Who to see at the Goderich Celtic Roots Festival? Lisa Iesse pulled names from a Guinness mug
By the breezy shores and crystal blue waters of Lake Huron, the Goderich Celtic Roots Festival takes place this weekend in Lions Harbour Park.
This year marks the festival’s 30th anniversary, making it Canada’s longest running pan-Celtic festival. It features a roster of local and international musicians from around the world, playing traditional and contemporary Celtic music, including Celtic jazz, pop, alternative, country, roots, and world music fusions.
There will also be Celtic dancing on the Dancing Stage. Yes, there is an entire stage devoted to dancing! If, like me, you are a long-time fan of Riverdance, then be sure to catch these dancers lakeside at the festival. They are gearing up to trip the light fantastic with everything from Irish céilís, to English clogs, to waltz clogs, step dances, and more.
This year’s line-up of performers features local and international talent. It was not easy to pick only five performers for this list. At some point, I had to draw names out of my favorite Guinness beer mug.
The full line-up can be found on the festival’s website: https://www.celticfestival.ca/2022-festival-lineup
The full schedule of shows can also be found there: https://www.celticfestival.ca/full-schedule
Here is who won the Guinness beer mug draw:
Kozo Toyota (on the Irish flute and whistles), Koji Nagao (on the guitar, banjo, and mandolin) and Hirofumi Nakamura (on the accordion and bouzouki), together form the fantastically talented trio O’Jizo. Based in Tokyo, O’Jizo was first formed by Kozo and Koji in 2008 as a duo before Hirofumi came aboard. O’Jizo are the winners of the 2021 Robinson Emerging Artist Showcase award alongside cellist and composer Clíodhna Ní Aodáin. The trio combines the Irish wooden flute and the Irish tin whistle with piano, accordion, bouzouki, guitar, and mandolin arrangements. Their music embodies a distinct but classic Irish-Celtic sound, infused with a touch of Chicago jazz and world music, including Japanese traditional and contemporary music, of course. O’Jizo released their album MiC–Music in Cube in 2021. The title is a play on words. The first part, MiC, resembles the word “mic.” In Japan, Cube refers to a personal computer and also to a house. The album was created at home during the lockdown and includes many new compositions. O’Jizo are scheduled to release their fifth album in 2022.
Clíodhna Ní Aodáin
Cellist and composer Clíodhna Ní Aodáin is the winner of the 2021 Robinson Emerging Artist Showcase award alongside O’Jizo. Clíodhna is the conductor of two orchestras in Bern, Switzerland. She also works as a dedicated teacher, sharing the skills she has accumulated over the years with burgeoning Celtic music artists. After an accident in 2017, which changed her life, Clíodhna devoted her life to “the music of her heart.” In 2018, she released her debut album, Celtic Cello, followed by the album Celtic Rituals in 2021. She is currently working on a third album. Her work blends the traditional Celtic music of Ireland and Scotland. Clíodhna’s music pays homage to the mythologies of these lands, imparting stories of nature, love, separation, and the cycle of life. Her name itself, Clíodhna Ní Aodáin, is a homage to Ireland’s Goddess of Love and Beauty. In 2019, she conducted “In Search of a Better Life,” a live concert in Ireland, in collaboration with 180 musicians. The show recounted the narratives of Irish emigrants, but also emphasized those narratives in connection with the struggles refugees around the world are still confronting today.
Inn Echo is composed of talented, innovative musicians Karson McKeown (on the fiddle), Tuli Porcher (on the five-string fiddle and cello), and Tom Gammons (on the guitar). Their name refers to the group’s vision of echoing diverse musical traditions rooted in each member’s homelands, which branch out across the world. Inn Echo have emphasized that the musical traditions each of them invoke are distinct echoes of who they are individually, and collectively. Since their debut in 2018, they have mesmerized audiences and critics with their brilliantly crafted, unique compositions. In 2020, they were honoured with Music PEI Award nominations for Emerging Artist of the Year, Entertainer of the Year, and Roots/Traditional Recording of the Year for their debut album. In 2020, they also released their EP, Winter’s End. Their new EP is being met with praise from audiences and critics, earning them another Music PEI 2021 nomination for Instrumental Recording of the Year.
Bourque Émissaires features two versatile, seasoned musicians from Québec, Benoit Bourque and Antoine Pigeon-Bourque. Benoit is a gifted player of the diatonic button accordion, the guitar, and the rhythm bones, along with being a gifted vocalist and dancer. His traditional Québec dance has wooed audiences worldwide. Benoit Bourque has performed music for over three decades for audiences across the globe. Known for his infectious joie de vivre, he has been referred to as the band’s ‘sparkplug.’ Antoine Pigeon-Bourque is a talented musician who first began to play the piano at the age of 11, and then, at the age of 16, picked up the accordion. He studied classical piano and accordion at the Université de Montréal, where he earned a degree in music. Antoine is also a graduate of Montreal’s Collège Saint-Laurent, where he studied tuba and accordion. Antoine and Benoit both lead workshops and conferences about Québec folklore at camps and festivals. They also work with people with disabilities and people who deal with loss of autonomy, through the platform of music.
Emily Jean Flack
Gifted vocalist, musician, songwriter, and traditional step-dancer Emily Jean Flack combines folk, roots, country, alternative, Celtic pop, and a touch of jazz with traditional Celtic music into her compositions and performances. Active on the music scene since her childhood, Emily has won the hearts of audiences far and wide. She performed at JunoFest in 2019 and has performed for audiences across Canada and internationally. After spending three years living in Ireland, she recently returned to Toronto. In 2019, she released Throwing Shapes, her debut EP. She describes the crafting of this wonderous collection of songs as sparking extreme growth for her, “When listening to this new collection of songs, know that I took a chance, risked my comfort,” she said. “If you find some moment of collision, I am glad. A moment where you either face familiarity or something different. Lean into it. The more I do, the more I realize that’s exactly why we’re here.”