27 September 2012

More on JKBF 2012

George Harper (USA; guitar) and his Awesome Bastards on the O'Connor Square stage  

Roger Ryan of the Country Music Association of Ireland sends this personal view:

While the crowds could have been bigger, the organisers can feel well pleased with the overall success of the Johnny Keenan Banjo Festival which was held in Tullamore, Co. Offaly, over the past weekend. The combination of sunshine and music provided the ingredients for a magical and uplifting experience that helped to ease the doom and gloom which currently envelops our country. It was so nice to see people milling around the town enjoying the lots of free entertainment on offer in the local hostelries and on the main stage in the town square.

This truly has developed into an international event and attracts fans and musicians from all corners of the globe. We had bands from Spain, the Czech Republic, and the USA. The many workshops, lectures, the Festival Club, and the main evening concerts were held at the spacious Tullamore Court Hotel, and were well attended and well organised. The gatherings (pickin' parties) proved to be a great success and were a great way to end the day on the following morning, if you get my drift. Some of the many highlights for me personally were the Saturday night concert, especially the performance by headline act Blue Highway, featuring Rob Ickes on Dobro, and the Niall Toner Band. Niall heads off to Nashville today [Monday] to attend the IBMA World of Bluegrass in Nashville, and will spend a month in the USA touring, and promoting his new album which is on general release there. Suzy Bogguss gave an outstanding performance and posed freely for pictures later. Gerry O'Connor was amazing on banjo. The jewel in the crown though for me was the 10.00 a.m. mass on Sunday in the Church of the Assumption, where the musicians played and members of Blue Highway [below] sang a cappella. It was a truly memorable experience and greatly appreciated by the large gathering present.

Previously staged in Longford, this was the festival's first year in the new setting of Tullamore, and hopefully it will quickly establish itself as the major festival it undoubtedly is, and receive the support it deserves. One suggestion I would make in this respect is perhaps it would be better to put more emphasis on the international music side of the festival. It really is a lot more than a banjo festival.

BIB editor's note: A good deal might be said on this topic; meanwhile, we note that although a banjo image is a prominent part of the festival logo, different versions of the logo read 'Banjo Festival' and 'International Festival'. Hmm...

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