Camerata Ireland, Steve Earle, Others Set For Arts From Ireland Fest

Tommy Makem, Emmylou Harris, Ricky Skaggs among opening-night performers at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.

The Irish Chamber Orchestra, pianist Barry Douglas, the chamber group Camerata Ireland, country singer Emmylou Harris and members of the Riverdance company are on the wide-ranging list of artists scheduled to perform at the upcoming Arts From Ireland Festival.

The season-long celebration of the music, literature and mystique of Ireland — starting in May at Washington, D.C.'s Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts — will encompass both folk and classical music.

Following a gala opening concert May 13, the festival will include 16 free concerts broadcast live on the Internet at 6 p.m. (EST), every night through May 28. The concerts, along with schedules and other information about the festival, can be accessed at the Kennedy Center Web site (kennedy-center.org/irishfestival).

Inevitably, the program will feature performances by stars of the "Riverdance" show, as well as the premiere of a new work by the ensemble's composer, Bill Whelan. But there's more to the festival than trendy jigs and reels, thanks to imaginative bookings and activities that probe the impact of Ireland on the arts in the U.S.

This broad focus will be evident on the festival's opening night at the Kennedy Center Opera House. On May 13, Donal Lunny, Tommy Makem, Mary Black and Sharon Shannon will share the stage with American performers whose work embraces some degree of Irish influence — from Emmylou Harris and Steve Earle to Ricky Skaggs, Carlos Nunez and, in an intriguing stretch, the Harlem Gospel Singers.

Other festival highlights in the months to come include theatrical performances, art exhibits, storytelling, poetry, panel discussions, free daily performances on the Center's Millennium Stage and interactive projects between schools in Ireland and the U.S.

(Contributing Editor Joe McLellan contributed to this report.)