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Review: The annual Chris Langan Weekend – April 12-14 at the Tranzac, Toronto

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Photo by Richard Barry.

For the past 33 years, members of Toronto’s Irish music community have faithfully staged a weekend gathering of fine playing and teaching called the Chris Langan Weekend, all for a very reasonable $100 weekend pass.

The namesake for the event is the late Chris Langan, a mentor, teacher, craftsman and advocate of the Irish arts in Toronto and in Ireland.

This year’s gathering took place from April 12 through 14, Friday through Sunday, at the Tranzac Club on Brunswick Avenue and Noonan’s on the Danforth.

I think it’s fair to say that the annual event is geared to players of Irish session music — the jigs, double jigs, slip jigs, hornpipes, reel, polkas, etc., that can be heard in pubs, community centres, homes and other places wherever a good tune is enjoyed.

That doesn’t mean others who might only be fans of the music were not in attendance, only that my unofficial survey at the Tranzac included many flute, whistle, tenor banjo, pipes, and fiddle players I’ve seen over many years at various sessions in and around Toronto – and some of the finest players too.

As for the structure of the weekend, a Friday night concert featured local and Canadian talent including performances by Debbie Quigley, Loretto Reid, North Atlantic Drift, Tom Power and Emilia Bartellas.

I should note that Tom and Emilia were in town just after coming in from St. John’s, where they did an outstanding job hosting this year’s Canadian Folk Music Awards.

Saturday night’s concert featured players who had mostly been invited from beyond our borders including Alison Perkins, Nathan Gourley, Caoimhin O Fearghail and Spencer Murray.

On Saturday at both the Tranzac and Noonan’s, ticket holders could sign up for afternoon classes with the talented players seen on stage throughout the weekend.

This included instruction in flute, whistle, concertina, Bodhran, pipes, fiddle, and guitar accompaniment.

Having participated at a number of these sorts of learning opportunities over the years, I can say that it’s a great way for novices to get started and for more experienced players to pick up a few pointers.

Most enjoyable for many is that, at the end of the concerts on each of the Friday and Saturday at the Tranzac and then again on Sunday at Noonan’s, time is set aside for Irish sessions for all those in attendance.

It’s a very special atmosphere with the quality of playing outstanding.

Someone from the stage mentioned in passing that over the 33 years the Chris Langan Weekend has been going on, new people have stepped up time and again to make sure the event happens, which is a clear indication of how strong the Irish music community is in Toronto.

Congratulations to the organizers for another great year and to the community that continues to support the tradition.

As the Chris Langan Weekend website says, “The traditional Irish music community in Toronto is vibrant and rich. The depth of knowledge and talent is inspiring.”

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