Darach de Brun – Drantan

Darach, piper with Drantan at Irvine Marymass
Darach, piper with Drantan at Irvine Marymass

It was with great sadness that news was received of the death of Darach de Brun of Irish band Drantan.  Darach died suddenly on Sunday 24th June inDublindoing what he loved – playing the uilleann pipes.

Darach had played at Marymass in the dim and distant past and because of the good memories he had, he wanted his band Drantan to experience Marymass. And so it was that in 2009 Drantan first played at Marymass Folk Festival. The quartet quickly became firm favourites withIrvineaudiences and have played at the annual festival since.

Whilst he made his living as a bookbinder, Darach was happiest playing his pipes and loved being part of a session or simply listening to new bands. Darach enjoyed playing in Irvine pubs, at concerts, schools – anywhere in fact as long as he could bring music to people of whatever age.

He was an outgoing man, interested in so many things and made friends easily.  The ‘Landladies and Landlords’ who housed Drantan when they were in Irvine always spoke warmly of Darach – he was an easy guest.

Darach is survived by his wife Val and their two sons. The sympathy of Marymass Folk Festival and Irvine Folk Club goes to Darach’s family and Drantan band members Liam Davis Snr, Gerry Byrne and Liam Davis Jnr.

Next Club Night – Wed 27th June – Anthony John Clarke.

The guest at Irvine Folk Club on Wednesday 27th June is the internationally acclaimed singer and songwriter Anthony John Clarke.  Whilst he has played at the Club on several occasions, for anyone who has not heard Anthony John, make sure you put the 27th June in your diary.

The softly spoken, fast talking and very engaging Belfastborn Anthony John Clarke has been on the folk circuit for many years.  He has played at hundreds of Clubs and Festivals across the UK, Europe, Australasia and USA.  Anthony John has 12 CDs  and two Songbooks to his name –  Laughing at Clowns being his most recent CD.

Anthony John lists Al Stewart, John Martyn, Joni Mitchell, David Bowie and John Prine amongst his favourite songwriters. Songs by Anthony John  are Irish songs, storytelling songs, songs with an edge, songs of love, social comment and songs of everyday life.  His songs will make you sit up, listen to the words and think about the unfolding story they tell.

But don’t think it’s doom and gloom with hard-hitting messages in every song.  Anthony John sees entertaining the audience as his first responsibility. And this he does so very, very well.

Fans of Anthony John are many and loyal and the numerous tributes from his peers reflect his acknowledged talents and hard work…plus the fact that he is one of the nicest guys on the folk scene.

Anthony John Clarke being the guest at Irvine Folk Club on 27th June puts that night in the ‘not-to-be-missed’ category.  Make sure you are in the audience at Vineburgh Community Centre in Quarry Road to hear the man with the shiny red guitar – Anthony John Clarke.

The Club starts at 8pm and it’s BYOB.

Finally, look out soon for information leaflets for the 45th Marymass Folk Festival – the dates of which are Wednesday 22nd – Sunday 26th August.  A first class line-up of artists is in place – make sure you get a copy of the programme.

Cara Luft, Wednesday 13th June

All the way from Winnipeg, Cara Luft is the Irvine Folk Club guest on Wednesday 13th June – one of only two Scottish dates on her UK tour. Cara’s tour coincides with the release of her third solo album Darlingford.

.Photo of Cara Luft

Born into a folk music family in Calgary, Alberta, Cara preferred to play with dulcimers and autoharps rather than toys and games.  Music being integral to her growing up, she entered a talent contest the prize for which was studio time. She won!  Cara cites her main musical influences as Buddy Holly and Led Zeppelin.

A solo performer for a few years now, Cara was a former founder member of The Wallin’ Jennys and played with them for 10 years. She is a singer, a songwriter and is described as a guitarist extraordinaire – indeed, she was invited to play at the prestigious Guitar Festival in theUK.  Critics have drawn comparisons with her vocal talent to June Tabor and Linda Thompson. Add these talents to her insightful and evocative song writing and it’s easy to see why Cara Luft has wowed audiences across North America andEurope.   She plays a mix of styles drawing from roots, folk, rock and country music. She also likes to laugh. What’s not to like!

Cara also teaches various workshops on songwriting, harmony singing, guitar technique and ensemble playing. She also loves doing House Concerts – something that is growing in popularity where she comes from.

Cara Luft’s UKagent is former Artisan member Jaycee Bedford and she knows a thing or two about singing.  Therefore, get along to Irvine Folk Club on Wednesday 13th June for 8pm in Vineburgh Community Centre to hear the talented and engaging Cara Luft.

