30th Anniversary Celebration at Féile an Phobail, Clonard Monastery
1st August 2017

You get around reviewing Altan gigs. Two years ago I saw the band in the Stormont Hotel as part of the Eastside Arts Festival. A very different setting this time, the beautifully
refurbished Clonard Monastery.

A lovely venue and a big turnout for the opening concert of “Irelands biggest community arts festival”. I am always
wary of biggest in Ireland claims. It reminds one of a certain radio show.

Altan has always had a particular draw to West Belfast and a special welcome there arising from it being the home of one of their founders and main driving forces in the formative years of the band, the late Frankie Kennedy. Mairead acknowledged this and paid tribute to members of the Kennedy family who were in the audience.

Gerry Creen Belfast songwriter Gerry Creen opens for Altan in his home town. Copyright Bernie McAllister.

Local singer-songwriter Gerry Creen opened as a special guest. His material went down well with the audience especially his cover of traditional Belfast songs, ‘My Aunt Jane’, and ‘I’ll Tell Me Ma’.

Altan these days are a five-piece, Mark Kelly on guitar, Ciaran Curran on bouzouki, Ciaran Tourish on fiddle, Martin Tourish on piano accordion, and last but by no means least the main woman Mairead Ni Mhaonaigh on fiddle and vocals.

Altan live in Belfast Altan perform at the 2017 Feile in West Belfast. Copyright Bernie McAllister.

Their set, including an encore, consisted of twelve numbers, both songs, and sets of tunes. The tunes were jigs, reels and hornpipes, mostly traditional alongside newer compositions from Martin, Mark, and Ciaran.

Alongside we had songs from Mairead, mostly traditional sung in Irish. There is no doubting that the material is delivered with rare skill and expertise. Highlights for me were some of the newer material composed by Martin Tourish such as the instrumental ‘The Road Home’.

30th Anniversary Show Altan play live in Belfast marking their 30th anniversary on the Irish music scene. Copyright Bernie McAllister.

Sound quality is highly subjective and there are many finer ears
than mine but I was a bit disappointed with the sound, finding it bright and not very mellow. I stand to be corrected.

A lot has changed in the world and in traditional music over the thirty years that Altan has been on the road. The band, I suspect Mairead in particular, has been an inspiration to at least a couple of generations of Irish traditional musicians.

Altan perform in Belfast Altan – one of the highlights of the 2017 Feile in Belfast. Copyright Bernie McAllister.

The standard of playing, writing, and presentation in this
field of music has progressed leaps and bounds. While Altan is still at the top of the game it must be difficult to maintain energy and enthusiasm. New ventures include bus trips around Ireland in the company of the band and a book of Altan tunes notated by Martin Tourish.

All in all a fine start to the Feile and a nice 30th celebration.