Frostburg State University’s Appalachian Festival will explore the close connections of Irish traditional music and American old-time music with this year’s capstone concert featuring the Ireland-based Buffalo in the Castle on Saturday, Sept. 17, at 8 p.m. at the historic Palace Theatre in downtown Frostburg.
The concert will top off a full day of regional music, workshops and activities featured as part of the annual FSU Appalachian Festival. The event celebrates the traditional artistry, history, culture and environment of Mountain Maryland and the surrounding Appalachian region.
Having released its self-titled CD in 2009, the band’s configuration is new, but its members are all greatly respected musicians with a long history in their fields. Button accordion master Mairtin O’Connor and Desi Wilkinson, one of Ireland’s leading exponents of the traditional Irish flute, provide the group’s anchors for Irish traditional music, while Frank Hall, a top-notch fiddler and clogger, and clawhammer banjo player Lena Ullman supply a hearty serving of American old-time music.
O’Connor began playing the accordion at the age of 9, and during his remarkable career has been a member of many of traditional music’s leading groups, including Midnight Well, De Dannan, The Boys of the Lough and Skylark. He has also been a session musician for national and international musicians such as Rod Stewart, Elvis Costello, Mark Knofler, Tanita Tikaram, Townes Van Zandt, Chieftains, the Dubliners, Davy Spillane, Maire Brennan and the Waterboys. In 1995 O’Connor became the first recipient of the Allied Irish Banks, Traditional Musician of the Year.
Wilkinson, a fine singer as well as flute player, has recorded four albums with Cran, his primary musical group, and two solo albums as well. Originally from Belfast, Wilkinson has worked and toured with most of the best-known musicians and groups on the traditional Irish music scene, such as De Dannan, Donal Lunny, Liam O'Flynn, Andy Irvine and O’Connor. He has toured the U.S. as a guest star with De Dannan and has arranged and performed music for the theatre.
Hall learned to play old-time fiddle for square dancing in his home town of Bloomington, Ind. Branching out into performing bands, he has played with The Indiana Raincrows, Easy Street Stringband, Rhythm in Shoes and The Monks. He has recorded five albums, including one with Moonshine, based in Ireland. His career has included American forms of step-dancing and square dance calling, as well as an academic study of competitive Irish dancing.
Ullman was introduced to the five-string banjo and American old-time music as a teenager in Sweden. Living in Ireland since the late ’70s, she played clawhammer style with The Higglers, an old-time stringband that performed throughout Ireland and Europe. Later she applied the clawhammer banjo style to traditional Irish music and began to compose original music on the instrument. She now sings and plays in Moonshine, with Johnny Moynihan and Hall, and is producing a CD of her original music.
Though several American groups have recently examined connections between bluegrass and Irish music, the efforts of Buffalo in the Castle stand unique. Not only do they provide a well-nuanced investigation of old-time music rather than bluegrass, but many tunes and styles their music is steeped in have origins in Northern Ireland.
A 2009 review in the Irish Times described Buffalo in the Castle’s music as infectious. “It’s an Aladin’s cave of mischievousness that propels it skywards, from the opening trio of tunes melding Antrim and Sliabh Luachra with the fiddle music of Kentucky.”
While the band’s focus is largely instrumental, they pepper their performance with several songs, taking great pleasure in the American old-time tradition that seamlessly combines and alternates between vocals and instrumentals.
Tickets are available at Mountain City Traditional Arts and Main Street Books in Frostburg. Tickets are $15 in advance or $18 at the door; tickets for students and those 17 and under are $8.
The FSU Appalachian Festival is supported, in part, by funding from Maryland Traditions, a program of the Maryland State Arts Council; the National Endowment for the Arts; WFWM; Culture Ireland; the Allegany Arts Council; FrostburgFirst; and the FSU Foundation.
To learn more about the event, visit www.frostburg.edu/events/afestival. For more information, contact Kara Rogers Thomas at 301-687-3124 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Situated in the mountains of Allegany County, Frostburg State University is one of the 12 institutions of the University System of Maryland. FSU is a comprehensive, residential regional university and serves as an educational and cultural center for Western Maryland. For more information, visit www.frostburg.edu or facebook.com/frostburgstateuniversity.
FSU is committed to making all of its programs, services and activities accessible to persons with disabilities. To request accommodations through the ADA Compliance Office, call 301-687-4102 or use a Voice Relay Operator at 1-800-735-2258.