The new era of peace in Ireland will be heralded in loudly and proudly at this year’s 60th All-Ireland Fleadh in Cavan town, where top trad music performers from around the world will be entertaining the crowds throughout the week on a special outdoor stage sponsored by the Peace III funding programme.
With its border proximity, Cavan is ideally placed to extend the hand of friendship across all historical divides as it prepares to welcome well over 200,000 visitors to Fleadh 2010 — and the European peace programme is helping the town to do exactly that, as it supports an exciting line-up of outdoor performances featuring a host of international acts, culminating with Ireland’s own queen of the accordion, Sharon Shannon.
The hands-across-borders idea is yet another innovation being introduced by Cavan to the All-Ireland Fleadh, and it will see a prominent, state-of-the-art outdoor stage — the Peace III Gig Rig — providing free, all-day entertainment throughout the Fleadh at the Egg Market, just off one of the town’s main thoroughfares.
For five days on the trot, thousands of Fleadh goers will be treated to shows by bands and musicians from a multitude of cultural backgrounds, topped off with what’s sure to be a lightening hot show from Sharon Shannon, who is one of the top ambassadors for Irish music on a global stage.
Funded to the tune of €20,000 by the European Peace III Programme, the Gig Rig will see to it that the very air in Cavan is alive with music, song and dance from many traditions, right through from Wednesday 18th August to Sunday 22nd.
Integral to that will be the linking up of this island’s own two great traditions, as Comhaltas Ceoltóiri Éireann’s flagship festival seeks to build bridges and break down any barriers that had been erected in the past.
Indeed, those were the very sentiments of Senator Labhrás Ó Murchú, the Director General of Comhaltas, as he underlined idea of a shared musical heritage, a theme that will be at the heart of the Fleadh.
A UNIVERSAL LANGUAGE
“I’ve always seen music as a universal language. It’s the music that built bridges for us throughout the difficult times in the North of Ireland,” was how Senator Ó Murchú put it at the recent media launch of Fleadh 2010. “The music belongs to all the traditions on this island,” he added.
Looking forward to the big event itself, which takes place from 16th–22nd August, the Ardstiúrthóir predicted that it would bring people of all age groups, classes, and political persuasions together for what would be a great celebration of the “rich cultural traditions of Ireland”.
With the peace process firmly embedded in Northern Ireland, and former enemies now working hand in hand for the good of all, Fleadh 2010 is seeking to enthusiastically embrace the new era.
As the name suggests, the Gig Rig will reflect the cross-community aspirations of the peace programme And the focus on celebrating shared traditions will go global on the Peace III stage on Thursday 19th, when Italian band WilloS’ headline a World Music Night.
Cavan Co Manager Jack Keyes, who is also the chairperson of Fleadh 2010, summed it up at the recent media launch in Dublin when he noted that Cavan’s location as a border county was important in terms of its hope to use the music “in a structured way, to try and create further unity between our peoples”.
GIG RIG PROGRAMME
The Peace III shows get going at 2pm on Wednesday 18th when ‘Folk from Orkney’, made up of singer Ingirid Jolly, fiddle player Laura Lockyer, and multi-instrumentalist Owen Tierney will have the honour of being the first act of many throughout the week.
From that point on, the big open air stage will be alive with performances, more or less at all times, right up until the Senior Céilí Band winners and a fireworks display rounds it off on the Sunday night.
In between, the crowds will have enjoyed acts from near and far and from backgrounds as varying as can be. Keeping the pot boiling on Wednesday will be dancing schools from Co Cavan, the NYAH Cross-Border Cross-Community Traditional Band, the Hayworth Arts Group — including UK folk singer Maggie Boyle, who teams up with home-for-the-Fleadh guitarist Paul Jermyn for a set of songs — and the superb band WilloS’ from Italy.
Thursday’s “World Music Day” will culminate in a three-hour show, headlined again by the hi-energy Italian five-piece, and featuring top acts like Rí Ra from the Czech Republic, masterful traditional fiddler Marco Fabbri from Italy, the above mentioned Folk From Orkney, the USA’s harmonica wizard Don Meade, and the Swiss four-person combo known as Nustalgic Folk.
