We were there when the gates opened, and went first to the Theatre Pavilion to see the Armagh Rhymers. The Rhymers are one of the most unusual groups we have seen at Irish Fest. The troupe of five men and women performed a ceremony/celebration/ritual that involved song, music, movement, poetry, and declamation, much of it while wearing wicker animal heads. The performance comes from an ancient "mummers" tradition, which includes that the performers' costumes should in part be of sackcloth, indicative of poverty and humility. We speculated that in times past, these were the things that would be done at festival times, either by travelling troupes or local players. (Indeed, I proposed that storytelling with gestures probably goes back to "caveman" times--.) It was all very interesting and different, and we were glad to have seen it.
After the Armagh Rhymers, we caught a bit of the set by Tallymoore, before going over and getting seats at The Snug for Frogwater. Frogwater are sentimental favorites of ours, and they played a very nice set. We will be watching for their new CD coming out this fall.
After Frogwater, we went and got our main meal of the day, a bridie, sausage roll, and fries from Winston's. These were some of the best we've had in a number of years, fresh, hot, and not overcooked. We decided that getting them earlier in the day was probably a good plan and we need to remember that for the future.
The next major performance we went to was that of Alasdair Fraser, the famous Scots fiddler. Fraser has the most beautiful, mellow fiddle sound I have ever experienced. He is a true master, but puts on a very down to earth and unaffected show.
We caught part of the Kincora Traditional Music Group set. They, like a number of other groups, were part of the tribute to Irish King Brian Boru that was a special program this year, and performed "Brian Boru's March," and other pieces related to the famous leader.
Next, we went to the Harp Tent, for Kim Robertson's set. Robertson is another perennial favorite of ours, and as usual, had some things that were new and interesting to share.
After 5:00PM, we stopped back to the Theater Pavilion, where In Tandem Theater was performing "A Tribute to Seamus Heaney", and listened as they read from Sweeney Astray, Heaney's first published translation (Buile Shuibhne<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/buile_shuibhne>).
We finished our day by attending Carlos Nunez' set, which was, as last year, exhilarating and a lot of fun, but much like last year's performance. Nunez has his mission of establishing the world-wide influence of Celtic music, well and good, but I would have preferred that he spend more time on Galician music, which we don't hear much of. Also, it's nice that he includes members of other groups, as well as the audience, in his performance, but these "crowd scenes" go on way longer than a normal number, so it seems that half his set is taken up with two songs, which is a bit disappointing.
As is our wont, we bailed out before things got too late (or too loud), taking with us a box of "Mother Machree's Irish Strudel."
All in all, this was one of the best Irish Fests we've had in recent memory, and kudos to the organizers, talent bookers, and the performers, all of whom seem to be having a wonderful time and wanting you to share it.
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