October 11, 2011 News & Features » Cover Story


The (Unofficial) 2011 Richmond Folk Festival Guide 

From Chicago blues to Tibetan chants, we're going exotic places yet again.

Page 6 of 10

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Old Bay Ceili Band
The Pluck of the Irish

There's something quixotic about a Baltimore-based traditional Irish band, named after a local brand of crab seasoning, competing for the senior title at the Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann, the world Irish traditional music competition in Tullamore in County Offaly, Ireland. 

The Old Bay Ceili band did it twice, representing North America in 2008 and 2009. 

"We didn't win or place," button accordionist Sean McComiskey says, "but the fact we qualified was a big thing. And we made a big impact." That a polyglot American band could hold its own in the music's homeland is no small achievement; the diverse members include Irish, Jewish, and African-American Joshua Dukes — who despite being the band's drummer won the 2009 All-Irish competition as accompanist on guitar. 

The Richmond Folk Festival appearance will be something of a re-emergence for the band, which recently went through what McComiskey terms "some internal drama," resulting in the departure of two players after the last Irish trip. The current lineup — two flutes, two fiddles, an accordion, banjo, piano and drummer — still can serve up a whirlwind of reels and jigs.

Ceilis are the Irish equivalent of square dances, and this performance will feature veteran dance caller Jim Keenan. "We will play and he will instruct," McComiskey says. "The [dance steps] are user-friendly; anyone can join right in and learn as they go. It's all about having fun." — Peter McElhinney

Old Bay Ceili Band


12:30 p.m.
The Community Foundation Stage


"Ceili Dance Instruction with Jim Keenan"
12:15 p.m.
Dominion Dance Pavilion

1 p.m.
Dominion Dance Pavilion

3:30 p.m.
Community Foundation Stage


The Mighty Diamonds
Right Time Ragga

Few reggae bands can boast deeper roots than Jamaican harmony trio the Mighty Diamonds. Led by vocalists Donald "Tabby" Shaw, Fitzroy "Bunny" Simpson and Lloyd "Judge" Ferguson, the internationally known group has been singing sweetly soulful tunes since rolling out of Kingston, Jamaica, since 1969.

"There's nothing like hearing a founding group — the way they sing, the power of their message," says Julia Olin, the executive director of the National Council for the Traditional Arts, which books the festival. "They still sound as good as they did in 1969."

Reggae fans may know their classic mid-'70s songs, "I Need a Roof" and "Go Seek Your Rights," but even '80s pop fans will recognize at least one number: these Rastafarians recorded the original "Pass the Kutchie," a pro-marijuana song that became a huge hit in 1982 when recorded by Musical Youth, as "Pass the Dutchie"

— Brent Baldwin

The Mighty Diamonds


7:30 p.m.
Community Foundation Stage


4:15 p.m.
Dominion Dance Pavilion

9:45 p.m.
Altria Stage



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