Billy Bragg and Joe Henry announced for Spring 2017.

A mighty gig to look forward to!

In March 2016 Billy Bragg and Joe Henry, guitars in hand, boarded a Los Angeles-bound train at Chicago’s Union Station looking to reconnect with the culture of American railroad travel and the music it inspired.

Winding along 2,728 miles of track over four days, the pair recorded classic railroad songs in waiting rooms and at trackside while the train paused to pick up passengers. The result is a new album, “Shine A Light: Field Recordings From The Great American Railroad”. They’re hitting the road once more this time to play the music inspired by their epic trip and they’ll be here at An Grianán on Monday 30 January.

Now open for booking.


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We Banjo 3 meet POTUS

We Banjo 3 recently had the honour of performing for The President of the United States and we’re delighted to hear that these Galway boys gave President Obama a wee blast of The Donegal Lass!

The band performed for The President of the United States Barack Obama, the Vice President Joe Biden, the Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, an Taoiseach Enda Kenny and a room full of Irish dignitaries and politicians from both sides of the House of Representatives at the Friends of Ireland Luncheon at Capital Hill on Tues 15 March 2016. Also in attendance was actor Richard Gere.

We Banjo 3 with President Barack Obama March 2016.

We Banjo 3 performing for President Barack Obama, March 2016.

The band played a song from the multi award winning album Gather the Good, and another from their debut album Roots of the Banjo Tree. President Obama was highly taken with the virtuosity and verve of these young Galwegians who enthralled the gathered audience with their unique rendition of Blues song Get Onboard and Bluegrass/Irish medley Bill Cheatum/The Donegal Lass.

Despite a few attempts, the president resolutely refused to hold a banjo for fear that it might slip out of tune. The lads assured him that a banjo is rarely in tune anyway, but to no avail!

Any suggestion that the band could publicly describe the banjo as a “Weapon of Mass Seduction” was quickly vetoed by the White House staffers!

It’s onwards and upwards for the Galway band who will release their 4th album String Theory this July. Catch them here in May!

We Banjo Three
Friday 27 May 2016 at 8pm
Tickets: €20/€15 Book now!


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A Terrible Beauty: Remembering 1916

A Terrible Beauty: Remembering 1916 is our short season of events marking the centenary of the Easter Rising.

We have three shows which will look at 1916 from three different perspectives. We have a dramatic reading of Kieran Kelly’s new play Beneath An Irish Sky which looks at the impact that the Rising had on Donegal. Then we have two Letterkenny performers, John D Ruddy and Brian Gillespie, starring in The Rising, a fast paced and entertaining show which looks at the events that led to 1916 including the first World War. Finally we have Left Behind,  a music concert from Michelle O’Rourke and composer Simon O’Connor which is inspired by some of the women involved in the Rising.

The British troops departing Letterkenny in 1922 following the War of Independence

British troops departing Letterkenny in 1922 following the War of Independence

Beneath An Irish Sky, Tues 22 March 2016 at 8pm Tickets: €5

How did the events of Easter week 1916 affect the people of Letterkenny and Donegal? Based on archive reports and eye witness testimonies, Beneath an Irish Sky is a fictionalised account of one man’s journey through those those turbulent times, questioning what made him pick up a gun to fight for his country and how one moment in his youth affected the rest of his life.

Written by local author and historian Kieran Kelly, Beneath An Irish Sky will be presented as a rehearsed reading featuring a cast of eight actors directed  by David Grant (Frank Pig Says Hello, A Midsummer Night’s Dream). Find out more.

Ireland 1916 2016 The Rising  with John Ruddy and Brian Gillespie March 2016 Easter

The Rising: John D Ruddy reprises his role alongside new cast member Brian Gillespie (not pictured).

The Rising, Wed 23 March 2016 at 8pm. Tickets: €15/€12

Touring nationally to great acclaim, this production features two local performers –  John D Ruddy is a Letterkenny based actor whose recent roles include Fiesta, The 39 Steps and I Would Walk These Fields Again. A native of Letterkenny, Brian Gillespie now lives in London where he is the artistic director of B-Hybrid Dance.

