THE GALWAY Sessions festival, a celebration of the music of Ireland, Scotland, and America, and the historical, cultural, and ethnic links between the three nations, returns next month.
The festival, which runs from Monday June 11 to Sunday 17, will be offically launched by Labour city coucnillor Billy Cameron, this evening at 6.30pm, in The Crane Bar, Sea Road.
This year’s festival will feature street dancing, bagpipers, sessions, and of course concerts, with highlights including Curtis Blackwell, lead singer with Bill Monroe’s pioneering bluegrass band; French band Lazik; and Galway band Tradiohead who perform Irish trad reinterpretations of Radiohead songs.
The Sessions have been going from strength to strength, with 2011 seeing record crowds and more than 15,000 attendees - more than half of these were from overseas.
The Crane Bar
The Galway Sessions at The Crane will get off to a Caledonian flavoured start with a Highland fling on Monday 11 at 9pm, featuring musicians from Stirling.
The sessions will also see tin whistle player Noreen O’Sullivan - sister of Frankie and Sean Gavin - launch her album The Quiet House on Saturday 16 at 6.30pm. The Quiet House also features accompaniment from Shamie O’Dowd (guitar ), Richie Lyons (bodhrán ), and Sean and Frankie.
A major highlight will be Curtis Blackwell and his Dixie Bluegrass Boys on Friday 15 at 9.30pm. Curtis was the original singer in Bill Monroe’s bluegrass band, the group often credited with inventing the bluegrass style.
There will be two Sessions gigs at the Róisín Dubh. The Young Folk play Monday 11 at 9pm. Featuring Anthony Furey (of the famous Furey family of musicians ), Paul Butler, Karl Hand, Tony McLoughlin, and Karen Hickey, they perform a folk-pop style of music with passion and enthusiasm.
This will be followed on Friday 15 at 9pm with a show by singer-songwriter Mundy. His most recent album, Shuffle, sees him cover songs by country, folk, and roots songwriters like Gillian Welch, John Prine, Paul Simon, and Lucinda Williams.
The Backstage Bar at Monroe’s Live is the venue for this year’s festival club. Among the highlights here will be a show from Galway piper Cormac Cannon, along with London-Scot fiddler Lamond Gillespie, and London-Irish pianist John Blake on Saturday 16 at 10pm.
Another gig to look forward to is from Galway band Tradiohead - featuring Jimmy McDonnell (vocals ) and composer Philip Fogarty (accordion and bodhrán ), Pat Hargan (guitar ) and Michael Chang (violin, viola and mandolin ) - who play Irish trad reinterpretations of Radiohead classics and hardcore fan favourites. See them on Sunday 17 at 10pm.
The King’s Head
The King’s Head will host a series of 3pm shows throughout the Galway Sessions. Among the highlights will be the Galway International Retro Orchestra on Tuesday 12; FUM on Wednesday 13 featuring Anna Falkenau (Germany ), Lena Ullman (Sweden ) and Ivan Murray (Ireland ) who play Irish trad and American old-time tunes; and harp and fiddle duo Laoise Kelly and Michelle O’Brien on Thursday 14.
French band Lazik, who present an exciting mix of Gypsy and Balkan folk music with Irish trad, will play Kelly’s on Wednesday June 13 at 9pm.
“Our love of suave melodies, crazy rhythms and wild dancing is the core of our sound,” say the band. “Wild dance tunes with Scandinavian power and Bulgarian upbeat mix with Eastern rhythms; French chansons and Breton dances blend with Irish tunes and Greek, Turkish, and Yiddish melodies.”
Street entertainment and dance
The popular pipe band parades will take place in Shop Street daily at 2pm throughout the festival. Shoppers and pedestrians will be able to enjoy on-street performance pipers from the Royal Scottish Academy led by Pipe Major Adam Moore, and Highland dancing from champion dancers Narissa Home and Eileen MacRobert.
Mainguard Street will also become an open air dance hall and ceilí house during the festival with two open air ceilis featuring Ireland’s Tulla Ceili Band (Friday June 15 at 8pm ) and Scotland’s Kinlochard Ceilidh Band (Saturday 16 at 6.30pm ).
Set dancers and ceilí dancers are all welcome, the more the merrier. Even if you do not dance or do not feel you are very good at it, go along anyway. The Kinlochards will guide dancers through the Scottish country and ceilidh dances, Canadian barndances, and Scottish waltzes.
There will also be exhibition dancing from Norway throughout the week with Oslo’s Museum Folk Dancers on Thursday 14 at 3pm at the Galway City Museum and 8pm in Mainguard Street. They will be accompanied by two hardinger fele players. The hardinger fele is a fiddle unique to Scandinavian countries.
The Stirling Sessions
The Galway Sessions sister festival, The Stirling Sessions, starts on June 1 and promises a gala week of concerts, recitals, ceilidhs, sessions, talks, and an exhibition of Jacobite art at the city’s Smith Museum.
Performers at this year’s Stirling Sessions include The Tannahill Weavers, Capercaillie, the Jake Cogan Band, the Kinlochard Ceilidh Band, Griogair Laubhrie, Johnny Connolly, Johnny Óg Connolly, Meataí Jó Shéamuis Ó Fátharta, Cormac and Breanainn Ó Beaglaoich, Anna Falkenau, Ivan Murray, Lena Ullmann, Seán Ryan, Mick Crehan and Paul Moran.