We banjo 3 2019 by tony nelson1 scaled

Lúnasa, Danú on the road in 2020

We Banjo 3 will be on tour in the U.S. from Jan. 10-March 21. PHOTO BY TONY NELSON

By Daniel Neely

First off, thanks to all the folks who have taken time to read the column in 2019– I am enormously grateful! This week, I have a bunch of small things to mention that you will want to check out and keep in mind as you get your bearings for 2020.

To begin, I’m sure there are many out there who want to know when Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann’s 2020 Mid-Atlantic Fleadh will take place, and I’m here to tell you it’ll happen over Mother’s Day weekend, May 8-10. It’s time to really start getting your fleadh tunes together, folks! There’s still a little ways to go before registration opens, so it’ll do you well to visit the fleadh’s webpage at nyfleadh.com and sign up for the mailing list because you’ll get the alert when it does.

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Speaking of dates to remember, last week I spoke with Reidin O’Flynn, the Catskills Irish Arts Week’s director, and she let me know that Arts Week this year will take place July 12-18. It seems she has another stellar staff brewing, but I don’t know who has confirmed so I dare not mention any names. Suffice to say it’ll be a dynamic week with some cool names to look forward to. Check in with catskillsirishartsweek.com from time to time for announcements.

Lots of tours coming up. I know there are a lot of We Banjo 3 fans out there, so be advised that the group will be on tour January 10–March 21, an excursion that will take them through performance centers in New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, Washington, Oregon, Colorado, New Jersey, Maryland, Virginia, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Idaho, and Missouri. On this tour they’ll be working with Backline, a new non-profit that provides support, therapy, mental health and counseling services for musicians and artists. Why not catch them when they’re in your neck of the woods? Find out where they’ll be every step of the way at www.webanjo3.com.

The supergroup Lúnasa, one of the hardest working bands in traditional music, will be out on the road for five weeks, February 22–March 29. The tour will take them all over the U.S., with stops in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Missouri, Kansas, Oregon, Washington, California, Texas, Massachusetts, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Illinois, and Virginia. (The New York gigs happen on March 14 & 15.) Lúnasa’s shows are great, you won’t want to miss them – check out their website lunasa.ie for more information.

Speaking of supergroups, Danú will be out on the road for a few weeks Feb. 27–March 20. They’ll visit Minnesota, Virginia, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Missouri, Kansas, Michigan, and New Jersey. What makes this tour really special is that the group will be celebrating its 25th anniversary. Congrats to Danú – should make for some wonderful shows. Learn more at (www.danu.net).

If it’s vocal music you’re looking for, keep your eyes peeled for the great Ye Vagabonds (yevagabonds.com) on tour in February, visiting New York (Irish Arts Center, anyone?), Washington DC, Milwaukee, and Massachusetts. Ye Vagabonds are darlings of the Dublin ballad scene, and they’ll be doing some of these gigs with one of my favorite groups, the Murphy Beds (murphybedsmusic.com). Seeing these two together would make for a fabulous evening of music for sure, so make sure to catch them if you can!

Speaking of folks from Dublin’s very vibrant ballad scene, Ian Lynch, singer and uilleann pipes player from the sensational band Lankum, has a new radio show called “Fire Draw Near,” on Dublin Digital Radio (listen.dublindigitalradio.com). Lynch has an interesting academic background – he studied folklore at UCD and worked in their National Folklore Collection as well as at Na Píobairí Eileen – and brings a bit of that energy to his show. In putting together his playlist, he digs deep to find the unusual and offbeat in traditional music and isn’t one bit concerned with rough edges or messing around with received the notion of “traditional” in making connections between things – it all makes for a great show. The first episode premiered on Dec. 16 and he’ll have new episodes once every four weeks, so do keep an ear open.

And finally, speaking of archival work, I recently became aware of a piece Niall Vallely composed called “78 Revolutions.” Commissioned by the Dún Laoghaire Rathdown Council, it is (according to the press release) “an experimental piece of music exploring the interaction between live musicians and pre-recorded material; contemporary music and traditional music; modern technology and century-old technology; Irish musicians in 2018 and Irish musicians in 1918” that “celebrates the circular nature of traditional music, turning back on itself while moving inexorably forward.”


The hour-long work was first presented late last year, but it was only recently that a 9-minute gloss of its constituent elements was posted to YouTube, and in turn, to Facebook. It explores technological interventions, like early cylinder recordings, 78rpm records from the 20s (with a special emphasis on Michael Coleman), céilí bands, the role of the radio, and the more recent use of media like cassettes in passing along material. The live musicians Vallely included in this exploration of “the relationship Irish traditional music and musicians have had with technology” were a particularly interesting bunch and included Zoe Conway (fiddle), Mick O’Brien (uilleann pipes), Mick McAuley (accordion), Kate Ellis (cello) and Caoimhín Vallely (piano). With so much ground covered, the piece is wonderful food for thought and discussion, especially because it looked to shed light and really ask questions about how traditional music is passed along. Learn more about Vallely’s work at niallvallely.com.

That’s it for now! I hope you’re all enjoying a happy and festive Christmas week and have a great new year to look forward to! See you in 2020!

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