The sweet sound of celebration was in the air last weeks as the United Airlines Belfast Nashville Songwriters Festival launched its official 10th anniversary programme featuring more than 100 artists who will perform at no fewer than 90 events from February 28 to March 9 2014.
The ‘BelNash’ Festival, as it is also affectionately known, is one of the UK and Ireland’s most unique music festivals in that it celebrates the art of the songwriter and to mark 10 years since its inception, this year’s event will run for 10 days rather than five as it traditionally does.
It’s not just the festival organisers Panarts who have reason for celebration at this year’s event. Headline act Donovan, famous for hits such as Catch the Wind and Mellow Yellow, will certainly be in celebratory mood following the announcement that he is soon to be inducted into the prestigious Songwriters Hall of Fame in New York, while Irish favourites Bagatelle, led by songwriter Liam Reilly, will also be celebrating 35 years on the road by performing their most famous hits including Summer in Dublin and Second Violin at the landmark festival.
Festival organiser Colin Magee of Panarts said: “Celebration is a real theme of this year’s Belfast Nashville Songwriters Festival, and we certainly have a lot to celebrate. We started the Songwriters’ Festival back in 2004 to focus on the people who create the songs we love and to put them centre stage. Back then we could only have dreamed that 10 years on we would have such a line-up of local and international artists performing over a period of 10 days. It really is amazing how the festival has grown over the past decade.
“We would encourage anyone who loves live music to come to join us for this year’s festival as city will come alive to the sound of singer-songwriters from Northern Ireland and around the world. From Americana to Blues & Rock, Country to Traditional Folk, there’s great live music on offer at The Holiday Inn Belfast and Empire Music Hall,” he added.
Other well-known singer songwriters taking the stage at the Holiday Inn Belfast or the Empire Music Hall over the course of the festival include Midge Ure, an award-winning songwriter who has enjoyed huge success as a solo artist and with his former band Ultravox, and a host of award-winning American songwriters including Jason Blume, Benita Hill, Chip Taylor and Jim Lauderdale who have written famous songs for huge international artists, including man of the moment Garth Brooks who has just sold out a record five concerts at Croke Park in Dublin.
Local artists performing at the festival include former Energy Orchard frontman and established solo artist Bap Kennedy, and rising stars including Gareth Dunlop, Simon McBride, Chris Keys, Sara Crockett, and Amanda Agnew.
As well as playing their concerts at the festival, many of the artists, including Donovan and Jason Blume will also be hosting song writing seminars as part of the festival’s Song Writing Convention with 17 workshops offering critiques and tips on everything from lyric and melody writing to copyright, publishing and the financial side of the industry.
A series of popular ‘In the Round’ concerts will feature three acts on stage simultaneously, including headline acts and local artists, taking turns to explain and perform a selection of their songs. In one of these concerts Midge Ure will take the stage alongside local girl Shauna Tohill who as Silhouette performed the well-known Can’t keep Up song which is featured in the Northern Ireland Tourist Board’s advertising campaigns.
And that’s not all. A number of Songwriters Showcase events will be peppered throughout the festival and the first ever BelNash Songtech event, sponsored by Dawsons, will feature discussions and demonstrations of the latest in technology and equipment to help songwriters hone their craft.
Nashville here we come!
Four lucky local artists Triona, Peter McVeigh, Stephen Macartney and Wilfie will not only be performing an ‘In the Round’ fundraising concert in Belfast but also jetting off on March 13 to showcase their talents in Nashville as part of a Panarts Showcase, sponsored by the Arts Council of NI and United Airlines.
In addition, Panarts is working in partnership with Tourism Ireland, the Northern Ireland Tourist Board (NITB) and Nashville-based Music City Roots to make a one-hour TV special that will be broadcast into 60 million homes across America on PBS channels. Presenters from Nashville’s WSM Radio are also travelling over to produce a show that will promote local artists in one of the largest music markets in the world.
Ciaran Scullion, Head of Music at the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, said: “As funders of Panarts we are thrilled to see the 10th return of this outstanding music festival and convention. There is no doubt it is a vibrant addition to the music calendar and has become a key date for those professionally involved in the industry and those with a passion for music. We look forward to another 10 years of inspiration.”
Barry Jackson, United Sales Manager for Northern Ireland, said: “We are pleased to be the airline sponsor of the Belfast Nashville Songwriters’ Festival. Many of those taking part will connect through our New York/Newark hub which we serve nonstop from Belfast.”
The Panarts Belfast Nashville Songwriters Festival is sponsored by The Arts Council of Northern Ireland, United Airlines, NITB, Dawsons Music, Department for Social Development, Holiday Inn Belfast, The Empire, Tourism Ireland, Avalon Guitars, Arts & Business NI.
To download an online copy of the official programme or to book tickets, visit www.belfastnashville.com.