Tønder Festival 2017: Enjoy music that you cannot experience at other summer festivals!
Altan was founded by the married couple Frank Kennedy and Mairéad Ni Mhaonaigh and grew through the 90s to a position among Ireland’s top traditional bands. Their musical source was the traditional fiddle music played in countless sessions in Donegal kitchens and pubs, mixed with obscure flute tunes collected by Frank Kennedy in the north.
This combination, added to the fact that not many people were familiar with Donegal music, meant that Altan were a breath of fresh air on Ireland’s traditional music scene. In 1992 Frank Kennedy was diagnosed with cancer, but he continued to play, record and tour with the band until his death two years later. After Frank Kennedy’s death, Altan went on to release the album Blackwater on Virgin Records, the first time a traditional Irish band had been signed by a major record label. This is Altan’s sixth apparance at Tønder Festival, and to add to the festivity of the occasion, 2017 marks Altan’s 30th anniversary.
Afenginn (DK) & GLAS (DK, NO, FO, FI)
Their latest album Opus confirms that Afenginn is one of the most courageous and original bands on the Danish music scene. Constructed along the lines of a classical symphony, the recording reveals a vibrant, virtuoso group playing fearlessly across musical frontiers. Opus is Afenginn’s sixth album, and suitably enough it won six stars from the Århus music magazine Gaffa’s reviewer.
Many other media sources at home and abroad have given Opus full marks. Afenginn have been around since 2002 and have achieved the status of an institution on the Danish music scene. They blend Eastern European and Scandinavian folk music, and their combination of advanced time signatures and scary outbursts with classical inspiration has won them many prizes, among them four Danish Music Awards. Afenginn has toured Europe, USA, Canada and Australia.
At Tønder Festival 2017 Afenginn will be appearing with the Scandinavian vocal group GLAS, who are influenced by the Bulgarian choral song tradition. GLAS numbers six female members: Elisabeth Vik (Norway), Katrina Petersen, (Faroes), Tine Refsgaard, (Denmark), Marte Schau, (Norway), Else Schantz Juutilainen, (Finland) and Maria Kynne, (Denmark).
If you have heard Ed Sheeran’s Galway Girl, then you have heard Beoga. The Northern Irish group with flute player Brian Finnegan provide the Irish tones that open the Sheeran song that charmed the world in early 2017. The music is Minute 5 from Beoga’s album How to Tune a Fish (2011).
The band also play on the Ed Sheeran song Nancy Mulligan. But long before Ed Sheeran fell for them, Beoga was one of the bands that launched the new wave of Irish traditional tunes and songs set in magnificent arrangements that won a new audience for Irish music. Beoga’s special sound derives from the two accordions, played by Damian McKee and Seán Óg Graham – who also plays guitar in the band – piano from Liam Bradley, bodhran by Eamon Murray and Niamh Dunne, who sings and plays fiddle. Beoga have toured all over the world and released thier seventh Before We Change our Mind in 2016.
Danni Nicholls (ENG)
British singer and songwriter Danni Nicholls has country, folk and American roots music in her bloodstream. She is a musician with two well-reviewed albums out, both recorded in Nashville with some of the best players in the capital of country. Danni Nicholls, from Bedford in England, fell passionately in love with American folk, country and rock’n’roll thanks to her granny’s record collection.
Then she inherited a guitar, started playing, writing and composing, and at 16 Danni Nicholls was performing in pubs and clubs. Through a friend she contacted the top American producer and musician Chris Donohue (Emmylou Harris, Elvis Costello, Robert Plant et al.) She went to Nashville, and Chris Donohue produced her studio album A Little Redemption in 2013. One of the session musicans is dobro and lap steel legend Al Perkins (Dylan, Stones, Stephen Stills et al.) The album was well received. Its successor, Mockingbird Lane (2015), also recorded with Nashville musicians and produced by Donohue, won even more praise.
