Milwaukee Irish Fest announces lineup for August


Photo by via IrishFest

Irish dancers and Celtic costumes are just one of several attractions at Milwaukee’s annual Irish Festival.

Known for his strong bass vocals and artistic combinations of Celtic, Appalachian, cowboy and plain old folk music, Hank Cramer is praised for bringing to life the rich story of America’s westward movement with ballads from Ireland and Scotland. With the announcement of his name in the lineup for Milwaukee Irish Fest, one of the biggest Celtic music celebrations in the United States, Cramer and others are preparing to participate in the elaborate, four-day celebration.

“This will be my first time participating in both the Milwaukee Irish Festival and the Irish Music School,” Cramer said. “The festival has a reputation for being the biggest and finest Celtic music celebration in the United States, (and) I look forward to performing in front of a large enthusiastic audience.”

In the Celtic-fusion music scene today, Cramer thinks of himself as a rarity – being a solo storyteller, singer and humorist in the tradition that his grandmother so loved. He looks forward to connecting and collaborating with other artists while at the festival, and with artist Seamus Kennedy in particular, who is slated to perform.

“I am actively conspiring with Seamus Kennedy to team up together for at least one set: collaboration, fusion and synergy are wonderful things,” Cramer said. “I feel my style of music fits well in the spectrum of Celtic music … and to those music fans who miss the great ballad singers like Liam Clancy and Tommy Makem, I’d say, ‘Please come give me a listen’ – that is the style I love, and I work hard to do it justice.”

Speaking about how the lineup was created, Cramer explained that only specific artists are chosen to perform at the Celtic event.

“I’m flattered to be invited,” Cramer said. “You don’t apply to this festival; it’s ‘by invitation only.’ They send out ‘scouts,’ including Ed Ward himself, to discover Celtic musicians at other festivals and entice them to Milwaukee.”

While Cramer described his feelings of pride and accomplishment at being chosen, he also spoke of his great excitement to view and be perhaps humbled by the other artists in the lineup.

“I also look forward to being an audience member myself and hearing some superb musicians from all around Ireland and North America,” Cramer said.

The extensive lineup of the festival has peaked the interest of students like Brent Silverman, a sophomore in the College of Business Administration, who is now thinking of joining in on the festivities.

“I actually just heard of this festival and didn’t expect it to be as big as it actually is,” Silverman said. “There are way more artists and activities than I thought, (and) now that I’ve seen how extensive the lineup is, I’m definitely interested in going and enjoying the culture and live music.”

Liam Roder, a sophomore in the College of Education, is interested in the festival not only for its lineup, but its links to his heritage and one of his favorite holidays.

“Every year in March, I always look forward to St. Patrick’s Day because it’s one of the most fun holidays of the year, and it reminds me of my heritage,” Roder said. “When I saw that there was a festival with so many cool artists and activities celebrating the Irish culture, I was really excited.”

Students with or without Irish heritage can partake in all that the Milwaukee Irish Fest has to offer, which will include authentic Irish food, entertaining family activities, and traditional Celtic music. The festival will take place from Aug. 16-19 at Henry W. Maier Festival Park, meaning any interested party has a few months to brush up on the river dance and break out their Irish wear before coming together with others to celebrate Irish culture.