Music at yesterday’s official opening of Roscommon Lamb Festival was provided by King Street Bluegrass from Virginia. King Street will also play in Murray’s of Knockcroghery alongside South Roscommon Singers Circle tomorrow evening (Friday, 29th). The group will then finish their tour of Roscommon in PJ’s of Castlecoote on Sunday (30th) night at 8.30 pm.
The King Street Bluegrass band has showcased a number of talented musicians over the years. It all started when Nancy Lisi met Freddie Szilagi at a jam session at Frying Pan Park in Virginia. They were joined by Dave Brunston on upright bass and Bobby Bales while Roger Hart and his harmonica would join the group during street performances. Other musicians would also join in along the way. This is the true essence of bluegrass; talented musicians coming together to produce a unique sound.
Throughout the group’s history, numerous talented performers have been added to the bill – musicians like Justin Lago and Stacey Sinclair and singers such as John Georgiou, Dan Rilko and Donnie Faulkner.
The group’s current line-up features Faulkner on vocals, founding member Robert Swain, Roger Hart on harmonica, Nancy Lisi on upright bass, Rob Waller on banjo and lead guitar, Stacey Rae Sinclair on fiddle, Kieth Arneson on banjo and Arthur Lisi on keyboards.
The group were first invited to Roscommon by Declan Coyne and Johnny Johnston in 2014 following a chance meeting at a charity gig. King Street Bluegrass are certainly no strangers to charity performances and have raised in the region of $100,000 for various local causes back home.
Ahead of their trip to Roscommon this week, band member and manager, Nancy Lisi, spoke to Dan Dooner.
Are you guys looking forward to performing at the Roscommon Lamb Festival?
Yes! We are fired up! Our banjoist even got some extra exercise to make sure he was up to the task!
Bluegrass is obviously well-known in the States, what is the essence of this type of music?
It is a combination of Celtic, American, and African influences that originated among the mountain people of the Appalachians. Before there was television, radio or other forms of entertainment, everyone in the family could play an instrument or dance and they’d get together in the evenings after work. During the depression a lot of these families were displaced and moved into urban areas where the music has been embraced by city people.
Is your visit to Roscommon part of a wider tour?
Yes, we will be playing Gibbons’ Pillar House on Thursday (tonight) in Ballinasloe as a ticketed event. We will then appear in Murray’s of Knockcroghery with the Singers Circle on Friday night (28th) and in PJ’s in Castlecoote on Sunday (30th).
There will also be jam sessions with our friends from the band Coíllín. We are also hoping to hear Patsy Hanly who really impressed us last time we were here.
What can the people of Roscommon expect from your performances next week?
Basically we will be doing traditional Bluegrass, it’s what we do the best! We mix in a little country, folk and blues music. We will also be performing a song that we wrote on our last visit and recorded this winter in collaboration with Roscommon Singers Circle members, Angela Gavigan and Jack Plunkett. That’s available on our website and we have brought a few copies over to give away as gifts!
You guys are no strangers to county fairs and weekend festivals. Looking ahead to this weekend, what elements make these festivals so special?
The first is friendship and goodwill along with a heavy dose of helpfulness for those less fortunate.
The second is abundance: the lambs, gardens and the greenery of nature with which we are blessed on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean.
The third is music and singing together. It seems to always bring everyone together in the best way!