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Review & Photographs by Diane Fleischman

It was a whale of a time at ArtsQuest at the second Slainte festival was held Friday and Saturday. Saturday started off with early afternoon dancing by The O’Grady Quinlan Academy of Irish Dance, followed by traditional Irish music played on all three floors of the ArtsQuest building through the evening.
Fig for a Kiss, based out of the Lehigh Valley, took center stage at the Musikfest Cafe, with well blended harmonies. They performed traditional Celtic influenced songs, some jigs, Irish folk songs, ballads and some of their original material.
Meanwhile, in the Fowler Blast Furnace room,  everyone was on their feet for the Intro to Contra Dancing with Ridge, Ben, and Tom. This form of dancing originated in Europe, well over a hundred years ago, designed for large groups with a caller providing easy instructions to the dance. The dance progressively builds, full of do-si-dos, spinning and twirling and hand claps.
In between dances, we caught up with Deb and Steve, and their daughter Stefanie.  Deb stated, “we’re here visiting our daughter this weekend, we’re from St. Louis.” Deb and Steve rewarded Stefanie with a trip to Ireland after her college graduation, reliving  memories from that trip.  “We’re having a lot of fun dancing”, Deb continued, and really enjoying the festival.  Tonight, we look forward to seeing The Young Dubliners, who we’ve seen before back home.”
Next on tap was the Guinness Tasting, offering fans six different Guinness selections featuring Guinness Extra Stout, Guinness Foreign Extra Stout, Guinness Drought in a Can, Guinness Blonde, Guinness Nitro Coffee, and Guinness Zero, a non alcoholic beer.  Jason and Mary of Northampton, had different opinions of which they liked best. Jason sided with Guinness Extra Stout, and commented, “it really has a full rich body.”  Mary found her favorite to be Guinness Nitro Coffee, and explained, ” I absolutely love the taste, and the caffeine boost! There are so many flavors here, there’s chocolate and caramel, so sweet and delicious.”
Teada, a traditional Irish band, had just started their set in the Musikfest Cafe.  Teada, is an Irish word for strings, and this group boasts over twenty years performing around the world.  As songs were introduced, it almost felt like a tour all around Ireland, whether it was a County where a band member lived, or visited, there was a true richness in the history, in sound, that carried throughout the room.
Going down to the first floor, at Palette & Pour, Piper’s Request, had started their performance. This Lehigh Valley local band consisting of Terry Hartzell, Rick Weaver, and Fred Gilmartin, have been performing together for the last 13 years. As it is known, the Irish have a wonderful gift of gab, and there was no shortage here as Weaver introduced the stories behind each song.  Sitting in the audience, Frank Weller of Bethlehem, stated, “I’ve been following this band around for years, they truly capture the Irish spirit.”
Heron Valley, a traditional Scottish band, performed in the Fowler Blast Furnace, incorporating both Scottish and Celtic Irish tunes with lots of backstories on the songs. Famous Scottish sayings were thrown in the mix, creating humor and a whole lot of fun.
Performing in Musikfest Cafe, The Young Dubliners, one of the world’s leading Celtic Rock bands, took the stage. I found them to be a cross between Celtic rock music and The Clash. Plenty of energy, with electric guitar lines that filled the venue. The energy on stage was at an all time high as the band was celebrating the Irish win over England to win the Grand Slam.