Review: Seafaring Festival

Waterford City Council must be nearly as pleased as originators Hooks and Crookes were with the new Waterford Seafaring Festival of Music & Song and both must have been glad that Christ Church Cathedral was open to facilitate two excellent concerts that gave focus and shape to a great weekend.

At least sixteen sea shanty groups, some choirs and bands as well as a few solo performers brought a nautical touch to the quays and streets of Waterford. The festival also reached out to include coastal towns to share the multi-national aspect of songs of the sea.

Friday night brought a salty touch of music to a list of bars and hostelries and moved into Saturday with city of Waterford Brass leading a sort of parade as singing groups disembarked at various venues along the way. Even the Boat Club was visited which was a nice touch.

The Gala Concert on Saturday was a joyous occasion with shanties from Ireland, Holland, Swansea, Brittany and a wonderful choir from Norway as well as the award-winning Waterford Male Voice Choir.

Hooks and Crookes got the evening off to a gentle start with Bheir Me O and Dick Miles delivered a gem from the Bob Copper family – Adieu Sweet Lovely Nancy.

A Dutch group called Paddy’s Passion featuring accordion, guitar and bodhran delighted as Baggywrinkle from Wales delivered a classy Rev Jenkins song from Dylan Thomas’ Under Milk Wood, full of wonderful harmony.

Le Souilles de Fond de Cale from Brittany brought a beautiful mood to the gathering to close the first half.

Michael Winkle as compere was full of interesting facts as he introduced a Norwegian coastal choir, Riggerloftets, who charmed with Shenandoah and a beautiful Three Score and Ten.

To close the Gala the Waterford Male Voice Choir showed their winning ways with a rousing Sloop John B and a rollicking version of Drunken Sailor.

A Sunday coffee concert at the same venue celebrated the International Year of the Seafarer. A Cornwall seven man group gave us a lonely Time Ashore and a rich deep Challo Brown.

Scheepsfolk from Holland got the audience singing along with the guitar, accordion, bones, spoons, kazoo and ships bell. I loved Down Below Cape Horn and the Cajun rhythms of La Rochelle and their crowd pleasing closer Waiting for the Day was a joy to experience.

An Irish foursome Warp Four gave us Whiskey (the song), The Mingulay Boat Song and a wonderful Leave Her Johnny Leave Her.

Events then shifted to coastal areas, Greyfriars Gallery and The Millennium Plaza as songs were shared on the quayside as of yore.

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