There are many good reasons to travel around on the European continent in summer - one of them is that you can experience some of the biggest and best folk music festivals around. On most festivals you can find several Celtic music acts, while often the festivals present also local music and traditions from other parts of Europe and the world. Although your love may be for Irish and Celtic music (well, this article was written for Irish Music, so you have here a focus on Celtic music - sorry!), you should definitely check out some of the local talents - there is so much terrific music to discover in the regions of Europe! In the following we will take you on a journey to Europes bigger folk festivals, starting in Scandinavia and crossing Europe down to Portugal...
Note: We have left out in this feature festivals on the British Isles, out of two reasons: on the one hand, this was written for Irish Music's European column, on the other it is difficult to pick out just one or two festivals from the huge offer in GB and IRL. Sorry!
The biggest Finnish folk festival takes place in the small town of Kaustinen, from 17.-25.7.99. While there are also acts like The Iron Horse and Loyko, and showcases of Asturian and Scottish music, there is a strong focus on Finnish music, with some of the best local acts appearing (like Värttinä, Gjallarhorn, JPP). [Kaustinen Folk Music Festival, PL 24, 69601 Kaustinen, tel. +358-06-8604 111, fax +358-6-8604 222, Email].
Crossing over the Baltic Sea and reaching Sweden, we find the big Falun Folk Music Festival which is well worth a visit, taking place a week earlier than Kaustinen, from 14.-17.7.99. [Tel. +46-2383090, Fax +46-2363399, e-mail]
In Norway, meanwhile, the biggest festival is in Førde, from 8.-11.7.99, celebrating this year its ten year's anniversary. The Celtic headliner are the Boys of the Lough, and alltogether there will be more than 200 artists from Scandinavia and diverse other places of the world playing more than 80 festival events in and around Førde. Last year, 29.000 visitors attended. [Førde Folk Music Festival, PO.Box 395, N-6801 Forde, Norway, Tel. +47 5772 1940, Fax. +47 5772 1941, E-mail]
The most northern town of Denmark, where the Baltic meets the North Sea, hosts one of the big Danish festivals. Skagen Festival, looking back to a 29 year history and having today about 1.200 volunteer workers, is happening this year from 24.-27.6.99. Some of the acts: De Danann, The McCalmans, The Men They Couldn´t Hang, Rawlins Cross and many acts from Scandinavia and some from the rest of the world. [Skagen Festival, Skagensbanens pakhus, Chr. D. X's vej 2, 9990 Skagen, Denmark DK, Phone: +45 98 44 40 94, Fax: +45 98 44 63 77].
One of the most southern towns of Denmark is charming Tønder, well known for hosting one of the best folk festivals in the world, with a clear focus on Celtic music. The festival is organized by the Tønder Festival Foundation, with three full-time emloyees and a staff of 1500 volunteers.
This year, from 26.-29.8.99, Tønder Festival celebrates its 25th anniversary, presenting some of its favourite artists of its history. Just a few names: The Dubliners, Ronnie Drew, Dervish, Runrig, Battlefield Band, Eric Bogle, Eleanor Shanley, Aly Bain & Phil Cunnigham, Barachois, Natalie MacMaster, ... [Tønder Festival (great homepage!), Vestergade 80 - DK-6270 Tønder, Tel.: +45 74 72 46 10 - Fax +45 74 72 01 23; Advance bookings opens on 31.7., 9 a.m., programme available from 28.6.]
Another major European festival that celebrates its 25th birthday from 6.-8.8.99 is the Belgian Folkfestival Dranouter, in a small town near the French border. Some acts confirmed so far: Tri Yann, Tarras, Martin Hayes, Celtic Feet, James Taylor. Dranouter will also host this year the prestigious EBU (European Broadcasting Union) showcase programme. [Dranouter Festival; General information: tel. +32 (0)57 44 64 24; URL: /. Advance bookings via KBC Ticket tel. +32-78-155151].
Germany's biggest and best folk & world music festival is found in the charming town of Rudolstadt in Thuringia. From 2.-4.7.99, the town will be full of life and atmosphere with the "Tanz & Folkfest". This year, the festival is official part of the programme of the cultural capital of Europe 1999, the neighbouring Weimar, and gives a folk music outlook on the nine European cultural capitals of 2000: Avignon; Bergen; Bologna; Brussels; Helsinki; Krakau; Prague; Reykjavik; Santiago de Compostela. The ‚magic instrument' of 99 is the mouthie, presented in a showcase concert. Plus many folk acts from all over the world. [TFF Rudolstadt Stadt Rudolstadt, Dezernat Kultur, Markt 7, D-07407 Rudolstadt; e-mail]
Going down south, we reach Austria which is home of Gutenbrunn Festival, having quite a special background. It is organised by the "Verein für Kulturaustausch" (society for cultural exchange) which first focussed its work on the import of Scottish malt whisky (!). Today they have a network of more than 1.000 whisky lovers, and have more than 150 Scottish Whiskies and Irish Whiskeys on offer. In 1995, this cultural whisk(e)y society decided to organise a folk festival that should present - analogous to the whisky import - especially music from the British Isles.This year, the fifth Gutenbrunn Folkfestival presents from 16.-18.7.99 a high quality Jubilee programme, with - among others - Lia Luachra (IRE), Whisky Priests (GB), Gerry (Banjo) O'Connor Band (IRE), Cran (IRE), Andy M.Stewart & Gerry O'Beirne (SCO/IRE). [Gutenbrunn Festival, Verein für Kulturaustausch, Pezzlgasse 60/13, 1170 WIEN, fax/tel +43 (1) 48 03 853, e-mail]