Hans Theessink & Terry Evans (NL, USA)
Born in Holland in 1948, guitarist and songwriter Hans Theessink has a huge, loyal following in Denmark. He has toured for over 40 years and has made countless recordings. Hans Theessink shares a lot of Tønder Festival’s story, for he has attended most years since the mid-70s.
This year, Hans Theessink is coming to Tønder Festival with his American colleague, singer and songwriter Terry Evans, who has worked with Ry Cooder and Bobby King. Terry Evans (born 1937), has released many solo albums, and his contribution to the film soundtrack for Crossroads from 1986 gave added impetus to his career. Theessink and Evans have often toured together and have made numerous albums, the most recent being True & Blue, nominated for an Austrian Amadeus Award in 2016.
Hans Theessink tours Denmark regularly, and in March and April 2017 is again on tour here with his Danish guitar partner Knud Møller. This is Theessink and Evans’ only Danish festival in 2017.
Fara is four young female Scottish musicians from Kirkwall in Orkney. They played at Tønder Festival in 2015, then released the album Cross The Line and were nominated at BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards 2017. Fara members Jennifer Austin, Kristan Harvey, Jeana Leslie and Catriona Price have a fresh take on Scots folk music, particularly music from Orkney.
They mix traditional Orkney tunes and their own compositions. The band’s musicians have known each other since early childhood and grew up with traditional music. They trained at The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and The Royal Academy of Music. Fara began as The Chairettes, an occasional backing band for veterans The Chair. Very soon, however, the young musicians found their own feet and Fara was born. Subsequent career highlights include BBC Radio 2 Young Folk Award and BBC Radio Scotland Young Traditional Musician of the Year.
Jacob Dinesen (DK) BILD 2016
In a fairy-tale like sequence of events, Tønder boy Jacob Dinesen, who played at Tønder Festival for the first time in 2012, has gone on to win national fame. Now 21 years old, singer, songwriter and guitarist Jacob Dinesen has released his second album Brace Against The Storm, which came out in 2016.
The hit from the album Roll With Me was the most played number on Radio Denmark’s P4 for many weeks, and has so far been watched over 300,000 times on YouTube. Jacob Dinesen’s 2017 diary contains over 80 concerts, among them, of course, an appearance at Tønder Festival. Alex Nyborg Madsen of DR’s P4 said the year before last that Jacob Dinesen was “one of the biggest talents Denmark has seen for years.” That talent has taken off, and Tønder Festival, Jacob Dinesen’s home ground, is proud to present, once again, our local star.
A Frigg concert is a storm of acrobatic turbocharged fiddle at supersonic speed. We saw it in 2011 when the Finnish power folk group had the Tønder Festival audience screaming with excitement. Now Frigg are back.
The group builds around Antti Järvalä and his cousins Esko and Alina. The Järvalä clan are the royalty of Finnish folk music, and for several generations the family have been producing great folk musicians who have had indelible influence on Finnish folk music traditions. Frigg play true to the tradition, but their tunes are inspired by a multitude of different expressions. Since 2002 Frigg have released four studio albums and have been extremely active on the live stage, where the band’s real qualities are given free rein. Frigg have travelled the world and its members are to be heard in other constellations, such as JPP, Tsuumi Sound System and Baltic Crossing.
Kaia Kater (CAN)
23 year old Kaia Kater from Québec is a musician we will definitely be hearing more about. Her banjo playing rests firmly in the tradition, her songwriting is superlative, and her singing voice is warm and melodious. Kaia Kater straddles various cultures. She grew up in Toronto, with an Afro-Caribbean father.
Her musical inspiration is partly Canadian folk music, partly traditional Appalachian music. She studied at Davis & Elkins College in West Virginia, where she specialised in the culture and music of the Appalachians. Kaia Kater’s songwriting tackles the realities of the day: school shootings and Black Lives Matter are among her topics. Kaia Kater’s latest album is Nine Pin, from the spring of 2016. The Guardian’s review described the album as “a triangle between bluegrass, Nina Simone and Toni Morrison.” Rolling Stone put Kaia Kater on their 2016 list of “ten new country names you ought to know.”
