Sunday, 22 March 2009

Stormont concert in Northern Ireland, 14 March

The Great Hall, Stormont; the statue represents Sir James Craig, first prime minister of Northern Ireland

On Saturday 14 March 2009 Woodbine, a four-piece bluegrass band from Co. Kildare, Ireland, opened a special concert in the Great Hall at the Northern Ireland Parliament Buildings, Stormont, near Belfast, before an invited audience of some 250 people from Northern Ireland and abroad.

In August 2008 William Hay, Speaker of the NI Legislative Assembly, formed the idea of a St Patrick's Day concert to celebrate the rich diversity of music, song, and the bardic traditions in Ulster and the rest of Ireland. The show was organised by Frank Galligan, writer and radio/TV presenter, who also acts as bluegrass MC for the festivals at Omagh, Longford, and this year Athy.

Headlining the two-hour concert were the dynamic young west Ulster group Kintra, who combine Scottish and Irish piping, fiddling, and dance traditions with drums, keyboard, electric guitar, and bass. The bardic tradition was represented by Declan Forde, storyteller and reciter of 'poems with chords'. The audience responded with two standing ovations at the end of the concert, and Woodbine were not allowed to leave without playing for a further thirty or forty minutes in the Stormont bar.

The concert reaffirmed links between communities in Ulster, Ireland, and abroad, and Frank Galligan summed up the evening as 'a night to remember, and most definitely a great advert for bluegrass music and the traditions from which it stems'. A fuller report is here.