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2020

Ards International Guitar Festival

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Ards International Guitar Festival

Back with a bang this April

Expect a jam-packed line-up of, blues, folk, rock, bluegrass and classical and contemporary music for guitar aficionados everywhere.

Highlights of this year’s festival include classical virtuosos The Aquarelle Guitar Quartet, a monster night of blues with the launch of Ronnie Greer’s much awaited album, featuring an all-star line-up of guests and a photography exhibition by Stuart Bailie. You’ll also find guitar themed film screenings, a Classic Album Brunch and lots of opportunities to learn from the masters themselves.

  • Where

    Newtownards, Co. Down

  • When

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Festival Schedule

WHAT'S ON.

Aquarelle Guitar Quartet
One of the world’s leading guitar quartets, the AGQ is known for its extraordinary performances and expansive repertoire. Formed at the Royal Northern College of Music (in 1999), under the guidance of Craig Ogden and Gordon Crosskey, the quartet studied with renowned guitarists Sérgio Assad, Oscar Ghiglia and Scott Tennant.
The Quartet has performed in major concert halls throughout the UK and Europe, and made its debut in Asia in 2014 with concerts in Seoul. Presenting music from around the globe, the Quartet features works by Gismonti, Mussorgsky, Rossini, and film music composer Ryuichi Sakamoto, and performs the work of many established international composers.
The group commissioned Brasilian composer Clarice Assad to write a piece for their debut Chandos CD in 2009 and ‘Danças Nativas’ was nominated for a Latin Grammy. The relationship continues with an eclectic programme featuring voice and piano, and a new CD this year.
Aquarelle is signed to Chandos Records, with all five albums receiving enthusiastic reviews. The ensemble embraces every opportunity to be involved in education work, and will give a masterclass as part of their festival appearance.
If one guitar quartet can give a traditional string quartet a run for its money in terms of abundant technique and breath-taking artistry, it is the Aquarelle Guitar Quartet - International Record Review
With outstanding playing and infectious spirit, this is no mere niche guitar CD, but a luscious and lively general-appeal winner - BBC Music Magazine
This British ensemble seems incapable of playing with less than a glorious range of sound… This is superb playing, and the music is ravishing - American Record Guide Aquarelle Guitar Quartet

The Dionys Ensemble
A Love child of contemporary jazz, Indian classical music, Irish traditional music and 80’s pop, Belfast-based Dionys Ensemble have been on the rise since 2018. Their debut EP ‘Orchard’ was released in May 2019 and demonstrates their ability to fuse a diverse range of styles, including some unlikely arrangements (e.g. Kate Bush’s Cloudbusting). Bolstered by instrumental virtuosity and a spirit of improvisation, the ensemble is more than capable of taking you on that ever-needed, musical journey. 
Members: Matt Dowie: Electric Guitar, Niall Lynch: Violin and Viola, Gary Lutton: Acoustic Guitar, Michael Currie: Upright and Electric Bass, Conor McAuley: Kit and Tabla Dionys Ensemble

The Classical Guitar Society of Northern Ireland
CGSNI aims to promote locally the classical guitar and its music. The Society meets once a month in the Ulster College of Music and is open to players of all ages and abilities as well as those who simply have an interest in the classical guitar.
The Society meetings provide an opportunity for amateur players to perform for each other in a supportive environment, and experienced players are on hand to offer advice and encouragement. Classical Guitar Society of Northern Ireland

Where

Queen’s Hall, Newtownards

Tickets

£12, includes a glass of wine/soft drink

Aquarelle Guitar Quartet
Aquarelle will give a masterclass of two halves! Firstly, the quartet welcomes the opportunity to hear members of the Classical Guitar Society perform a work for mass guitars (anything they’ve been working on already), following which they will offer a session on this, including potentially (if appropriate) splitting into four groups and working on the individual parts amongst the quartet members.
The Quartet would then welcome any members of the society - or indeed any other classical guitarists who perform in smaller groups (duos, trios or quartets), or as soloists - to perform for them and receive coaching in a masterclass-style format.
(The workshop is planned for 90 minutes, but the Quartet have given an undertaking to extend the workshop period if extra time is needed!)
Please bring your guitar Aquarelle Guitar Quartet

Where

Ards Arts Centre

Tickets

£15

requirement

Please bring your guitar

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari
Writers: Carl Mayer, Hans Janowitz
Stars: Werner Krauss, Conrad Veidt, Friedrich Feher

