TradFest Hitlist: Top Tips from Staff

The countdown is on – with only three weeks to go, find out what those involved in bringing the Festival together have their eye on from the rich programme.

DanielDaniel Abercrombie, TRACS Programme & Events Manager

I love the variety that TradFest offers, so there’s three differing picks for me.

I could listen to Gaelic song all day, so I’m looking forward to the Fuaran event on 27 April. I’m also very interested in Anna & Elizabeth’s performance at Summerhall on 7 May; they combine sparse arrangements with close harmonies, but also bring their songs to life with story “crankies”!

Finally, the Four Nations event at the Storytelling Centre on 6 May is a wonderful mix of international and local traditions, with fun for all the family.

LindsayLindsay Corr, TRACS Marketing and Communications Manager

What a line-up for 2017’s TradFest, showcasing one-off specials and regular events right on your doorstep year-round!

I want to soak up as much as possible, and high on my hit list is Tantalising Treats, hosted by the irrepressible Mara Menzies for a fusion of storytelling, music and food at the Storytelling Centre on 4 May.

Being a Northern Irish girl, I’m keen to see Connla live on 28 April as their record gives me goose bumps, and last year I loved WHɎTE so will be immersing in their Gaelic electronica again on 6 May. I’ll also be taking A Royal Mile Walk with Burns & Stevenson (26 Apr – 7 May) and meeting some of Edinburgh’s best historical characters at The People’s Heritage (29 April – 7 May).

Storytelling sessions spliced with music are appealing at the Storytelling Centre, with Giants on 30 April treating us to Nordic and Celtic mythology, plus I adore the ocean so the mermaid in me is excited about Seal Skins, Storms & Treasures Deep on 2 May. I am also looking forward to 3troubadours: Mobile Dreams which promises a mix of languages and emotions from a talented trio on 27 April.

BeaBea Ferguson, Storyteller & TRACS Board Member

This year’s TradFest seems even busier than last and how I wish I could be in several places at once!

I am hoping to get to see the Irish group Connla on 28 April – I missed them at Celtic Connections and they sound a fantastic new group. The Flooers O’ May is a brilliant mix of musicians and a fundraiser for the Scots Music Group on 1 May – so a very worthwhile cause while enjoying a great session.

I also missed the play Jock’s Jocks in November, so that’s on the list for 4 May, as is the celebration of Morris Blythman, From Thurso to Berwick on 5 May.

I couldn’t possibly miss my Irish friends Jack Lynch and Len Graham in An Irish Hoolie on 6 May and I can manage two in one evening as immediately before that the wonderful Margaret Bennett is appearing with students from the Royal Conservatoire in Beyond the Border, celebrating stories and songs collected by Sir Walter Scott.

That’s just the start, so it looks as though life is going to be very busy for two weeks in April and May.

DavidDavid Francis, TRACS and Traditional Music Forum

One of the key things about TradFest is the variety in the programme. Not just gigs, but theatre performances, walks and trails, talks, dances, exhibitions, films and street shows.

I hope to get out and about to see some of the happenings in the Old Town, catch the Look Again talks at the National Library (1-5 May), Conrad Molleson’s caricatures (14 April – 7 May) and as many of the films in the Folk Film Gathering (29 Apr – 13 May) as I can. Each of the films is prefaced with a short gig from matching musicians, a great idea which worked well with storytellers last year.

Also high on my to-see list is Theatre Objektiv’s On the Radical Road: Enacting Hamish Henderson (27 Apr – 1 May). Henderson is very much the guiding spirit of the festival, and he would have been solidly behind ventures like the San Ghanny Choir (28 Apr), appearing from their home in Palestine, and featuring with music and stories from Iraq (30 Apr), and dancing and drumming from Ghana (29 & 30 Apr), Japan and the Basque Country (1 May).

With so much to choose from I’m going to be cheeky and highlight some shows I’m contributing to: check out Scotch Quadrilles and Irish Sets (April 29), Why the Birds Sing (May 1) – an evening of Iain McFadyen’s poetry and prose, Archieology: An Evening with Archie Fisher (May 2), where Archie will be singing and reflecting on a long life in folk music, and The Music of What Happens, combining storytellers and musical improvisers (May 3).

MichelleMichelle Kelly, Co-ordinator, Traditional Dance Forum of Scotland

Ah this is tricky – what a treat of a programme this year!

My dance picks would be Scotch Quadrilles & Irish Sets and Akrowa UK’s Drum and Dance workshops. The Scotch Quadrilles and Irish Sets are elegant, uplifting dances, and then you have the infectious rhythms and beats of African drum and dance.

Also, it’s great to have a day of Scottish Dance Workshops for children and young people this year with something for all ages and abilities from beginners to advanced dancers – and what a great way to meet other young dancers!

Writing this from a short trip back in Ireland, my interest is piqued by Connla, a rising and award-winning new group from Northern Ireland. I can also recommend Dublin’s Lankum and won’t be missing the chance to see them again.

Lastly, I’ve got to mention the Look Again and Folk Film strands, and will get along to as many of these events as I can. Oh and Sensing Place – a great project exploring the power of place through archive film and traditional storytelling.

EllieEllie Logan, Member Officer, Traditional Music Forum

I can highly recommend the unusually titled Get up and tie your fingers Eyemouth – a beautifully presented story of how the Eyemouth community overcame the fishing disaster of 1881. It’s far more uplifting than it sounds and combines storytelling with dance and a choral score – all sung unaccompanied.

