FolkWorld Issue 34 11/2007; Photo Report

A Decade of Folk A Decade of Folk

A Decade of Folk

Tønder Festival

'The international folk music scene has never been so vibrant, productive and exciting. There is a wealth of new and established artists ...', the Tønder Festival proudly stated in 1998. A decade later, Denmark's premier folk festival keeps singing 'Will the Circle Be Unbroken'.

    Will the circle be unbroken    
    Bye and bye, Lord, bye ...    

Tønder 2006
Tønder 2005
Tønder 2004

Carlos Nunez & Paddy Keenan 1999
Carlos Núñez (1998)
Carlos Núñez, the Spanish bagpipe and flute virtuoso can charm an audience, as the many who have seen him here before can testify. Carlos Núñez began playing the gaita, the Galician bagpipe, at age 8. As a teenager he met Paddy Moloney of the Chieftains, a meeting that led to a warm friendship and, in 1989, to the first recordings and tours with the Irish group. On Carlos as guest soloist, Paddy Moloney once said, He is an absolute genius who sometimes steals the show. He brings the house down - so we'd better watch out!

Dervish 2002
Dervish (2002)
Some Irish groups have got it, some don't.
Dervish have got it. The close interplay, that almost instinctive feeling for what the musician next to you is up to, was honed long before Dervish was thought of, at session after session in the music venues in Sligo. Singer Cathy Jordan once said, There's so much good music in Ireland I can't see the point of diluting it or messing about with it just for the sake of it. Once you have experienced the charm, the energy and the authenticity of Dervish's music, it is hard to disagree.

Sharon Shannon 2000
Sharon Shannon (2000)
Sharon Shannon, of Corofin, County Clare in west Ireland, began playing accordion at the age of 11. She was still a teenager when she was hired to play at Jim Sheridan's production of Brendan Behan's The Hostage. Her career really took off when Mike Scott invited her to join The Waterboys, with whom she toured for a year. Today, Sharon Shannon is an international concert celebrity, adored by her audience and highly respected for her virtuoso playing and composing for button-key accordion and fiddle.

Mozaik 2005
Mozaik (2005)
The Irish musician
Andy Irvine, well-known for his work as a soloist and with Sweeney's Men, Planxty and Patrick Street, had the idea for Mozaik during a tour of Australia in 2002. Donal Lunny, his good friend and colleague from the Planxty days, was the first he called. Donal Lunny, like Andy, has been a driving power in the development of Irish traditional music for more than 30 years, as a musician but also an inspired arranger and producer. Next on the list was Bulgarian multi-instrumentalist Nikola Parov, from Andy Irvine's 1996 East Wind Trio. Nikola Parov, known from the group Zsaratnok and his work with Riverdance, is famous for his mastery of virtually everything musical that can be played. The third man from the East Wind Trio, Dutchman Rens Van Der Zalm, answered the call, as did the American old-time musician and singer Bruce Molsky.

Lunasa 2006
Lunasa (2006)
The Irish top group
Lúnasa is manned by veterans of some of the leading traditional Irish music groups of the past decade. Bass-player Trevor Hutchinson was one of the key figures in The Waterboys, and later formed part of the Sharon Shannon Band's dynamic rhythm section. Séan Smyth, All-Ireland Champion fiddler, has played in Donal Lunny's group Coolfin and flute-player Kevin Crawford is a former member of Moving Cloud. Guitarist and banjo-player Paul Meehan is known from Karan Casey's band and North Cregg. This line-up, designated an Irish music dream team by the English music magazine fRoots, is completed by piper and flute-player Cillian Vallely. Clearly inspired by the legendary Bothy Band, Lúnasa have developed an inventive and distinctive style in which improvisation, layering of instruments, and the prominence of the bass and guitar rhythm section give the traditional music new dimensions. Lúnasa sits comfortably at the top of the premier league of Irish groups and have won a huge following in Europe, North America and Japan.

