The 11th Annual Dayton Celtic Festival Returns to Riverscape
By Kevin J. Gray
The last weekend in July, the sights, sounds and tastes of Ireland, Scotland and Wales will fill Riverscape Metropark for the eleventh annual Dayton Celtic Festival. Hosted by the United Irish of Dayton in partnership with Five Rivers MetroPark, the three-day event features live music and dancing, as well as Celtic foods and Irish beers. Throughout the weekend, there will be children’s activities, cultural demonstrations, and wares for sale in the Celtic Marketplace. In addition, there is a 5k run/walk on Saturday and a Bike Ride, traditional Gaelic Mass and Celtic breakfast on Sunday.
The festival’s main attraction is the free live music. With 20 performers and 3 stages, expect continuous music all weekend long. And this year, the festival is pleased to host five headlining bands. Festival Artistic Director Bill Russell explains: “Starting with traditional Irish musicians, Slide are straight from Ireland and The Máirtín de Cógáin Project consists of County Cork native Máirtín de Cógáin with some wonderfully talented musicians from the United States. We are pleased to welcome back rousing Celtic rockers Enter the Haggis from Canada, crowd-pleasing world music powerhouse Scythian, and the hottest band in World and Celtic music today – Gaelic Storm.”
Slide traces its roots to County Cork, Ireland during the late ‘90s, where the band performed as part of a local music festival. The group consists of Aogán Lynch on concertina, fiddler-guitarist Daire Bracken, bouzouki and mandolin player Mick Broderick, vocalist-guitarist Dave Curley and pianist-flautist Éamonn de Barr.
Máirtín de Cógáin leads The Máirtín de Cógáin Project, a collaboration of Irish and American musicians. Máirtín is an entertainer of many talents—not only does he sing, but he is also a championship storyteller, dancer, bodhrán (Irish drum) player and actor!
Enter The Haggis, based in Toronto, is a story of great music, hard work and tireless touring. The band has been described as “somewhere between the fiercely creative and contemporary soundscapes of Radiohead and the heartfelt storytelling and infectious grooves of The Band.” This sound has landed Enter The Haggis on Billboard, Amazon and iTunes top ten charts, as well as TV appearances like A&E’s “Breakfast with the Arts” and “Live with Regis and Kelly.” Enter the Haggis also had their very own PBS special, which is available for sale on the band’s website.
Scythian is a world music group with a Celtic flavor. The group originated in 2002 in Washington, D. C., and now regularly plays large U.S. festivals. With music that ranges from traditional and contemporary Celtic and folk music to the alluring and dramatic strains of Gypsy and Eastern European tunes, with some bluegrass licks thrown in for good measure, these classically trained musicians get crowds on their feet by blending the sounds of two dueling fiddlers, a rhythm guitar (and occasional accordion), and the driving rhythm of a jazz percussionist. Bring your dancing shoes for this one.
Gaelic Storm, a festival favorite, returns to Dayton again this year. Gaelic Storm’s stage show mixes upbeat vocals, energetic dance tunes, haunting ballads and infectious humor. Movie fans may recall the band’s appearance in the 1997 film “Titanic.” In addition to their screen credits, the band’s career includes seven Billboard Chart topping albums, a DVD, a full-length concert film featured on HD.net, song placement on two EA Sports Games, a 2008 Hallmark greeting card featuring their song “Kiss Me I’m Irish” and countless television and radio appearances. The band plays originals and new arrangements of traditional Celtic tunes, adding blends of world rhythms to broaden the genre. Gaelic Storm will be releasing a new album at the festival this year.
New to the festival in 2012 is a Céilí Mór. A Céilí Mór is an audience-participation Irish group dance. This céilí will consist of music provided by the Irish traditional bands Slide, The Máirtín de Cógáin Project, Finvarra’s Wren, Changeling and The Roving Rogues. Éamonn de Cógáin will be calling the dances. Éamonn has a history of calling céilís throughout Ireland and is becoming increasingly popular with U.S. fans. Éamonn’s credentials include organizing and MCing Damhsafest, The Cork International Folk Dance Festival, and orchestrating dancers at The Flying Enterprise Complex in his native Cork. Don’t know how to dance? Fret not—Éamonn is a skilled teacher and soon you will be shaking and sliding your way through the festival.
In addition to the headlining acts, local and regional musicians and dancers will be performing throughout the weekend. These groups include The Bloody Tinth, Dulahan, Homeland, Rocky Creek, The Roving Rogues, Father Son and Friends, Finvarra’s Wren, Changeling, Sons O’ Blarney, Miami Valley Pipes and Drums, St Andrews Highland Dancers, Celtic Academy of Irish Dance, McGovern Ceili Dancers and the Royal Scottish Country Dancers.
The Dayton Celtic Festival runs from 6 p.m. – 11 p.m. on Friday, July 27, from 12 p.m.-11 p.m. on Saturday, July 28 and from 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. on Sunday, July 29. For more information about the bands, dancers, or any of the special events, visit www.unitedirishofdayton.org or call (937) 372-9788.
Reach DCP freelance writer Kevin J. Gray at KevinGray@DaytonCityPaper.com.