TradFest: Celebrating Music in Dublin’s Temple Bar

Temple Bar in Dublin City: it is well known for its lively pubs, its art galleries, its one off boutiques, its history — but there is no better reason to visit Temple Bar than music. There’s no better time to experience and explore music in Temple Bar than during Temple Bar TradFest.

temple bar dublin ireland pub trad fest

This ever evolving and lively festival takes place near the end of January every year. In 2019 it will run from 23 through 27 January.

There is a range of events on the TradFest schedule, from headline gigs in some of the area’s historic venues to up close sessions in pubs to creative events for children to ways to explore Irish food to talks, to film screenings.

In 2019, TradFest headliners will include a pairing of The Kane Sisters who come from North Connemara with The Friel Sisters, Glasgow based but with family roots in Donegal. Fiddle playing along with songs in English and Irish will feature as these internationally touring artists share their family stories from Ireland’s west in a concert at City Hall.

FRIEL-SISTERS tradfest temple bar dublin

Also at City Hall, top Irish accordion player Jimmy Keane and award winning Irish American fiddle player and composer Liz Carroll team up for a night which will be filled with tune, song, and story as well. This concert is part of an evolving collaboration between TradFest and the Milwaukee Irish Fest.

At the Pepper Canister Church, rising Americana/folk duo The Black Feathers will share the evening with The Once, a top class singer and songwriter trio who come from Newfoundland in Atlantic Canada.

Singer and songwriter Kathy Mattea will offer a concert in the classic surroundings of Saint Patrick’s Cathedral. Growing up in West Virginia, Mattea found her way into country music, leading to a Nashville career which has seen her win Grammys and many other awards. Through it she has maintained her connection with folk music.

There are many other headliners to enjoy. These include Laura Cortese and The Dance Cards, Zoe Conway and John McIntyre, Kate Rusby, and Eleanor McAvoy.Several headline concerts are already selling out, in fact.

Zoe Conway Ireland fiddle player Temple Bar Trad

Front Row Sessions take place in pubs around Temple Bar, and tickets for these are free but must be booked in advance. Stockton’s Wing, Paddy Casey, The Henry Girls, The Fureys, The Kilkennys — you may know these musicians if you are familiar with Irish music. If you’re not, still, you’ll not go wrong with a listen to any of them. They, and others, will be playing TradFest Front Row Sessions in classic Temple Bar pubs including The Norseman, The Auld Dubliner, and The Merchant’s Arch.

Update: It’s just been announced that award winning singer Aoife Scott will host The Secret Song Circle, which was one of the hottest tickets of 2018’s TradFest. The concert, which will include Scott’s musical friends as well as several festival headliners, features women musicians.

There’s music that keeps going after the main gigs for the evening are through on Thursday and Friday nights at The Old Storehouse. Billed as TradHub, you could see such artists as Drops of Green and Susan O’Neill.

If you’d prefer an earlier day, there’s plenty going on in the afternoons as well. Those Front Row Sessions begin around six pm, for instance, and on each day of TradFest at 10 am you could sign up for the Irish Food Trail to learn about the many varieties of Dublin’s food and restaurants. Venues to be visited change each day, so there’s plenty of room for variety. There will also be workshops and talks on genealogy, the Irish language, songwriting, and other subjects.

The Ark offers children and parents ways to explore creativity all year long. As they are based in Temple Bar, it’s natural that they’d be a part of TradFest. Activities on offer include concerts especially for children, workshops where kids can give trad instruments a try, and others where kids and grown ups collaborate in creating and sewing toys from fabric scraps.

Back to the music side, there is The Gala, an always highly anticipated evening which this year will bring together the top traditional group Danú, the ever creative Michael McGoldrick Trio, and the always innovative collaboration which is Green Fields of America.

temple bar dublin by steve edge

The Gala, along with, perhaps. other events, may be broadcast on line so you can join in even if you can’t be in Dublin. For more about this, RTE Radio One’s site for the program Ceili House is a place to keep an eye on, as is the TradFest web site. Word is that there may be a podcast with artist interviews from the festival as well.

You’ll also want to check in on TradFest at TG4, a series of programs drawing from concerts which television broadcasters TG4 recorded at TradFest in 2018. At this writing all of the six part series is available at TG4’s web site.

Photographs of The Friel Sisters and Zoe Conway courtesy of the artists.

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