on the guitar. He’s a wizard who is making his mark as one of the finest guitarists of his generation.

 

Alan Reid plays the tenor banjo, bouzouki and mandolin. He is also an accomplished oud—a stringed instrument from the Mediterranean. Its inclusion in the band is a fresh texture that no other Irish Trad band is using.  

 

Out of this strong instrumental sound emerges the sweet, charismatic voice of Áine McGeeney. Her voice rings like a bell—clear and strong as it draws audiences into a song. Áine does double duty in the band playing the fiddle as well. as she sings. With a style that is feisty and energetic she completes the band sound in fine style.

 

Their band name is an informal Gaelic greeting that means “come here”. We couldn’t think of a better way to invite you to Summerfolk than to promise you Goitse.

 

The Summerfolk Music and Crafts Festival takes place at Kelso Beach Park on August 17, 18 and 19. For information on tickets, performers, or if you’d like to listen to some music by Goitse, visit summerfolk.org.

 

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Sun Times Article 1: Waiting for Summerfolk…

Every year Artistic Director James Keelaghan writes a series of 12 articles for the Owen Sound Sun Times previewing the Summerfolk Music and Crafts Festival

By James Keelaghan

There are eighty-five days until Summerfolk.

 

Down at Kelso Beach Park, the buds are just beginning to open on the trees. The grass is turning green and the water, ice-free, is lapping at the shore. Were there security cameras installed, over the past weeks you would have noticed small groups of people with clipboards and measuring wheels roaming the grounds. You’d see a lot of pointing and scribbling and taking snapshots.

 

Eighty-five days, but we are in the park, measuring and imagining.

 

We’re imagining a park full of music and food and artisans. We’re imagining families, children, young lovers, tourists and others of all shapes, sizes and persuasions coming together for three days to share a common experience—Summerfolk.

 

Forty-three years ago this August, a group of people imagined Summerfolk into existence. Every year since then, we appear to conjure a festival out of thin air, transforming Kelso Beach Park into a place where music plays for 14 hours a day and where 4,000 people a day gather to share an experience.

 

Like Dickens’ spirits, though, Summerfolk doesn’t live for just three days. It’s a year’s worth of work. It’s May, but the performers have been booked, the food vendors and artisans selected, tents and port-a-potties ordered and the sound system reserved. Some grant applications and sponsorship deals are worked on 18 months before the current festival.

 

Every month, the Summerfolk committee meets to propose and discuss ideas and to work out logistics. We ask ourselves a lot of questions. Did we place this or that tent properly last year? What happens if we move that fence 5 feet? Is there enough power to do what we want? Do we want the tent sides with the rings so we can close the sides more quickly if it rains?

 

Right about now, the committee heads start reaching out to the over 700 volunteers who staff the various crews—construction, electrical, staging, trash and more.

 

All of that is done for a singular purpose—so that we can come together for three days and enjoy life. Music and food and art make life better. Sure we relax and soak up the sun, have a glass of wine or a beer but we also feed our minds. I sometimes walk away from a stage at Summerfolk shaking my head at the intricacy of something I heard, or a line from a song stuck in my head, or when I hear a type of music I’ve never heard before.

 

Myself, I’m deep into the scheduling of the festival. Over the past few months, I’ve whittled down hundreds of applications and sent out hundreds of offers. My wish list at the start of this process is seldom the same as the final list of performers because of several factors—fees versus our budget, availability just to name two.

 

Now that the list is done, I’m scheduling the festival I’m figuring out when each act is going to get their performance time. I’m thinking about the combination of performers for each workshop. A songwriter’s circle with Sarah Harmer, Stephen Fearing and Rose Cousins seems like a natural—as does a workshop with the Kubasonics and Polky Village Band. That’s two out of the sixty daytime slots taken care of!

 

Eighty-five days until Summerfolk.

 

You may have noticed I haven’t been saying eighty-five sleeps. There’s a good reason for that. As Summerfolk approaches, sleep time falls off as a square of the distance from today’s date to August 17. But time just keeps on rolling.

 

We’re excited about the program we’ve put together for you, from perennial children’s entertainer, Fred Penner to the incredibly soulful Tanika Charles. From a stilt-walking Maracatu band, Tallbeat, to the fresh sound of The Lifers–from the Welsh trad sensation Calan to the ever so modern Bahamas—musically there will be a lot to delight your ears. A children’s area, our signature wine bar, over 40 artisans, fantastic food–we really can’t wait.

 

But we have to.

 

Eighty-five days until Summerfolk. You can find information and links to tickets, as ever, at summerfolk.org. You’ll find us at Kelso Beach Park 17th, 18th and 19th. We look forward to showing you a good time.

 

Youth Discoveries Finalists

Last Night a couple of hundred people turned out to watch the finals of the Youth Discoveries 2018. It was an amazing evening of music. A big thank you to all the performers in last night’s Youth Discoveries finale.

Congratulations to Willem James Cowan, Emily Gilbart, Folk ‘N Harp, Esther’s Family, and Basset who will be joining us at Summerfolk43. Thanks to our sponsors, Long and McQuade and the Dock 92.3. Thanks also to our judges Kim Trombley, Liz Scott and Steve Dickinson. A big shout out to our MC and wrangler Robb Elder and to the Roxy theatre for hosting us!

Emily Gilbert

Emily Gilbart

Willem James Cowan

Willem James Cowan

Folk and harp

Folk ‘N Harp

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Esther’s family

Basset

Basset

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Youth Discovery Finals and finalists!

After 3 preliminaries, we would like to introduce to you the finalists for this year’s Youth Discoveries. The finals take place Friday, March 23 at 7 PM at the Roxy Theatre in Owen Sound, Ontario. Good luck to all!

 

Sidney Riley
SidneyRiley

Emily Gilbert
Emily GilbertGreg Smith
Greg Smith

Mikalyn Hay
MikaylnHay

Fork and Harp
ForknHarp

Josh Ritter
JoshRitchie

Alyssa Tess
AlyssaTess

Basset
Basset

Ben Heffernan
Ben Heffernan

James Willem Cowan
James Willem Cowan

Kamden Gillespie

Kamden Gillespie

Esther’s Family

Esther'sFamily

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