Uncover the joys of silent film with spectacular live musical accompaniment brought to you by guitarist, composer and arranger, Paul McMordie, who makes a welcome return to this year’s festival with a new score for this classic 1920 silent horror movie.
At a carnival in Germany, Francis and his friend Alan encounter the crazed Dr. Caligari. The men see Caligari showing off his somnambulist, Cesare, a hypnotized man who the doctor claims can see into the future. Shockingly, Cesare then predicts Alan's death, and by morning his chilling prophecy has come true -- making Cesare the prime suspect. Is Cesare guilty, or is the doctor controlling him?
This quintessential work of German Expressionist cinema and is brought to you in the atmospheric surroundings of Kiltonga Hall.

facebook.com/thenmanmade
Where

Kiltonga Hall

Tickets

£7 (includes a tea/coffee/hot chocolate)

As one of our most respected commentators, Stuart Bailie has often observed music history in the making. His writing has graced the pages of NME, Mojo, Uncut, Q, Vox, Hot Press and The Times, among others. Recently he’s received rave reviews for his book Trouble Songs: Music and Conflict in Northern Ireland. He has also been a respected broadcaster and author of TV and radio documentaries.
As co-founder of the Oh Yeah Music Centre in Belfast, he was its CEO from 2008-16. As a photographer, he has captured some wonderful portraits of musicians and artists.
This exhibition offers a chance to enjoy a selection of his camera work, and Stuart offers a short talk to open the exhibition which will continue throughout the duration of this year’s festival.

Where

Georgian Gallery, Ards Arts Centre

Richard Nelson Jazz Quartet
If you turn on an Irish radio station and hear a pedal steel guitar, chances are that the man in the driving seat is Richard Nelson. The list of musicians he has performed with is a who’s who of Irish music, from Van Morrison and Paul Brady to Daniel O’Donnell. Over the years, he has played on over 500 albums and is one of our most sought-after session musicians.
Richard has released two albums of jazz standards, Moment’s Notice in 2005 and Song for my Father in 2018, and has collaborated with Irish jazz artists such as Phil Ware, Hugh Buckley, Dave Redmond, Ciaran Wilde and Myles Drennan.
He’s the founder of the Irish Pedal Steel Guitar Festival (now 18 years and counting), and has performed at jazz meccas like the Montreux and North Sea Jazz Festivals. He’s a Graduate of the DIT Masters in Jazz Performance programme.
For this concert, Richard will be joined by guitarist Lee Meehan, a graduate of the DCU/Newpark degree programme. On bass is Nicky Scott, veteran session musician. On drums is Tim Rooney a graduate in Jazz Studies of the University of West London.
Featuring: Richard Nelson (pedal steel), Lee Meehan (guitar), Nicky Scott (bass), Tim Rooney (drums)

facebook.com/ricknelsteel/
Where

Ards Arts Centre

Tickets

£10, BYOB

Neil Ó Briain
Neil Ó Briain is fast gaining a reputation as an excellent composer and arranger for the acoustic guitar. Hailing from Cork, he weaves melody, bass and harmony together at ease and provides compelling performances. His music ranges from traditional Irish to contemporary fingerstyle, taking inspiration from artists such as Tony McManus, Tommy Emmanuel and Ryuichi Sakamoto.
Neil began his solo career playing the cafés and bars of Kagoshima, Japan, where he lived for several years. Upon returning home, he released his debut album Immram and began gigging around Cork and further afield. He has performed at the Belfast Guitar Festival and Ards International Guitar Festival Re-Jigged Festival and the Halifax Celtic Festival in Nova Scotia, Canada.

facebook.com/neilomusic
Where

Ards Arts Centre, Georgian Gallery

Tickets

Free, Booking advised

Ronnie Greer
Blues maestro Ronnie Greer (joined here by his all-star blues revue) returns to Ards International Guitar Festival on the crest of a wave, for what looks like being one of the high points of this year’s festival. During a string of sell-out gigs in the second half of last year, he found time to assemble an all-star band - and a handful of very special guests - and recorded a sizzling live album.
He has chosen Ards International Guitar Festival as the launchpad for the brand new album, which features contributions from Ronnie’s core band – Ronnie and long-time musical sparring partner Anthony Toner on guitars, Nick Scott on bass and Peter McKinney on drums – joined by guitarist/vocalists Ken Haddock and Grainne Duffy, Kyron Bourke on keyboards and vocals, and blues and jazz luminaries Linley Hamilton on trumpet and Dave Howell on sax.
This looks like being another blistering night of driving blues, swinging jazz and everything in between. Expect some amazing musicianship on songs from an exquisite catalogue, including material from T-Bone Walker, Steely Dan, JJ Cale, Van Morrison and many more.