Danu 2007

Since the young Irish group Danú gave their first concert in Denmark at the 1997 Tønder Festival, they have developed and matured their repertoire and style to the point where they are now in a league with much older colleagues in Irish traditional music. Their second CD prompted the Danish music critic Søren Chr. Kirkegaard to write: Danú demonstrate a supreme mastery of the dramatic changes of tempo which are such a speciality in Irish music. The listener has the impression that the group are racing along at 150 miles an hour, then they change up to fifth gear, giving the tempo a step up, without getting breathless. Danú never haste unduly. The group's members are so technically proficient and so tight that they can manoeuvre even at very high speeds. Danú also have the balance to slow the tempo down and deliver the dreamy songs and ballads that complete the picture of a perfect Irish traditional band.

Ceilidh 2006 Ceilidh 2004
Sunday Afternooon Ceilidh, emcees Brian McNeill and Ron Kavana (2006, 2004)

Scotsman Brian McNeill and Irishman Ron Kavana have made an indelible mark on Tønder Festival. The passionate musicality and driving energy Brian McNeill and Ron Kavana bring to their own concerts have also driven the massively popular Sunday afternoon Ceilidhs in the big marquees, life-changing experiences for both audience and musicians. Brian McNeill's many roles include multi-instrumentalist, singer, author, and director of the traditional music school at The Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama in Glasgow, where one of his recent initiatives is Young Folk Musicians Crossing Borders. Ron Kavana has a similarly impressive CV. Singer, multi-instrumentalist, song-writer, producer, project director and author. Ron Kavana's energies and commitment are legendary. Always prepared to explore new musical routes, either solo or with a band, acoustic or electric, traditional or folk-rock, Ron Kavana creates new recipes and wipes out musical borders.

The McCalmans 2007
The McCalmans (2007)
This Scots trio have learned about one Danish word a year. Since they have been touring Denmark annually since 1966, they can now introduce two songs in Danish. Ian McCalman's vitriolic wit is as legendary as the close harmonies that are
The McCalmans' trade mark. The songs are Scots traditional and Scots contemporary, often topical, satirical and always delivered with a flawless professionalism that never becomes glossy or heartless. A gem of a cd of Ian McCalman's own compositions performed by his friends appeared last year, and is recommended. Nick Keir and Stephen Quigg are also both accomplished song-writers and solo performers, but the real chemistry bubbles before our eyes and ears when The McCalmans take the stage.

Session A9 2007
Session A9 (2007)
The name
Session A9 explains it all: this band intends to preserve the atmosphere of a session, where the unexpected can always happen - even musically. And the A9 road links the people, up through the Scottish mountains, and few travel it as often as musicians. Charlie McKerron of Capercaillie had the idea of including four fiddlers - he loves fiddle bands. The music is freshly written, with an edge provided by the rhythm section, but the ambience is still traditional (super)session.

Julie Fowlis 2007
Julie Fowlis (2007)
From the North Uist off Scotland's west coast,
Julie Fowlis has taken the country and its neighbours by storm, singing traditional Gaelic songs with a breathtaking power that melt the listener's heart. Her debut album Mar a Tha Mo Chridhe helped her win BBC Radio 2's 2006 Folk Award for newcomers, and this year she won the Folk Singer of the Year prize. Trying to pin down the beauty of her music is like trying to grab the Highland mist.

Singer Songwriter Treffen Tonder 2003
Songwriter's Circle (2003)

Antje Duvekot 2007
Antje Duvekot (2007)

Chuck Brodsky calls himself a folk singer and uses the title with pride. From the same stable as Woody Guthrie and John Prine, he has a sharp eye for detail and his own special humour and irony. And like Guthrie and Prine, Chuck Brodsky has a rare talent for spinning a good old-fashioned yarn in his songs. Chuck Brodsky writes simple, ear-hanging tunes with clear, precise guitar accompaniment - the simplicity that is the real thing without fancy packaging.

David Francey, born in 1954 in Ayrshire, Scotland, was 12 when his parents emigrated to Toronto in Canada. David Francey later travelled the country on his own, hitchhiking and working his way three times across Canada, learning about the place and its people. Many of these impressions are imbedded in his songs, songs written with insight respect and love for these people he met and worked with.

Canadian multi-instrumentalist and songwriter J.P. Cormier is a man of surprisingly many talents. He plays eight instruments, sings and writes infectious songs. In his 22-year musical career he has achieved more than most musicians drea of. The list of concerts, TV appearances and studio sessions, with musicians such as Waylon Jennings, Marty Stuart, Earl Scruggs, Vince Gill and Alan Jackson is almost incredible. Then add J.P. Cormier's many recordings and 300 live performances a year, and it becomes breathtaking.

