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  • Musicians Steve Cooney, John Spillane, Louise and Michelle Mulcahy and More Explore Themes of Place, Home and Identity in ‘Tradition Now’ this June, an Initiative of The Arts Council and National Concert Hall

Musicians Steve Cooney, John Spillane, Louise and Michelle Mulcahy and More Explore Themes of Place, Home and Identity in ‘Tradition Now’ this June, an Initiative of The Arts Council and National Concert Hall

May 31, 2021

Over the weekend of the 19th and 20th June the National Concert Hall, together the Arts Council, present over eight livestreamed concerts by leading Irish musicians – John Spillane, Steve Cooney, Varo Sessions, Daoirí Farrell, Louise and Michelle Mulcahy and more – in a variety of performances as part of ‘Tradition Now’.   

The series, which has garnered a growing audience over a six-year period, has evolved into a much-anticipated annual event celebrating innovation in traditional music while staying true to its roots. This year’s Tradition Now focuses on the new in a tradition that is once ancient and ever evolving, exploring themes of place, home and identity through music.  

Robert Read, CEO of the National Concert Hall said, “Irish musicians continue to build on Ireland’s rich cultural heritage by fostering a deep appreciation for tradition while adopting contemporary themes and sounds to chart a new course. In partnership with the Arts Council the NCH continues to champion and support the evolution of traditional music, by fostering a spirit of collaboration, recognising and rewarding musical talent and providing a platform for this music to be heard and enjoyed. I would like to thank the Arts Council and the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media for their continued support in making these livestreams possible. Now more than ever we are assured of the transformative power of music and the arts to speak to the times we live in, to offer solace and inspiration for today and the future.”

Maureen Kennelly, Director of the Arts Council said, “Themes of the home place and far away destinations permeate throughout traditional music and song. Songs of emigration capture a poignant episode in Irish history while early 20th century technology in the form of wax cylinders and gramophone records preserved the tradition at home and brought an exciting celebration of the music back home from America. Tradition Now is a celebration of the rich diversity within our traditional music and explores where our music has come from and the direction it has chosen to take. The Arts Council is delighted to be celebrating the seventh edition of Tradition Now and values this important partnership with the National Concert Hall.”  

Highlights of the series sees acclaimed bard John Spillane, a well-known Cork based singer songwriter whose music is rooted in people, place and story, perform music from his new Top 10 album, 100 Snow White Horses. Inspired by his travels around Ireland, these new songs are full of poetry, Irish mythology and wonder (Sat. 19 June at 8pm).   

On Sunday 20th at 8pm, French and Italian fiddle and vocal duo, Lucie Azconaga and Consuelo Nerea Breschi, otherwise known as Varo come together with guests Anna Mieke, Alannah Thornburgh, Branwen with Slow Moving Clouds, John Francis Flynn, and Niamh Bury to debut a new musical project developed during lockdown. Despite coming from two different musical paths, (Lucie from jazz, classical music, and French folk, Consuelo from Irish trad, folk, and world music) they have developed a unique sound pairing of traditional songs and tunes infused with a variety of influences. Varo released their debut self-titled album in January last year with Folk Radio UK saying, “It is an exciting time for Irish folk music, and Varo’s accomplished debut should position them at the forefront of the scene.

The series also sees a variety of afternoon and early evening concerts featuring both establishing and emerging artists.   

Steve Cooney, a multi-award-winning musician who scooped three awards in addition to receiving a Lifetime Achievement Award at RTE Radio 1’s Folk Awards last year, is best known for his development of an influential style of guitar accompaniment to traditional Irish dance music. This year he released a ground-breaking album of old harp tunes for solo guitar Ceol Ársa Cláirsí which he will perform live, for the first time, at the National Concert Hall (20 June, 3.30pm).

Dublin-born traditional singer, bouzouki player and BBC 2 Folk Award Winner Daoirí Farrell makes his NCH debut as part of Tradition Now (20 June, 5pm). After a promising debut album, ‘The First Turn’ (2009), Daoirí spent several years studying traditional music and has since performed alongside Christy Moore, Donal Lunny, Julie Fowlis, Dervish and many more. He has been described by some of the biggest names in Irish folk music as ‘one of most important singers to come out of Ireland in recent years.’  

Respected and multi-prize-winning Sean Nos singer from Muskerry Gaeltacht in County Cork Nell Ní Chróinín will be joined by an instrumental trio of accomplished improvisers and composers – Maria Ryan, violin, Kate Ellis, cello, Cormac McCarthy, piano – exploring innovative approaches to texture, harmony and rhythm underpinning her authentic and acclaimed vocals (19 June, 3.30pm).  

