Irish Music and Dance London have announced the programme of their 25th annual festival of traditional Irish music, song and dance, with a programme of the usual concerts, album launches sessions, ceilis and masterclass workshops.
The 2023 festival, which was formerly known as Return to Camden Town, runs from Friday 27_ Monday 30 October 2023 and will see events held at venues in and around Cricklewood.
The programme includes Noel Hill and Brian McGrath, The London Lasses who have also just marked 25 years, The Trad Gathering, Mairéad and Deirdre Hurley with John Blake, Pádraic Keane, Páraic MacDonnchadha, MacDara Ó Faoláin, Tara Viscardi and Robert Harvey, John Carty and Michael McGoldrick, The London Irish Pensioners Choir and many more.
Noel Hill and Brian McGrath
Noel Hill has played professionally since the late 1970s. His critically acclaimed album’s include Noel Hill and Tony Linane (1979), Í gCnoc Na Graí (1985), with celebrated accordionist Tony MacMahon, The Irish Concertina One (1988), Aislingí Céoil (1993), with Tony MacMahon and Iarla Ó Lionáird and The Irish Concertina Two (2005).
Noel has played throughout Europe, the USA, Canada, China, Hong Kong and Australia.
Brian McGrath’s early professional work was with Dervish and Four Men And A Dog. He went on to work with Noel Hill, Paul Brock and Frankie Gavin, the Seán Keane Band and De Dannan. He now plays with At The Racket and is much sought after as a session musician on piano, banjo and mandolin. Brian has toured extensively, done much TV and media work, and recorded on over 300 albums to date.
The London Lasses
The London Lasses recently released their 25th anniversary album, LL25. This is their 6th album, featuring all new material and including both past and present band members (16 musicians in total). The recording celebrates the band’s musical journey over the past quarter-century and showcases the powerfully traditional signature sound which they’ve become known for.
Since first getting together for an informal tour of the US in 1997, The London Lasses have performed at some of the biggest festivals and venues in the world including the Royal Albert Hall in London at the BBC Proms, Cambridge Folk Festival, Dublin City Hall, the Concertgebouw, Philadelphia Irish Festival and Glastonbury.
The Trad Gathering
IMDL’s London-wide youth project The Trad Gathering features 30 young traditional Irish musicians led by Karen Ryan and Pete Quinn. Members of the group will perform tunes from the repertoire of the legendary London Irish banjo player, Mick O’Connor. An icon of the traditional Irish music scene in London since the 1970s, Mick often played music here in The Crown down the years.
The group have performed on stages including: the Royal Albert Hall, Royal Festival Hall, Kings Place, Cadogan Hall, Mayor of London’s St Patrick’s Day Festival (Trafalgar Square stage) and more.
Mairéad and Deirdre Hurley with John Blake
Sisters Mairéad and Deirdre Hurley grew up in a musical household in Ballymote, Co. Sligo, immersed in the music of their locality from a young age. Mairéad has performed on stages and taught concertina in Ireland, the UK, across Europe, North America, Australia and New Zealand. In 2016, Mairéad, John Blake and Nathan Gourley released a trio album entitled The Truckley Howl.
Flautist and singer Deirdre has also performed extensively at home and abroad, including appearances in Áras an Uachtaráin, Liberty Hall, and further afield in Switzerland, Lithuania and Slovakia. She appears on The Thursday Sessions album released by The Cobblestone Pub. She has been a featured artist at Cruinniu na bhFlúit, NPU’s Session with the Pipers, as well as at the Frank Harte and Sean-Nós Cois Life singing festivals.
Born into a great musical family, Uilleann piper Pádraic Keane hails from Maree, Co. Galway. A tutor at many music festivals in Ireland and abroad, in 2011 he was awarded TG4 Young Musician of the Year Award. He has toured America as a soloist with The Irish Chamber Orchestra and has collaborated with Mícheál Ó Súilleabháin, RTÉ Concert and RTÉ Symphony Orchestras.
The son of renowned Connemara sean nós singer, Seán Mac Donnchada, banjo player Páraic was born in Ahascra, Galway. Páraic played alongside fellow East Galway musicians, Paddy Carty (flute), Conor Tully (fiddle) and Frank Hogan (bouzouki) for many years and acknowledges Paddy Fahey, Paddy Carty and Conor Tully as the principal influences on his style.