Further South, in the North of Italy, another Festival institution celebrates a Jubilee: 30 years ago, in 1979, the first folk festival was celebrated in the Friuli region. Since 1984, the festival is called "Folkest - International Folk Festival", and has the concept of a "Festival-on-the-road". Meanwhile more than 500 music groups have performed at Folkest, and more than 100 places all over Friuli, Slovenia, Carinthia and Istria have hosted the events. It has always been one of the organizers' purpose to challenge and promote new talents. There are always quite a few Celtic acts; another focus is set on the rich, but mostly unknown local Friuli traditions. This year, the festival is between 1.-25.7.99. [Folkest, Ass. Cult. Folkgiornale, via D. Chiesa, 31, 33038 San Daniele del FRIULI (FRIULI), Italy, tel & fax 0427-51230; e-mail]
In France, you can best experience Celtic music at the Festival Interceltique Lorient in Brittany, a huge gathering of Celtic acts, this year from 5.-15.8.99. The ca. 4.500 artists come from all Celtic regions in Europe as well as from other parts of the world. 260 events are played out in front of 300,000 spectators. Some of this year's guests: Natalie MacMaster, Lia Luachra, Llan de Cubel, Alan Stivell, Liam O'Flynn, De Dannann, Dan Ar Braz and the Celtic Heritage No. 2, Martyn Bennet, Emma Christian, The Whistlebinkies. [Festival Interceltique Lorient, 2 Rue Paul Bert, F-56100 Lorient, France; Tel. +33-297212429; Fax +33-297643413; e-mail]
Visiting the "Celts of the Sun" in Northern Spain, chances are good to find some great music out there. The Northern Spanish folk music scene is currently booming, with lots of new talent, playing the typical Northern Spanish blend of Celtic and Spanish traditions.
Experts say that the best folk concerts to be seen during this summer will be part of the Xacabeo 99 Celebrations, organised by the Xunta de Galicia, the Galician Government (!!). Every Saint James Year (celebrated only in determinated years) is a big culteral celebration in Spain, especially along the Saint James Way/Camino de Santiago, the way of pilgrimage running from the Pirineos Mountains to Santiago de Compostela (Santiago = Sant Jacques = Saint James = Sant Xacobeo; Santiago is the Saint Patron of Galicia and of Spain). Xacabeo is not a typical festival; it is a cultural celebration (with not just music) throughout the summer; but this "Millenium Xacobeus Annus" will have the best folk concerts in Spain for this year, for sure.
For Xacobeo 99, the Xunta de Galicia presents a lot of Galician Music - never before the Galician music had this status on a Xacobeo Year! The programme has started on 3.4.99, and will have the zenit in the month of August 99. All concerts will take place in Galician towns and cities; artists appearing include The Chieftains, Milladoiro, Carlos Núñez, Luar Na Lubre, Na Lúa, Xosé Manuel Budiño, Alan Stivell, Berrogüetto. Exact dates in the Euro News section! [Infos: Xestión do Plan Xacobeo, Santiago de Compostela; Teléfono +981 54 19 99. Infos also from the Autonomic Government of Galicia: Xunta de Galicia - Conselleria de Cultura, Edificio San Caetano, E-15704 Santiago Galicia, España. Teléfono + 981 54 54 00]
There will also be a "Folk Music Week" from the 17.-19.6.99 in the Playa de Santa Cristina (A Coruña province, near Santiago) [yet unconfirmed; infos via the Galician Government].
Coming to the end of our musical journey through Europe, we are reaching Portugal, which has another special, touring festival on offer, celebrating its 10th anniversary this year. "Encontros Musicais da Tradicão Europeia” is a festival produced by ETNIA, a Portuguese non-profit co-operative, founded in 1988 and aiming to promote traditional music and cultures of the world in Portugal and beyond, covering with its members today the whole territory of Portugal, and some areas of northern Spain (Galicia, Asturias, Cantabria). The "Encontros” '99 takes place between 1. and 15. July 1999, with 10 bands, 4 towns, 5 concerts per town, two bands per concert. Definitely worth a trip! [ETNIA; Headquarters / Arts Centre: Rua Direita, 156, 4910 Caminha, Portugal, Phone +351 (0)58 721218 / 722557, Fax: +351 (0)58 922590; International Office: Calcada do Marques de Abrantes, 10 - 3. Esq, 1200 Lisboa, Portugal, Phone: +351 (0)1 3951415, Fax: +351 (0)1 3961355, e-mail]
Having travelled in these few lines to major festivals in nearly all countries of continental Western Europe, it is clear that we could mention only a little part of the huge number of festivals in Europe - without doubt, you can find quite everywhere some nice places to hear folk music. Although every festival is entirely different, with different mentalities of the hosting folk, you will find at any folk festival many new friends and some great craic. Enjoy the travelling!
Please note that we will not add any further festival information to this article. Of course we understand that you might like to have your festival included in this feature; but as said this is not thought as a complete listing.
Still, you are always more than welcome to e-mail us your festival information - and who knows, the one or the other might be included in the news section next time!
Photo Credit: All Photos by The Mollis
(1) Plommon from Sweden - surely also at soem Scandinavian festivals. (2) Eleanor Shanley - at Tønder 99. (3) Street Dance in Leipzig - also to be found in Rudolstadt. (4) Asturian Pipe Band. (5) Carlos Núñez - the Galician star at Xacobeo.
Back to the content of FolkWorld Articles & live reviews
To the content of FolkWorld online magazine Nr. 9
All material published in FolkWorld is © The Author via FolkWorld. Storage for private use is allowed and welcome. Reviews and extracts of up to 200 words may be freely quoted and reproduced, if source and author are acknowledged. For any other reproduction please ask the Editors for permission.