ronniegreer.com
Where

The Queen’s Hall, West Street, Newtownards

Tickets

£15, Bar available

Dom Martin
Award-winning guitarist Dom Martin brings his band Dom Martin’s Savages to the festival fresh from being crowned Best Solo/Acoustic Act of 2019 in the European Blues Awards.
A relative unknown in his native Northern Ireland up until this year, Dom’s debut album Spain to Italy has been attracting rave reviews throughout the UK/Europe and the USA. After playing major festivals throughout Ireland and the UK, he made his mainland European debut in Switzerland and went on to play a five-show tour in Moscow.
A string of live dates and a series of BBC interviews have established him as a name on the music scene – this performance will see Dom play an acoustic set featuring his blistering slide playing and impassioned vocals, before the Savages take to the stage and turn up the intensity. The night will include a solo acoustic set from Dom.

dommart.in
Where

The Ivy Bar

Tickets

£5

Help Musicians NI bring you Declan Legge (Producer/Manager: Jealous of the Birds) for a limited number of one to one appointments to discuss anything related to your music career, including:
• Recording/Production/Mixing/Mastering
• Releasing music
• Self-Management/Management
• Marketing/PR/Socials
• Agents/Publishers/Labels
• Live
Or any other topic you want to discuss!
Appointments will last for 30 minutes, will be available between 10.00am – 4.00pm. Sessions are FREE but booking is essential to guarantee your slot.
Following the sessions, there will then be a 1-hour open drop-in from 4.00pm-5.00pm for anyone who can’t get an appointment or is unavailable earlier in the day. This will take the form of a rolling discussion or Q&A session.
There will be a laptop and speakers/headphones available if you have links to your music/socials, etc.

To book, please email:

ni.info@helpmusicians.org.uk

Where

Ards Arts Centre

Tickets

Free

Kids Rock with Kyle Riley
After going down a storm with the little Guitar Festival fans in 2019, Kyle is back with his engaging, entertaining, and energetic show where it’s the Kids that Rock!
He leads your children on a musical adventure playing his catchy original tunes, pop songs and traditional children’s music.
Here the kids don’t just listen to the music, they become a part of the show. We’re going to make big noise with percussive instruments, float with colourful scarves and get lost in a shower of bubbles.
For your under 8’s, your rock toddlers and little boppers in between. It’s good fun for the whole family. Kid’s Rock, Jump, Shake, Sing!

Where

Ards Arts Centre

Tickets

£5

Suitable

For ages 2-7yrs

Ronnie Greer and Anthony Toner
Join two ‘brothers in the blues’ for a special guitar workshop, as Ronnie Greer and Anthony Toner share some insights into this most accessible and expressive genres. Ronnie, one of our finest exponents of the Chicago style, with a unique jazz twist, will offer some tips on phrasing and share some of his favourite techniques. And Anthony – heavily influenced by 70s West Coast slide guitar heroes like Lowell George and Ry Cooder – will also offer some advice on the tricky business of slide guitar playing.
Expect a relaxed and informal session with two players who are always happy to share their knowledge and expertise.

Where

Ards Arts Centre

Tickets

£15

Suitable

For guitarists aged 16yrs and over

Requirement

Please bring your guitars!

Belfast Ukulele Jam are an energetic, happy-go-lucky ukulele band whose main aim in life is to have fun and infect those around them with the same vibe!
With a catalogue of over 1,000 songs, they have something for everyone – their repertoire includes songs from Queen, Prince, Talking Heads, Abba, Bon Jovi and many more favourites.
They can regularly be found livening up Tuesday nights in the Botanic Inn in Belfast, but they are no strangers to festivals either, having appeared at The Fiddlers Green Festival in Rostrevor, The Ukulele Hooley in Dun Laoghaire, and Sunflowerfest.
Of their performance at Sunflowerfest, music blog Chordblossom described them as ‘a sight to behold … an enjoyable and often immersive experience’.
A fun ukulele band who will have you singing along to your favourite songs, this looks like being a festival event to remember!

