By Earle Hitchner
As a further result of BMG Music’s consolidations and rigorous profit scrutiny, the BMG subsidiary of RCA Victor has decided not to renew its contracts with two internationally celebrated classical instrumentalists: Aberdeen-born percussionist Evelyn Glennie, who has a flourishing solo career despite her deafness and was profiled on “60 Minutes” last year, and Belfast-born James Galway, a former first-chair flutist with the renowned Berlin Philharmonic and a recording partner of the Chieftains on a couple of RCA albums.
Both of these label decisions come as a shock to many industry observers familiar with the reputations of the musicians. In recent years, Galway has made an effort to broaden his market appeal through collaborations with Derry pianist-composer Phil Coulter, who specializes in a New Age-tinged sound. But evidently Galway’s own record sales were not sufficient to prevent BMG from dropping him.
Ironically, this occurred before the recent death of 78-year-old French flutist Jean-Pierre Rampal, arguably the most accomplished and popular classical flutist of the past half-century, whom the ebullient, talented Galway might have been expected to replace in the public mind and affection.
D.C. Fest bounces back
Not many rain-or-shine Irish festivals can absorb a 40 percent drop-off in attendance and revenue because of horrific weather and still bounce back with a lineup of talent every bit as good as before. But the resourcefulness and resilience of the Washington Irish Festival are not to be underestimated. Sponsored by the National Council for the Traditional Arts, the festival will celebrate its 24th anniversary this Sept. 2-3 at the Montgomery County Fairgrounds in Gaithersburg, Md.
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“It was traumatic,” festival director Chris Williams said of last year’s torrential rain, “and we lost money. In fact, it was the biggest hit we could afford to take. But the NCTA board is really dedicated to the festival, and we were determined to mount this year’s with equal strength.”
Consistently offering an exciting, far-ranging mix of Irish and other Celtic music, the Washington Irish Festival didn’t stint at all with this year’s slate of performers.
“Our six-member entertainment committee tries to balance what’s popular — Cherish the Ladies, L_nasa, Dan_, Dervish — with what may be less well-known yet has tremendous artistic merit all the same,” Williams said. “We also try to present musicians new to the festival and perhaps new to our audience.”
Included in that “new to the festival” category are the Kathryn Tickell Band, a quartet headed by the gifted Northumbrian piper and fiddler; the duo of Dublin-born fiddler Paddy Glackin and County Down uilleann piper Robbie Hannan, and Ulster singer P_draigfn Nf Uallach_in. Among the other festival performers are Liz Carroll and her Lost Band (guitar and bouzouki player Jim DeWan, percussionist Jackie Moran, and guest pianist Tracey Dares); singer Len Graham; fiddler James Kelly with Altan guitarist-singer D_ithf Sproule; flutist Jimmy Noonan, button accordionist Conor McCarthy (of the Kilfenora CTilf Band), and former Ossian guitarist-singer Tony Cuffe; Cape Bretoners Howie MacDonald on fiddle and piano, Dave MacIsaac on guitar and fiddle, Paul O’Neill on pipes and vocals, and Tracey Dares; and fiddler Brendan McGlinchey, flutist Roger Sherlock, banjoist Liam Farrell, and guitarist Nigel Stevens, all current or former residents of England.
Dance enthusiasts will get their fill at a Friday night, Sept. 1, cTilf inside the Gaithersburg Holiday Inn and also during Saturday and Sunday at the festival site itself.
“At the fairgrounds, we have a gym with a spring-wood floor that we’ll use for cTilf, country set, and step dancing,” Williams said. Workshops and classes will be conducted by Deirdre Goulding, Donny Golden, and Timmy “The Brit” McCarthy, who’ll be returning to the festival for the first time in 20 years.
For further information, call (301) 565-0654, (877) 278-0655, or visit the NCTA Web site at www.ncta.net.
The outstanding Clare-based quintet Moving Cloud will be making a brief tour of the U.S. from Aug. 17 to 27. Performing double duty stateside will be flute, tin whistle, and bodhr_n player Kevin Crawford, who is on tour of America with L_nasa and will be joining Moving Cloud on theirs.
Button accordionist Paul Brock, keyboardist Carl Hession, and fiddlers M’ve Donnelly and Manus McGuire round out the band. The tour will also provide further exposure for McGuire’s superb new solo album, “Saffron and Blue,” now out on Green Linnet Records.
