Irish Fest

Ben Binversie

The Canadian band The Stanfields don’t fit into any one musical mould. They’re hard driving rock 'n' roll, they’re a bit rootsy, and they also draw on the Scots and Irish fiddle traditions of their Nova Scotian home.

"You know, there’s a lot of stuff we’re doing now that we weren’t ready to play [before], because...we’ve evolved," says Jon Landry. "And we’ve evolved together in these last three years in ways that I never would have imagined when I think back to the times we were throwing chairs at each other."

Ben Binversie

Canadian musician Shreem is Jay Andrews, originally from Halifax, Nova Scotia, and now based in Toronto. He's in Milwaukee to perform at Irish Fest all weekend. Shreem uses traditional Cape Breton fiddle tunes is his music, but his mix of very traditional fiddle tunes, hip hop, overdubs, and house is unique in the world of Celtic music.

Lauren Sigfusson

The five piece Irish band Seo Linn has a distinctive style that combines the traditional sense of Irish music along with the new. Performing and writing music in English and Irish, Seo Linn sometimes switches languages in mid-song. The group's original songs, Irish covers of pop tunes and high energy stage show has catapulted them from barely being a band to headlining shows internationally.

silepost.com

Stories and storytelling flourish in Ireland and Irish descendants scattered around the world, like Irish/American author Sheila Post.

Post’s newest novel, Your Own Ones, uses her family’s Irish heritage by telling the journey of Canadian/Irish wild salmon conservationist Áine O’Connor. In the book, O’Connor travels to the Dingle Peninsula in Ireland, and discovers a 1,000-year-old family tradition of protecting the land and sea, as well as a hidden family history.

Bonnie North

Of all the ethnic festivals that take place in Milwaukee over the summer, one of the best for music is Irish Fest. The music runs the gamut from the most traditional of fiddle tunes to Celtic tinged rock, and many of the bands playing there see scores of fans on their feet, passionately singing and dancing along with the music.

Mitch Teich

You might not recognize the name Aoife Scott immediately, but if you know anything about the Irish musical tradition of the past 30 years, you might recognize something about her voice. Scott is the daughter of Frances Black and niece of Mary Black - both internationally known singers.

Penguin Random House

The country of Ireland has inspired countless songs, poems, books, and many other creative reflections. For author Kathleen Anne Kenney, her affinity for Ireland grew stronger after visiting the lands that inspired her novel – Girl on the Leeside.

There’s a lot of talk about the violence that affects urban America: drive-by shootings, carjackings, and other crime that continue to affect the fabric of this country. But very little of that violence has the sectarian underpinnings of the time known as “The Troubles,” which plagued the Northern Ireland city of Belfast for three decades starting in 1969.

Bonnie North

The special focus of this year’s Milwaukee Irish Fest is the Celtic World Showcase. Bands from Scotland, Ireland, The Isle of Man, Wales, the US and Canada are keeping their Celtic traditions alive while pushing their musical boundaries.

The Orkney Islands are part of Scotland, but with a history that includes time as part of Denmark, they have their own distinct traditions. And in the midst of that tradition are the Wrigley Sisters.

Bonnie North

Irish Fest offers traditional Irish music, dancing and food, but there are also innovative bands hailing from all around the world. This year's Celtic World Showcase features some of them.

The young, bilingual trio Ten Strings and a Goat Skin originated in Prince Edward Island in Canada's eastern provinces. The traditional music scene there sips from a rich musical soup that draws on Scots, Irish, English, and French influences. Ten Strings takes it even further.

Photo courtesy of Ellen Alden

Before one fateful trip to her attic, writer Ellen Alden knew next-to-nothing about the life of her ancestors, save for the fact that her red hair was a throwback to her family's life in Ireland. 

However things changed rapidly after Alden found nineteen old letters in a leather box written by her great-great-grandfather Florence Burke to his family during the Civil War.

Bonnie North

Irish Fest is underway along Milwaukee’s lakefront.  Tens of thousands of people will pass through the Summerfest Grounds turnstiles to take in both contemporary and traditional Celtic music.  And although it’s the largest Irish festival in North America, it actually features acts from all seven Celtic nations, plus Canada and the United States.

Bonnie North

You can know a lot about Celtic heritage and culture and still not know very much about the Isle of Man. The island is famous for international cyclist Mark Cavendish, its unusual flag and it’s unusual relationship with Great Britain.

It’s a “crown dependency,” which means it has its own parliament and money and is ruled by the Lord of Man, who happens to be Queen Elizabeth II.

Trinity Irish Dance Company

It's been almost 20 years since the explosive, award-winning, and internationally renowned performances by Trinity Irish Dance Company have graced a stage at Irish Fest. But founder and artistic director Mark Howard is happy to return to the festival he says made it all possible.

Adam Baker / Flickr

While most of the people who visited Irish Fest a few weeks ago were likely there to watch musical acts, another cultural attraction that many caught was Irish dance.  It’s a form that has a huge following in the Milwaukee area, even outside of the festival season.  Hundreds of kids attend any of several schools that prepare them for competitions.

But in the coming months, organizers hope the nation’s first professional Irish dance company will make Milwaukee home. 

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