THE BIGGEST and best from the traditional Irish music scene are preparing to descend upon north London this month as a much loved festival makes a welcome return.
The Return to Camden Town Festival (RTCT) kicks off on Tuesday, October 24 with a gig at The Green Note featuring Claire and Sinéad Egan and Peter McAlinden and Pete Quinn.
It continues with another double bill on Wednesday, October 25 featuring Matt Molloy, John Carty and Arty McGlynn plus The London Lasses and Chris O'Malley at the Clayton Crown Hotel in Cricklewood.
From there the gigs, workshops, sessions and CD launches come thick and fast until the vastly popular event, held at a range of venues across north London, comes to a close on Monday, October 30.
Karen Ryan is Director of the Festival, which now operates under the Irish Music and Dance in London banner. She explained a little of what we can expect from its 19th year.
“Instrumental workshops have proved more popular than ever in recent years, and this year's RtCT concert and album launch programme fortuitously includes some of traditional Irish music's top educators,” she said.
“As a result, we’ve decided to host two workshops for every instrument offered, each with a different tutor, these run from 11am to 1pm on Saturday 28th and Sunday 29th October.”
Those tutors, who will also feature in concerts and album launches over the main weekend of the Festival, include: Fiddle: Aoife Ní Bhríain/ John McEvoy, Flute: John Wynne/Conor Healy, Concertina: Noel Hill/Colm McGonigle, Button Accordion: Dan Brouder/Andrew Mac Namara, Banjo: Angelina Carberry/Brian McGrath, Uilleann Pipes: Mick O'Brien/ Mathíu Ó Casaide, Harp: Janet Harbison/Colm McGonigle and for the Tin Whistle: Órlaith McAuliffe/Brian Hughes.
Students can book these workshops online and should report to the London Irish Centre in Camden Square from 10.30am.
Dance and song are also well catered for in this year’s line-up, with Jerry O'Reilly giving set dancing workshops on both weekend mornings from 10am–12pm, while two top traditional singing tutors, Niamh Parsons and Conor Walsh, give their workshops on Saturday and Sunday respectively, from 2pm until 4pm, followed closely by a 5pm singing session co–hosted by themselves and the London Irish Centre's resident singing host, Connemara's Pat Connolly.
New releases will be celebrated during album launches due to be held at The Fiddler's Elbow on October 26 and at the London Irish Centre on October 28 and 29, featuring James Carty (fiddle) and Brian McGrath, Andrew Mac Namara, Karen Ryan and Pete Quinn, Brendan Hendry and Jonny Toman, Janet Harbison, Angelina Carberry and Dan Brouder, Brian Hughes and Matt Tighe.
Set dancers can enjoy the sounds of the Star of Munster Céilí Band at the Mazenod Hall, Kilburn on Saturday, October 28 and at the London Irish Centre on Sunday, October 29.
There will also be concerts aplenty at the London Irish Centre over those weekend days, including Saturday afternoon with Mick O'Brien, Aoife Ní Bhríain and Caoimhín Ó Fearghail/Des Hurley and Chris O'Malley.
Saturday evening features The Bonny Men and CrossHarbour, while on Sunday afternoon the concert features Angelina Carberry and Dan Brouder/James Carty (fiddle) and Brian McGrath/Mick Mulvey and Dermot Burke.
Sunday evening will play host to Gatehouse/Andrew Mac Namara, Karen Ryan and Pete Quinn.
The Monday afternoon concert at the London Irish Centre provides a relaxed setting to round off the Festival while hosting some of London's musical gems - including legendary Tipperary accordion player Johnny Minogue, who was the main céilí band leader at the Galtymore in its heyday, alongside Leitrim fiddling hero Bryan Rooney and relative youngsters fiddler Karen Ryan and pianist Peter McAlinden.
The concert will also include Tom O'Connell, Mick O'Connor and Mick Bailey and Dublin's Jerry O'Reilly.
And if that isn't enough to whet your appetite, there's a whole host of sessions on offer with the finest of musicians across the seven days of the Festival.
For full details and tickets click here.