belfastukejam.com
Where

Ards Arts Centre

Tickets

FREE, Booking advised

Síomha
One of the undoubted hits of last year’s festival, Siomha (pronounced Shee-va) returns to Ards this time in the company of a superb band, a setting guaranteed to allow full rein to her jazzy, soulful guitar style.
Coming from a family steeped in music, Síomha grew up on a diet of jazz, trad, folk and soul. She started playing guitar at age 10, but it was in her teens in the south of France that she first took up jazz guitar, after an encounter with an Italian gypsy musician who taught her the manouche gypsy jazz style.
The next few years saw her travelling, soaking up influences, before returning to Ireland in 2016, and exploding onto the festival scene with a wonderful collection of songs and a superb technique, playing renowned festivals such as Electric Picnic, Clifden Arts Festival and Doolin Folk Festival, among others.
She has played support slots for everyone, from the likes of Joey Dosik (Vulfpeck) to Wyvern Lingo - and is a regular special guest with the great Paul Brady. Her song ‘July Red Sky’ garnered over 1.8 million views online. Most recently, Síomha was invited to tour with celebrated contemporary American-Irish group The Olllam.

siomhamusic.com

Shane Hennessy
Back by popular demand!
Shane Hennessy is a virtuoso fingerstyle guitarist and composer from Carlow, Ireland. His energetic contemporary guitar playing style and his cinematically vivid compositions tie in multiple influences from various world and ethnic music’s.
Shane has caught the attention of big names like guitar legend Tommy Emmanuel and super-producer Nile Rodgers (CHIC). His background in Irish traditional music has created a solid base for his genre-defying musical explorations.
Achievements to date include a sold-out solo show in The National Concert Hall in Dublin, a commission with Bill Whelan (composer of Riverdance), and a billing at the prestigious MerleFest in Wilkesboro, North Carolina. He has also featured on the St Patrick’s Day mainstage in Dublin, held solo tours of Europe, the US, and Russia, and appears at Irish festivals and music festivals around the world. He has released two albums of original music to date and works frequently as a songwriter and composer.

shanehennessy.ie

Sӧnke Meinen
With his music, in which he combines virtuoso fingerstyle guitar with influences from jazz, world- and classical music, Sönke Meinen has acquired an outstanding reputation in the international guitar scene.
He has won numerous prizes since, and in 2016 he collected awards at two of the largest international guitar competitions: the well-respected „Guitar Masters“ (first prize) and the European Guitar Award (sponsoring prize). The Australian guitar wizard Tommy Emmanuel introduced Sönke Meinen to his audience as ‘one of the most creative guitarists in the scene today‘.
Sönke studied at the College of Music in Dresden with Prof. Thomas Fellow, Prof. Stephan Bormann and Reentko Dirks. Since graduating in 2017 he performs all over the world – he toured almost every European country as well as Australia, Japan, Korea and China.

soenkemeinen.com
Where

The Queen’s Hall, West Street, Newtownards

Tickets

£15, Bar available

The Unholy Gospel Band
The Unholy Gospel Band is a first in Northern Ireland; authentic American gospel music delivered live and straight from the soul via Northern Ireland's very first (unholy) gospel band.
The singer and founder of the band, Cormac Neeson, first conceived the idea whilst touring America with his world-renowned rock band The Answer. Visits to great music cities such as Chicago, Memphis and Nashville, where on any given Sunday he would find a Gospel brunch serving up good food and great music, convinced him that this was an experience that his homeland was clearly missing out on.
Steeped in rich musical tradition across the genres of folk, blues, soul and country music, The Unholy Gospel Band bring their unique blend and energetic stage presence to Ards International Guitar Festival.
The band is comprised of five local musicians of the highest pedigree. Cormac Neeson, (guitar/vocals), Michael Mormecha (drums), Claire McCartney (keys), Andy Toman, (vocals/lead guitar), Eamon Hanlon (bass)
Featuring songs by Mahalia Jackson, the Staple Singers, Jackie Wilson and much more The Unholy Gospel Band, as the name suggests "ain't holy but the music is gospel".
Can I get a hallelujah?

facebook.com/unholygospelband
Where

The Ivy Bar

Tickets

£5

From ‘Whiskey in the Jar’ to ‘The Boys are Back in Town’ – all the way up to Thunder and Lightning and beyond into the recent live-in-concert incarnations, Thin Lizzy have consistently been the band to turn to for the best in street-wise songs and hard rock guitar playing.
Over the years, the band has featured some of the finest six-string talent on offer, including longtime member Scott Gorham, and Belfast players Eric Bell, Gary Moore and briefly Vivian Campbell – and there have been later connections featuring one of Ards’ most revered musical exports, guitarist/singer Ricky Warwick.
Award-winning BBC Radio Ulster presenter Ralph McLean’s Sunday brunch events have become one of the highlights of the festival, featuring a series of audio and visual treats – pictures, clips and album tracks, as well as an in-depth look at the work of the artists. All of it accompanied by coffee and snacks!
This will be no exception – a fascinating stroll through the history of one of our favourite bands of all time, featuring seldom-seen clips, some rarities and Ralph’s usual mix of musical insight and backstage gossip. As always, he’ll be welcoming contributions from the floor, so if you have a Thin Lizzy memory, feel free to come along and be part of the conversation.

