Irish Fest features wealth of music and dance

We Americans, it seems, can't get enough of Irish music. So it's a good thing that Rochester'sIrish Fest, which takes place this weekend, features nearly wall-to-wall Irish music, including several artists...

2009 Beoga Jump.jpg
Beoga Jump

We Americans, it seems, can't get enough of Irish music.

So it's a good thing that Rochester's Irish Fest , which takes place this weekend, features nearly wall-to-wall Irish music, including several artists from Ireland itself.

At the top of the list is Beoga, the model for an upbeat, high-energy modern/traditional Irish band. Beoga's name means "lively" in Gaelic, and the band adheres to that moniker, mixing jazz and pop influences — and original songs — with Irish folk tunes to create something new and fresh. "Beoga are at the forefront of the new Irish wave," wrote Irish Music Magazine.

The band, based in Northern Ireland and formed in 2002, and gained attention right away for its "lively" interpretation of traditional Irish music. The addition of vocalist Niamh Dunne in 2005 added yet another dimension to Beoga's sound. Reviewing the band's 2011 album, "How to Tune a Fish," the All Music Guide, said "there's an abundance of open-hearted joy here, both for the players and the listeners."

Beoga will perform each day this weekend during Irish Fest.


But if you miss them, there are other bands from Ireland on hand:

Makem and Spain, an Irish-American band, consists of Rory Makem and brothers Liam and Mickey Spain. Makem was born in Ireland, where his father, Tommy, was a well-known musician. The family moved to New Hampshire in the 1970s. The Spain brothers also are from New Hampshire. The band makes annual concert tours of Ireland and usually returns with a new set of traditional Irish folk songs to preserve and perform. The band's latest album is "Sessions, Vol. 1."

The Pure Drop is like an all-star Irish band, featuring John Whelan, seven times all-Ireland button-box champion, as well as fiddler Brian Conway, guitarist Don Penzien, and bodhran player Mairtin de Cogain, a former Rochester resident.

Two Tap Trio , based in the Twin Cities, features Canadian vocalist Norah Rendell, named Young Tradition Bearer in 2011. The band has performed at major Irish music festivals, including Milwaukee Irish Fest and the Canadian Celtic Celebration.

— Raven's Fire, from Minnesota, plays Irish and Scottish folk tunes and sea shanties, as well as original songs.

— Gaelic Tribe, from southeastern Minnesota, plays jigs, reels and original songs, all flavored with a touch of Irish whistles, flute and mandolin.

O'Shea Irish Dance was founded by Cormac and Natalie O'Shea, who met while working on the first American tour of Riverdance. Cormac is from Ireland, Natalie is from Minnesota. After getting married and living in Ireland for a few years, they returned to Minnesota in 2005 to form their own Irish dance school.

— The Twin Cities Ceili Band and Mooncoin Ceili Dancers perform Irish dance forms that are such an important part of life in Ireland.


Eamonn de Cogain will return to Rochester Irish Fest from his home in Ireland to emcee and call the ceilie dances.

In addition to live music and dance, Irish fest includes Gaelic games (including rugby and hurling), kids activities, cultural displays and workshops.

There is a whiskey tasting at 7 p.m. Friday. Tickets are $45, or $75 for a full VIP weekend pass. Otherwise, admission to the festival is free.

What: Irish Fest

When: Friday through Sunday. Hours are 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday.

Where: History Center of Olmsted County, 1195 West Circle Drive S.W., Rochester.

Tickets: Free

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