Described by the Irish Times, as “90 minutes of exhilarating and terrifying factual theatre”, The Rising relives the tumultuous days of the 1916 Rising through the eyes of two friendly adversaries, O’Brien, a Catholic, and Mc Keague, a Protestant. Over an action packed performance O’Brien and McKeague will tell the story of this pivotal event in Irish history in vaudeville style, with humour, song and dance, as they re-enact the Rising and the events that led to it, including World War 1. Find out more.

Simon O'Connor and Michelle O'Rourke - Left Behind: songs of the widows of 1916. An Grianan Letterkenny April 2016

Composer Simon O’Connor and vocalist Michelle O’Rourke present Left Behind: Songs of the 1916 Widows. 1 April 2016.

Left Behind: Songs of the 1916 Widows, Friday 1 April 2016 at 8pm Tickets: €15/€12

Written by composer and curator Simon O’Connor, and commissioned and presented by vocalist Michelle O’Rourke, Left Behind is a new collection of songs to mark the centenary of the 1916 Easter Rising.Drawing on the experiences of women closely connected to the conflict, including the wives of prominent rebel leaders, O’Rourke and O’Connor have created a unique suite of compositions that offer an emotional, human perspective on a narrative that is too often told in baldly male heroic terms.

Beginning life as simple vocal/piano pieces, these songs have been transformed with the addition of O’Connor’s former bandmates from celebrated Dublin rock band The Jimmy Cake.

This small ensemble brings a volatile, dramatic energy to the retelling of the stories of Lillie Connolly, Grace and Muriel Gifford, Agnes Mallin and others. Find out more.

This performance supported by Donegal County Council and the Ireland 1916 Cetenary programme.

These events supported by Donegal County Council and the Ireland 1916 Cetenary programme.

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How to Sell Out every single show: Daithí Ramsay

I was working in our box office one evening when the visiting show’s stage manager approached.
How are tickets for tonight? he said.
Pretty good, about 270 now. I said.
Really? We’d a full house in Monaghan last night, he said.
What do they hold though? 200?
Yes about that, but we sold out.
Well we’ve sold more seats than that.
We sold out in Leitrim the night before as well.
What have they, about 120?
Yes, but we sold out.

We work in a sector where people are often very emotionally attached to how their work is received. Many of us are like that too: we work in the Arts because we love the Arts, we are passionate about the Arts. We must be, we’re clearly not here to get rich.

The Sold Out Show, along with the Standing Ovation, is the measure by which many judge how well their show is doing. The people have spoken and they think you’re great: there has been so much demand that we couldn’t accommodate them all. It’s a tough stand in the Arts these days and we have to take our victories where we get them. Companies are happy, programmers, administrators and marketeers can relax, it’s a job done well. We can’t do any more than fill every available seat.

There’s a problem with that that’s been nagging me for a while now though. The Sold out show is an emotional measure not a financial or numerical, it takes no account of varying capacities or competing realities and there is a clear presumption in it that there was a huge throng clamouring for tickets who have now had to go home disappointed that they didn’t get in to see the show. This is rarely the case, very rarely.

A photo of A Sold Out Show for the DMEP at An Grianán Theatre

A Sold Out Show for the DMEP at An Grianán Theatre, photo courtesy of the DMEP

Rather than celebrating what we are achieving we are too often snatching defeats from the jaws of victory. If it doesn’t sell out and the audience don’t leap to their feet then we haven’t done our job right: we aren’t a success. That’s clearly nonsense. A show should be judged on its own merits be it artistic or entertainment levels, is it a good show should be a judgement of just that: is it a good show?

The programming and marketing of it should be judged on whether or not the maximum number of people attended who could reasonably be expected based on realistic targets taking in many factors including previous sales of this type of show, day of the week, month of the year, competing attractions etc. We all have the data now, the only targets we should project or accept are those based on a clear analysis of the data. My greatest marketing triumph in a year may be getting 30% into a show that was only realistically expected to get 15% but who is going to recognise that apart from me? I could tell you but I doubt you’d be that impressed, but you know, a Sold Out Show …

I’m here to tell you though that it’s okay I’ve come up with a fool proof plan for everyone working in the Arts to be happy all the time: it’s clear what we need to do is take out seats so that we’ve less to sell. Less seats equals more sold out shows, and sold out shows is what makes everyone happy. Until that is they look at the bottom line of the financial spreadsheets, but sure how many do that?

