The Inishowen Singing Festival,which takes place this weekend, is the longest running traditional singing festival in Ireland.
The 33rd edition of the much-loved showcase offers a packed programme of events, including formal and informal singing sessions, a grand concert, talks, a workshop – and there’s even a bit of weaving this year too, all across seven venues in Ballyliffin and Clonmany.
Grace Toland, one of the festival organisers, is looking forward to another “warm and joyous celebration of all things songs and singing”, with traditional singers from all over the world coming to Inishowen.
The 2023 ‘Singing Weekend’ will feature songs and stories of the Irish in the pine regions of northern US and Canada, as told by Brian Miller from St Paul, Minnesota.
Scottish singer Kathy Hobkirk, and Anne Lamb from the north of England will join the legendary Len Graham (Antrim), and young Donegal singer, Naoise Mac Cathmhaoil.
Flying the flag for Inishowen are Michael and Alice Gallanagh, from Buncrana, as well as Bredgeen and Brónach Harkin from the Isle of Doagh in conversation with John Moulden, and the first outing of the recently formed Inishowen Trad Community Choir, led by Lorna McLaughlin.
There will be weaving at Glendowen Craft Studio on Sunday morning, when Maurice Leyden will set the scene for a weaving demonstration by master weaver John Heena.
In the mix as well over the weekend will be many younger singers, including groups from the Universities of Limerick, Ohio, Galway and Cork.
Singers from around the world
The festival organisers are confident that the weekend has something for everyone, as Grace explains.
“If you are new or curious about the whole idea of traditional singing, the atmosphere is warm and welcoming, and full of fun and craic at the big sessions in the Ballyliffin Hotel, McFeeley’s, Mac Tam’s, and Toland’s in Clonmany, and the North Pole, Drumfries.”
“The Saturday night concert is a great opportunity to sit back and support local Inishowen singers as they take their place alongside respected singers from song communities around the world.”
She said: “If learning a bit more is your thing, the talks and workshops are presented by knowledgeable and entertaining presenters, and full of songs.”
“Listeners and singers are welcomed alike with the main goal of enjoying singing in good company.”
Grace says Inishowen is home to a wonderful and highly-respected singing tradition and it’s important to celebrate that.
“The annual March gathering is a really important showcase for Inishowen songs and singers, and an opportunity for us to meet singers from other traditions, and hear new voices and songs.”
“For younger singers it is a chance to witness the respect and regard held for Inishowen among traditional singers around the world, and hopefully an inspiration for them to learn more and carry the tradition forward.”
“The festival is part of a year round programme of events, sessions, publishing and archiving, organised voluntarily by Inishowen Traditional Singers’ Circle, as we work to ensure this unique aspect of Inishowen heritage is available for future generations,” Grace added.
For more information look at the Inishowen Singers website here