Jim Malcolm at Irvine Harbourside Festival and the two Ian’s at the folk club

Two guaranteed-to-be excellent folk nights are coming up in Irvinewithin the space of seven days.  On Wednesday 30th May it’s Ian Bruce & Ian Walker at Irvine Folk Club and on Saturday 2nd June Jim Malcolm tops the bill at the Harbour Arts Centre.  The three musicians make a welcome and always eagerly anticipated return to Irvine.

Ian Bruce now resident in Edinburgh and Bo’Ness based Ian Walker are two gifted songwriters and fine singers.  When they joined forces in 1987 as an occasional duo, they quickly established themselves as a winning musical combination.

It’s hard to pin down Ian B’s style – his repertoire includes traditional material, country plus some almost pop items. What’s certain is that his exceptional vocal range and fine guitar playing make him an artist that is hard to match.

The quiet man in the duo Ian W, plays banjo in an uncomplicated fashion and is known for his straightforward way of delivering songs.

The thoughtful and challenging songwriting style of both Ians continues to produce gems.  Ian W’s Hawks and Eagles Fly Like Doves was used on a CD to mark the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the slave trade inBritain and the respect of other musicians is evident from the number of artists who cover material from both Ians.

Ian Bruce & Ian Walker are at Irvine Folk Club on Wednesday 30th May. The Club meets in Vineburgh Community Centre inQuarry Road and starts at 8pm.  Better get there in good time to make sure of a seat.

Three days later on Saturday 2nd June it will be Jim Malcolm at the Harbour Arts Centre inIrvine. It’s part of the new Irvine Harbourside Cultural Festival.

Jim from Perthshire sings traditional songs ofScotlandas well as his own material. He has a fine, clear voice and is an outstanding guitar player and accompanies himself on harmonica too. He was lead singer for eight years with Old Blind Dogs but is now back as a solo artist. The concert starts at 7.30pm and tickets are available from the HAC on 01294 274059.

As part of the new Irvine Harbourside Festival, there will be a folk music session in The Ship Inn on Friday 1st June starting at 8pm.  And on Saturday 2nd June from 1pm and weather permitting, there will be busking at the Harbourside. Interested in playing? Then contact Joyce on 01294 551047.

Ian Bruce, Ian Walker and Jim Malcolm – three fine musicians of whom we should all be proud. Don’t miss them.

16 May The Outside track

Don’t miss this night with a wonderful group currently on tour.  This is a rare folk club date. A stunning synthesis of virtuosity and energy, The Outside Track’s marriage of Canadian, Scottish and Irish music and song has been rapturously received around the world. Hailing from Scotland, Ireland, Cape Breton and Vancouver, its five members are united by a love of traditional music and a commitment to creating new music on its foundation. Using fiddle, accordion, harp, guitar, flute, step-dance and vocals these five virtuosos blend boundless energy with unmistakable joie de vivre. Each player within The Outside Track is a master of their chosen instrument with the band stacking up an impressive amount of international awards. This amount of talent alone would be enough to recommend the band but in this case the end result is so much greater than the sum of the parts. The line up comprises Norah Rendell (Canadian Traditional Singer of the Year nominee), Mairi Rankin (Beolach), Ailie Robertson (Live Ireland Winner, BBC Young Trad Finalist), Fiona Black (BBC Fame Academy Winner) and Cillian O’Dalaigh. Members: Ailie Robertson (harp, Scotland), Cillian O’Dalaigh (guitar, Ireland), Fiona Black (piano accordion, Scotland), Norah Rendell (lead vocals, flute, Canada), Mairi Rankin (fiddle, vocals, Canada).

Sad farewell to Billy Muir

We are saddened to report the passing of Irvine Folk Club member Billy Muir after a brave battle with cancer.  His funeral will take place at 2pm on Thursday 19th April, 2012 at Holmsford Bridge, Dreghorn.  After that everybody is welcome to gather for refreshments at Vineborough Community Centre, Irvine.  Our thoughts are especially with Joan at this time.  Billy will be missed.

Johnny Silvo dies

Photo of Johnny Silvo
Johnny Silvo at Marymass

It is very sad to report the death of Johnny Silvo – arguably the best all-round folk entertainer ever to appear in Irvine.  Johnny died peacefully at his home in Norwayon Sunday 18th December.  He is survived by his wife Berit and son Patrick.

Johnny first appeared at Marymass Folk Festival in 1974 and since then has built up a strong and loyal fan base and a wide circle of friends who sang with him, had a dram with him, golfed with him. He was an extremely affable and popular man. Johnny has sung and played in numerous Irvine Pubs – including of course the former Eglinton Arms,  played at umpteen Marymass Folk Festivals as well as Schools, Rotary events, Senior Citizens concerts, Care Homes…the list goes on.

