The 2009 Houston International Festival, honoring Ireland, returns to downtown Houston April 18-19 and 25-26, 2009, featuring continuous music, dance and cultural performances on 12 stages. Headlining the Bud Light World Music Stage in Lower Sam Houston Park are funk legends the Ohio Players, April 18; soul/gospel queen Mavis Staples, April 19; South African jazz trumpeter Hugh Masekela, April 25; and Chicano roots-rockers Los Lobos, hosting the festival’s “Celtic/Conjunto” finale, April 26. International acts include igeria’s Seun Kuti & Egypt 80, Puerto Rico’s Plena Libre, Jamaica’s Rootz Underground and the Wailing Souls, Guinea’s Alpha Yaya Diallo and Quebec’s Chic Gamine, joined by Louisiana’s homegrown R&B/soul crooner Marc Broussard. Each year, iFest’s World Stage puts the best of world music next to the finest American roots music to demonstrate how music can communicate across cultural and linguistic barriers. This year’s lineup is one of our greatest yet.
Traditional Celtic music and dance will be showcased on Center Stage, built over the Reflection Pool in front of Houston’s City Hall. Headliners include Ireland’s hottest new band, Beoga, from County Down; Boston’s celebrated Irish-American lasses, Cherish the Ladies; and Scotland’s enchanting Gaelic thrush, Julie Fowlis. These incredible artists will be joined each night by an all-star team of Houston’s champion Irish dancers, drawn from the local troupes McTeggart, O’Maoileidigh and Cass. While guests enjoy the fantastic entertainment lineup on Center Stage, unique eats will be close by in the surrounding food court.
After a five-year absence, the Texas Stage returns to the Library Plaza in 2009, thanks to a generous grant from the Houston Endowment. The programming on this stage recreates the 2008 Smithsonian Folklife Festival’s salute to Texas music, with headliners Marcia Ball, April 18; CJ Chenier, April 19; Little Joe y la Familia, April 25; and Los Tres Reyes de Acordeones with Flaco Jimenez, Joel Guzman and Jaime deAnda, April 26. The carefully curated lineup represents the state’s unique country, blues, gospel, Hispanic and Cajun heritage, including El Paso’s fabulous Mariachi Los Arrieros, Big Spring’s legendary Jody Nix and the Texas Cowboys, Bay City’s spirit-raising Jones Family Singers, Austin singer-songwriter Terri Hendrix, San Antonio’s conjunto accordion kings Los Texmaniacs and Houston’s own ageless blues guitar hero, Texas Johnny Brown. The Houston International Festival is proud to bring the Smithsonian’s hugely successful musical tribute in Washington D.C. back to the Lone Star State.
The Louisiana Stage in Tranquility Park will feature the distinctive Gulf Coast musical gumbo audiences. Dance to the world’s best Cajun and zydeco bands, including BeauSoleil, Keith Frank, Step Rideau, J. Paul Jr., Lil Brian Terry, Lil Malcolm, Cedric Watson, Feufollet and the Lost Bayou Ramblers. Step out to New Orleans second-line funk with Big Sam’s Funky Nation, Soul Rebels and the Zulu Connection Mardi Gras Indians. Groove to the Gulf Coast blues of Sherman Robertson, Mike Zito and Ezra Charles. This stage is one of the most popular Festival destinations.
The Irish Pub Stage, located on the front steps of Houston City Hall, will serve up world-class Irish sessions hosted by the great fiddler from County Cork, Kevin Burke, along with authentic Irish pub grub and brew. Joining Kevin and his trio each day will be top regional Irish and Celtic artists such as Danny O’Flaherty, Lonestar Stout, Clandestine and Constant Billy, as well as acoustic Texas artists the Quebe Sisters Band, Les Amis Creole, Charles Thibodeaux and the Gillette Brothers. Each day, a programming segment will be dedicated to Texas artists meeting Irish artists to demonstrate the Celtic connection to regional country, Cajun and Creole traditions.
The Chron.com Houston Stage, on the patio on the backside of City Hall, is a great place for Festival-goers to camp out for a few hours, enjoy the shade and a cold beverage while listening to a variety of music genres. At this year’s Festival, the stage will present a stylistically diverse mix of the top local and regional bands, including Irish rockers the Blaggards, the Killdares and Needfire; honky-tonker James Hand; gospel shouters the Original Soul Invaders; polka stompers Mark Halata & Texavia; and Zydeco party hounds Big Red & the Playmakers and the Zydeco Dots.
The H-E-B Cultural Stage and the Gaelic Stage, both located in the Living Museum area of Upper Sam Houston Park, represent the cultural heart of this year’s Irish theme. From harps, bagpipes and story-telling bards to Irish step-dance lessons, cooking demonstrations and literary readings, these stages honor the ongoing ancestral connection between Ireland and the Irish in America. Each Festival day will kick-off with a marching bagpipes band parade from the Gaelic Stage to Center Stage.
The Latin Stage, which alternates set times in Library Plaza with the Texas Stage, features a culturally diverse mix of Flamenco, mariachi, Ballet Folklorico, Conjunto, Salsa, and Spanish Celtic music. African drumming, dancing and Caribbean parades will fill Lower Tranquility Park, where the new African-Caribbean Zone picks up where last year’s festival honoring the theme “Out of Africa” left off.
The Target International Kids Stage in the Target Kids Zone will again present a daily variety of ethnic dance troupes and youth groups showcasing Houston’s abundance of international diversity – from Africa and Asia to Europe and the Americas. Of course, the local Irish dance troupes will be prominently featured each day with their colorful costumes and golden curls. And offering further evidence of Houston’s importance as an international center, the Sister Cities Stage features excellent music and dance programming presented by the local Sister Cities Associations.
The Festival will take place April 18-19 and April 25-26, 2009. Hours are: Saturdays, Noon to 10 p.m.; Sundays, Noon to 9 p.m. The Festival will also host a free lunchtime concert on Friday, April 17 following the official ribbon-cutting and opening day ceremonies at 11 a.m. on Center Stage.
Tickets are available online at www.ifest.org. Beginning April 1, tickets will also be available for purchase at H-E-B stores:
All proceeds benefit the Festival arts and education programs.