Where

Ards Arts Centre

Tickets

£10, includes tea/coffee and brunch option

Shane will lead participants through a number of demos and exercises including thumb/finger independence, using a backbeat, composing and arranging for solo acoustic guitar, finger exercises and warmups, and lots more.

Where

Ards Arts Centre

Tickets

£15

Suitable

For guitarists aged 16yrs and over

Requirements

Please bring your guitars!

Jane Willow
Jane Willow is a Dutch folk musician who moved to Ireland at age twenty-one to pursue music. Her music is laced with Leonard Cohen and Nick Drake influences. She experiments with folk and country elements, whilst keeping her rich, soft and velvet-like voice at centre stage.
In recent years Jane’s played an incredible amount of gigs, performing at Vicar Street, Whelan’s, Temple Bar Tradfest and Electric Picnic. She’s supported the likes of Glen Hansard, The Unthanks, Andy Irvine, Paddy Casey, Kíla, David Kitt and Mark Geary. On her debut EP Onward Still (Nov ‘18) she collaborated with musicians Dave Hingerty (drums: Kíla, Josh Ritter), Vyvienne Long (cello: Damien Rice).
Her single ‘The Fool’ reached the finals of Radio Nova Discovered with radio DJ Colm Hayes picking it as his favourite song. Her single ‘Rise Above It All’ was released in September and picked up radio play on BBC Radio Ulster, RTE Radio 1, PLAY IRISH and more. Her new single 'Give It Time' is out now.

janewillow.com

DANI
Singer-songwriter and folk musician DANI hails from the Armagh-Monaghan border. Her sound is inspired by the Irish traditional melodies she was raised with, and her songs are reminiscent of Celtic folk tales.
As last year’s Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival’s Artist in Residence, DANI supported Rufus Wainwright, Joshua Burnside, The Eskies and Sneaks, playing to sold out audiences at St. Anne’s Cathedral and the festival marquee.
DANI released a version of The Mother Within with Indonesian percussionists KunoKini last June, and toured extensively with KunoKini, selling out festivals and shows in Java and Bali. They also performed at Stendhal Festival, Belfast Mela, Armagh Blues Festival, and were featured in a slot on UTV.
DANI’s music for The Silver Branch, a collaboration with playwright Alice Malseed, explores the narrative surrounding the contemporary debate on reproductive rights, through the lens of Celtic mythology.

danimusicathome.com
Where

Ards Arts Centre

Tickets

£10, includes a glass of wine/beer and cheese

Rodney Branigan
As the festival enters its last day, join us at The Ivy Bar for lyrics from the heart and music that’s good for the soul with an afternoon of homegrown talent and Americana roots music.
Rodney Branigan, the Texas-born troubadour who learned to play in Austin, perform in Los Angeles, craft songs in Nashville, and put it all together in London has played all types of music in all types of venues in his storied career.
His adventurous, boundary breaking guitar playing (sometimes two at the same time) earning him the title "The Two Guitar Man" has led to performance invites across American, India, Africa and Europe.
Branigan commanded the Acoustic stage at last year's Glastonbury Festival where he packed the tent and went down a storm!
He is privileged to have shared stages with Jack Johnson, Billy Sheehan, Frances Cabrel, Slim Jim Phantom, Bo Didley, Alabama 3, Billy Bragg, Preston Reed, Seth Lakeman, Andy Mckee, Jethro Tull, Albert Lee and Tommy Emmanuel.

jrodneybranigan.com

Tony McHugh
Tony is a Belfast born, London based songwriter and award-winning producer with what have been described as sublime guitar skills and an achingly soulful voice that tells of his encounters with joy and existential angst alike.
If you met him in an elevator and demanded to know what his music sounded like, he might say…
“If Rage Against the Machine was in a rocky relationship with Queen and their child, unable to admit his love for Shred Metal, posed instead as a “jazzy” Damien Rice”

facebook.com/tonymchughmusic
Where

Ivy Bar

Tickets

£8

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