It is hard to think of anyone with a voice to match his superb tone, clarity and volume.  Added to which, Johnny was an exceptionally fine guitarist.

After completing National Service, Johnny Woods changed his name to Johnny Silvo and played with Jazz, Skiffle and Blues bands, did a stint at presenting PlaySchool on TV before commencing a solo career.  It was when he was with London’s Ann Dex Agency that he first came to the attention of Irvine Folk Club.

It hardly seems possible that Johnny could have been topping the bill at this year’s Marymass Folk Festival’s Saturday Night Concert in the Volunteer Rooms singing favourites like Blueberry Hill, I wish I could shimmy like my sister Kate, I’ll fly away.  He was in excellent form and there were many who remarked that, like  good wine, Johnny was improving with age. Then came the awful news that Johnny had cancer and had only a few months left.

Johnny’s zest for life sticks in the mind. He leaves a huge gap and will be much missed.

Anne Clarke

First Club night of 2012

NEW YEAR 2012 – Irvine Folk Club re-opened for 2012 on Wednesday 11th January with Arthur Johnstone & The Stars Band

PHOTO of Arthur Johnstone and the Stars Band
Arthur Johnstone and the Stars Band

We had a great start to 2012 with a guest appearance from Arthur Johnstone & The Stars Band. Arthur’s links with Irvine date back to the early ‘70s when he was with The Laggan. Since then, whether as a member of a band or as a soloist, Arthur has remained deservedly popular. As anticipated it turned out to be a very special evening with Arthur with Brian Miller and Charlie Soane – the Stars Band.  Excellent.

CLUB PROJECTS: Marymass through the Lens

Marymass Through the Lens – is a project recording this year’s Marymass Celebrations in photographs leading to a web based exhibition.  Several photographers took part and the photographs will be made available over the coming weeks and months.  If you took photographs at Marymass but were not part of the official project, is it not too late to get involved.  Your photographs can be selected for the exhibition and we can start planning early for next year’s festival.

To get involved with Marymass Through the Lens, phone Joyce of Marymass Folk Festival on 01294 551047 or email her at As with the Folk Festival Fringe, Marymass Through the Lens has been made possible with support of an Awards for All grant.

The aim is to document all aspects of Marymass, including the town festival and the folk festival.  The intention is to display photographs in an Exhibition later in the year.  This is likely to be a web based exhibition but we hope that some of the photographs will be selected for display in the town and will be seen in future years as we build a festival photo archive.

Whilst the age range is 18+, younger people with a genuine enthusiasm will be considered – but no unaccompanied children.  To register interest for Marymass through the lens, phone Joyce of Marymass Folk Festival on 01294 551047 or email her at

The first meeting to fully explain Marymass through the lens takes place on Tuesday 16thAugust in Vineburgh Community Centre in Quarry Road.  There are two sessions to choose from:  11am to 1pm or 7pm  to 9pm.  After this introductory meeting, there will be workshops every day which will last about an hour and support and tuition from experienced photographers will be on hand throughout.

As with the Folk Festival Fringe, Marymass through the Lens has been made possible with support of an Awards for All grant.

NEWS: Lottery funded Marymass Folk Festival Fringe!

The new Marymass Folk Festival Fringe proved to be an excellent warm-up to the 44th Marymass Folk Festival with guests including John Carmichael & His Band; Dominic  Boyce  &  Ian; Haggerdash; Landermason; Lyra Celtica; Maw, Paw & The Wean; The Tattie Howkers Ceilidh Band; Thomas Turner and Michael Woods. The Folk Festival Fringe was made possible by an Awards For All grant and it means that folk musicians can be heard by people who otherwise might not have the opportunity.

“It’s terrific to get this Awards For All grant’ said Folk Festival Committee Chair Anne Clarke.” It means we can extend and develop the Festival, reduce the financial pressure and it lets us try out new ideas.  Straightened financial times means that to do new things without new money is just not possible.  The Awards For All grant gives us new money and we will use it to bring top quality folk music to Irvine that people can enjoy free of charge at our new Fringe.  We are delighted.”

In the early days of the Folk Festival, musicians playing in the street were commonplace. Rising transport costs and a move away from live music contributed to the demise of such outdoor sessions.   Experience here and elsewhere shows that there is a demand for live music and having it outdoors  helps make an overall feel-good factor in the community – particularly when the town is geared up for its annual Marymass Celebrations.

The funding also supported a Marymass Photography Project.  Essentially, it’s about asking anyone who has a camera to take photos at Marymass and these will then become a Marymass  Web Exhibition later in the year.  The web based exhibition will hopefully have some of the pics that will be seen in future years.