Here’s the Moving Cloud itinerary: Aug. 17-20, Henry W. Maier Lakefront Festival Park, 20th annual Milwaukee Irish Fest ( 476-3378, www.irishfest.com); Aug. 21, The Burren, 247 Elm St., Davis Square, Somerville, Mass. ( 776-6896); Aug. 22, Muse at the Grey Goose, Londonderry, N.H. ( 437-6085); Aug. 23, Town Hall Theatre, Woodstock, Vt. ( 781-3407); Aug. 24, Levitt Pavilion, Westport, Conn. ( 226-7600); Aug. 25-26, 39th annual Philadelphia Folk Festival, Old Pool Farm, Upper Salford, Pa. ( 242-0150,  556-3655, www.folkfest.org), and Aug. 27, 8 p.m., Towne Crier Cafe, 130 Rte. 22, Pawling, N.Y. ( 855-1300, www.townecrier.cafe).
Philly, Milwaukee fests
Besides Moving Cloud, this year’s Milwaukee Irish Fest (Aug. 17-20), the biggest Irish festival in the world, will feature such trad artists as fiddler Se_n McGuire and button accordionist Joe Burke, Cherish the Ladies, L_nasa, Bumblebees, Dan_, Sliabh Notes, and Mick Moloney, Robbie O’Connell, Jimmy Keane, and Liz Carroll.
The Philadelphia Folk Festival (Aug. 25-27), the oldest and largest folk festival in America, will feature — in addition to Moving Cloud — such Celtic acts as Edinburgh-based Boys of the Lough, Cape Breton fiddler Natalie MacMaster, Vancouver band Mad Pudding, Ireland’s Saw Doctors, and the Timoney Irish Dancers.
Free festival in Amenia, N.Y.
On Saturday, Aug. 19, from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., the 10th annual Amenia World Peace Festival will take place, rain or shine, at the World Peace Sanctuary, just off Rte. 22 and south of Amenia, N.Y. The festival, which is free to the public, is about a 90-minute drive from New York City.
An impressive array of musical acts has been booked for the festival by Phil Ciganer, proprietor of the Towne Crier Cafe in Pawling, N.Y., and mastermind of New York’s fondly remembered Bear Mountain Festival. On the Celtic-music front will be Ceili Rain, a septet featuring New Jersey’s All-Ireland button accordion champion Buddy Connolly, and Matapat, a Quebec trio specializing in Celtic-flavored French Canadian music. The latter consist of composer/arranger Simon Lepage and two former members of Ad Vielle Que Pourra: Benoit Bourque on accordion, bones, spoons, and stepdancing, and Gaston Bernard on mandolin, fiddle, guitar, and bouzouki.
Also on stage will be folksinger Tom Paxton (composer of such classic songs as “The Last Thing on My Mind” and “Ramblin’ Boy”), blues vocalist and guitarist Rory Block, rock-pop band 10,000 Maniacs, Ugandan musician Samite, Grammy-winning blues fiddler and singer Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown and his Gates Express, klezmer band Klezperanto, Mindy Jostyn (who played violin on Carly Simon’s “The Bedroom Tapes” album), and Ecuador’s Andes Mantas, among many others.
This eight-hour, family-friendly event will additionally feature giant puppets, magicians, jugglers, comics, vaudeville-like performers, and stiltwalkers. For more information about the festival, call (845)877-6093, 800-PEACELINE, or visit www.worldpeace.org.
Stateside Rusby buzz
Her admitted fear of flying won’t prevent Yorkshire singer, guitarist, and pianist Kate Rusby from finally making her eagerly anticipated first tour of the U.S. For 10 days or so in November, she will be performing with John McCusker, an excellent fiddler, tin whistler, citternist, pianist, and tune composer, best known for his work in the Battlefield Band.
Earning high praise in Britain, Ireland, and America for 1997’s “Hourglass” and 1999’s “Sleepless,” her two solo albums on Pure Records and then on Nashville-based Compass Records, Rusby has galvanized an otherwise sedate folk scene in England with her uniquely expressive voice and intimate performance style. Further critical notice came from her involvement in such bands as the Equation and especially the Poozies.
Singing from a song repertoire spanning England, America, Scotland, and Ireland (including “As I Roved Out” and SinTad O’Connor’s “I Am Stretched on Your Grave”), Rusby will be in concert at the following venues: Nov. 9, Makor, NYC; Nov. 10, Painted Bride, Philadelphia; Nov. 11, Iota, Arlington, Va.; Nov. 12, “Mountain Stage” concert and nationally syndicated radio show, Charleston, W. Va.; Nov. 14, Ten Pound Fiddle, East Lansing, Mich.; Nov. 15, The Ark, Ann Arbor, Mich.; Nov. 16, Cultural Ctr., Chicago; Nov. 17, Shoulder to Shoulder Folk Series, Wausau, Wis.; Nov. 18, Cedar Cultural Center, Minneapolis, Minn., and Nov. 19, Museum of Natural History, Lexington, Mass. There’s also a possibility that one or two additional concert dates will be slotted for the Rusby tour.