Thursday, December 5, 2013

Irish Heritage and CeltFest 2014

The spirit of the visit is captured by a plaque on Old Havana's O'Reilly Street:

 "Two island peoples in the same sea of struggle and hope: Cuba and Ireland"

and by this from the Irish Times:

Irish visitors to Cuba often remark on the identification they feel with the warmth and sense of fun of ordinary Cubans. While caution is wise with such generalizations, it is a similarity that others have noticed too. There is something Celtic about the Cuban that commands the affection of those fortunate foreigners who really know them.

Revealing discussions will be held with Cuban experts on the four century role of the Irish in their country’s history and culture (see below).  Visits made to related historical locations in the UNESCO world heritage city of Old Havana offer opportunities to engage in discussion of pas and present.

The Irish and Celtic influence outside of Havana will be the focus of field trips to the provinces of Artemisis to the west and Mayabeque and Matanzas to the east.

Coincident with the Irish Heritage program is Cuba’s fifth annual Celtic Festival.  It offers direct involvement with Cuba's well-established emigrant societies from Spain's Celtic provinces of Asturia and Galicia that play a role in Cuba similar to Irish county societies in the US.  With limited resources they foster a lively expression of traditional music, instruments, dance and costumes.

Participants are welcomed by evening concerts  into the Asturian and Galician  culture.  Workshops and sesiuns provide opportunities for spontaneous interaction with Cuban counterparts.

For the first time Irish American musicians, singers, dancers, academic specialists and fans can participate in a rich people to people experience, enjoying the craic while learning in the most direct and personal way possible about life in Cuba today. 

For background, photos and video from past festivals and the latest updated program, go to


CeltFest receives the support of Culture Ireland, the Historian’s Office in Havana, Na Piobairi Uilleann (Uilleann Pipers Club of Ireland), the Irish Arts Council, and the embassy of Ireland for Mexico and Cuba.  It features workshops in uilleann piping, fiddle, singing and dance, pipe and reed-making classes, informal seisiúns and concerts with performers from Ireland and Canada.  

The past two festivals have included

from Ireland on button accordion and harp Dermot Byrne & Floriane Blanke; pipers Paddy Keenan, Gay McKeon and Donnacha Dwyer; guitarist Rossa Ó Snodaigh; singer-song writer John Faulkner; on flute Peter Maguire; plus Shane Mulchrone (banjo), Heather Mullen (fiddle), Eoin O'Neill (accordion)
Claire Egan (fiddle), Sharon Egan (fiddle); and Margaret Brehony (historian - speaking on Cuba-Ireland historical connections)

from Canada the Tam O'Shanter Dancers of South Surrey/White Rock, Prince Edward Island fiddler Roy Johnstone and Cape Breton fiddlers Chrissy Crowley and Rosie MacKenzie. 

Among the Cuban performers have been Artistica Gallega Pipe Band, Asturian Pipe Band, Aires Galegos De La Habana, Asturian Folk Group "Resurrectio" of Pinar Del Rio, Band and Dancers of Monterroso y Antas de Ulla, Havana's Galician Dancers "Grupo de baile de la Sociedad Agrupación Artística Gallega de La Habana", and the symphonic prog rock band Anima Mundi with Galician bagpipes, the Celtic flute and the tin whistle.  

There will also be opportunities to meet Cubans active in other aspects of the country’s music and dance, including conversation with students and professors at the Instituto Superior de Artes (ISA) , and meeting performers of Opera de la Calle (Opera of the Street), and potential evening encounters with salsa, jazz and Buena Vista Social Club style musicians.

The Irish Heritage Program is a people to people trip sponsored by the Fund for Reconciliation and Development.  It is coordinated by John McAuliff, formerly President of the Philadelphia Ceili Group and Assistant Editor of the Irish Edition.  He has traveled frequently to Cuba since 1997. 

For further information about the program and cost, and to obtain a registration form, contact or call 914-231-6270.

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