John Doyle’s gifts as a guitarist, songwriter, vocalist, and producer have played an essential role in the ongoing renaissance of Irish traditional music. Whether as a member of Irish-American supergroup Solas, playing the role of sideman, or taking centre stage as singer-songwriter, John adds a contemporary edge that finds fresh light in even the most well-worn of tunes. We are very excited to have John as one of this year’s Artists in Residence and look forward to the musical depth he will bring to the festival as a singer, songwriter, collaborator and, of course, as a guitar player of extraordinary talent.
One of Ireland’s foremost traditional harpers, Laoise Kelly first learned her music at home in Westport, County Mayo where her parents listened to an eclectic mix of Scott Joplin, The Beatles, Nana Mouskouri, Johnny Cash, Louis Armstrong, De Dannan and lots of classical music. Laoise’s father taught her how to play piano and read music, and she started playing harp at age 12. Laoise was a founder member of the traditional group Bumblebees with whom she recorded two albums and toured extensively. Since then, she has recorded on over 50 albums with many of Ireland’s foremost artists and released two solo albums.
Drawing on the rich musical heritage of the Oriel region, Gerry O’Connor, Nuala Kennedy, and Martin Quinn will be joined by Breton Guitarist Gilles le Bigot to showcase local songs and tunes many of which have been recorded for an album to be released this year. With strong influences from Scotland and Europe, Oriel music has developed as an eclectic mix of rhythms and melodies with strong poetical lyrics to the regional songs.
Six time Grammy winners, The Chieftains are now recognized for bringing traditional Irish music to the world’s attention. They have uncovered the wealth of traditional Irish music accumulated over the centuries, making it their own with a style as exhilarating as it is definitive. Although their early following was purely a folk audience, the range and variation of their music very quickly captured a much broader public, making them the best known Irish band in the world today. The Chieftains played at the first Celtic Colours in 1997 and since they’re on their 50th anniversary tour, we figured it was only right to have them back this year.
Conor and Rory Makem continue the lineage of one of Irish music’s dynasties, begun by their grandmother Sarah Makem, who was sought after by song collectors for her store of traditional Irish songs. Their father is Tommy Makem, the modern day Bard of Armagh. The Spain Brothers also learned Irish songs at their father’s knee. Mickey’s rich, baritone voice and Liam’s mastery of stringed instruments quickly found a home when the Makems met the Spains and the brothers realized the power of their combined talents. With a host of instruments and precise harmonies, the Makem and Spain Brothers honour the legacy of Irish folk songs.
A stunning synthesis of virtuosity and energy, The Outside Track’s marriage of Canadian, Scottish and Irish music and song has been rapturously received around the world. Hailing from Scotland, Ireland, Cape Breton and Vancouver, its five members–Norah Rendell, Mairi Rankin, Lily Neill, Fiona Black, and Cillian O’Dalaigh–are united by a love of traditional music and a commitment to creating new music on its foundation. Using fiddle, accordion, harp, guitar, flute, step-dance and vocals these five virtuosos blend boundless energy with unmistakable joie de vivre.
Fronted by Ireland’s piano accordion maestro, The Alan Kelly Gang has been taking their audiences by storm with music from throughout the Celtic regions and original compositions that stem from a deep traditional sensitivity. Each a highly respected artist, the four members of The Alan Kelly Gang — Alan Kelly (accordion), Maureen Browne (fiddle), Steph Geremia (flute & vocals), Tony Byrne (guitar) — combine their individual virtuosity with unparalleled musicianship and group empathy to produce a sound that pushes the conventional boundaries of traditional music yet remains sympathetic to the past, present and future of it. The Alan Kelly Gang was a big hit at the Festival last year and we’re really excited to see them back.