THE annual Masters of Tradition music festival returns this summer - and it is celebrating its 21st anniversary.
A host of iconic Irish musicians are signed up for the event, which takes place from August 23-27 in Bantry, west Cork.
As ever, the festival is headlined by Artistic Director Martin Hayes, the fiddler from East Clare, whose distinctive touch and extravagant virtuosity has brought the tradition to new levels.
“This year’s festival will take us to the core of the music,” Hayes said.
“We will also encounter many emerging ideas within the tradition, new ways of reimagining the past and also ways in which this music can relate with other music forms.”
For 2023, Hayes will be joined at this year’s festival by a number of high-profile traditioanl musicians, inclduing Sam Amidon, Luka Bloom, Ultan O’Brien and Laura Snowden.
Crash Ensemble, Steve Cooney, Brian Donnellan, Conal O’Kane, Scoth and Mick O’Brien will also be there, as will Kate Ellis, Eoghan Ó Ceannabháin, Scoth, Ciara Ní Bhriain, the Begley Clann, Mick Conneely, David Munnelly and Christine Tobin among others.
The festival opens in the Maritime Hotel on August 23 with performanes by Martin Hayes, Conal O’Kane, Brian Donnellan, Sam Amidon and Kate Ellis.
The music moves to Bantry House the following evening, where vocal performances range from indie folk to Sean Nós to American Appalachian, featuring Scoth, Eoghan Ó Ceannabháin, Ultan O’Brien, Sam Amidon and Kate Ellis.
On August 25, the music comes from two legendary music families – the O Brians and the Begleys.
“Mick O’Brien is one of the most highly regarded pipes in tradition music and will be joined by his daughter Ciara who is a violist and fiddle player.,” Hayes explains.
“Earlier this year the world of traditional music lost the great accordionist and singer Seamus Begley,” he adds, ‘this powerhouse of music and song, a major carrier of the musical tradition of west Kerry, previously appeared at Masters of Tradition and his family of fine musicians will close the concert with a rousing west Kerry celebration of their father’s life and legacy.”
Friday’s late night concert in Bantry House focuses on the ubiquitous but often overlooked guitar in traditional music, with Steve Cooney joined by Luka Bloom and Lisa Snowden.
Cooney then opens Saturday’s Ceolchoirm and Luka Bloom returns to the stage again, this time performing a selection of songs.
“His performances are both powerful and incredibly subtle,” says Hayes.
“He will be followed by a pair of very dynamic musicians David Munnelly and Mick Conneely, a spontaneous duet of fiddle and accordion.”
Saturday’s late night concert takes the audience into the improvised space between Jazz and traditional music.
This programme is uniquely driven by the musical imagination of jazz singer Christine Tobin. She will be performing songs with an ensemble of jazz and traditional musician including fiddler Cora Venus Lunny, pianist Steve Hamilton, uilleann piper David Power and guitarist Phil Robson.
The Festival closes with a performance from Hayes and a series of guests from the 2023 programme.
Throughout the week, there will also be talks and secret concerts on Whiddy Island, Future Forests, Marino Church, and St Brendan’s School Hall.
Masters of Tradition is supported by the Arts Council and Cork County Council. For full programme details and booking click here.