Le Vent du Nord 2004
Le Vent du Nord (2004)

There's no one writing like her today, says Solas founder Seamus Egan, who produced Antje Duvekot's first major studio cd, Big Dream Boulevard. The first thing you notice is her voice. Soft phrasing, letting us know she believes every word she sings. Antje Duvekot's first childhood was in Germany, surrounded by music and song. The move to USA meant adjusting to a new family, a new language, trying to make new friends. Somehow, her songs open the personal out to be universal. Antje Duvekot boldly reminds outcasts that only they can break out of their shells. I think she's going to be the next great American folk singer-songwriter, writes folk-pop songwriter Ellis Paul.

The Quebec group Le Vent du Nord (North Wind) comprises musicians from some of the best-known bands in the province. In the two short years the group has existed, their experience, energy and expert musicianship give the Quebec and Breton musical traditions completely new dimensions.

Zar 2002
Zar (2002)
This young Danish folk group have been playing together since 1996. The musician Carl Erik Lundgaard writes about
Zar, If folk music tradition means renewal of several centuries of musical experience, then Zar is a real Danish traditional band. It wells from the spring, but the sensitivity, openness, imagnation and urge are of this instant. Danish folk music is finding its place in the 21st century. Many of the old forms will crumble, but the essence will live on in new forms. Seen in this light, Zar is not just a great 21st century fun, but an absolute necessity for Danish folk music. Zar also show that living folk music, both newly composed music and music from the potato fields, is enriched by its journey borne by virtuosity through a branded cultural landscape.

Haugaard, Høirup & Helene Blum 2004
Haugaard, Høirup, Blum (2004)
Harald Haugaard and guitarist and singer Morten Alfred Høirup form one of Danish folk music's most successful constellations to date. Audiences are wildly enthusiastic, reviewers ecstatic, and the media queue up for their attendance. Haugaard & Høirup have specialised in an elegant blend of traditional Danish music, their own compositions, and old songs in new arangements. Their tone is unmistakably Danish, light, airy, with a touch of sweetness and a dash of the diabolic and very playful. Powerful Danish music, matured and mellowed for generations, refreshed with an elegant touch by this prize-winning Danish duo.

Saw Doctors
Saw Doctors (2005)
Saw Doctors first saw the light of day in Tuam, north of Galway on Ireland's west coast, when Davy Carton and Leo Moran pooled their musical resources in 1987. A couple of years later, I Useta Love Her sat on the no. 1 spot on the hit list for 13 weeks and at the time was virtually Ireland's second national anthem. Off they went on tours, heading major festivals, filling concert halls. The Saw Doctors are an institution, audiences love them, for they are guaranteed an evening of non-stop entertainment and plenty of opportunity for singing along with the band's catchy songs.

From headline performances at Glastonbury and festivals throughout the world to intimate acoustic shows, the Levellers have long been one of the best live bands around. With a keen political eye and uncompromising attitudes they've always led from the front. As their 20th anniversary approaches in 2008, the Levellers have proved themselves as a great British band that is now firmly lodged in the public's consciousness. Levellers have clearly stood the test of time, the original line-up still playing with a passion and pride that is still setting standards. The songs too sound as fresh as the day they were written.

Levellers 2007
Levellers (2007)

Text excerpts by courtesy of the Tønder Festival programmes 1998-2007.

Photo Credits: (1) Tønder Logo (taken from Tønder Festival website); (2) Carlos Núñez, (4) Sharon Shannon, (9) Ceilidh, (15) Le Vent du Nord (by The Mollis); (3) Dervish, (16) Zar (by Eugene Graham); (5) Mozaik, (6) Lúnasa, (7) Danú, (8) Ceilidh, (10) The McCalmans, (11) Session A9, (12) Julie Fowlis, (14) Antje Duvekot, (18) Saw Doctors, (19) Levellers (by Walkin' Tom); (13) Songwriter's Circle (by Gerald Trebaticky ); (17) Haugaard & Høirup / Blum (by Michael G. Rose).

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