MacDara Ó Faoláin
MacDara Ó Faoláin is a multi-instrumentalist and instrument maker from An Rinn, County
Waterford. On his main instrument, bouzouki, he has performed and recorded with some of
the best musicians in Irish Traditional Music including Páraic MacDonnchadha, Derek Hickey,
The Friel Sisters, Caoimhín and Seán Ó Fearghail, Victoria Pierce and Nell Ní Chróinín.
Tara Viscardi and Robert Harvey
Hailing from the Beara Peninsula in the South-West of Ireland, Tara Viscardi is an Irish
traditional/folk, baroque and classical harpist. Tara has performed and recorded in venues including Wigmore Hall and Abbey Road Studios in London as well as the National Concert Hall, Áras an Uachtaráin and the Mansion House in Dublin.
Robert Harvey is a highly regarded flautist from Mountrath, Co. Laois. In 2020, Robert released his critically acclaimed solo flute album Feochán. He has toured internationally with Dónal Lunny’s band Cíorras, the Traditional Arts Collective, The Katerina Garcia Band and The National Folk Orchestra of Ireland. Robert’s first book, Feadail, exploring the whistling tradition in Ireland will be published in 2023 by Comhaltas Ceoltoiri Éireann.
Robert and Tara’s new BEARA project features music collected and composed on the Beara Peninsula alongside contemporary compositions inspired by the area.
John Carty and Michael McGoldrick
John Carty was awarded the TG4 Gradam Ceoil Traditional Music of the Year in 2003. He has released several solo albums on fiddle and banjo and has recorded a number of duet albums including two with flute-player Matt Molloy, one with fiddle-player Brian Rooney, Settle Out of Court with his daughter, the singer and banjo player Maggie Carty and most recently The Wavy Bow Collection with his son, fiddle player James Carty.
John has been joined in this musical exploration by accomplished piper, Michael McGoldrick. A co-founder of Flook and Lúnasa, and a linchpin of Capercaillie’s line-up since 1998. Manchester-born flute/whistle and uilleann pipes maestro, Michael has performed around the globe in ex-Dire Straits legend Mark Knopfler’s band.
Saileog Ní Cheannabháin and Pádraic Keane
Saileog Ní Cheannabháin is a musician, sean nós singer and composer, who has released two albums to date, I bhfíor-dheiriú oidche (2012) and Rothleán (2016), features on other albums including: Ensemble Ériu (2011), Tunes in the Church (2013), Rogha Raelach Volume 1 (2020), and Úna Monathan’s Aonaracht (2023).
Harry Bradley, James Carty and Libby McCrohan
Harry Bradley is a flute player and piper from Belfast and one of the most influential musicians of his generation. In 2014 he received the Gradam Ceoil TG4 Musician of the Year award for his contribution to traditional music.
Originally from Boyle, fiddle player James Carty now lives in London where he performs regularly. He recorded his first solo CD Hiding Daylight in Dark Corners in 2017 followed by a duet album The Wavy Bow Collection in 2020 with his father, John.
James and Harry played regularly together in sessions in Roscommon when they both lived in the area and recorded some duet tracks on Harry’s solo CD The First of May in 2013. Inspired by flute and fiddle greats of Sligo such as Fred Finn and Peter Horan, they also recently performed in Brittany.
Libby McCrohan has performed all over Ireland and abroad and has featured on two albums to date – Heard a Long Gone Song by Lisa O’Neill (2018) and Not Before Time… 39 Years in the Making by Páraic Mac Donnchadha (2018).
Awarded with the prestigious Gradam Ceoil TG4 Young Musician of the Year 2021, Sorcha Costello is a traditional Irish fiddle player from Tulla Co. Clare who hails from a family immersed in traditional Irish music. From a young age, Sorcha has enjoyed performing nationally and internationally.
Released in June 2023, Sorcha Costello’s debut solo fiddle album The Primrose Lass is deeply rooted in the East Clare style, yet contains all her other musical influences from around the world. Sorcha will be launching her solo album at the Festival with highly sought after accompanist, John Blake, who plays guitar on the recording.
Seán Gavin, the eldest of the famous Gavin musical family, is a senior All Ireland champion on the button accordion and has toured extensively. He has performed on TV and radio and has recorded the screen music for the hit TV series ‘The Irish RM’. In 2011 he received a Gradam an Chomhaltas medallion.
