IRISH traditional music fans should confirm November 7 to 12 in their diaries, as those are the dates for one of the genre’s most popular festivals, Ennis Trad Fest 2018.
“It is our twenty-fifth festival in a row, so it is our Silver Jubilee anniversary and we are going to give everyone a great weekend – the best yet,” commented Blackie O’Connell of the organising committee.
For a quarter of a century, the Co. Clare town has played host to what the organisers describe as “a festival for musicians, run by musicians.” The format has been tweaked over the years but essentially the main ingredients remain the same. A carefully planned blend of the traditional arts, include a number of exciting formal concerts, a free Session Trail throughout the town with upwards of ninety sessions, instrument master classes, a Céili, an array of CD launches, Sean Nós and Set Dancing classes, the ever popular Trad Disco, the Trad 4 Teens programme and a Traditional Music table quiz. The Session Trail is a mainstay of the festival, taking place in the bars and restaurants of Ennis, featuring two hundred and fifty musicians and all are free of charge.
The official launch of Ennis Trad Fest 2018 takes place at The Sanctuary in the Queen’s Hotel, on Thursday November 8th, at 7pm. Directly after that event and at the same venue, there are a pair CD launches. The first is by Galway singer Don Stiff and the second sees banjo player Páraic Mac Donnchadha, launch his new CD. On Friday, there are two further launches in The Templegate Hotel. Beginning at 8pm, Cavan native and fiddle player Grainne Brady unveils her brand new recording and it will be followed at 9pm with a launch by Paddy Tutty and Caoimhín Ó’Fearghail. Saturday’s CD launches kick-off at 2pm at Lucas’ Bar. The first features accordion player Dan Gurney followed by Sylvian Barou and Ronan Pellen, a noted Breton duo. Accordionist Peter Browne launches at 4pm, also at Lucas’. Later that evening at 7pm in The Sanctuary, local balladeer and songwriter Peter Casey champions his debut recording. Belfast based Stevie Dunne will follow Peter with his latest offering. On Sunday, Sean Nós singer from An Rínn in Co. Waterford, Cathrach MacCraith, presents his pristine recording at the Old Ground Hotel at 3pm, followed by the unveiling of a brand new CD by Tommy Fitzharris and Dónal McCauge. Later in the day at 6pm in the Queens Hotel, Clare fiddler Yvonne Casey presents her latest release and the final launch of the festival comes directly after and it features Manchester based, banjo player, Angela Usher.
The organisers have pieced together an impressive array of concerts and the opening gig of the festival, late on Friday night features multi-instrumentalist Mike McGoldrick and his thirteen piece big band. It begins at midnight at the Queen’s Hotel nightclub venue and is part of the Festival Club. “This is going to be a big, big night,” said O’Connell and is of the ‘not to be missed’ variety. Another midnight Festival Club gig takes place at The Auburn Lodge on Saturday and features the effervescent and commanding vocalist and flautist Ríoghnach Connolly, with her band. After that, for those who like to party late, DJ Ollie Mullooly will present his ever popular and Ennis Trad Fest, trademark event, The Trad Disco. The Old Ground Hotel, at 9pm on Sunday, will host a mouth-watering line-up of duo, Nollaig Casey and Arty McGlynn, vocal trio The Voice Squad plus a traditional quartet, that includes fiddler Bríd Harper, box player Darren Breslin, Orflaith McAuliffe on flute and pianist Brian McGrath. The final concert of the festival certainly falls into the ‘keeping the best wine until last’ category and is headlined by internationally renowned fiddle player and Clare man Martin Hayes, in the company of crack guitarist Steve Cooney. This takes place at the Queen’s Nighclub at 9pm on Monday 12th, with the opening act, comprising of Josephine Marsh, Mick Kinsella and Patrick Marsh.