Folk: Sands Family embark on their Home for Christmas tour

The Sands Family – in the late 60s a group of young siblings from rural Co Down, the makeshift studio for their first recording was a milking parlour

FOLK stars The Sands Family kick off their 2017 Home for Christmas tour at the Market Place Theatre in Armagh tonight.

It's almost 50 years since Billy McBurney picked up a reel of audio tape that had landed on the desk at his newly founded Outlet Records in Belfast, a collection of songs about places such as Rathfriland in, Co Down, and Ballydoo in Co Armagh.

The players were a group of young siblings from Mayobridge, called Sands, who had borrowed a reel-to-reel tape recorder for their demo, recording it in a neighbour's milking parlour because their farmhouse home had no electricity. Anne, Ben, Colum and Tommy insist that on the original tape the cows can be heard harmonising on Mourne Maggie.

McBurney signed them immediately and released Folk from the Mournes in 1968.

A whirlwind of interest in Irish music followed the struggle for civil rights which erupted the following year and propelled The Sands Family, with their mixture of folk, protest, and traditional songs, on to the international stage.

Still going strong, The Sands Family's music has won them fans and friends across Europe and North America, the respect of their fellow musicians and songwriters, and numerous cultural and arts awards.

As individuals and as a group they have upheld their commitment to using music as a vehicle for peace and understanding, denouncing warmongers, whose profits mount with the flow of refugees from each new conflict, and denouncing developers who can never see the wood for the profit margin.

Still protesting, they see their purpose as, "comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable".

:: The Sands Family Home for Christmas tour: December 7, Marketplace Theatre, Armagh;

December 8, Burnavon Theatre, Cookstown; December 10, Canal Court, Newry; December 14, the Ardhowen Theatre, Enniskillen. For more information call 028 4175 2229.

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