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Musicians Luka Bloom, The Unthanks, Paddy Keenan, Louise Mulcahy and More Explore the Voice from Sean-nós to Folk, and Instrumental Innovations in ‘Tradition Now’ this October, an Initiative of the Ar | The Arts Council

From Wednesday 26th – Sunday 30th October, the National Concert Hall, together with the Arts Council, presents a new instalment of the Tradition Now series, exploring innovation in traditional music today. This Autumn’s edition features English folk dignitaries The Unthanks, acclaimed singer-songwriter Luka Bloom, founding member of The Bothy Band, Paddy Keenan, contemporary vocalist and visual artist Ceara Conway, Breton guitarist Soïg Sibéri and Liam O’Flynn Award-winner Louise Mulcahy

The series, which has garnered a growing audience over a seven-year period, has evolved into an increasingly popular bi-annual event celebrating innovation in traditional music while staying true to its roots. This Autumn’s edition celebrates the voice from sean-nós to folk from the North-East of England as well as instrumental innovations from Ireland to Brittany.

Amongst the many highlights of this autumn’s Tradition Now are English folk outfit The Unthanks (Sun. 30th October 7.30pm) whose record Mount the Air was 2015’s BBC Folk Album of the Year. Since then, they have both scaled up to symphonic levels with Charles Hazelwood and the BBC Proms and stripped down to the unaccompanied singing they grew up with, for Diversions Vol 5.

At the nucleus of this constantly evolving unit is the traditional upbringing of Tyneside sisters Rachel and Becky Unthank and the arrangements and writing of composer, pianist, producer and Yorkshireman, Adrian McNally. Using the traditional music of the North-East of England as a starting point, the influence of Miles Davis, Steve Reich, Sufjan Stevens, Robert Wyatt, Antony & The Johnsons, King Crimson and Tom Waits can also be heard in the band’s unique sound.
Their Tradition Now appearance, which follows two years off the road, sees them showcasing music from their forthcoming new album, Sorrows Away, alongside favourites such as ‘Magpie’, ‘The King of Rome’ and ‘Mount the Air’.

Joining them as guest on the night is recipient of the 2022 Liam O’ Flynn Award, renowned uilleann piper and flute player Louise Mulcahy, who brings together an exciting collaboration from the uilleann piping, harping and singing traditions of Ireland. Louise will be joined by wire-strung harper Paul Dooley and neo-Irish harper and multi-instrumentalist Michelle Mulcahy. This special project takes inspiration from Liam O’Flynn’s incredible legacy and his mastery at evoking soul-stirring music.

Elsewhere in the programme, renowned singer-songwriter Luka Bloom (Sat. 29th October 8pm) showcases music from his latest album Out of the Blue – which features RTÉ Radio 1 Folk Award-winner Susan O’Neill and multi-instrumentalist Jon O’Connell (The Walls/Ultan Conlon) – and well-known gems from over the years. Created during lockdown, he says of his latest confection: ‘The tunes are uncomplicated, the only way I know. Each one resonates with me deeply, because of the time that was…. An invitation to play these tunes in NCH is just a huge honour.’

Also on autumn’s Tradition Now bill is founding member of The Bothy Band and Irish Music Association Lifetime Achievement Award-winner Paddy Keenan (Thurs. 27th October 8.30pm). Following the demise of the seminal outfit who changed forever the course of folk music in Ireland, Paddy went on to release a number of solo and collaborative recordings, and continues to tour both as a soloist, and with a range of other artists. Dubbed the ‘the Jimi Hendrix of the pipes’ by Donal Lunny, Paddy’s style of playing is often compared to great Travelling pipers such as Johnny Doran. For his National Concert Hall performance Paddy is joined by uilleann piper Colleen Shanks, Clare-based bouzouki player Cyril O’Donoghue and Éamonn de Barra (Damien Dempsey/Moya Brennan/Brian Eno) on flute and tin-whistle.

Exploring the voice is integral to autumn’s iteration of Tradition Now and the voice is central to the artistic expression of another featured artist, Ceara Conway (Wed. 26th October 8.30pm). Ceara is known for her unique use of traditional song and lament in contemporary art, for this performance she collaborates with musicians Kevin Murphy (cello) and Ultan O’Brien (viola, fiddle) of Slow Moving Clouds and Sean Mac Erlaine (clarinet, electronics, piano) to bring you a collection of sean-nós and world music songs that explore the beautiful sounds and sentiments of love, loss and longing, found in traditional praise songs, lullabies with core emphasis on the traditional Irish ‘caoineadh’, lament.

On Sunday 30 October, the second strand of autumn’s Tradition Now – instrumental innovations – is to the fore for a special performance by Breton guitarist Soïg Sibéril (Sun. 30th October 6pm). Soïg is known for his rich, dense, colourful style of playing and for this concert he takes us on a musical journey through the sunken paths of the Celtic countries, from Kreizh Breizh, through the country of Vannes or Redon. To get off the beaten track, he is joined by fellow Breton, bass player Alain Genty.

TREEHOUSE is Ceol Connected’s unique big band music and puppetry performance for children ages 3-7 and their families that is sure to have everyone singing along. With mesmerising original music and songs by some of Ireland’s finest musicians and performers, you can look forward to a wonderfully interactive show that will have audiences of all ages hooked. Event also includes launch of SongTales presents TREEHOUSE album!

Join The Whistleberries in the treetops where a toe-tapping, tale-telling, hip-shaking hooley awaits (Sat. 29th October 12pm and 2pm). TREEHOUSE is produced by Ceol Connected with support from the Arts Council and presented by the NCH, the Arts Council and Song Tales Produced by Ceol Connected with support from the Arts Council.

Tradition Now is an initiative of the Arts Council and National Concert Hall and is supported by The Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media.

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