I’m reminded of the theatre that told me that they had done away with postering as they felt it was no longer of benefit, except for one poster that they’d put up in the pub the actors drink. It’s lovely for actors to get full houses and standing ovations but it’s important to remember it’s an emotional measure and should have no place in judging how well we professionals have done our job. We have data for that.

The Henry girls playing to a Sold Out House at An Grianán Theatre. Photo by Living Witness Photography.

The Henry girls playing to a Sold Out House at An Grianán Theatre. Photo by Living Witness Photography.

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Donegal Chamber Musical Festival 2015

Our friends at the Donegal Chamber Music Society are holding their second Donegal Chamber Musical Festival next week in the beautiful surrounds of Glenveagh National Park. With only 70 to 80 tickets available for the performances in the castle we highly recommend advance booking and you can so so exclusively via An Grianán’s box office.

The festival takes place from Friday 29th May to Sunday 7th of June. The combination of fine music and Glenveagh’s idyllic lake, garden and mountain setting is always a memorable experience. Seven concerts are planned for this Festival, which is held in association with Donegal Music Education Partnership (Donegal ETB), the Regional Cultural Centre & The Glebe Gallery.

Featuring a varied programme of events from orchestral to choral music, music and poetry, students concerts, classical music and Irish Gaelic songs, the DONEGAL CHAMBER MUSIC FESTIVAL is an unmissable event for music lovers in the North West.

Well established local artists such as the Donegal Chamber Orchestra, Szabó-Yélamo String Duo, Dominic Mac Giolla Bhride, Denise Blake, the Conwal Singers and the Donegal Camerata will be performing in this year’s Festival as well as young players like flautist Amy Gillen from Bridgetown, Laghy and violinist Sarah Ponsonby from Letterkenny and the DMEP`s Junior & Intermediate String Orchestras.

The Donegal Chamber Music Society continues to promote contemporary music-making in Ireland; Letterkenny-born composer Derek Ball will be the featured composer of this year’s Festival.

By Michal Osmenda from Brussels, Belgium (Glenveagh National Park  Uploaded by russavia) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Abobve: The Donegal Chamber Music Festival takes place in the idyllic surrounds of  Glenveagh National Park. Image by Michal Osmenda from Brussels, Belgium (Glenveagh National Park Uploaded by russavia) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons


Seven concerts will be presented over two weekends in different locations around Glenveagh. Five of them take place at Glenveagh and the other two between the Glebe Gallery and the Regional Cultural Centre. This year’s Festival also includes a Summer Music Camp for Strings based at the Regional Cultural Centre in Letterkenny.

Friday 29th May 8pm, Auditorium of the Visitor Centre, Glenveagh Castle [booking essential]

The opening concert features the Donegal Chamber Orchestra with guest flautist Amy Gillen (ESB Feis Ceoil prize-winners 2014) and music from the Baroque age to the present. The programme will celebrate the 150th Anniversary of Russian composer Alexander Glazunov with his Variations for Strings Op. 97. Also included is music by Boyce, Delius, Mascagni, Vivaldi and Derek Ball’s ‘Monster of the Forest’.

Saturday 30th May 12.30pm in The Glebe Gallery [free]

A free Family concert follows in the nearby Glebe Gallery (beside Lough Gartan) at 12.30pm, given by the Junior Strings and the Intermediate Orchestras of the Donegal Music Education Partnership, with young violinist Sarah Ponsonby as soloist in Derek Ball’s Miniature Violin Concertos. Works by Gluck, Haydn, Grieg and music from the Disney movies will complete this lunchtime recital.

