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Irish Fest Announces 2012 Festival Entertainers

By Jackie Hribar - Irish Frest
June 15, 2012 - 2:00 pm

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Irish Fest Announces 2012 Festival Entertainers

Irish Fest Announces 2012 Festival Entertainers

Milwaukee, Wisc. — Milwaukee Irish Fest, North America's largest celebration of Irish music and culture, today announces their music and entertainment lineup for the 2012 festival taking place August 16-19 at Henry Maier Festival Park along the beautiful shore of Lake Michigan. The lineup, which includes both new and returning musicians along with a special tribute to Ireland's influence on Bluegrass music, will showcase some of the finest Irish music talent from around the world. This year, Irish Fest will feature more than 100 acts on 16 stages over the four-day festival.

"Every year we bring in a diverse lineup of artists that covers Traditional, Celtic rock, folk, singer/songwriter, and contemporary styles," said Ed Ward, entertainment coordinator for Milwaukee Irish Fest. "There's truly something for everybody."

Festival Favorites

Returning to Irish Fest again this year are all the big names and the best acts that fans have come to expect over the years. Artists back by popular demand include traditional favorites like Slide, Scythian, McPeake, Liz Carroll, Jackie Daly and Matt Cranitch, the Fuchsia Band and Moloney, Keane & O'Connell. Guests can rock out to acclaimed contemporary groups like Skerryvore, Enter the Haggis and Gaelic Storm, soak up folk balladeers like The High Kings and The Makem & Spain Brothers and enjoy the impeccable harmonies of The Henry Girls.

"We're bringing back the fan favorites and, frankly, friends that have been coming to Irish Fest for the past 32 years," Ward said.

New Acts

For those looking for something new, artists making their debut at this year's fest include soulful Nova Scotia group, Sprag Session; foot-stomping folk artist, Mossy Moran; the culturally dynamic Open Arts Community Choir; and virtuoso flute and whistle player, Larry Nugent with award-winning songwriter, Patsy O'Brien. Regional bands appearing at Irish Fest for the first time are An Dro, Chicago Reel and Nashville Ceili Band.

Other artists appearing for the first time who are also featured in this year's Bluegrass music showcase include Tim O'Brien with Bryan Sutton (former Ricky Skaggs' Kentucky Thunder band member), High Roads & Railroads (collaboration between Irish band, Teada and U.S. based Ebony Hillbillies), the April Verch Band (a Canadian group known for its foot-stomping music and fusion of influences) and Gerry O'Connor (considered one of the best tenor banjo players in Ireland's history). Regional Bluegrass acts include Chicago's Henhouse Prowlers (performing in neatly ironed suits around a single microphone) and Cornmeal (an American Roots and folk music band also from Chicago). The showcase's headliners cover both the genre's history and its future: Del McCoury was one of the early proponents of this style of music while The Punch Brothers is a progressive Bluegrass band with an innovative and jazzy sound.

Bluegrass Music Showcase

This year's tribute to Bluegrass music celebrates Ireland's influence on this unique form of American Roots music. Guests are invited to celebrate the genre's rich past while renewing their appreciation of this style of music today. Performances will come to life on the Celtic Roots stage and the sights and sounds of Bluegrass will be found in other areas of the festival, including an exhibit put on by the International Bluegrass Music Museum located in Owensboro, Ken.

It's not widely known that Bluegrass music evolved out of the folk music traditions of 18th century immigrants who settled in the Appalachia region of the United States. With origins in Irish, Scottish, English and Welsh ballads and tunes, the early music had a predominant string band format dominated by fiddle, and grew to include the iconic banjo, guitar, mandolin and autoharp. Called "mountain" or "Old Time" music, it frequently accompanied rural dancing styles. As recordings and radio programs began to spread, the commercial "country music" industry was born. Over time, the center of country music was shifted to Nashville with the growing success of the Grand Ole Opry. The term "Bluegrass" first came into to use in 1948 and is often credited to long-time Opry performer Bill Monroe and his Blue Grass Boys. Bluegrass has since continued to merge with jazz, gospel, country and Celtic music to produce the sound enjoyed around the world today.

"The entire Bluegrass lineup is exciting as it brings Ireland and Bluegrass cultures together," Ward said. "We've had Bluegrass-Celtic acts at the festival in the past, but the idea of an entire showcase focused on Bluegrass is something we've been toying with for several years now. There is such resurgence in interest surrounding Bluegrass music right now that the timing is perfect. We even have a few collaborations you won't see anywhere else that keep Milwaukee Irish Fest on the leading edge of entertainment."

Bluegrass headliners include Del McCoury whose music has defined authenticity for hard core Bluegrass fans for fifty years. An International Bluegrass Music Association Hall of Famer, McCoury was a member - and eventually lead singer - of Bill Monroe's Blue Grass Boys band and today stands as a living link to the days when Bluegrass was made only in honkytonks and on the stage of the Grand Ole Opry. On the other end of the spectrum headlining the showcase is progressive Bluegrass band, The Punch Brothers, who, with Grammy awards, appearances on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and The Late Show with David Letterman and a single on the soundtrack of the "The Hunger Games," is helping push the genre into mainstream culture.

Unique collaborations between Irish and U.S. bands will take place during the Bluegrass showcase, emphasizing the similarities in the styles of music. High Roads & Railroads brings together Ireland's Téada with New York City-based Ebony Hillbillies. Meanwhile, another pairing brings Irish folk act, The Henry Girls together with West Virginia string band, The Fox Hunt. Additional musicians in the showcase include: Brock McGuire, Tim O'Brien and Bryan Sutton, Cornmeal, the April Verch Band, Gerry O'Connor, Henhouse Prowlers, Aoife O'Donovan and We Banjo 3.

Additional information:
Milwaukee Irish Fest


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