By Sam Brimacombe
Some of Europe’s leading Celtic musicians are set to play at Portarlington next month.
National Celtic Festival said the event’s line-up of international musicians and bands featured England’s The Heartstring Quartet. Isle of Man’s Barrule, Ireland’s Mairead Hurley and Scotland’s Fèis Rois.
Australian Celtic acts from across the country would also appear, as well as local dance groups.
Headliner The Heartstring Quartet combines four of the most important names in Celtic and folk music: legendary guitarist Arty McGlynn, fiddler Nollaig Casey, sister Máire Ní Chathasaigh and her long-time guitarist partner, Chris Newman.
Harpist Ní Chathasaigh said she was excited about playing Portarlington this year, which would be the first time the four had played the festival together.
“We’ve played in Australia before but not at this festival. It’s going to be fantastic, we’re really looking forward to it,” she said.
“Every place is different; audiences in different countries have different personalities. Australian audiences are amazing.
“They were very enthusiastic last time, so we’re really looking forward to that.”
Ní Chathasaigh put the popularity of the quartet’s music down to the dynamics each member shared on stage together while playing as soloists in their own right.
“We’ve all done amazing things. A lot of bands have one or two soloists and others backing them but we aren’t like that – we’re all soloists,” she explained.
“We all get to shine. Both Chris and I play dance and folk music, Arty played rock and roll, jazzy stuff, Nolliag has been in two bands as well and Chris has played swing.
“All those musical experiences just feed into what we do in one way or another.”
Ní Chathasaigh was humble about her reputaion as one of Ireland’s most-influential harpists.
s a teenager in County Cork she invented a signature style that quickly became the norm among her contemporaries and the younger generation of players.
“When I was growing up the sort of harp music played was the music from the 17th and 18th centuries, medium or slow paced, but what I wanted to play was dance music because that’s what I had grown up with.
“There was none of that, so I just had to work out how to do it. That might seem like no big deal in a way but it was and it was also very new.”
The Heartstring Quartet will visit Western Australia, Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne’s Art Centre before arriving at the festival.
Ni Chathasaigh promised a stellar performance at Portarlington.
“We all like to play music that means something to us. It’s the music that touches people that seems to resonate and when they go home that’s what they remember.”
The festival, the Southern Hemisphere’s largest annual celebration of Celtic culture, runs from 6 to 9 June.