y day at IrishFest
was about as perfect as could be. I met Dee at the gates around four and heard her news from the previous night's IrishFestivities, with her jumping in on some of the late night rooftop sessions over at the Comfort Inn & Suites. We then proceeded to spend the day catching up while taking in a number of acts. It turned out to be a rather "nontraditional" IrishFest for me in that very few of the artists whose performances I attended were actually Irish. With Deirdre's knowledge of the traditional music scene, and recommendations from others in it, we ended up focusing on the Nova Scotia stage, which was a new feature of this year's IrishFest. So the evening's lineup (with the IrishFest write-ups here included) became:
From Lanark, Nova Scotia, MacGillivray is a master piano and fiddle player and will be part of the Nova Scotia Showcase. His musical prowess can be attributed to a combination of commitment and bloodline as his ancestors have been proprietors of the Gaelic tradition in North Eastern Nova Scotia for generations. Whether playing piano or fiddle, or showcasing his step dancing, MacGillivray displays an intense pride in the Celtic heritage he inherited from his forefathers. His most recent CD was named 2008's ECMA Instrumental Recording of the Year.
Emmanuelle LeBlanc: bodhran, piano, vocals
Pascal Miousse: fiddle, mandolin, guitar, vocals
Pastelle LeBlanc: accordion, piano, vocals
Louis-Charles Vigneau: guitar, banjo, vocal
Vishten brings together young Acadians who are passionate about the music and dance of their homes of Prince Edward Island and Magdelen Island. Present with their Acadian music are touches of aboriginal, folk and rock which the band attribute to the richness of their culture and their own experiences. Vishten's show consists of fiery fiddling, mesmerizing step-dancing and sweet voices that will bring you to your feet.
We saw a few moments of Dee's enthusiastic buddies from D.C., Scythian, and then
Natalie MacMaster & Donnell Leahy: Masters of the Fiddle
Natalie MacMaster and Donnell Leahy are two of the world's most celebrated fiddlers. Together Natalie and Donnell are a whirlwind of fiddle-driven music, dance, and song. The foot-tapping rave-ups, heart-wrenching ballads, and world-class step dancing of this collaboration leave onlookers breathless from the moment it hits the stage. Audiences now have the chance to hear the fruits of this renowned musical matrimony during an unforgettable evening of Celtic music. Long time Irish Fest favorites, this is the first time you will see them together at the festival.
Gundrun Walther: vocals, fiddle, button accordion
Jurgen Treyz: guitar
Rolf Wagels: bodhran
Tola Custy: fiddle
Patricia Clark: vocals, piano, fiddle
Claus Steinort: flute, iulleann pipes, concertina
Artists will tell you that sometimes you need to step back to get perspective. Cara has successfully done that as this band from Germany has remained true to Celtic and Irish music while incorporating different sounds of European music in their pieces. Cara is fronted by two women whose intertwined vocals tell spirited tales while the band plays rousing jigs and reels.
All of them were fabulous, with Vishten particularly delighting me with their traditional//pop synthesis in some pieces, and Cara for just being hands-down an incredible group with great songs. More than anyone else, Cara made the musical evening for me, being a recent arrival on the scene from Germany, of all places. I had to restrain myself from buying Vishten's and Cara's discs right on the spot, but I just couldn't afford it at the moment. I'll patronize them via the Internet later on.
Other than that, the main joy of the evening was in getting to talk at length with Dee. I observed with some small disbelief that we had now known one another for about sixteen years, which just doesn't seem possible to me. I got to hear of her continuing work with the U.S. Bishops' Conference, and was disappointed to hear of the lip service that the Obama administration seemed to be giving to its pledge to look for ways of reducing the numbers of abortions in the United States. But it was still interesting and engaging to hear about her work as the point figure for the Bishops in that work. Life details were fun to catch up on, too, whether hearing of her beau in New York or of the musical adventures of her roommate Stella, a songwriter I had heard of from P.J. McCurry back when we all lived in the Mar-Main Arms in South Bend.
It was also really useful for me to be able to sound out my dissertation to her as she's involved in such concrete human rights activism within the Church, is very well educated in Philosophy and Theology with Master's degrees in both disciplines from Notre Dame, but who also isn't
a full-time member of the professional theological guild. So her questions and positive responses regarding my research were valuable to me because
they were coming from someone in a different kind of position in life and faith. After leaving the IrishFest grounds as midnight approached, I walked her up to the Inn so that she could jump in on the late-night music sessions again, and we sat out in front of the place, still talking until 1am, giving us nine hours of straight conversation when not listening to music. When I grabbed a cab back to my place, the driver asked why I was all lit up and smiling, and I just had to say that there were few things so pleasurable as having a catch-up session like that with an old friend.