Songfest brings top singers to town

Eddi Reader
Eddi Reader

Songfest, a major celebration of traditional song from Ireland, England, Scotland and Wales, will be held in Derry and Letterkenny next week, from Tuesday July 16th to Sunday 21st.

A brilliant programme featuring a ‘Who’s Who’ of traditional singers will include three jam-packed days of free talks and music - at Cultúrlann Uí Chanáin, Derry on Thursday 18th and Friday 19th July and at the Regional Cultural Centre (RCC), Letterkenny, on Saturday 20th July - as well as a series of ticketed concerts in Letterkenny.

Songfest is organised by the Regional Cultural Centre in Letterkenny to coincide with the 25th Earagail Arts Festival and Derry’s year as City of Culture 2013. It is funded through the EU Programme for Peace and Reconciliation managed for SEUPB by Donegal County Council. All conference events and lunchtime concerts at Cultúrlann and the RCC are free of charge but registration for each event is essential by telephoning +353 (0) 749120777 or in person at An Grianán Theatre, Letterkenny.

Ticketed concerts are priced individually and can be booked through An Grianán Theatre or

The free Songfest Conference at Cultúrlann Derry next Thursday 18th July runs from 11am to 5pm and is chaired by the well-known Derry singer and broadcaster Brian Mullen. The opening talk by the new star of English folk Sam Lee on ”Traveller Song” will be followed by the Derry launch of The Inishowen Song Project, introduced by Nicholas Carolan, Director of the Irish Traditional Music Archive in Dublin. The lunchtime concert at 12.30pm features Inishowen-based musicians Tom Byrne on accordion and Michael Gallanagh and guests.

The afternoon starts with a specially-commissioned Songfest talk and performance by Grace Toland, an organiser with the Inishowen Traditional Singers’ Circle and librarian of the Irish Traditional Music Archive on “Nationalist Song in Ireland, England, Scotland and Wales”. It is followed by a presentation by Brian Ó hEadhra, Gaelic Arts & Culture Officer with Bòrd na Gàidhlig and Creative Scotland, titled “An tSean Nós san Nós Úr / The Old Style in the New Style”. The afternoon ends with Jimmy McBride, founding member of the Inishowen Traditional Singers’ Circle, and the renowned Belfast traditional singer and song collector Maurice Leyden, in “Conversations on Ulster Song” with Brian Mullen.

The Songfest continues on Friday from 11am to 5pm. The day starts with chair Lillis Ó Laoire in conversation with four of the finest female vocalists from these islands - Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh (Ireland), Eddi Reader (Scotland) Jackie Oates (England) and Julie Murphy (Wales). The lunchtime concert at 12.30pm features Mairéad, Eddi, Jackie and Julie with musiciansMartin McGinley, Tom Byrne and Michael Gallanagh. Ceri Rhys Mathews and Tom Sherlock feature in the afternoon.

See more at cian and founding member of Welsh group Fernhill and his “Rambles Through Tunes” performance. It is followed by a specially commissioned Songfest talk and performance by the Donegal sean nos singer Máire Ní Choilm on “Women in Traditional Song in Ireland” featuring Nellie Mhic Giolla Bhríde, her daughter Marina and her six year old grand daughter Sorcha. The final presentation of the day is by traditional music promoter Tom Sherlock who programmed last year’s wonderful NAFCo event in Derry and Donegal. Tom is co-editor of “The Otherworld: Music and Song from Irish Tradition”, and will give a presentation on “Supernatural and Otherworldly Belief in Traditional Song”.