It is performed by members of the Eyemouth community, from ages 8-80. I am slightly biased as producer and musical director… So please come and join us on 30 April at 3pm!

Staying on the community and fishing theme, I shall also be going along to enjoy the wonderful Nest of Songbirds on 7 May to learn some new songs and stories. And for something more contemporary, I will be going along to Unspun on 4 May for some new sounds from Scotland and beyond.

SoundhouseJane-Ann Purdy & Douglas Robertson, The Soundhouse Organisation

We booked 11 music acts for this year’s TradFest under the Soundhouse banner.

We have quite unashamedly picked everything from Soundhouse’s line up just because we know most about these musicians, but we are looking forward to hearing more about the fantastic shows happening elsewhere and getting along to some of the treats on offer!

Dean Owens launches an exciting new venture, Redwood Mountain with fiddler Amy Geddes on 27 April. We highly recommend: Lankum from Dublin on 1 May – just the freshest, rawest and most exciting folk around who won a five star Guardian review when they last played for us.

Anna & Elizabeth will captivate on 7 May with the most amazing Old Time from young performers that you will hear anywhere; Fourth Moon on 4 May and Event Horizon on 30 April will dazzle and delight as anything with the dynamic Mohsen Amini does; Western Centuries – the return of the stand out song writing talents of Cahalen Morrisonon 8 May should be missed at your peril and Kaela Rowan Band on 29 April offers the most mesmerising voice and delicate delivery of some total classic ballads.

Generally, we advise you to take that time off work that you so deserve, and catch a gig per evening for the duration of TradFest!

DonaldDonald Smith, TRACS Director

It’s hard to believe how TradFest has developed. I can go now from Bagpipes Gu Leòr, a feast of piping tradition on the opening night (26 April), to a surge of new talent in Battle of the Folk Bands on the last (7 May).

In between, On the Radical Road: Enacting Hamish Henderson (27 Apr – 1 May) showcases a folk hero, Local Cultures at the Scottish Storytelling Centre is a beezer, while Look Again at the National Library (1-5 May) and The People’s Heritage (29 Apr – 7 May) throughout the city interprets Scotland’s Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology in grand style.

ElaineElaine Webster, TRACS Board Member

I’m excited to see such a rich, deep, inclusive celebration of culture and languages at this year’s TradFest.

American folk songs appeal in the Redwood Mountain: Transatlantic Crossings on 27 April and RURA on 6 May. All ages have a great opportunity to connect as they try out new food and explore the stalls at the Four Nations United day at the Storytelling Centre on 6 May. Wee fowk will be amused and nurtured with stories from the Story Blanket with Suit & Pace on 1 May.

It’s always hard to select favourites from such a rich line-up of options, but I love the idea of sharing projects and local history such as the Nest of Songbirds session on 7 May and Sensing Place on 4 May. I’m delighted to see Jessie Kesson’s masterpiece Another Time, Another Place is to be shared and explored at the Folk Film Gathering on 6 May, where I will also head towards the Chanson d’Armor screening on 4 May.

I hope to see lots of people taking part in these wonderful events!

MoragMorag Wells, Marketing and Communications Development Officer

This year’s festival is bigger and better than ever, which means it’s getting harder and harder to choose the events I’m most looking forward to!

I’ll definitely be attending Bagpipes Gu Leòr at the Queen’s Hall on the opening night (26 April) – I’ve always been a big fan of the pipes, so this world-class line up of diverse pipers in a fantastic venue can’t be missed. The following night (27 April) I’m interested to see Fuaran, a showcase of Fèisean nan Gàidheal’s fascinating Gaelic song project featuring three beautiful singers in the cosy surroundings of the Storytelling Centre’s Netherbow Theatre.

As well as concerts and performances, the TradFest programme also contains opportunities to get involved in different traditions first-hand, and so I’ll be heading back to the Storytelling Centre on 29 April to try out Yalla: Arabic Song for Absolute Beginners. Having missed it last year, I’m excited to see The Two Truths of Thomas the Rhymer – a storytelling collaboration between two incredible tellers, Daniel Serridge and James Spence, is back on 29 April.

I can’t forget the fantastic programme of live gigs at Summerhall, and I’m very intrigued by new project Event Horizon with highly accomplished musicians Géza Frank & Jean Damei on 30 April – they’re interested in blending traditional acoustic Irish and Scottish music with electronic dance music influences in an effort to evoke astrophysical and cosmological themes. Sounds promising to me!

I’ll also check out Edinburgh band Wayward Jane’s Storytelling Centre gig on 3 May – inspired by American Old Time music as well as British & Irish folk traditions and with a band comprising double bass, fiddle, banjo, guitar, wooden flute and vocals, they sound like the perfect way to end a (hopefully sunny) day! 

I’m going to struggle to pick between clashing events, An Irish Hoolie with fantastic Irish singers, tradition bearers and storytellers Cathal McConnel, Len Graham and Jack Lynch at the Storytelling Centre and the stunning folk band RURA at Summerhall on 6 May evening. There’s rich pickings on the final night too (7 May), with the much-anticipated Battle of the Folk Bands in collaboration with Hands Up For Trad at La Belle Angèle, while the gorgeous American folk story and song duo Anna & Elizabeth play the final Summerhall gig – I think I’ll try and do both!

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