Greg Russell & Ciaran Algar (UK)
Two young talents with rapidly-growing careers, Greg Russell, guitar and vocal, and Ciaran Algar, violin and vocal, have established themselves in the past few years as names to be noted on the British folk scene. Both grew up with folk music, and they inject freshness, energy and daring into the traditional mix.
Greg Russell and Ciaran Algar met in 2011, formed a duo and soon had a recording contract. Their debut album The Queen’s Lover appeared in 2012, and in January 2013 they won a BBC Radio2 Young Folk Award. In November 2013, they put out The Call, which was very well received by the critics. BBC Radio2 awarded them another prize, The Horizon Award, for best newcomer in 2014. In 2016 Russel and Algar released The Silent Majority, and their engagement diary for 2017 is well-packed with concerts and festivals all over Britain. Tønder Festival’s audience can look forward to this second chance (they were here in 2015) to hear a stunning duo.
Loudon Wainwright III (USA)
Turning 70 has not slowed US songwriter Loudon Wainwright III down one bit. He is still touring, writing and publishing albums as lustily as ever. His first studio album appeared in 1970, his most recent, Haven’t Got The Blues (Yet) is from 2014. Loudon Wainwright III is a songwriter, folk singer and humourist of a classic American stamp. His early inspirations included Tom Lehrer, and lyrical political commentary with a smile on its lip and a sting in its tail is Loudon Wainwright’s trade mark.
Try for instance the song I Had A Dream, a priceless salute from one septuagenarian to another: Donald Trump. Loudon Wainwright III is the father of Rufus and Martha Wainwright, both major artists in their own right, whose mother, Canadian songwriter Kate McGarrigle, is known as half of the famous 70s duo, Kate & Anna McGarrigle. Loudon Wainwright III was a guest at Tønder Festival in 2000 and is making this exclusive return visit in August 2017.
Lucinda Williams (USA)
This is one we have been after for years, and now she’s coming. The American singing star Lucinda Williams is playing her only Danish concert of summer 2017 at Tønder Festival. The concept of americana neatly covers what Lucinda Williams does. This 63 year-old singer and songwriter has, since her first live concerts and record releases in the 70s, been firmly rooted in the ground of country, folk and blues.
Gradually, up through the successive decades, Lucinda Williams has built up her reputation, through albums such as Lucinda Williams (1988). The song Passionate Kisses off that album became a smash hit for Mary Chapin Carpenter, and Lucinda Williams won a Best Country Song Grammy for it in 1994. Then, in 1998, came Car Wheels On A Gravel Road, that really made her name. Lucinda Williams’ subsequent eight albums, the most recent being The Ghosts of Highway 20 from 2016, have secured her Grammies and Americana Awards and numerous nominations. Lucinda Williams has not exactly beaten a path to Denmark: her Tønder Festival concert is only her fifth here. In 2013 she appeared in the Radio Denmark Concert House, in 2009 at Roskilde Festival, and in 2007 at Vega in Copenhagen and Voxhall in Aarhus.
Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh (ft. Seamus Begley &Donogh Hennessy) (IRL)
After many years as Danú’s singer, Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh has left the band to concentrate on her solo projects. She grew up in the west of Ireland, and as a child she went along with her fiddler father to sessions at local pubs. At first she sang traditional Irish Sean Nós, later her talent spilled over on to tin whistle and wooden flute.
Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh has won a stack of prizes, both with Danú and alone, as well as appearing on TV, for instance on the famous BBC series Transatlantic Sessions. Accompanying Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh are two well-known musicians from the Irish traditional folk music scene, Seamus Begley and Donogh Hennessy. Seamus Begley has a long and illustrious career behind him as a master of the two-row accordion and as a singer, while Donogh Hennessy was for many years Lúnasa’s guitarist. Danú have played at Tønder Festival many times, Lúnasa have been here thrice, and the same is true for Seamus Begley.
