TRIUMPHANT 13TH RETURN TO CAMDEN

AND so, all too soon, the annual Return to Camden Festival is over for another year (sob). But wow, what a festival and what a way to celebrate its thirteenth year in existence. Both the music and dance elements of the popular Camden festival, headed up by Karen Ryan of The London Lasses were lively and well-attended.
Encouragingly, concerts and ceilis were filled with plenty of young enthusiasts of Irish song and dance, as well as those with the odd grey hair or two!
The Concert on the festival’s first Friday night, sponsored by The Irish World at London Irish Centre was a huge success.
Rún opened the programme with the melodious female singers lead by County Down's Bronagh McVitie. Rún's repertoire includes romantic Celtic Language songs in Manx, Cornish, Welsh and Breton.
Noel Hill on concertina and Tony Linnane on fiddle (both from County Clare) accompanied by Alec Finn on bouzouki followed with great tunes displaying their incredible talents which have made them legends worldwide.
Shaskeen arrived on stage and it is hard to describe the effect of this band which was born in London in the 1970s.
Banjo player Tom Cussen a founder member, introduced the line up which included the engaging Pat Costello from Tipperary who played the guitar, sang ballads and delivered wonderful recitations which totally enraptured the audience. The band played the very best reels, jigs and hornpipes - not forgetting “the Shaskeen”, the reel that gave the band its name! There were duets and solos as well - every tune a treat, all the more so by the very special touch of piano accompaniment by Geraldine Cotter.
Another delight was the addition of Tony Howley on saxophone, making for a most entertaining fusion of ragtime and trad. Tony and Tom have recorded a CD “There’s always room in our house” Shaskeen has released no less than fifteen albums.
A poignant moment at this most memorable of concerts was the tribute paid by Shaskeen’s longest-serving member Tom Cussen to one John Murphy from Beara, who died this year. John was a stalwart at London Irish Centre for many years, and worked tirelessly on behalf of the London Cork and Beara Associations.
He was also a great supporter of Return to Camden Town Festival and it was lovely that his daughter Bernadette was in the audience to share the appreciation of her late father's work - though John probably regarded it as fun!
The applause at the end of the evening was palpable.
The night also showed how the traditional Irish music scene forges deep lasting friendships and brings great joy worldwide. Long may it continue.
Call Shaskeen on 00353 91 796156 and visit the sites www.shaskeen.net
www.banjo.ie for more.