Monthly Archives: December 2014

Wild Connemara

My last post was on my musical journey through Connemara and Galway. In this post I want to concentrate on the spectacular physical beauty of this part of Ireland.

Connemara is an ill-defined area in the west of Galway incorporating mountains, seascapes and bogs. It is hard not to talk about it without resorting to clichés – wild, rugged, unspoilt; but this is a part of Ireland that almost defies description, it is so beautiful. So I have tried to capture its beauty with the lens. A tall order.

I have visited it three times – just driving through, but on each occasion I was lucky enough to be blessed with patches of sunshine which displays the hills and lakes at their glorious best. Sometimes achingly so.

My first visit was in June in the height of summer, then again in August and most recently in December. As the mood changes with the arrival of the sun, so it changes with the seasons. In summer shades of green and grey predominate as the lush grass covers the slopes. In winter it turns to stark reds and browns but is no less beautiful. These photos (I know there’s a lot but it was hard to leave any out) I hope capture the things that make Connemara special to me – the rugged landscapes, the birds, the ponies, the placid lakes, mist, snow, rocks, bogs, turf and the built landscape, from stone walls and shepherd’s huts to Abbeys. But they also serve as a warning that we must do what we can to preserve such treasures. I was shocked to see the encroachment of wind farms into this wilderness.

I will return to Connemara.

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Categories: Wild Ireland | Tags: , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Christmas Concert Mullagh

I was part of an extraordinary event last night.

I had never heard of Marty Morrissey but around these parts he seems to be a god. I’m talking here about the Parish of Kilmurry-Ibrickane in West Clare. A mouthful but it is my adopted home community. It comprises the villages of Quilty, Mullagh and Coore. Kilmurry-Ibrickane is a famous name in the world of GAA (that’s Gaelic Football for my Aussie followers) and Marty is its leading advocate. He is a well-known sports commentator for RTE and a passionate advocate of the local community. To this end he organised this concert as a fund raiser. Through his many contacts he gathered together a who’s-who of Irish music with a strong focus on local talent. And there is plenty of that.

When I first heard of the concert I tried to get a ticket but it sold out in four days. One of the organisers, Michael Talty offered me a spare ticket which I gleefully accepted. It wasn’t cheap but I was intrigued by the concept.

It was a wet and dismal night, though not cold there was a gusty wind blowing off the Atlantic. But then again that describes most nights these days in this part of West Clare. I arrived into Mullagh to an army of men in hi-vis yellow and waving red or green wands directing me to the GAA oval where I was told to park and a mini bus ferried me the short distance to the church. I was impressed by the organisation. The St James Church Mullagh was hardly recognisable with a giant marquee erected in front of it. It was 6.00 pm and the tent seemed nearly full already. The concert didn’t start til 7.30 but here was no shortage of hot mulled wine and mince tarts which I eagerly accepted when proffered. There were a few people I recognised from my interactions with the community. And a few who seemed to know me, though I was struggling to recognise them. I was asked by one lady if I was the Parish Priest of Ennis and another who asked me if I was still coming to Christmas Dinner. Do I have some doppelgängers out there?

I was shown to my pew which was already fully occupied but they squeezed up and let me in. The seat was in the far corner about as far from the stage as possible but it had the advantage of being close to the door so I could sneak out if need be. I know that seems unkind, but I was not sure I was going to enjoy this night.

The concert started pretty much on time at 7.30 which was a surprise for Ireland but as it was being streamed live this was understandable. This in itself was pretty impressive, with the concert being seen around the world. I have to say we were then treated to a marvellous and continuous panoply of artists for the next 5½ hours. That’s right! five-and-a-half-hours! Remarkably there were no flat spots and myself and the audience were held in thrall for all that time with the possible exception of the raffle draw. Although with the prize of two return tickets to Australia even that was attention grabbing.