Sunday 31st May at 8pm, Drawing Room, Glenveagh Castle [booking essential]

Franz Joseph Haydn’s String Quartet Op. 51 “The Seven Last Words of Christ”. Haydn’s masterpiece will be performed in the Castle by the Donegal Camerata String Quartet. Celebrated local poet Denise Blake will read poems by Mark Strand between the movements of this wonderful music by Haydn, known as the ‘Father of the string quartet’.

Bank Holiday Monday 1st June at 6.30pm, Auditorium of the Visitor Centre [booking essential]

A Recital by acclaimed Gaoth Dobhair seán-nós singer and composer Dominic Mac Giolla Bhríde, who will perform alongside Donegal Camerata for an evening that includes both Classical Music and traditional Irish songs. This recital takes place in the Auditorium of the Visitor Centre at Glenveagh.

Friday 5th of June at 8pm, RCC Letterkenny [free]

Music Education.

The second weekend of the Festival starts with the Donegal Music Education Partnership’s Chamber Music for Strings Programme at the Regional Cultural Centre. The course is led by the Szabó-Yélamo String Duo. This wife-and-husband ensemble is well known to music lovers across the North West and has a strong relationship with Letterkenny’s cultural venue. A Students’ Concert by participants of this course will take place on Friday 5th June in the RCC, Letterkenny at 8pm. This concert is free: voluntary donations will be welcome.

The festival returns to Glenveagh Castle for the last two events . Glenveagh’s intimate drawing-room has limited seating accommodation, and concert guests have to be conveyed to the Castle by minibus from the Visitors Centre; patrons are advised to book early!  See below for booking details.

Saturday 6th June 8pm, Drawing Room, Glenveagh Castle [booking essential]

This is the day for Choral Music Lovers. The Festival presents “Songs for a Summer Evening” with the Conwal Singers conducted by Karen Patton. This four-part chamber choir, based in Letterkenny, will offer a programme including music by Saint-Saens, Delibes, Bob Chilcott, Janequin and Derek Ball’s Five Tagore Songs.

Sunday 7th June at 6.30pm. Drawing Room, Glenveagh Castle [booking essential]

“Serenades at the Castle” is the title of this year Festival’s closing concert. The Donegal Camerata String Quintet will perform a programme that includes Mozart’s Eine Kleine Nachtmusik’(in its original instrumentation for string quintet), Derek Ball’s Brian Rae’s Berceuse, Piazzolla’s Oblivion and Liber tango as well as Barber’s Adagio, among other pieces.

The 2nd Donegal Chamber Music Festival at Glenveagh National Park runs from Friday May 29th – Sunday June 7th.

Tickets can be booked at An Grianán Theatre Box Office: 074 9120777 or online at www.angrianan.ticketsolve. com You can collect your tickets at An Grianán in advance but don’t worry if you can’t. We will send the tickets to Glenveagh on the day for collection at the venue.

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12 Days of An Grianan: Happy new year!

We’re closed for our Christmas holidays but we’ve lined up a few extra special online offers to tempt you over the festive period.

Starting on Christmas Day our ’12 Days of An Grianán’ will offer you a huge discount on a selection of shows including drama, music, comedy and summer schools! It’s a different offer every day so keep an eye on your inbox or follow us on twitter to make sure you don’t miss out on some substantial savings!

It’s New Year’s Day and in this day 8 of our 12 days of An Grianán we are giving you a blast of summer with 20% off the brilliant Soweto Spiritual Singers in May.

This 27 strong member vocal ensemble showcase Africa and the Diaspora in spiritual music and dance. Exuberant, inspirational and joyful, this is a night will lift your spirits to new heights.  They have travelled extensively around the world and performed at the FIFA 2010 Soccer World Cup Opening Ceremony in Johannesburg to the cheers of a billion people around the globe.

A true celebration and unifying sounds as we sing all this genres in one accord and voice, with the fusion of the township culture and its influence in our modern Spiritual music, all this forms part of our 90 minute journey of praise as we dance, clap, shout and ululate.

The Soweto Spiritual Singers
Saturday 2 May 2015 Book now!

We have free online booking until we re-open on Mon 5 January.

