St Patrick’s Day 2022: Concert in Luxembourg

St Patrick’s Day in its 2022 version had absolutely to be special, coming after two years without celebrations, Covid oblige. Luxembourg , home to a substantial Irish community, was no exception, mounting a whole series of events and, notably, an exceptional concert of Irish music courtesy of the Syrkus  cultural centre in the locality of Roodt-sur-Syre near the German border.

March 17th’s event featured two Irish folk ensembles, opening with rising stars Na Leanai and continuing with the Kilkennys, established performers in the line of the Clancy Brothers or the Dubliners. Both had been booked to play Roodt two years ago, only to face a last-minute cancellation. For Na Leanai this was their first gig anywhere since 2020, a moving occasion indeed.

Hailing from County Down and all related, Na Leanai are: sisters Sorcha Turnbull (vocals, whistles, bodhran or Irish drums) and Eimear Keane (vocals); Fra Sands (vocals, guitar, keyboards); and Ryanne Sands (the group’s regular violinist but currently on maternity leave and replaced on this occasion by Cajun-style fiddler Annie). The combination of male and female voices and the various instrumental timbres all blend perfectly.   

The Kilkennys are an all-male four-piece, vocalists and instrumentalists all: Davey Cashin, Tommy Mackey, Robbie Campion and Mick Martin. Their multi-instrumentalism, encompassing guitars, mandolin, banjo, whistles, uillean pipes and bodhran, makes for a rich and rewarding sound.

Na Leanai’s set took in traditional numbers and folk standards including Lakes of Ponchartrain and a fine a capella performance of She Moved Through the Fair with Eimear on vocal, as well as their own anthemic compositions such as Bring’Em All In and Daughters and Sons, and a rendering of the Italian partisan classic Bella Ciao, re-dedicated in the current climate of war and violence to those now resisting in Europe.

The Kilkennys kicked off with a rousing version of The Wild Rover, perhaps the best-known of all Irish songs, and went on to embrace a range of folk evergreens including Arthur McBride, Only Our Rivers Run Free, Rocky Road to Dublin, and, in a superb encore, the unforgettable Wild Mountain Thyme (aka Will Ye Go, Lassie?).

Both performances overflowed with vital energy and musicianly enthusiasm: it would be hard to prefer one over the other, and indeed the Kilkennys’ encores saw the return to the stage of members of Na Leanai to join them! Irish music is a collaborative pursuit, and this already special evening had its charm intensified in the musicians’ shared homage to the spirit of a Saint Patrick’s Day that was different from the rest!


And a quick note for followers of Bob Dylan: two of the songs played, ‘Arthur McBride’ and ‘Wild Mountain Thyme’, have been the object of official recordings by the master himself (the latter several times). Indeed, the Kilkennys announced their rendering of ‘McBride’ as following the classic version by Paul Brady, which is also that used by Dylan in his cover version. Dylan has also performed ‘Lakes of Ponchartrain’ live.

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