Temple Bar Trad Festival for The Gathering was a huge treat

O’Connell has made a career of not trying to be typecast, and as she told the audience when asked what kind of singer she is she said, “A good one who sings good songs.”

She wouldn’t be far wrong because her body of work has ranged from Irish ballads to more contemporary Americana and Irish fare that reflect her 30 years of living in Nashville, where she moved to from Ennis. 

She held the Dublin crowd in the palm of her hands for her entire set which included unaccompanied songs from her latest CD Naked, which was nominated for a Grammy Award a few years ago.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t make it over to St. Werburgh’s to see an updated version of Sean O’Riada’s Mass that included Zoe Conway and Iarla O’Lionaid, who as a young man knew O’Riada in the West Cork Gaelthact who also performed that night in the church.

On Friday evening the diasporan theme was well-served by the Pride Of New York Band comprising of Joanie Madden, Brian Conway, Billy McComiskey and Brendan Dolan at City Hall, who later linked up with a number of attending musician friends back at Blooms Hotel VAT pub on Anglesea Street in Temple Bar.

I detoured first to the Merchant Arch Pub upstairs room to see the venerable singer Sean O’Se, who also had the O’Riada connection, lead a singing session that wasn’t well attended and also disrupted by the overbearing intrusion of sound from the downstairs entertainment.

It was the first reminder that the weekend would be shared with the usual inundation of the quarter by folks who had no interest in the discerning offerings of the Temple Bar Trad Festival.

Saturday and Sunday brought a plethora of additional free and paid programming appealing to many weekend visitors to the area, though the blustery cold winds on Sunday discouraged too many folks from enjoying the outdoor stages.

This year saw another new venue enter the TBTF venue stable with the addition of the magnificent St. Patrick’s Cathedral a healthy walk beyond the Temple Bar area which would host Sharon Shannon on Friday and Saturday nights.  Celebrating 21 years as a performing act, the diminutive accordion player with a large international reputation also had a family reunion with her brother Garry and sisters Mary and Majella joining her in concert.

Thankfully the proximity of St. Werburgh’s and Christchurch Cathedral allowed me to enjoy two acts on Saturday night that were high on my card for the week. I started with seeing T-With the Maggies (Mairead ni Mhaonaigh, Mairead and Trina Ni Dhomnaill and Moya Brennan) perform their exquisite harmonic act just a few years after the group’s performance debut at the TBTF. The sound and performance was terrific and outshadowed by far seeing them at an outdoor festival last summer in the U.S.

Then I ambled over to Christchurch to catch the Dublin premiere of composer Michael Rooney’s The De Cuellar Suite, dramatically performed by over 60 Sligo and Spanish musicians and dancers symbolically remembering the plight of the Spanish Armada and in particular Captain De Cuellar. 

Comprised of 11 movements based in Irish, Scottish and Galician music originally debuted in Sligo back in 2011, the impact of the performance was powerful to say the least. 

Since most of the musicians were part of the Ceol na nOg Sligeach orchestra up for the performance with their parents and staying at Jury’s Hotel, there was an extra celebratory mood that night as it was announced that Sligo Town had won the bid to host Fleadh Cheoil na hEireann in 2014 earlier that day by Comhaltas Ceoltoiri Eireann.  

The De Cuellar Suite presentation was just one of the examples of the innovative nature of the Temple Bar Festival and also the Arts Council of Ireland which not only sponsored the appearance at the TBTF, but also the companion publication with the music score and CD of Rooney’s magnificent opus making it the highlight of his still promising career.

More information can be found at www.draoicht.com including order information for this crowning achievement. 

Also of note was the closing show of the 2013 TBTF with a very intense collection of songs from Declan O’Rourke dealing with the grim poverty and deprivation of the Irish Famine and its aftermath before an audience at St. Werburgh’s that may make its way to a recording in the near future.

A dazzling array of carefully chosen entertainment made this a memorable visit to the Temple Bar Trad Festival and one which I look forward to experiencing again at some point in the future. Visit templebartrad.com for more details.

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