Also featuring on both days and in other Gig Rig spots during the week will be the ‘NYAH Cross-Border Cross-Community Traditional Band Co Cavan,’ which promises to have a great interaction with the crowds and boasts a great line-up of guests including Seana Agnew from Antrim (fife and flute), multi-instrumentalists Tim and Lucy Moon of the UK’s Haworth Arts Group, Cathal Lynch, a great traditional singer from Tyrone, UK fiddler Mary Keady, mouth organ man Don Meade from the States and flute maestro Eugene Teevan from the UK.
Irish dancing schools from Co Cavan will be strutting their stuff on stage throughout the Wednesday and Thursday and on into the weekend. Starting at 12 noon, Thursday’s show will also see Cavan stalwarts Antóin Mac Gabhann (fiddle) and Seamus Fay (lilting and songs) on stage, along with acts like the St Louis CCE band from USA, and the king of the flute himself, Fermanagh man Laurence Nugent, who returns from Chicago to take the Peace III stage at about 4.30pm.
The party atmosphere will reach a high point when the Street Pageant arrives at the Gig Rig, signalling the start of a show from the Peace III dance group ‘Doors of Life Under One Umbrella’, who swing into motion at around seven bells. Plenty to get the masses ready for the World Music Night Concert from 8pm-11pm!
The Peace III Gig Rig will continue to be a Fleadh focal point throughout the weekend, with performances on Friday, Saturday and Sunday starting from midday or before. The great fiddler Tommy Peoples will be in action at 3.30pm on Friday, after warm-up shows from the NYAH cross-border, cross-community Traditional Band (with many of the special guests listed above) and more toe tapping from the Co Cavan Irish Dancing Schools.
At about 6 o’clock Cavan Town CCE will set the scene for the big ‘Official Welcome & Canaimis Let’s Sing’, featuring the legendary Seán Ó Sé, Ard Ollamh of Fleadh 2010 from 7pm–8pm. If that doesn’t let everyone know there’s something happening in town, lively sets from Ceol Coolroe CCE, the Farrelly School of Dancing and more will leave nobody in doubt. The evening finishes with great tunes from another great Cavan box player as Donal Reilly and the Hand Me Down the Tackle band keep the show on the road till 11pm.
The Peace III Gig Rig will be alive for over 12 hours on Saturday, starting off with Nustalgic Folk from Switzerland at 11am, and featuring a whole host of acts including WilloS’ from Italy and the great Dublin-based singer and bouzouki player Daoirí Farrell and his band, who plays for an hour in the afternoon and headlines later on, from 10.15pm – 11.30pm.
RTÉ’s Céilí House, with the irrepressible Kieran Hanrahan at the helm, will be making a live broadcast from the Gig Rig from 9pm – 10pm on Saturday, while a new book and CD, ‘Cuimhneachán Ceoil’ from Dublin fiddle player Pat O’Connor will have been launched on stage at 6pm.
SHARON SHANNON SHOW
Sunday 22nd will bring with it high point of the Gig Rig shows, when Sharon Shannon’s Acoustic 4-Piece Band hit the stage at 9 o’clock — for a two-hour performance that would raise the roof if there was one! The band is made up Sharon herself on the accordion, with plenty support from guitarist Jim Murray, fiddler Dezi Donnelly and the unmatched banjo man Gerry O’Connor — all ace musicians at the very top of their game.
Other great performers will have kept the show on the road throughout the day, including the Dave Sheridan Leitrim Trio, led by the red hot Dave on flute, the Dartry Céilí Band from Sligo, and harpist Laoise Kelly, playing a duet with uilleann pipes genius Tiarnán Ó Duinnchinn.
The Marching Band Exhibition and Performance will also be held in front of the Gig Rig at about 5pm in what should be another great spectacle of colour and pageant. Apologies to the bands, but big as the rig is, they just couldn’t fit on the stage itself!
As the Gig Rig prepares to wind up on Sunday night, a long list of talented performers from many countries and backgrounds will have walked its boards, leading up to what will be a fabulous show by Sharon Shannon.
But the night will still be young, even when Sharon’s band leave the stage at 11pm, as two veterans of the music, Ard Ollamh Seán Ó Sé and Fleadh 2010 President Seamus Fay get set to perform some songs and lilts with the help of Fintan McManus on guitar and Cavan’s own Martin Donohoe on the box. Joining in will be the Peace III Dance Group, ‘Doors of Life Under One Umbrella’
The winners of the Senior Céilí Band competition will no doubt be in celebratory mood when they finish the night off with some tunes, as the fireworks display closes a great week’s live music without borders on the Peace III Gig Rig in Cavan.