17th Irish Spring Festival
Launched in 2001, the Irish Spring Festival premiered in Berlin’s Columbia Theatre just in time to warm up Irish music lovers for this year’s St. Patrick’s Day. Headlined by singer songwriter Eddie Sheehan and his duo partner Cormac Doyle on bouzouki and – at times bluesy – harmonica, this year’s line-up invites listeners to follow them on a journey between Irish traditional tunes and more contemporary influences.
Sheehan hails from Tipperary where he learned his craft, and he’s been successful on stages throughout the world for many years. Together with his duo partner Cormac Doyle, he performs his own songs, telling timeless tales of love, loss and longing and managing to teach a few Irish song lines in between.
The next set combines Irish tunes played by Mayo native David Munnelly and a band he put together exclusively for the Irish Spring festival: together with Shane McGowan on guitar and young Joseph McNulty on fiddle, he unleashes a tempest of energetic jigs, reels and hornpipes which set the stage for step dancer Andrew Vickers, whose precussive and captive moves are greeted with standing ovations from an enthusiastic audience.
After a break, fêted newcomers Connla from Armagh and Derry in Northern Ireland take the stage. An exciting new band awarded several prizes during their first year, they offer an impressive line-up with siblings Emer and Conor Mallon on celtic harp and pipes, Paul Starrett on guitar, Ciaran Carlin on flute and bódhran player and singer Ciara McCafferty. During their set, it becomes clear why the sextet have been predicted a long and successful career on the Irish traditional circuit. In spite of their young age, all of them are experienced players with enough confidence to depart from traditional paths in pursuit of their genre’s future, a fact that is obvious in their innovative interpretations of old classics and their invigorating original work.
They also offer the dry humour which can be key to connecting with listeners: “If you don’t like our CD, send it to Ciaran. He’ll send you a CD he doesn’t like, and if I see you leaving the venue with our CD, I’ll tell you the story behind the second tune, which is very embarrassing for me”, Conor informs the audience, ensuring a steep climb in sales numbers.
The three groups join for a fast and furious finale during which the Berlin audiences’ famous reservedness has long since been blown away by this fine performance of Irish music and entertainment skills. The German capital city will hopefully become a regular stopover for future editions of the Irish spring festival – especially since many concertgoers expressed some disappointment about the continued absence of a St. Patrick’s Day parade and festival in their city.