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Traditional Singing Festival Goes Digital

  • Covid-19 forces concerts, sessions & workshops to all go online for 2020

  • Festival - Sept 25-27 - celebrates generations of traditional Irish song

  • Highlights include: gala concert featuring Karan Casey, book launch by Donal Lunny and Poetry Ireland collaboration

Covid-19 has forced one of the most celebrated gatherings of traditional Irish song to gather online this year. The 15th Frank Harte Festival - September 25-27 - is this year taking to Zoom and Youtube, as well as making the entire weekend programme free for all to enjoy. Host to a wide array of traditional Irish singing, anyone interested in the lore and tradition of unaccompanied singing will be glued to their screens for the three days.

Among the highlights this year is a unique collaboration with Poetry Ireland that will bring the shared heritage of poetry and song to the fore, featuring some of our best known singers and filí. Donal Lunny, a long-standing collaborator of the late Frank Harte, will be on hand to virtually launch A Living Voice: The Frank Harte Song Collection, live from the Teachers’ Club on Saturday night. Soon after, a stellar line-up of singers from around the country will take to the stage:

Karen Casey has toured the world with her pure singing voice, which is rooted in the traditional style. Bryan O’Leary hails from one of the most famous bloodlines of Sliabh Luachra’s rich musical tradition and will perform with Emma O’Leary on fiddle, Maura O’Connor on concertina and Brian Mooney on bouzouki. Eibhlín Broderick provides the vocals in this exciting new line-up. Macdara Yeates, well known as a rich and powerful performer, steps into the spotlight with his Dublin-flavoured repertoire. Eibhlís Ní Ríordáin is a much sought after multi-instrumentalist and sean-nós singer, who has a particular interest in songs from the Déise (East Munster) area. Jennifer Orr brings the distinctive Ulster songbook to the stage and the line-up is completed by An Góilín’s own Dave O’Connor, whose extensive and varied repertoire includes many songs of Fingal.

The festival guests won’t be the only singers heard throughout the weekend, however. In keeping with An Góilín tradition, and traditional singing around Ireland, sessions are open to contributions from all, and many other renowned singers will be heard over the weekend.

Speaking about this year’s Frank Harte Festival, Máire Ní Chróinín said: “The social restrictions around Covid-19 have disrupted much in our lives and the Frank Harte Festival is no different. But we have adapted to this ‘new normal’. We have a superb line-up this year and are delighted to offer not only our gala concert but every element of our varied and interactive programme online and for free. It’s a continuation of the online singing sessions that we have been running practically every Friday with An Góilín since restrictions kicked in earlier this year”.

“We have actually found the online sessions to be a blessing in one way” says An Góilín Chairperson, Jerry O’Reilly. “They have opened up An Góilín sessions to people beyond Dublin and indeed, beyond Ireland. We have had singers and listeners from multiple time-zones and from many different singing traditions. We expect this year’s Frank Harte Festival to continue in this vein, making the singing sessions the most cosmopolitan ever. The Festival is always a highlight on the traditional singing calendar and we expect this year to be no different.”

The first Frank Harte festival took place in 2006 and quickly became known as one of the best annual celebrations of traditional singing in Ireland. Over the years it has consistently attracted top class singers, as both headliners and contributors from the floor. This is the 15th annual festival commemorating the singing life of the late Frank Harte, who was a prominent member of An Góilín, as well as a great collector and singer of songs.

An Góilín would like to thank An Comhairle Ealaíon and The Teachers’ Club for their continued support for the Frank Harte Festival.

Further information on the festival and ticketing is available at

The Festival is run by An Góilín. An Góilín was started in 1979 and has held Friday night singing sessions ever since. Sessions used to take place at 9pm in the Teachers’ Club, Parnell Square, Dublin 1, but have taken place via Zoom since March 2020. All are welcome who like to listen to or sing traditional songs in any language.

2020 FESTIVAL LINE-UP: Karan Casey, Eibhlís Ní Ríordáin, Jennifer Orr, David O’Connor, Macdara Yeates, Bryan O’Leary & the Slopes of Sliabh Luachra (Bryan O’Leary - accordion, Emma O’Leary - fiddle, Maura O’Connor - concertina, Brian Mooney- bazouki, Eibhlín Broderick - vocals)

Friday 25th

4.00pm Poetry Ireland

‘Living Ghosts’ - Live streamed on Facebook and Youtube


Singing Session (featuring the invited guests) - via ZOOM

Saturday 26th

11.00 am

Singing Workshop with Dave O’Connor - via ZOOM

3.00  –  5.00 pm

Open Singing Session - via ZOOM

8.00pm Book Launch – ‘A Living Voice’, The Frank Harte Song Collection.

The book will be launched by Frank’s long-time friend and collaborator Donal Lunny.

Grand concert

8:00 pm - late

Grand concert featuring our invited guests. Live streamed on Facebook and Youtube

Sunday 27th

11:00 am

Singing and walking tour of Dublin. Premiered on Facebook and Youtube

Singing session and final farewell

2:30 - 5:30 pm - via ZOOM

Permalink - Posted: September 7, 2020 at 12:02 pm