Dublin-based with Clare and Connemara connections, Eoghan Ó Ceannabháin  and Ultan O’Brien are a long-established duo pairing sounds of voice and fiddle. ‘Solas an Lae’ (The Light of the Day), (November 2020), is Eoghan and Ultan’s debut offering – a compelling exploration of that relationship, creating a unique dialogue that blends raw, rugged earth with the ethereal otherworld. Since then, they have built on this musical relationship through the medium of ‘digital folk opera’ marrying the tales told in their music with film. They perform 20 June, 2pm.   

Rooted in the Sliabh Luachra and Clare tradition, Louise and Michelle Mulcahy come from a well-known family of traditional musicians. Michelle is one of Ireland’s most talented multi-instrumentalists in Irish traditional music today playing concertina, harp, fiddle, accordion, piano, and melodeon. Her debut solo harp album ‘Suaimhneas’ received worldwide acclaim as one of the top harp albums in Irish music today. Louise has appeared, some years ago, on Na Píobairí Uilleann’s compilation of young uilleann pipers entitled ‘A New Dawn’ and she has released her highly acclaimed début solo album titled ‘Tuning the Road’ in 2014. While virtuoso instrumentalists, their sound can be described as sweet and melodic. They perform together 19 June, 2pm.  

In contrast to this solo approach, well known players Mick O’Brien, (uilleann piper, flute whistle), Aoife Ní Bhriaín (fiddle/viola) and Emer Mayock (flute/whistle) come together on Saturday 19th June at 5pm to explore and re-interpret music collected by James Goodman (1828-96) in southwest of Ireland. The manuscripts, held at Trinity College Dublin and now published by the Irish Traditional Music Archive, are of great significance providing unique insights into the evolution of Irish traditional music. From these manuscripts, Mick, Emer and Aoife have chosen music ranging from unusual versions of tunes in the modern repertoire to those apparently unique to the collection. In 2014 they received a TG4 Gradam Ceoil award for their collaborative work in exploring this varied and intriguing repertoire.  


WUNDERGROUND is the newest gig theatre production for those aged 3+ by Ceol Connected, engaging young audiences with high quality, innovative, and meaningful experiences of the traditional arts. Children and adults are invited to tune in for these highly participatory streamed performances, where they are encouraged to experience a sense of curiosity, wonder, and enchantment with the world beneath our feet (11am and 1pm on Sat. 19 June and Sun. 20 June). Wunderground is co-produced with the National Concert Hall in association with the Pavilion Theatre. Supported by Draíocht Arts Centre and funded by 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.  

Tickets: Afternoon and early evening concerts €5 each or €10 for all three concerts each day. 8pm concert tickets €12. Wunderground Family Ticket price €8.50. See www.nch.ie for details.   


Livestream Concerts from the National Concert Hall, 19/20 June 2021  

Saturday 19th June  

  • John Spillane, renowned singer/songwriter performs songs from his album 100 Snow White Horses (Sat. 19th June 8pm)  
  • Mick O’Brien (uillean piper), Emer Mayock (Flute/whistle), Aoife Ní Bhriaín (fiddle/viola) re-interpret music collected by James Goodman in the early 19th century (Sat. 19th June 5pm)  
  • Nell Ní Chróinín (sean nós singer), Cormac McCarthy, Kate Ellis (cello), Maria Ryan  (Sat. 19th June 3.30pm)  
  • Michelle & Louise Mulcahy, multi-instrumentalists (Sat. 19th June 2pm)  
  • Wunderground – a streamed family concert by Ceol Connected (Sat. 19th June, 11am and 1pm)  

Sunday 20th June  

  • Varo Sessions with John Francis Flynn, Alannah Thornburgh, Niamh Bury, Anna Mieke, Branwen and Slow Moving Clouds (Sun. 20th June 8pm)  
  • Daoirí Farrell Irish singer/songwriter (Sun. 20th June 5pm)  
  • Steve Cooney: Ceol Ársa Clairsí – first performance of his album of old Irish harp tunes for guitar (Sun. 20th June 3.30pm)  
  • Eoghan Ó Ceannabháin and Ultan O’Brien vocal and fiddle duo (Sun. 20th June 2pm)  
  • Wunderground participatory streamed family concerts (Sat. 19th June, 11am and 1pm)  


Tickets: Afternoon and early evening concerts €5 each or €10 for all three concerts each day. 8pm concert tickets €12. Wunderground Family Ticket price €8.50. See www.nch.ie for details.  

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