Mick Flannery (IRL)
33 year-old Mick Flannery from Ireland was on the bill at Tønder Festival in 2016. This singer and songwriter has a lot to tell, and a voice of rare intensity and passion to tell it. Tønder Festival audiences can look forward to hearing him again, and enjoying some of the songs from his new album I Own You, from October 2016, into which he has inserted, in his own words, “50 per cent more social awareness.”
This comes to light in the words of his songs about modern digital life and Black Lives Matter. Mick Flannery’s songwriting career began when, on a trip round USA, he entered a song-writing competition in Nashville. He put out his first first album Evening Train in 2007, and has since established his reputation both in Ireland and internationally. Inspired by Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan and Tom Waits, Mick Flannery has made five albums and toured massively: hence his place at the top of the Irish music scene.
From Belfast in Northern Ireland comes a new take on traditional Irish music. The Réalta quintet play uilleann pipes, flute, guitar, piano, bass, bouzouki and bodhrán and sing brilliantly. The Scottish paper The Herald’s music critic wrote, “Réalta carry on the Bothy Band tradition of taking tunes by the scruff of the neck and firing excitement through them like hot flames.”
Réalta have toured Germany and Switzerland with their countrymen Altan and have given concerts all over Europe, in India, South Korea and New York. They won the Danny Kyle Award at the famous Celtic Connections Festival in Glasgow and are well on the way to establishing the name Réalta on the international Irish music scene. The group’s debut album Open The Doors For Three appeared in 2012, and their second album Clear Skies is a 2016 release.
Red Hot Chilli Pipers (SCO)
Their own name for it is bagrock: a heaving, frenetic blend of Highland pipes and familiar riffs and hits from the rock and pop charts. Red Hot Chilli Pipers from Scotland put on a priceless show bubbling over with musical verve and bags – yes – of humour.
Several of the members of the Red Hot Chilli Pipers are graduates of The Royal Scottish Academy of Music And Drama, and there is no shortage of drama when the Red Hot Chilli Pipers hit the stage. This is a world-class show, with bagpipes in screaming overdrive on the shoulders of sweaty hunks in kilts. The set includes spectacular covers of Queen’s We Will Rock You, Deep Purple’s Smoke On The Water and Coldplay’s Clocks. Founded in 2002, Red Hot Chili Pipers won the BBC talent show When Will I Be Famous?, went on to release eight albums, tour the world and play hundreds of concerts each year. In 2007 and 2010 Red Hot Chilli Pipers won the Scottish Live Act Of The Year award. This is their only Danish festival in 2017.
Sarah Jarosz (USA)
Newly proclaimed double Grammy winner for her album Undercurrent, Sarah Jarosz is without a doubt one of the biggest names on the US folk scene right now. The Tønder Festival audience fell under her spell in 2011 when Sarah Jarosz appeared and had the whole of Tent 1 yelling out the chorus to Tom Waits’ Come on Up to the House. Back then she was virtually unknown in Denmark, but taking off at home in USA.
Sarah Jarosz was just 16 when she signed with the renowned record company Sugar Hill Records, and her debut Song Up in Her Head was nominated for a Grammy in 2010. Accompanying her on that recording were some top musicians: Jerry Douglas, Chris Thile, Aoife O’Donovan and Tim O’Brien among them. She performed with the latter at Tønder Festival. Sarah Jarosz set out at the age of ten playing mandolin, then branched out into guitar, mandocello and banjo to accompany her gentle, clear voice. She has been compared to great singers like Alison Krauss and Gillian Welch, but her uncompromising musical touch is all her own. Only at Tønder Festival this summer can you enjoy Sarah Jarosz’ atmospheric lyrics.
Sam Kelly & The Lost Boys (ENG)
Has any good ever come of those talent shows on tv? The surprise answer is yes. Aged 19, Sam Kelly faced Simon Cowell and the other judges in the show Britain’s Got Talent. Here he reached the final, to be beaten by a dog called Pudsey.
