New festival to celebrate Dublin’s musical diversity

Irish musicians gather at Mansion House to launch MusicTown festival

Traditional musician Donal Lunny playing at the launch of MusicTown in The Mansion House last night. Photograph: Aidan Crawley/The Irish Times

Traditional musician Donal Lunny playing at the launch of MusicTown in The Mansion House last night. Photograph: Aidan Crawley/The Irish Times


Rock band Bell X1, folk singer Lisa O’Neill, traditional legend Donal Lunny and classical pianist Fionnuala Moynihan were among the performers at a special concert in Dublin’s Mansion House to launch a new music festival for Dublin in 2015. MusicTown will be a showcase of Dublin’s musical diversity, running over one week across different venues in the capital, and last night’s launch concert was designed to give a flavour of the variety on offer when the festival kicks off next year.

Also performing at last night’s concert were Our Lady’s Choral Society, who performed extracts from Handel’s Messiah to celebrate the anniversary of its first Dublin performance, in Fishamble Street in 1742.

Admission to last night’s concert was free, ticketed event; all tickets were snapped up soon after the concert was announced.

“I like the fact that the festival is, to use that word, eclectic,” said broadcaster John Kelly, who presented the concert in the Round Room of the Mansion House. “It’s acknowledging that there’s all types of music out there, and all sorts of people who enjoy it. There’s an opportunity for listeners to hear different types of music and for practitioners to come together and collaborate. You never know what might come of it.”

The first MusicTown festival, in 2015, will consist of 10 music events over one week in various city centre venues. MusicTown will also encompass a Handel festival. The idea of MusicTown, said City Arts Officer Ray Yeates, is to get musicians from different genres working together, and hopefully grow the event into something that would eventually attract visitors and bring Dubliners out too.

“We’re good with literature and theatre, but not so good with music,” he said. “And Handel is a brand, for want of a better word, that we’ve never really used, to say this is our music. Dublin is a great music town.” This was not just a musical Gathering, he stressed, but an “artistic initiative” that would hopefully grow into a one of Dublin’s major attractions.

“It’s a very worthwhile initiative, and it’s great that it’s being given this sort of impetus,” said Donal Lunny, who performed with Paddy Glackin at last night’s concert. Lunny and Glackin also performed at a gala concert in London’s Royal Albert Hall last Thursday as part of President Michael D Higgins’s state visit to the UK. “It was a fantastic occasion. It was a once-in-a-lifetime thing.”

For Paul Noonan of Bell X1, “the attraction was being part of something that would have an extended life, and there’s talk of doing shows in a lot of landmark Dublin buildings. So hopefully that’ll happen for us next year.”

“I think Dublin musicians have been ahead of the game in terms of developing their own cottage industries, being masters of the whole process of making their own music, owning their own records, putting them out themselves.”

“I’ve recently become involved with an initiative with the National Concert Hall, where space is being made available for writing. There’s myself, James Vincent McMorrow, Cathy Davey and Neil Hannon, and out of that will come a project involving various arms of the National Concert Hall. I recently recorded with the percussion section from the symphony orchestra. So there’s great cross-pollination that way.”