NB: Offer only available for one day only. Only available on online bookings (discount automatically applied when you add tickets to cart).

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Letterkenny Trad Week 2015

Just to prove that there is life beyond Christmas we are teaming up with our friends at the Regional Cultural Centre to present Letterkenny Trad Week, a feast of traditional music featuring some of the biggest names in folk from January 10th to 17th 2015.

The line up of musicians reads like a whose who of Irish traditional music in particular, with members and former members of almost every major Irish group of the last 40 years coming to Letterkenny that week. It features the considerable combined talents of Ed Boyd (Flook), Ian Carr (Kate Rusby Band), Karan Casey (Solas), Éamonn Coyne (Salsa Celtica), John Doyle (Solas), Kris Drever (Lau), Steph Geremia (Alan Kelly Gang), Paddy Glackin (Bothy Band), Andy Irvine (Planxty), Alan Kelly (Eddi Reader band), Staffan Lindfors (Sofia Karlsson band), Donal Lunny (Planxty), Mike McGoldrick (Lunasa), Maura O’Connell (De Danann) and Martin Tourish (Altan).

Organised by Donegal County Council Cultural Services and An Grianan Theatre in association with EAF, DMEP and Ceol Na Coille the programme comprises three star-studded concerts. Local audiences have the unique privilege of attending the first ever public performance by new Irish super group Usher’s Island, an intimate preview show at the RCC on Saturday January 10th in preparation for their official debut concert at Celtic Connections Glasgow.

Also visiting Letterkenny prior to a major Celtic Connections show is Sea Road Sessions a brilliant new six-piece ensemble from Ireland, Scotland and Sweden, led by Alan Kelly, who play An Grianán on Tuesday January 13th. The final concert of the week is another stellar line-up featuring the first collaboration of legendary Irish singers Maura O’Connell and Karan Casey at the RCC on Saturday January 17th. All concerts commence at 8pm and tickets can be booked at An Grianan Theatre Box Office on 00353 7491 20777 or online at  Usher’s Island tickets are priced €18, Sea Road Sessions are €18/€15 and Maura O’Connell tickets are €12/€10. There is a special 3 for 2 Offer for all 3 concerts for €36, a perfect Christmas gift!

Usher’s Island

Andy Irvine, Donal Lunny, Mike McGoldrick, Paddy Glackin and John Doyle are among the biggest names in traditional music and they’ve combined their talents to form a new band, Usher’s Island. Musician, singer and songwriter, Andy Irvine has maintained his highly individual performing skills throughout his 45-year career. From Sweeney’s Men in the mid 60s, to the enormous success of Planxty in the 70s and then from Patrick Street to Mozaik, Andy has been a world music pioneer. Dónal Lunny has been central to the renaissance of Irish Music over the last four decades. He has been involved in some of the most innovative bands to emerge from Ireland since the 70’s including Planxty, the Bothy Band, Moving Hearts, Coolfin, and more recently Mozaik. As a co-founder of best-selling Irish instrumental outfit Lúnasa and current member of Scottish/Irish favorites Capercaille, flautist and piper Michael McGoldrick is one of the most influential musicians of his generation. He has also contributed to albums by such acclaimed artists as Kate Rusby, Sharon Shannon, Afro-Celt Sound System and Youssou N’Dour. A founding member of the Bothy Band, fiddler Paddy Glackin left to pursue a solo career shortly before the band launched their professional career. He has continued to explore the Irish fiddling tradition ever since, as a soloist and in collaboration with the likes of uillean pipes player Robbie Hannon, guitarist Micheal ÓDomhnaill and fiddler Paddy Keenan. Guitarist and singer John Doyle is a founding member of Irish American group Solas and recently served as band leader for Joan Baez. He received a 2010 GRAMMY nomination for Best Traditional World Music album with fiddler Liz Carroll.

Sea Road Sessions

The ‘Sea Road’ designates the maritime route historically linking Sweden, Scotland and Ireland, the home countries of a brand new six-piece line-up comprising singer/guitarist Kris Drever, accordionist Alan Kelly, guitarist Ian Carr, banjo ace Éamonn Coyne, flautist/singer Steph Geremia and bassist Staffan Lindfors. Having frequently crossed paths in other projects, they now pool their formidable talents and diverse repertoires for this brilliant ensemble show.

