Musical Highlights at the 2023 Galway International Arts Festival

Galway electro and house producer KETTAMA.

Musical Highlights at the 2023 Galway International Arts Festival

KETTAMA, Bell X1, Martha Wainwright, ConTempo Quartet, Séamus and Caoimhe Uí Fhlatharta, Sorcha Richardson, Seán Smyth, Michael McGoldrick and Susan O'Neill on the music line-up, along with a Bill Whelan world premiere, traditional music lunchtime concerts, and The Pulse acrobatics show featuring a 30-member female choir.

Galway International Arts Festival (GIAF) has announced its 2023 programme, taking place from 17 to 30 July. The festival features a range of musical highlights as well as theatre, visual arts, street performances, talks, dance and comedy.

Hometown concerts, Big Top acts
One of this year’s headlining acts, performing at the Heineken Big Top on 23 July, is Galway electro and house producer KETTAMA. His 2018 debut EP Bucklyn Bridge led the artist to international attention, with leading track ‘BODY’ receiving significant airplay in the dance music scene. Along with DJ Shampain (who will play support in Galway), KETTAMA has since launched his own label, G-TOWN Records, which has released his own music and other underground and electronic artists. Having featured on dance music platforms such as Boiler Room and Mixmag’s The Lab LDN, KETTAMA’s concert at GIAF will be his first hometown performance since 2019. 

KETTAMA and Shampain will also feature in the festival’s First Thought Talk series, discussing their label, their connection to Galway, performing sold-out shows across Europe and the UK, and their creative process as musicians, producers and DJs.

Other acts to perform at the Heineken Big Top throughout the festival include The Saw Doctors (21 and 29 July); Fat Freddy’s Drop, the dub, reggae and soul band from New Zealand (20 July); The Coronas (22 July); American indie rock band Pavement (24 July); Kaiser Chiefs (27 July); and Bell X1 (28 July). 

Traditional and classical
Five leading traditional musicians – fiddle player and Lúnasa member Seán Smyth, flute player and uilleann piper (and an early member of Lúnasa) Michael McGoldrick, Alan Kelly on piano accordion, Jim Higgins on bodhran and percussion, and Jim Murray on guitar – will perform together in Monroe’s on 23 July. The festival will also feature its annual series of lunchtime traditional music concerts, this year featuring Dermot Byrne and his daughter Nia (20 July), Laoise Kelly and her son Caoilte Ó Cuanaigh (21 July), Lorraine Fletcher and Floriane Blancke (27 July) and more. 

Strings Attached is a trio of concerts celebrating 20 years of the ConTempo Quartet that will feature the ensemble performing with various musicians in jazz, traditional and classical music throughout the festival. On 18 July at An Taibhdhearc, the quartet will perform with Matthew Berrill’s JazzTempo act – Berrill (clarinet/sax), Aengus Hackett (guitar), Róisín Mulliez (voice) and Barry Donohue (double bass). On 19 July, a new work by renowned composer Bill Whelan will receive its world premiere in a concert featuring ConTempo and traditional singers Séamus and Caoimhe Uí Fhlatharta – who recently released their debut EP. The series will culminate on 20 July when pianist Finghin Collins will join the quartet for a concert at the Emily Anderson Concert Hall at University of Galway (programme to be announced). 

Róisín Dubh and Martha Wainwright 
Dublin singer-songwriter Sorcha Richardson – whose second album
Smiling Like an Idiot was nominated for the RTÉ Choice Music Prize 2022 Album of the Year award – will perform as part of a series of concerts taking place at the Róisín Dubh. The venue will host an array of concerts throughout the festival with pop, rock, indie, folk and electronic artists such as indie singer-songwriter Ailbhe Reddy (18 July), alt-folk singer Junior Brother (25 July), singer-songwriter Susan O’Neill (30 July), electronic artist Elaine Mai (22 July) and London Astrobeat Orchestra who will perform the music of Talking Heads (20 and 21 July). 

Also on the music line-up is KT Tunstall (17 July), DJ Jenny Greene (29 July), Canadian-American singer-songwriter Martha Wainwright (25 July) and Alabama 3 (24 July). On 21 July, Resurgam choir will perform with the English Cornett and Sackbut Ensemble a programme of early baroque works.

The Pulse and Teaċ Daṁsa
GIAF’s packed theatre, circus, dance and spectacle programme this year includes the largest indoor production ever presented by the festival, The Pulse. This show will combine acrobatics with a 30-member all-female choir creating impressive human structures and movement, with music composed by Ekrem Eli Phoenix and conducted by Buia Reixach. The performances will take place from 17 to 22 July at the new Festival Theatre at the University of Galway – a space specifically built for the production. 

Teaċ Daṁsa – Micheal Keegan-Dolan’s dance company that last year toured MÁM with Cormac Begley – along with the Gate Theatre will present How to be a Dancer in Seventy-two Thousand Easy Lessons from 17 to 22 July. Written and choreographed by Keegan-Dolan, and performed by him and Rachel Poirier, this coming-of-age piece explores themes of innocence, sexuality, shame, humiliation, identity, nationality, endings and ancestry

Elsewhere in the theatre programme, the festival will present Druid O’Casey – a trilogy of Sean O’Casey’s plays The Plough and the Stars, The Shadow of a Gunman, and Juno and the Paycock, performed back-to-back at the Town Hall Theatre (9 & 18–30 July). Enda Walsh’s Bedbound, directed by Marc Atkinson Borrull, will feature acclaimed actor Colm Meaney alongside his daughter Brenda Meaney in the story of a father and daughter inextricably bound to one another. Walsh’s Cloakroom will also feature at the festival, featuring voice artist Zara Devlin and telling the story of a young woman working in the cloakroom of a local dancehall in 1972. 

The festival’s First Thought Talks series this year will include contributions from photographer, film maker, DJ and documenter of hip hop music Brian Cross; Martha Wainwright, who will speak about her memoir Stories I Might Regret Telling You; and folk musician Brigid Mae Power, who will be on a panel discussing the housing crisis and creativity. The series will also feature Vinyl Hours, a number of talks with musicians and creatives in conversation with Tiernan Henry, the guests of which will be announced on 19 June. 

Commenting on this year’s programme, Artistic Director Paul Fahy said:

We are hugely excited to present our most ambitious festival programme to date. It is such an honour to work with so many wonderful artists and colleagues to deliver this programme and we are so grateful to them for their commitment, passion and brilliance. We look forward to welcoming our audiences to Galway this July for two wonderful weeks of great art and performance.

Booking opens at 10am on Wednesday 17 May. For more, visit

Published on 16 May 2023

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