“In the Victorian Quarter, we look for solutions, not problems”, says Emma Gannon, one of the team behind Soul In The City, a music festival organised by traders in MacCurtain Street area every June Bank Holiday.
“There is a feelgood factor which can be felt throughout the Victorian Quarter. It generates business and footfall in the area and provides a fun weekend for the attendees.
“The Victorian Quarter is forever growing and we do our absolute best to stick together and help each other, by doing so the entire area succeeds,” she says.
While there a lot of people involved with organising, Emma credits two individuals for driving the festival.
“The overall directors of the festival are Ireland’s Queen Of Soul, Karen Underwood, who is headlining the Everyman Theatre as the main concert of the festival, and Noreen Gannon, who runs Gallaghers Pub on MacCurtain Street. The idea came from their love of all things soul.
“Not only for the music, but for the food and the atmosphere it brings with it. Combining Karen’s extensive knowledge in the music industry and taking inspiration from her hometown of Chicago along with Noreen’s knowledge of the Victorian Quarter and the hospitality industry, the two decided that a soul festival was the perfect idea,” says Emma.
One of the key decisions by the festival is to keep it local. “Cork is thriving with local talent and why not utilise the musicians and DJs we have right on our doorstep.
“Cork is continuously growing when it comes to food and music venues, especially in the Victorian Quarter and we want a stronger focus to be placed on this. Corkonians are one of the most approachable kind in the world so what better city to celebrate soul in?”
The music trail stretches across nine venues on the street, which Emma reeled off with much delight.
“It all starts on Friday in The Metropole at 7pm with Queen Grace, an acoustic soul cover band named after the famous pirate Queen, Grace O’Malley. There will a rare ‘small gig’ by Jack O’Rourke in The White Rabbit at 9.30pm, which is bound to be thronged so get there early. Then Fintan McKahey, who released his latest record God Gamest two weeks ago will play The Brú Bar at 10pm and the final band on the trail will be Musical Brotherhood, who play soul and funk with a huge array of instruments such as sax; congas; electric and Latin-style guitars; cajon and trumpet. So that’s four great free gigs and that’s just the first night! And there’s DJs in Cask and The Bridge too,” says Emma.
“We are starting Saturday’s events at 6pm, which means families can also enjoy the festival without going to a bar, Ian Richards will be DJing in Son Of A Bun, and then there’s live music in the Metropole at 7pm with Dylan Howe. So that give two good options for people who like to start their evening early.
“The trail continues with a repeat performance by Musical Brotherhood in Brú at 9pm; The Last Word, a collective of experienced Cork Session Musicians who play lesser known soul and R&B cuts from the 1970s to present day take over.
“The White Rabbit at 9.30pm and then the brilliantly named Hip-Hop-A-Rock-A-Mus will start at Gallaghers at 10.30pm, they mix Hip-Hop, Soul and 90s R’n’B in one great live band performance.”
The Sunday of the festival is in fact the busiest day of the trail.
“The final day of the festival has eight gigs around the street, and of course we have our headline show! Sunday starts with the Dave Galster Trio at 6pm in The Bridge, with Ian back in Son Of A Bun. Between 9pm and 11pm there are five live bands, Buck Taylor in The White Rabbit, Bad Boy Blues in Brú, Jake Kalilec Duo in The Shelbourne, Neo Soul Collective in Gallaghers and then Ceara Hurly in Bru. Phew!”
The whole weekend culminates with one huge show, “The biggest gig, Aretha — Queen Of Soul will be held in The Everyman Theatre.
Karen Underwood will have an orchestra for the entire show along with some of the acts that feature on the trail. It was important to Karen to bring some of the acts together for a grand finale to show the audience what Soul In The City is all about.
Karen is calling it the Songbook Of My Lifetime and she is delighted to be able to have the musicians of Cork to celebrate that on stage with her to round off what will be a fantastic weekend.
“There is one other element to keep an eye out for. We are delighted to have The Bravehearts Choir join us at Soul In The City, the choir is open to anyone whose life has been touched by cancer, whether they are a cancer patient, survivor or friend of a cancer sufferer. There is no minimum standard to join them or experience needed, just a willingness to participate and perform. It’s about giving members the opportunity not only to sing but to socialise in a supportive environment. They will having pop-up concerts around The Victorian Quarter, led by Karen Underwood. Aretha Franklin, the Queen Of Soul, succumbed to cancer last August, so we are honoured and delighted to help raise some funds for Arc House”.
n Soul In The City runs in The Victorian Quarter from May 31 to June 2.Further information can be found at www.soulinthecitycork.ie.