Sam Kelly has a voice that grabs an audience, whether he sings his own songs or Irish folk favourites. The fresh energy he summons recalls indie folk names like Mumford & Sons and The Lumineers. With two EPs and an album to his name so far, Sam Kelly has won praise from English folk notabilities like Kate Rusby, Cara Dillon and Sean Lakeman. With the The Lost Boys he has toured extensively, and 2017 sees new material from these new darlings of the English folk scene.
Socks In The Frying Pan (IRL)
Irish traditional music has found new international ambassadors in this young trio from County Clare. Socks in the Frying Pan master authentic vocal work and instrumental virtuosity, which has established them firmly on the international scene.
In 2017 their long tour has taken them to Canada, USA, Germany, Switzerland, and Denmark, where Tønder Festival is their destination. The band has harvested fine reviews for their three recordings, the latest being Without A Paddle from 2016. They won the title New Band of The Year at The Irish Music Association in 2014 and have toured a lot in USA. Socks in the Frying Pan numbers Aodán Coyne, guitar and vocal, and brothers Shane Hayes, accordion, and Fiachra Hayes, violin and banjo. They have won their individual spurs, too: for example, Shane Hayes was named Best Accordion Player by The Irish Music Association in 2015
The Tønder Festival audience 2016 were not alone in their delight with rising stars Talisk: in 2015, Talisk won the prestigious BBC Radio 2 Young Folk Award. Mohsen Amini picked up the concertina at the age of ten and today is one of Scotland’s leading concertina players. He won the title of BBC Scotland’s Young Traditional Musician of The Year in 2016.
Guitarist Craig Irving hails from Inverness, but settled in Glasgow, where he plays with various up-and-coming folk bands. Hayley Keenan has been playing fiddle since she was 11, and today is a student at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. Together, they form a tight, virtuoso trio who have the tradition at their fingertips, but also dare seek out new routes.
Talisk’s debut album Abyss was produced by Barry Reid of the Treacherous Orchestra. Guest musicians on the album are members of Mánran and Rura, and the recording delivers the energy and creativity of a Talisk live concert, something the Tønder Festival audience will now have a chance to enjoy once more.
With a background in some of the major Irish bands, these three musicians have already established their credentials as exponents and interpreters of traditional music. John McSherry, described by The Irish Music Magazine as “the true master” of the Irish uilleann pipes, has been in at the start of bands like Lúnasa and Tamalin, and was part of Donal Lunny’s cross-over project Coolfins.
Fiddler Dónal O’Connor began his career in the group Lá Lugh, where his mother sang. He has also a reputation as one of Ireland’s most talented producers and has worked with Mary Dillon, Bob Brozman and John Spillane. Guitarist Seán Óg Graham was a founder member of the acclaimed group Beoga and also plays in the Scots supergroup Fiddler’s Bid. Together, the three weave a magic spell. Newly-composed tunes intermingle smoothly with the traditional material to build fascinating new structures. The blinding precision with which improvisation and experiment flow into hectic jigs and reels is guaranteed to bring any audience to their feet. This is Ulaid’s only Danish festival in 2017.
Trad.Attack! are on a mission: they want to play in every country in the world. So far, they have 28 countries on their list, which leaves 168. Denmark was added in 2015, when they performed in Balders Square in Copenhagen as part of ROSA’s Copenhagen Jazz Festival programme.
A couple of hundred people hopped and bopped to this revamped Estonian folk music, which melds samples of ethnic music recordings with pumping rhythms and fast tunes. Estonia has strong folk music traditions, both songs, tunes and dance, and there is moreover a powerful drive to experiment with the music. In the town of Viljandi, in particular, with the important Viljandi Folk Music Festival, the traditions live on. Trad.Attack! are the top Estonian folk band, and with several Estonian Music Awards on the mantlepiece, they enjoy star rating in their homeland.
World class Hungarian Roma music: five-piece Romengo is one of Hungary’s best bands, and they master traditional olah gypsy folk music. Romengo play the traditional folk songs and music of the Roma culture, plus their own songs and compositions. Romengo have been playing together since 2004, touring all over Europe, Korea and India, among other places.
