Belfast TradFest Winter Weekend

Belfast TradFest Winter Weekend

Friday, 23 February 2024, 4.00pm

Belfast will come alive to the sounds of traditional music once again with concerts, workshops, sessions, and talks during the Belfast TradFest 3rd annual Winter Weekend, throughout Belfast UNESCO City of Music. Taking place 23rd - 25th February and supported by Belfast City Council, the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, Ulster University and Dunville’s Irish Whiskey, the festival programme is filled with internationally renowned talent in traditional Irish and Scottish music, song and dance.

For the opening concert, Donegal songstress Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh brings her fantastic band Altan back to Belfast to play the stunning Empire Music Hall on Friday 23rd February. Also on the bill that evening, Monaghan Harp maestro Michael Rooney plays a rare solo set in the city famed for its Harp Festival of 1792.

Longtime Tyrone resident, fiddler Bríd Harper is being celebrated with a family friendly concert on Saturday 24th February in the Mandela Hall, featuring the cream of traditional musicians and singers such as Australian guitarist Steve Cooney, Donegal accordion wizard Dermot Byrne, Breton flute player Sylvain Barou, singer Rita Gallagher and many more.

The Songs of Shane MacGowan will be celebrated and performed by a selection of some of our finest singers featuring Andrew Hendy & Finnian O'Connor (of The Mary Wallopers), Monaghan songstress Dani Larkin, Lough Neagh singer Niall Hanna, Belfast’s own Duke Special, Crossmaglen rising star Piaras Ó Lorcáin, County Derry’s Jack Warnock and Castlewellan native Múlú. Connecting the sound and spirit of punk with his traditional Irish roots, MacGowan created one of the most distinctive sounds of the past 40 years and Belfast TradFest are delighted to present these songs with some of Ulster and Ireland’s finest traditional, folk and contemporary singers.

Other highlights feature concerts with Ciarán & Caitlín, Mick O’Brien and Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh and a full programme of Festival Club events with acts such as Sligo’s Niamh Farrell, Jos Kelly and Cillian Doheny.

Belfast TradFest Winter Weekend is delighted to host its annual Highland Piping Solo Competition at The Deer’s Head, Sunday 25th February. A selection of Ireland’s top pipers will compete for a place in the renowned MacCrimmon Trophy Competition 2024 that takes place annually at the Festival Interceltique de Lorient in Brittany.

The fantastic new Ulster University building on York Street will host workshops covering all instruments from bodhrán to banjo and smallpipes to singing. Delivered by some of the best traditional musicians from Ireland, Scotland and beyond. Beginners can also join in the fun with classes in Traditional Singing, Sean Nós Singing (unaccompanied singing in Irish) with Róisín Chambers & Gráinne Holland, whistle and sing (Ages 5 plus), Sean Nós Dancing with legendary Conamara dancer Seosamh Ó Neachtáin and set dancing with Ulster’s own Mary Fox.

The festival’s afternoon events will include album launches and a talk by Rev. Gary Hastings – ‘Lambeg Drum and Fife. Traditional Music of Ulster.’ Recently retired as a Rector in the Church of Ireland, Gary's musical background takes in the traditions of Fermanagh, Donegal and Antrim, and he has written and lectured widely on the  Lambeg and fifing traditions associated with Orangeism.

Join the lively Dunville’s Irish Whiskey Session Trail which will take you across the city to some of Belfast’s oldest and best-loved pubs including Madden’s Bar, The Garrick, The John Hewitt, The Sunflower, The Duke of York and Hatfield House. Sessions are free, and times are staggered so that traditional music fans can fit in as much ‘ceol agus craic’ (music and fun) as possible.

The most influential Irish trad band of all time The Bothy Band are reforming and playing their first Irish concert since 1979, in Belfast’s Waterfront Hall ( sold out) on Sunday 25th February 2024. This concert will be one of the most anticipated in living memory, featuring a who’s who of Irish music; Matt Molloy (The Chieftains), Donal Lunny (Planxty, Moving Hearts), Tríona Ní Dhomhnaill (Skara Brae), Kevin Burke (Patrick Street), Paddy Glackin (Ushers Island) and uilleann pipe supremo Paddy Keenan.

Photograph credited to Liam McBurney/Alamy

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Published by Belfast TradFest on 16 January 2024

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