If you were to ask me to put together a folk/trad line-up of my favourite artists, then I would probably come up with the same one that will be on the stage of the MAC on Monday night in A Stór Mo Chroí – A Musical Gathering.
The duo that make up Lumiere is probably one of the bands I’ve seen most in the past couple of years but with Éilis Kennedy and Pauline Scanlon the singers accompanied by guitarist Donogh Hennessy, it’s easy to see why.
I’ve seen them at an Droichead in south Belfast, at the Cultúrlann in Derry and somewhere else out in the sticks. I’ve even been to John Benny’s pub in Danigean Uí Chúis aka Dingle, a great bar owned by Éilis’s husband.
Not only has the duo sweet, strong voices but they choose their material meticulously, be it in Irish or English, traditional or modern and deliver every one of them with controlled passion.
Someone else I’ve seen on numerous occasions is John Spillane. Again, I’ve been happy to travel to see the Corkman in action, Dungiven being the last place I saw him.
It’s impossible not to like John’s songs some of which would be in The Great Irish Song Book, if there were such a thing, the likes of Magic Nights in the Lobby Bar, Dance of The Cherry Tree, Passage West and all those songs in Irish we learned at school or in the Gaeltacht.
Not only is John a great singer/songwriter but there are few people with a better rapport with an audience than he.
And what about Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh? I remember seeing Muireann when she had just joined the group Danú who were playing in the Lyric Theatre – as were John Spillane and Louis de Paor – and I was entranced like everyone else by her singing of those great, noble Munster songs that are at the heart of our cultural wealth.
And then there’s Mary Dillon, one of Irish music’s best kept secrets – though I think that’s how Mary prefers it!
Mary has just emerged from the mist that covers the Glenshane Pass near her native Dungiven with a stunning EP named after a song by Kate Bush, Army Dreamers as well as the Bruce Springsteen song, Streets of Philadelphia.
That was followed by an equally brilliant album called North, which features mostly traditional songs – and one composed by Mary herself.
Last but not least, we have Dónal O’Connor and John McSherry. Wherever you are at a great session, it’s likely one of these boys will be in the thick of the action.
They encapsulate that old sentiment about modernity needing to respect the tradition.
Anyway, this cornucopia of talent will be on the stage of the MAC in Belfast on Monday night in a show called A Stór Mo Chroí.
It’s not, as the title suggests, a night of love songs as Pauline Scanlon explained to me.
“A Stór Mo Chroí started off as the brainchild of Colm Ó Síocháin who runs the fabulous Celtic Note record shop in Nassau Street in Dublin (celticnote.com), and he put together a compilation of love songs called ‘A Stór Mo Chroí’, brought the concept to us and now to the stage.
“It’s not exclusively love songs, that would work on a CD but I don’t think you could inflict that on an audience!” she says, laughing.
“The importance is ‘A Stór Mo Chroí is that the participants are all lovely, we all sing lovely songs, but the craic on the stage is brilliant. It’s just good fun.
“For the one in Belfast, unfortunately Karan Casey can’t make thar one, so we have the lovely Mary Dillon to do it – and she’s just amazing.”
And now the moment you’ve all being waiting for….
I have a pair of tickets for the gig which a lucky reader can win by answering this question:
Where is the Celtic Note record shop?
Send your answers to firstname.lastname@example.org by 3pm tomorrow (Sunday 19 October 2014) and I’ll announce the winner by 6pm. If you don’t get an e-mail, you haven’t won! Now go for it.