The band have put out two albums, Kétháné (2010), and Nagyecsed-Budapest (2014), both of which have topped European world music hit lists. The group’s lead singer, Mónika Lakatos, has won several awards, for instance the Ethnic Minority Award in 2014 and the Anna Lindh Award i 2007.
Romengo are true representatives of real, traditional Roma music, but they have also expanded the genre through collaboration with other types of music. For example, Romengo have performed with the German Mendelssohn Chamber Orchestra and the Indian singer Sumitra.
Folk Spot 2017 (DK, S, N, SF)
Folk Spot 2017: Floating Sofa Quartet (DK, S, SF), World On A String (DK), Spöket i Köket (S, DK), Mallebrok (DK), Det Yderste Hav (DK), Zenobia (DK), Andreas Tophøj & Rune Barslund (DK) (DK), Julie Alapnes (N)
Nordic traditions meet the wide world when Folk Spot Denmark 2017 presents eight Danish and Scandinavian folk bands. Folk Spot Denmark, besides giving concerts for the Tønder Festival audience, is also an international showcase for the music business abroad. Key professionals come to Tønder Festival from Norway, Germany, England and Canada to hear world-class Danish and Scandinavian music, as well as to see one the world’s best festivals for themselves. The Folk Spot concerts on Friday and Saturday provide an excellent opportunity to take the pulse of the current Danish and Nordic folk and roots scenes. The Norwegian contribution is part of an exchange deal between Folk Spot Denmark and the Norwegian showcase festival FolkeLarm. All eight bands and soloists will be playing showcase concerts at Tønder Festival 2017 as part of Folk Spot Denmark.
folkBALTICA (DK, D)
FolkBaltica Ensemble consists of around 50 young musicians from Schleswig-Holstein in Germany and from south Danmark. The orchestra began as part of the annual folkBALTICA Festival, which takes place this year in late April.
FolkBaltica Ensemble is the festival’s youth orchestra and it crosses borders both geographically and musically, spanning both traditional and contemporary folk music. Tønder Festival has long encouraged the growth of talent in the folk music world, and so it is natural that FolkBaltica Ensemble be invited back to appear here. Violinist Harald Haugaard, artistic director of folkBALTICA Festival, leads the ensemble, aided by his two capable colleagues Andreas Tophøj and Rasmus Zeeberg. At the past three Tønder Festivals, the FolkBaltica Ensemble has delighted audiences and this year will surely be no exception. FolkBaltica Ensemble will also play a concert for a huge assembly of schoolchildren from both sides of the Danish/German border.
Jyderup Højskole (DK, S)
We present the result of an intensive, two-week folk music seminar at Jyderup Folk High School arranged in conjunction with Skurup Folkhögskola in Sweden. Entitled Scandinavian Roots, the seminar invites participants with a grounding in folk music, songwriting and world music to work together towards a performance at Tønder Festival 2017.
The seminar unfolds at Jyderup Højskole and at Tønder Festival from 14 – 28 August. Scandinavian Roots is open to anyone with an interest in taking part in a comprehensive Nordic music project. The seminar highlights songwriting, ensemble work and live performance. In charge are three of the leading lights on the Scandinavian music scene: Anders Wallin, Bebe Risenfors and Jens Ulvsand.
Photo Credits: (1) Afenginn, (3) Beoga, (4) Danni Nicholls, (5) Hans Theessink, (6) Fara, (8) Frigg, (9) Kaia Kater, (10) Greg Russell & Ciaran Algar, (11) Lucinda Williams, (12) Loudon Wainwright III, (14) Mick Flannery, (15) Red Hot Chilli Pipers, (16) Réalta, (18) Sam Kelly, (19) Socks in the Frying Pan, (20) Talisk, (21) Ulaid, (22) Trad.Attack!, (23) Romengo, (24) folkBaltica Ensemble (unknown/website); (2) Altan, (7) Jacob Dinesen, (17) Sarah Jarosz (by Walkin' Tom); (13) Muireann (by The Mollis).