Brian O'Donovan Hosts The Lowell Folk Festival

By Brian McCreath

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The members of the traditional Irish band Dervish, who hail from County Sligo, in the northwest of the island.

2011 Lowell Folk Festival Saturday, July 30, 2011 Noon to 6pm Downtown Lowell, Massachusetts The Lowell Folk Festival is about as eclectic as they come: performers from around Lowell and around the world descend on the downtown area, where hundreds of thousands of spectators are treated to everything from Inuit throat singing to Ethiopian funk to Louisiana zydeco. Even for the interests of "A Celtic Sojourn" alone, there will be a lively Irish band and a corps of Highland-style bagpipers from Worcester.

Brian O'Donovan will broadcast live from one stage of the Lowell Folk Festival on Saturday, July 30 at 3:00pm. This year the Lowell Folk Festival celebrates twenty-five years of world music, ethnic food and family fun. Things kick off with a parade on Friday evening, July 29 at 6:40pm, and the festivities continue through Sunday, July 31. A full schedule can be found here.

Among the stellar lineup of world musicians is the Irish band Dervish. Hailing from Sligo, in Northwest Ireland, and led by the strident vocals of Cathy Jordan, this group packs a big sound. For over two decades, Dervish has brought an initmate touch to their performances, a quality embedded in traditional Irish music.

In this video, they give us a terrific Celtic-tinged cover of Bob Dylan’s "Boots of Spanish Leather":


There is enough diversity in Lowell, though, that the huge ethnic food selection will be distinct even from the ethnic lineup on stage. To expand your horizons a bit beyond all this fine Celtic music, you'll be able to sample a spread featuring favorites from Brazil, Jamaica, Burma, Portugal and many, many more.

All of the ethnic foods are provided by the respective community organizations from Lowell or the surrounding area. And all of the proceeds will go to support worthy causes and programs in those communities.

And there will be plenty of opportunities to cool down from the rich selection of music and food. This year, the festival is hosting a tribute to apprenticeship and its role in sustaining traditional arts in New England. There will be nine master artists on hand to lead workshops on their areas of expertise. You can stop by to learn a bit about traditional instruments from a Puerto Rican luthier, about ancient Khmer ornamental design from two Cambodian artists, or about old metal printing techniques from a Boston press owner.

Among the other Celtic-influenced musicians on hand will be the bluegrass fiddler Michael Cleveland, seen here performing the 1920s standard "Lee Highway Blues":

To round out the weekend, there will be all kinds of artworks for sale, an activity area for families and small children, and more; here's a rundown of some of activities happening on the side. And many cultural institutions around Lowell are participating, from museums and theaters to Native American groups, hoping to encourage the broader public to explore the depths of Lowell's historical and cultural life.

So for now, while you wait for the Celtic-themed broadcast, or wait to go check out all the music from around the world in person, here's one more video of bluegrass artists featured at the festival. Guitarists Eddie and Alonzo Pennington hail from Kentucky, and play with a complex, traditional style called "thumb picking":


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