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GH Irish Fest set for Friday

• Feb 7, 2017 at 4:00 PM

Saint Patrick’s Day comes early this year to Grand Haven.

The fifth annual Grand Haven Irish Fest will be held on Friday, Feb. 10, at 7 p.m. in the Grand Haven High School Performing Arts Center. The Grand Haven High School fiddle group, GOTAK, will be joined this year by the award winning duo Switchback, along with the Ardan Academy of Irish Dance. Tickets are available online at http://www.grandhavenorchestra.org/tickets.

Switchback is made up of Brian FitzGerald and Martin McCormack. The band draws on traditional Celtic music and original Americana songs that reflect their Irish heritage and Midwestern roots. Playing an exciting mix of mandolin, guitar, and bass, their harmonies have won them comparisons to famous duos such as the Louvin Brothers, Everly Brothers and Simon and Garfunkel.

Music Connection Magazine said: "The words ‘American Roots & Celtic Soul’ only begin to describe this unusual act, whose vocal prowess is as pure as it is unique. There is no denying the stunning vocal blends that are achieved by this duo."

Their Celtic music is authentically Irish, drawing praise from such traditional players as Matt Molloy of the group the Chieftains. Ireland has taken Switchback to heart, with performances at art centers throughout the country and appearances on RTE (Raidió Teilifís Éireann). At the same time, their music is modern Celtic, with songs capturing the Irish of today as accurately as the Pogues and singer-songwriters like Christy Moore.

Switchback tours throughout the United States, Canada, Ireland, the United Kingdom, Italy, and the Netherlands, playing more than 200 engagements a year. Their television specials, “The Americana Sessions” and “The Celtic Sessions,” have aired on PBS stations throughout the U.S. The band has also been working with Paul Mertens — who arranged the music for “Brian Wilson Reimagines Gershwin” — on orchestral scores for some of their original music.

Ardán Academy of Irish Dance teaches traditional Irish dancing across Michigan. The Heinzman family started in Ireland but brought their love of Irish dance to the U.S. many years ago. Itty Heinzman is well known in the Irish dance community for her passion of teaching others the Irish culture and the sport. Ardán instructors continue this legacy today. Their dancers perform year-round at festivals, parties, fundraisers, and other events across the Midwest.

GOTAK began in 2005 with a handful of orchestra students with a common interest in exploring string music outside of the classical realm. GOTAK has grown significantly since then and always succeeds in exciting the audience with their love of fiddling and sounds of bluegrass, Irish and Celtic folk music, jazz and rock. They are also the proud hosts of Grand Haven's annual Irish Music Festival.

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