Goderich Celtic Roots Festival is 20 years old and despite the devastating tornado that swept through this western town sitting atop Georgian Bay last August – which decimated its famous central core ( Goderich is famous for being one of the only Ontario towns built in a circular pattern around a huge central roundabout surrounding the jarringly imposing deco- styled city hall). All the trees that shrouded this building – and I mean ALL have gone. The same story is repeated at the site of the Festival in LionsGatePark – The Goderich port elevator stands stark against the blues of the lake and endless sky; a newly revealed backdrop to the festival tents and stages. This year the usual batch of outstanding talent and just a couple of old favourites from last year namely Shannon Lambert Ryan from the US with her band Runa and the incomparable and extremely entertaining and brilliant Daoiri Farrell back again all the way from Limerick Ireland with his band “Solid Clarity”.
Other highlights for me were Brian Taheny – the story telling “all things strings” somewhat wry Scotsman, whose verbally rich and colourful anecdotal descriptions of his pieces placed all his music within the context of time and place,; the stories often longer and just as entertaining as the song itself; the superb “elegant singing” ( a phrase coined by the UK’s Daily Telegraph) of Hilary James (with Simon Mayor), from Central England with her tinkling laugh and enigmatic smile; Cupola (Sarah and Oli Matthews and Doug Eunson ) also from the UK (pattern emerging here!) with their narrative brand of traditional and contemporary English folk. Oh yeah, and Aiden Burke (UK) and Qristina & Quinn Bachand (What’s with the Q’s), the incredibly young and talented sister/brother duo from BC – the boy a mere 16 years old; AND a legend in the shape of Sean Keane from Limerick, And, and, and, and…………
Many more talented musicians played over the three day period but we became groupies of the above selection following them from tent to tent and stage to stage. These guys also chose to bond together over a pint during the evenings at the Park House pub (on-site), continuing with impromptu celidhs in one of the pubs other rooms – joined by any one with a musical instrument.
Apart from blues/jazz I can’t think of another musical genre that lends itself so gloriously to the concept of virtually unrehearsed collaboration between individual members of the various groups who as part of the festival joined other musicians in the side stage venues to play within loosely defined categories such as “Fiddle Traditions”; “Ballads of Near and Far”; “Songs of Ireland” and “La Belle Province “to give you the idea.
Not even frequent and torrential downpours could deter the audiences who continued to watch the various acts, crouched in portable canvas chairs, swathed in waterproofs and cocooned under enormous umbrellas waiting for each downpour to pass. An extra show courtesy of the skies over Lake Huron were almost as entertaining as the music: mottled bruised cloud layers reflected in the mixed blue strata of the Lake. The aforementioned elevator shrouded in darkness, its shape picked out by the occasional flash of sheet lightening.
Next years dates: August 9-11, 2013. www.celticfestival.ca
Over and Out