Banjo Burke Festival 2012
Looking forward to the Columbus Day holiday weekend October 5-7 as it is time once again for the Banjo Burke Festival 2012 ( held in memory of the colorful Kilkenny balladeer and banjo player who passed away in 2003.

Organized by his widow Bridget Burke and her family, it sets an ambitious agenda to attract Irish trad music fans back to East Durham over the fall weekend. 

The talent lineup features the cream of the local New York crop where you will find Brian and Rose Conway, Linda Hickman, John Nolan, Margie Mulvihill and John Reynolds, John Whelan, Felix Dolan, Dylan Foley, Dan Gurney, Erin Loughran, Heather Bixler and Brendan Fahey, who will provide the bulk of the music for workshops, sessions, ceilithe and concerts.

Also appearing are Aine Meenaghan (from Galway by way of Chicago), one of the finest authentic Conamara sean nos singers in this country, the Jameson Sisters (Terry Kane and Ellen Tepper) from Philadelphia who will lead a Christmas carols workshop, and Pat Kane along with Ron and Marie Newman holding down the dancing classes in ceili and set dancing respectively.

Workshops take place both Saturday and Sunday in morning and afternoon timeframes, with a variety of offerings with venues determined by registration and availability. Best to book in advance to find out.

On Saturday this year is a new addition in Fiddle Contest for three age brackets (under-14, 14-18, over-18) with wonderful cash prizes for the winners.

Saturday also features concerts on Saturday afternoon (3:15-5:15 p.m.) and again from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.) in the Oak Hill Theatre atop the Yellow Deli on Route 81.

Music sessions will begin on Friday at McGraths, where weekend registration and information will be obtainable and continue on Saturdays and Sundays at the Yellow Deli and Shamrock house. You’ll have to check the website for more up to date information and be ready to deal with changes on the fly.

Though not part of the festival itself, the Michael J. Quill Irish Cultural and Sports Centre in East Durham has organized a special night honoring Mike McHale, the Catskills flute and whistle player who has been a guiding light for traditional musicians in upstate New York for decades.

Originally from Tulsk, Co. Roscommon, Mike has been a formidable building block for Irish traditional music in the Catskills and Albany area for two decades and a primary source for tunes and style and tempo and for many ceilithe in the area particularly at the Shamrock House.

The evening is a fundraiser for the Catskills Irish Arts Week and the Andy McGann Festival which McHale has participated in for the past 21 years.  There will be a concert starting at 8 p.m. on Sunday, October 7 followed by an open session with dancing and the donation is $20. Contact Donal Gallagher at Guaranteed Irish (518-634-2392) or the Quill Centre at 518-634-2286.

Also Friday, October 12, McHale and Monsignor Charlie Coen will be the musical guests at the Blarney Star Glucksman Ireland House Concert in Manhattan starting at 9 p.m.