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Lifestyle & Leisure

Country road, take me home!

Wednesday, 26th June, 2019 4:32pm

Dust off your boots and stetsons! There’s a country music extravaganza coming to Cork for one night only this weekend.

A host of Ireland’s favourite country stars will collaborate with the RTÉ Concert Orchestra for a night filled with some of the best-loved country hits, from the likes of Glen Campbell to Dolly Parton and Willie Nelson.

Taking place this Saturday 29 June, Classical Country Roads sees the likes of Sandy Kelly, Michael English, Lisa McHugh and Robert Mizzell join ranks with the 50-piece RTÉ Concert Orchestra to belt out some of the best-loved country classics, from ‘Rhinestone Cowboy’ and ‘He Stopped Loving Her Today’ to ‘9-5’ and ‘Blanket on the Ground’.

One of the performers, Kildare singer Michael English, says the show will be a special occasion for many of the artists involved, as well as for country fans in Cork.

“It’s the first time there’s been a show like this with a full orchestra,” he said. “It’s a first for me, and I think for many of the other singers involved. So we’re really excited for it.

“People coming to the Marquee will hear songs by legends like Dolly Parton, Glen Campbell etc who have had so many number ones, as well as songs from the best-known Irish country musicians. We’ve a few surprises up our sleeve too!”

Michael says country music has had a spike in popularity in recent years, notably among younger generations. “The amount of young people we get at the gigs now is phenomenal. It seems to be a trend around the country, and it gives great hopes for the future of the business.

“The national airwaves have definitely helped spark interest, like The Late Late Show Country Special, which had the second highest viewership all season only after the toy show. That goes to show the popularity that country music has right around the country.”

Formerly signed to labels including Sony and Universal, Michael says the career path of a country musician is in many ways similar to that of a conventional pop musician, centred on touring and recording, but adds that there is one crucial difference.

“It’s like a family. You meet people, make great friends and it grows from there. We know the people who come to see us personally. We’re friendly with them, we know if their daughter is getting married, or their dog has died, or whatever. We are very involved with the people who come to see us.

“It’s a great social outlet, a lot of people know other people when they go out. For single people, it’s a great way to meet friends and be introduced to people.

“Country music has kept reinventing itself. If you go back to the showbands, which were phenomenal, then it became the night clubs and disco, and that had its day. Now, it’s come full circle again back to live music, and I think that’ll always be popular.

“The amount of young people in the business is fantastic, and that in itself attracts younger people too. I drive around Ireland touring all the time, and I see signs for things like jiving workshops and lessons. It’s great.”

Classical Country Roads at Live at the Marquee takes place on Saturday 29 June. Tickets are from €40 and are available from ticketmaster.ie.

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