Westport Folk and Bluegrass festival partners with university programs

We’ve written a few times about the Westport Folk and Bluegrass festival, a unique music event in the town of Westport in County Mayo in Ireland, which transforms the small town’s urban center into a celebration of traditional music each year in June.

More than just a series of concerts held in a number of different settings in Westport, the Folk and Bluegrass festival has a serious ethnomusicological intent, researching and studying the deep connections between the folk music of Ireland and Scotland, and the Appalachian folk music that developed the United States. It’s no surprise that this should be the case, as the Scots/Irish were prominent among the people who settled in America in the Appalachian Mountain communities, and folklorists and studious amateurs have long been fascinated by the parallels between bluegrass and old time music and that from the Celtic tradition.

Festival producer Uri Kohen has just announced a new partnership between Westport and three university programs that specialize in this sort of music. He says that he believes this will not only benefit festival goers, but also the faculty and students, and the greater understanding of all who care deeply about these musical forms.

He explained how this will work.

“For the first time ever, we have created a partnership between the festival and three major academic institutions: The Irish World Academy of Music and Dance at the University of Limerick, East Tennessee State University – The Home of Bluegrass, and the Old time and Roots Music studies of Higher Education, and The Center of Popular Music at Middle Tennessee State University.

We will mark the start of this unique collaboration when all three universities will have representatives at this year festival where they will present literature about their own unique musical studies, have the opportunity to have face to face meeting with interested parties, and the chance to partake in some of the musical performances and sessions.

During the summer months, we will work with the universities to collaborate on an academic level and build unique programs for students and teachers exchanges, as well as the exchange of academic papers on the deep roots and connections between Irish traditional music and bluegrass and American old-time music.

In addition, we are already making plans for bands from the universities to be part of our 2024 program, both as individuals and as musical collaborators. This opportunity will allow such acts to present both styles of music to our audiences, and to highlight their differences and similarities.

The Westport Folk and Bluegrass Festival organizing committee believe that this first of its kind project is vital for a better understanding of both the Irish traditional and bluegrass music and the deep connections between these genres of music.

We are really looking forward to work with our new partners, and hope that this will be a great benefit for future festival goers and the next generations for musicians on both sides of the Atlantic.”

More information on the Westport Folk and Bluegrass festival can be found online.

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About the Author

John Lawless

John had served as primary author and editor for The Bluegrass Blog from its launch in 2006 until being folded into Bluegrass Today in September of 2011. He continues in that capacity here, managing a strong team of columnists and correspondents.