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    TradFest 2021

    Music is like a river flowing through the heart and soul of Ireland. Once a year, during a winter weekend in January, Dublin City showcases the entire spectrum of traditional Irish music during one of the best traditional Irish music & cultural festivals – TradFest.

    Ireland’s traditional music, as we know it, has been around since the 18th century. The distinct Irish instruments such as the uilleann pipes, the whistle, the fiddle and Irish dances such as the Riverdance are recognized around the world. At the annual TradFest, this rich heritage comes alive, when traditional Irish music and song can be heard in some of Dublin’s most unusual music venues.

    TradFest have had to re-imagine their popular festival for the challenging times of COVID-19 – For 2021 it will be known as “TradFest @ Home” and due to the public health restrictions created as a result of the pandemic the festival will now run until Summer 2021.

    Four fantastic streamed live concerts from historic Dublin Castle are available to book now, and feature an eclectic and diverse line-up of artists and bands. The TradFest @ Home concerts will stream from 8:00pm (GMT) across all time zones from 28th January to 31st January 2021.

    Book your ticket (costing €4.99 Euro) and experience Ireland “together again in music”…

    Tune into the headliners of TradFest @ Home

    Andy Irvine & Dónal Lunny – Thursday January 28th at 8:00PM

    Between them, Andy Irvine and Dónal Lunny have helmed some of the most influential and revered bands in Irish Trad. Their unique style of accompaniment is an ongoing influence in the wider world of Irish music. Both, in their separate ways, have contributed to a veritable renaissance in Irish traditional music. Between them, Dónal Lunny and Andy Irvine have careers that read like a ‘Who’s Who’ of popular music. Between production and performing, the list of Dónal Lunny’s collaborators is vast and includes Elvis Costello, Clannad, James Taylor and Diana Krall. Formerly of Planxty & Sweeney’s Men, Andy is a member of Mozaik, and Usher’s Island along with Dónal. He has played & recorded with Paul Brady, Christy Moore, and Billy Bragg amongst many more. Just imagine them playing together in your living room…

    Andy Irvine & Dónal Lunny ©

    Dervish – Friday January 29th at 8:00PM

    At the end of 2019 Dervish received a prestigious lifetime achievement award from the BBC, a fitting tribute to the band after over 30 years of recording and performing all over the world. Described by the BBC as ‘an icon of Irish music’, the band have played at festivals from Rio to Glastonbury. They accompanied the Irish President on state visits to Latvia and Lithuania and the Prime Minister of Ireland to China, taking time out to play an impromptu session on the Great Wall of China.

    Dervish ©

    Hothouse Flowers – Saturday January 30th at 8:00PM

    Known for their unique brand of rock that’s influenced by soul, gospel and traditional music, Hothouse Flowers’ shows last between two and three hours depending on the level of fever in the room. They call upon their grand repertoire to create a show that is unique to the time and place. No two shows are the same. Improvisation can come at any point and allow the men express their brightest and their darkest influences.

    Hothouse Flowers ©

    Altan – Sunday January 31st at 8:00PM

    No Irish traditional band in the last dozen years has had a wider impact on audiences throughout the world than Altan. With their exquisitely produced award-winning recordings, ranging from the most sensitive and touching old Irish songs all the way to hard hitting reels and jigs, and with their heartwarming, dynamic live performances, Altan have moved audiences from Donegal to Tokyo to Seattle.

    Altan ©

    The sounds of Ireland.

    Céilí: A céilí (kay-lee) is an event where people dance to traditional music, usually in pairs and groups.

    Session/Seisiún: A seisiún (sesh-oon) is when a group of musicians play music together, usually in a casual setting.

    Traditional Irish music seisiún in a pub © Tourism Ireland/

    Reel, jig, waltz, hornpipe, polka: Common types of traditional dance.

    Uilleann pipes: Uilleann (ill-ann) pipes are powered by a set of bellows controlled by the musician’s elbow (uilleann). Irish uilleann piping is now recognized as a part of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO.

    Irial O’Casaide, Gay McKeon, CEO,, Brendan Gleeson and Niamh Landale. © Image from

    Bodhrán: A bodhrán (bow-rawn) is a one-sided, handheld drum.

    Lambeg drum: A huge, double-sided drum, usually carried.

    Spoons: One of Ireland’s oldest percussion instruments. Cheating spoons were developed to make spoon playing easier as they are joined at the base and are easier to hold.

    Fiddle: An Irish violin.

    Squeeze box: Another name for a button accordion, piano accordion or concertina.

    Legendary button accordion player Sharon Shannon © Image from Regional Cultural Centre, Letterkenny, Co. Donegal

    Tin whistle: A very common, six-holed wind instrument.

    Low whistle: A larger variation on the traditional tin whistle, with a lower pitch.

    Irish Flute: Regarded as one of the oldest Irish music instruments, it is usually made of wood and has melodied its way into the present times perfectly.

    Harp: An angelic traditional string based musical instrument that was considered to be a royal treat. A triangular frame with stunning handcrafted designs, a hardwood frame made from a selection of timbers, a tonewood soundboard, nylon strings, quick release levers and durable tuning pins and bridge pins. It is also the official emblem of Ireland.

    Harp player at Dunluce Castle, Co. Antrim – Image from Tourism Ireland – © Gardiner Mitchell

    Banjo: The banjo’s role when playing Irish music is generally to play the melodies note for note.

    Irish Bouzouki: The Irish bouzouki is an adaptation of the Greek bouzouki.

    Irish Musical Pub Crawl

    Another way to experience the vibrance of Dublin’s traditional drink and Irish music scene is on a traditional Irish musical pub crawl through Temple Bar – the city’s cultural quarter! Accompany two friendly musicians on a fun and educational tour through the hip yet historic district, where you’ll visit classic pubs and bars, witness the local drinking culture, and encounter Irish storytelling and music at its best. Sláinte!

    Temple Bar area, Dublin City ©

    Cultural vacation in Ireland – Music to our ears

    Why not embrace the Irish spirit and plan an intimate musical journey of Ireland with Specialized Travel Services. You can start your plans now and then travel when it’s safe to do so…

    Just imagine as you ramble through parts of Dublin City, you will be guided by your ears to a traditional seisiun in a cosy pub, where you can grab a Guinness, maybe have a sing-along, soak up the atmosphere, mingle among musicians and have a chat with some trad-loving locals. The quality of Irish music, and the sheer joy of life it brings, is unrivaled.

    For a musical road trip of a lifetime and to experience the warm and welcoming atmosphere that surrounds the Island of Ireland, contact Specialized Travel Services by filling in the Contact form Or by email:


    Note: Featured image at the top of this blog is of a seisiun in Clancy’s Pub, Athy, Co. Kildare. © Tourism Ireland


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      Photo Gallery

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      Cormac Begley & his concertina © Folk Park Live
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      John Sheahan & his fiddle © & Siobhan Long
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      Neil Martin & his uilleann pipes © Folk Park Live


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