June 6 to June 9, 2014
There is a well-kept secret on the Bellarine Peninsula: on a wintery long weekend in June the ‘clans’ gather in the seaside town of Portarlington. Amidst singing, dancing, drinking, eating and playing music, a celebration of friendship is held. For those well-versed with the Irish and Scottish traditions, the National Celtic Festival is compulsory. Meanwhile, for those not initiated, it is a wonderful surprise to find such amazing music and dedicated musicians in our midst.
Overseas guests included musicians from Cape Breton in Canada, the Isle of Man, Scotland, Ireland and England. A collaboration between the festival and Fèis Rois (a school for skill development in traditional Scottish musical instruments) continues to bring talented young musicians to Portarlington to share their skills with the community as well as involving Australian musicians in their performances overseas.
Barrule, a trio from the Isle of Man, who I was lucky enough to interview before the festival, did not disappoint. Playing traditional Manx music, they combine the sounds of accordion, fiddle and bouzouki and are sure to be back in Australia in the not too distant future. The headliner of the weekend was most probably The Heartstring Quartet, who through playing a set of traditional music showcased their talent and showed why they have played with some of the biggest acts around including Sinead O’Connor and Van Morrison. Of course no Celtic festival ending would be complete without the strains of the bagpipes from Claymore with ‘Long Way to the Top’.
Highlights included a new addition to the Ocean Grove area, Áine Tyrrell and band, Shane Howard, Sásta and Working Dog Union, who hail from South Australia and according to the program “combine the Uilleann pipes with contemporary jazz and progressive rock”.
If you are prepared to be entertained with a variety of music, dance, workshops and song, this unique festival should definitely be on your calendar.
Written by Tex Miller