Media Release: Top talent at Dumfries and Galloway festival

moniaive folk festival session

THERE’S lots of choice and top talent coming to Moniaive in early May with a weekend of music, song and dance.

Headline acts include BBC Radio 2 Folk Award favourite, spellbinding voice and guitar player, Martin Simpson; Gaelic and Scots singer and folklorist, Margaret Bennett; the ever-popular Paul McKenna Band; and dynamic group, Talisk – featuring BBC Radio Scotland Young Traditional Musician of the Year 2016, Mohsen Amini.

Alan James, spokesperson for the event said: “Our folk weekend has an amazing array of performances this year with something for everyone such as circus skills, puppets, workshops, a family concert and parade fun!”

Described as “a buzzing little musically gifted community”, by The Guardian, Moniaive has created a village ceilidh band which will be pairing up with the vibrant musicians of Northern Harmony from the USA. Other local talent includes singer, Darcy DaSilva; the Cairn Chorus; and Wendy Stewart’s new composition, ‘Glen Cairn Music’.

The 15th Moniaive Folk Festival kicks off on May 5 with family-orientated events, open stage performers at various venues; piping competitions, dance, song and instrumental workshops; late night Festival Club unplugged; and sessions until May 8.

More details, timings and prices, including weekend tickets are available through the website,


Notes to editors:

• For more information about Moniaive Folk Festival including photos of performers – please contact Wendy Stewart – tel: 01387 820 241

• Weekend tickets (£50/ £35 concessions) are on sale through the website . Individual events through Alan James tel: 01387 820 241.

• The outline programme for the Festival is as follows:

Thursday 5 May

Talisk, Craigdarroch

Friday 6 May

Evening ceilidh with Moniaive Village Ceilidh Band, Northern Harmony (USA), Cairn Chorus

Saturday 7 May

Daytime workshops 10.30am – 4pm: include harmony, Gaelic and Scots singing, Balkan and Contra dance plus instruments.
Rolling programmes at Glenwhisk and The Fringe, Children’s Festival, In Conversation with Martin Simpson, Festival Parade
Evening concert with Northern Harmony, Martin Simpson, Paul McKenna Band
Late night Festival Club, rolling programme at The Fringe

Sunday 8 May

Lunchtime sing, led by Cairn Chorus
Afternoon concert
Clydebuilt Puppets show and workshop
Famous Festival Buffet followed by Survivors session

Information on the featured acts:

Paul McKenna Band

No strangers to Moniaive, we are delighted to have Paul and the band back to finish the Saturday concert in this their tenth anniversary year and our 15th! The band are Paul McKenna (vocals, guitar, bouzouki), Sean Gray (flute, whistle, guitar, vocals), Ewan Baird (bodhran, Cajon, vocals), Conor Markey (banjo, bouzouki, vocals), Jack Smedley (fiddle, vocals). The band won the MG Alba ‘Best up and coming artist’ award in 2009, and have since gone from strength to strength, touring widely across Europe, America, and Canada and performing at such major festivals as Cambridge, Edmonton, Tonder, and Celtic Connections. With a contemporary approach to songs, though always mindful of their traditional roots, the band’s sets are at once fresh, innovative, and exciting.

Various band members will be leading workshops on the Saturday, and – as in several years when they turned up even without being booked – will be in evidence around the sessions and leading the Sunday evening survivors session. “The best band of their generation” (Living Tradition)

Martin Simpson

Martin is widely acknowledged as amongst the finest acoustic and slide guitarists in the world, and a masterly interpreter of songs whether traditional British, blues, American old-timey, Bob Dylan or – increasingly – his own songs. He has collaborated with many of the finest singers and musicians around, but his solo spots are intense, eclectic, spellbinding, and deeply moving. He has been nominated an astounding 27 times in the Radio 2 Folk Awards – more than any other performer – winning ‘Musician of the Year’ twice amongst several other awards.

Martin will perform at the Saturday concert, but is also this year’s ‘Living Legend’ in the series of ‘in conversation’ events with Liz Clark of Celtic Radio. We have been trying to bring Martin to the Festival for years, and we are honoured to welcome him at last this year.

Northern Harmony

Northern Harmony, based in New England, are also no strangers to the area, though this will be their first time at the festival. They are a group of around 16 talented young singers and musicians put together a fresh every couple of years or so to tour Europe, directed by the redoubtable Larry Gordon and Patty Cuyler. The group developed out of the Village Harmony umbrella organisation established by Larry in 1988, which does amazing work year-round with schools programmes, community performance, ensemble touring, and choral and music summer camps for teenagers and adults with residencies by foreign and touring groups.

Northern Harmony is perhaps best known for their stunning performances of acapella choral song, in particular from the American Shape Note tradition but also from several other sources. They invariably also have some very talented musicians and a vast knowledge of dance which can be anything from American contra dance to Balkan.

The group will open the Saturday concert, but will also share the Friday ceilidh to introduce some of these dances, and will run dance and song workshops; and, having seen them in action before, they will be irrepressibly here, there, and everywhere around the festival!

In preparation for the festival ceilidh, we shall be running two Sunday contra dance sessions in Moniaive, open to everyone to come and learn a bit more about this rich American dance tradition. These will be led by experienced dancer, Evi Landay, on Sunday 17th 10.30am to 1.00pm, and Sunday 24th 2-4.30pm in Moniaive Institute.


Talisk are the vibrant young trio of Mohsen Amini (concertina), Hayley Keenan (fiddle), and Craig Irving (guitar), with strong backgrounds in Scottish and Irish traditional music, who have made a big impression in a very short space of time. Winners of the BBC Radio 2 Young Folk Award, and the coveted Danny Kyle Award at Celtic Connections in 2015, they have landed slots at some of Britain’s biggest festivals and are a young band destined for great things. Talisk will play the opening early bird concert on the Thursday evening 5 May. “Setting scary standards,” Simon Mayo, Radio 2.

Margaret Bennett

Margaret Bennett is widely regarded as ‘Scotland`s foremost folklorist’, and is also a writer, singer, broadcaster and truly inspirational soul with a great sense of humour!
“There can be few scholars on either side of the Atlantic who succeed in combining such a wide range of skills as Margaret Bennett. A folksinger of great sensitivity and versatility, she is undoubtedly one of the major figures of the modern Scottish Revival… Margaret embodies all that is best of the spirit of Scotland”, Hamish Henderson.

Cairn Chorus

Moniaive’s very own community choir are a festival fixture; the choir was formed to sing at the 2008 festival, and have done so every year since then. A reviewer of one of the early years admitted to trepidation at a community choir at a folk festival, but concluded that “this lot can sing!”.

They will be performing songs on the theme of separation (in anticipation of their D&G Arts Festival Concert with the Songs of Separation project on Saturday 21st May) at the Friday ceilidh and the Sunday lunchtime singaround.

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