The Gaelic conquest

Bands from the Emerald Isle join locals for four days of music at the Tel Aviv Cinematheque.

Celtan 224.88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Celtan 224.88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Saint Patrick's Day is still a little while off, but the strains of Irish music will have residents of Tel Aviv seeing green next week. The four-day Murphy's Irish Festival (subtitled 4 Days in Ireland) begins on Thursday night at the Tel Aviv Cinemateque and continues through Sunday, February 3. Featuring authentic Irish imports as well as some local aficionados, the festival is presenting a diverse display of Irish culture which will virtually transform the Cinemateque into an Irish pub. Leading the pack is The Alan Kelly Trio, touted as the finest exponent of piano accordion. Based in Galway, Kelly grew up in a musical family, with his father Frank winning awards as a piano accordionist and his mother Mary playing piano and saxophone. In 1993, Kelly moved to Galway and became a staple in the thriving traditional music scene there. His first album was released in 1997. Called Out of the Blue, it earned him a 'Best Newcomer' award from Irish Music Magazine. Over the last decade Kelly has performed in theater productions and been part of the house band for a weekly music program on Irish television. His second album, Mosaic, was released in 2000, and Kelly has regularly toured the world with his infectious brand of Irish music. Kelly's trio will be performing on Friday night in Tel Aviv. The other tantalizing Irish import performing at the festival is Nabac, a traditional quintet which also has emerged from the thriving Galway music scene. In addition to their traditional sounds, they also look beyond Irish to the music of Denmark, Spain and Hungary, and their debut album Siar Anoir (West of East) exemplifies their international approach. Local rockers Knisiat Hasechel are putting on a special show for the festival entitled "Autobiography." It's called a "performance with an Irish tang" and features 17 musicians onstage with a conductor. Another local star, Izhar Ashdot will get his Irish on in a joint performance with Black Velvet's Ehud Natan and Dina Lurie. One of the highlights of the festival is likely to be the Saturday night performance by local Irish music band Celtan, a quartet which has just released its new album. "We've been playing for around five years," says Guy Kark, a guitarist who formed the band together with his partner Iris Eyal, who plays celtic harp. The group also boasts Abe Doron on bodhran, percussion and Vitaly Podolsky on accordion. Kark, who writes and arranged the group's music, says, "We do a version of Celtic music with our own flavor. There's some Mediterranean influences, and we try to bring our own experiences to the music - we're not trying to duplicate traditional Irish music. That's why I think that if we played in Ireland, people would be interested in the music, because it's both familiar and it isn't." It's clear that Israelis find an affinity for Irish music. Kark confirms. "I think there's something very simple and direct in this music. It communicates on a level that Israelis seem to connect with immediately. Maybe it's something to do with the temperament of people here that matches the music," he said. And the good news is that if you can't get to Tel Aviv, then the Irish Festival will come to you. The Alan Kelly Trio will be performing in Haifa at Beit Aba Hushi on Thursday, January 31, and Friday at Hemdat-Yamin on Mt. Meron. Meanwhile, Nabac will be playing on Saturday, February 2, at the Lab in Jerusalem and the next night at Murphy's Pub in Modi'in.