London’s own Mick O’Connor, an All Ireland winner on the tenor banjo in 1971, has been playing since 1967 and is a veteran of the great days of the London Irish music scene of the 1960s, 70s and 80s. In 2013, he was honoured by Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann, which bestowed its Bardic Award on him for his ‘exceptional contribution to the promotion of Ireland’s cultural traditions’.
The London Irish Pensioners Choir
The London Irish Pensioners Choir brings together more than 30 older Irish people, most in their 70s and 80s. They come from all over Ireland and have made their homes here in London over many decades. The choir was founded over 10 years ago. Although an independent group, it has been supported by the Irish Elderly Advice Network throughout this time.
The choir has performed for audiences of tens of thousands including at London’s St Patrick’s Day celebrations in Trafalgar Square for several years, and as part of the Irish community choir in the Royal Albert Hall in honour of President Michael D Higgin’s state visit to Britain in 2014. They have sung on UK television, including for Sir Terry Wogan on ITV and on the BBC’s The One Show.
Festival founder and director Karen Ryan says: “This year we’ve brought together a fantastic programme of wonderful traditional Irish culture – with 22 artists visiting from across 14 counties in Ireland as well as great London-based musicians. The line-up of concerts and album launches holds a cornucopia of talented artists, many of whom will also be teaching workshops and leading sessions over the weekend. We are looking forward to welcoming children to our Céilí Dancing and Singing workshops. We are also very excited about a new addition to the programme – our Traditional Irish Music Quiz with Mick Mulvey. We are very much looking forward to welcoming you to Cricklewood – hope you have a fantastic weekend!”
Full programme for Return to London Festival 2023
Friday 27th October 2023
7.30pm – Evening Concert: Noel Hill and Brian McGrath/ The London Lasses/ The Trad Gathering
Saturday 28th October 2023
11am-1pm: Instrumental Workshops
Flute: Michael McGoldrick
Fiddle: Sorcha Costello
Banjo: Bernie Conneely
Tin Whistle: Brogan McAuliffe
Concertina: Noel Hill
Accordion: Seán Gavin
Harp: Tara Viscardi
Sean Nós Singing: Saileóg Ní Cheannabháin
2-4pm: Piano accompaniment Workshop: Brian McGrath
1.30-2.30pm: Children’s Ceili Dancing Workshop: Anne Drury
2pm – Afternoon Concert: / Mairéad and Deirdre Hurley with John Blake/ Pádraic Keane, Páraic MacDonnchadha and MacDara Ó Faoiláin/ Tara Viscardi and Robert Harvey
3pm: Tutor Led Session: Sorcha Costello, Noel Hill, Peter McAlinden (free)
4-7pm: Set Dancing Céilí: The Parish Céilí Band, with host: Tom Kelleher
6pm: Singing Session: Pat Connolly (free)
7.30pm: Evening Concert: John Carty, Michael McGoldrick, Matt Griffin, Michael McCague/ Saileóg Ní Cheannabháin and Pádraic Keane/ Harry Bradley, James Carty and Libby McCrohan
Sunday 29th October 2023
11am-1pm: Instrumental Workshops
Flute: Harry Bradley
Fiddle: John Carty
Uilleann Pipes: Pádraic Keane
Concertina: Mairéad Hurley
Banjo: Páraic MacDonnchadha
Tin Whistle: Peter McAlinden
Accompaniment: MacDara Ó Faoiláin
2-4pm: Piano Accompaniment Workshop: Brian McGrath (Pls. BYO keyboard if you can)
2-4pm: Children’s Singing Workshop: Chan Reid (2-3pm: aged 6-11, 3-4pm: aged 12-18)
2-5pm: Set Dancing Cèilí: The Parish Céilí Band with host: Tom Kelleher
3pm: Tutor Led Session: Mairéad and Deirdre Hurley, Peter McAlinden (free)
5pm: Singing Session: Chan Reid (free)
5pm: Quiz: Mick Mulvey (free tickets available via Eventbrite)
7pm: Album Launch Event: Sorcha Costello and John Blake/ Pádraic Keane, Páraic MacDonnchadha and MacDara Ó Faoiláin/ Seán Gavin (free)
8pm: Cèilí For All (with McCool Trad – confirmed), calling by William Macken
Monday 30th October 2023
2pm: Afternoon Concert: Mary MacNamara, Sorcha Costello and Pete Quinn/ Seán Gavin, Mick O’Connor and Peter McAlinden/ London Irish Pensioner’s Choir