As friends and peers for many years, these 6 individuals have performed and recorded with each other in various ensembles. However, this is the first time they will take to the stage together for what promises to be a stunning collaboration, presenting a fresh and exciting body of work including traditional music from Ireland, Scotland and Sweden as well as new compositions both vocal and instrumental.

Maura O’Connell and Karan Casey

Music fans have the chance to see the first collaboration of two of Ireland’s finest singers Maura O’Connell and Karan Casey, who are joined by accordionist Martin Tourish and guitarist Ed Boyd as part of a Music Network Irish tour, at the RCC on Saturday 17th January. Blending Irish and progressive American folk singing styles, O’Connell burst onto the trad scene in the 1980s as vocalist with De Danann. The Ennis singer’s career has brought her international acclaim, two Grammy nominations and collaborations with everyone from Bonnie Raitt, Nanci Griffith and Dolly Parton to Alison Krauss, The Chieftains and Van Morrison. Former lead singer with Solas and a highly-acclaimed solo artist, Karen Casey is one of the most highly regarded vocalists in folk music, performing with such luminaries as James Taylor, Liam Clancy, Peggy Seeger, The Dubliners and Imelda May.

Usher’s Island, Sat 10 January, RCC Book now

Sea Road Sessions, Tues 13 January, An Grianán Book now

Maura O’Connell and Karen Casey, Sat 17 January, RCC Book now

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Declan O’Rourke: New songs for free, and old favourites live.

A decade on from the release of his widely acclaimed debut album Since Kyrabam, Declan O’Rourke comes to An Grianán on the eve of the official ten year anniversary shindig in Dublin’s Vicar St.

Declan will be performing with his full band in An Grianán Theatre on Friday 10 October as he warms up for his big night in Dublin the next day. It’s gonna be a great weekend!

New songs for free!

Declan will be taking a look back at the album which introduced to him audiences world wide as well as presenting some new songs which he has chosen to distribute in a very novel way as he has recently started e-mailing a new song a month to fans on his mailing list:

“It’s kind of experimental, but the goalposts of how music is being distributed out there have moved so much recently, an artist has to shift. So I’m taking the initiative, and I’m going to try connect with the friends I’ve made through my music over the years, and new ones, directly by sending them music every month.”

So fans who have been waiting patiently for a new record since his previous offering Mag Pai Zai in 2011 should do themselves a favour and sign up to his website now. As Declan explains: “It takes a very long time to put out an album, perhaps two or three years when you take into account production, touring and promotion. This is just an alternative avenue to get an album out there and is three times as fast.”

If you’d like to be among the first fans to hear Declan’s newest music just go to and sign up to his mailing list or come to his gig at An Grianán on Fri 10 October and hear it from the man himself.

Originally from Ballyfermot, O’Rourke traces his musical career back to the little Australian town of Kyabram where he lived between the ages of 10 to 14. It was when he was 13 that Declan was given his first guitar by a priest in Kyabram who recognised his potential and love for music; hence the title of his debut album “Since Kyabram“, which was released in October 2004.

The album’s launch took place over three sold-out nights in Whelan’s and was broadcast live on national radio. It included the song Galileo which Paul Weller singled out as the only song from the past 20 years that he wished he had written. Before Weller’s endorsement the song was covered by Eddi Reader on her 2009 album and later that year by Jacqui Dankworth (daughter of the jazz greats Cleo Laine and John Dankworth). American star Josh Groban included it on his multi-million selling album Illuminations.

Ten years on, Declan still has warm affection for the record what launched his career: “It’s a lovely old friend that never lets me down and it travels with me wherever I go. I mean that in a metaphysical sense. It was a milestone in my life to make my first record. Then to be happy with it and have it endure is just icing.”

Declan O’Rourke performs on Fri 10 October 2014 at 8pm. Tickets are €15 or buy four for €50. Book now!


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