From the opening act which was the Scoil Mhuire Choir, who made a spectacular entrance to the stage holding candles and walking on from three directions before delivering a sparkling and spellbinding performance. And it was only uphill from there. Following a rock star welcome for Marty we had the Kilfenora Ceili Band sounding splendid and looking equally so in their red and black outfits. They were joined by a team of set dancers from the Eugene Donnelan School which lifted the whole performance.

Not all the music was to my personal taste. There was crooning country singer Mike Denver with a medley of Christmas songs, P J Murrihy and his band, local singer from Cree, Karen McInerny, Tommy Flemming, for whom the audience went wild and the penultimate act of the night Phil Coulter who delivered as expected with lovely renditions of his songs Steal Away and Town I Loved So Well.

The highlights of course, for me though, were the trad acts, most of which were local musicians. Musicians from the Brid O’Donoghue Music School from Miltown Malbay gave a beautifully textured performance of slow tunes, jigs and reels ending with two young boys doing sean nos dancing on half barrels. There was exquisite accordion playing from Michael Sexton and he was joined by talented young sean nos dancer Eoin Killen in a superb display of relaxed and confident dancing. A future star. The Donnellan Family from Ballina, Co Mayo were terrific with their energetic playing and again one of their members Carol, did a sensational sean nos brush dance. There was a scratch band of local musicians led by Michael Falsy who had the audience stomping with a rousing rendition of Lark in the Morning, and an absolute standout for me, a gorgeous rendition by Martin and Ronan Burke of the song the Clogher Road. Special, because I live on this road! And I shouldn’t forget the local Kilmurry-Ibrickane Community Choir which included kids to grandparents and did a highly creditable job.

The grand finale which took us past 1 am was provided by the Galway Tenors who started off rather shakily with a crowd pleasing version of Fields of Athenry, an aria accompanied by waving scarves in red and green (provided to the audience in their programmes) and finished with some rousing Christmas carols.

In between the acts were slide shows, videos, old films, documentaries, all speaking of the great community spirit in this Parish and I have to say this spirit shone through all night. The audience of locals lapped it up, picking up on the many in-jokes. The story of the “spirit of Quilty” with the rescue of the sailors from the Leon, the successes of the Kilmurry-Ibrickane GAA team, a film of set dancing in the Quilty pub from 1970s, video greetings, from Australia, NZ and the USA, from the Mullagh and Quilty diaspora, photo albums of parishioners much of it received with enthusiastic clapping or laughter. And a spoof RTE News flash reporting on the traffic jams crippling West Clare as cars head to Mullagh. All great craic.

I have one gripe. Most of the “name” artists used backing tracks. The exceptions to this of course were the trad acts and Phil Coulter who accompanied himself on the piano. For me this is very sad that high-profile acts to do this. When you pay 40 euros for a ticket you expect to see live music. Singing to a backing track for me is no better than karaoke and gives the voice a detached feel and is rarely satisfying. It certainly lacks spontaneity. It may be alright for the X-Factor but not for a live concert. Anyway that’s pretty much my only beef and the rest of the audience didn’t seem to share it clapping excitedly for every number.

Fair play to the organisers they did an absolutely fabulous job.

Merry Christmas to all my followers and please stay tuned for more adventures in 2015.

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Categories: Stories, Trad Irish Music | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Connemara Hills are alive with the Sound of Music (and Galway too)

Last weekend I headed for Galway and Connemara. I had had a previous brief visit to Connemara when I attended the TraidPhicnic in Spiddal, but never Galway and I have to say I loved it.

The immediate reason was to attend a Master Class and House Concert by Maurice Lennon at Bridge Barker’s house deep in the wilds of remote Connemara. A great initiative from Bridge to open her house for this – hopefully the first of many.

The trip up from Clare was treacherous with my first experience of driving in sub-zero temperatures and on slippery roads. There was definitely no hurrying. I collected Maurice in Glaway on the way and became so engrossed in the conversation that we managed to end up on a detour along the shores of Lough Corib, that meant the trip took an extra hour. Once we got there the weather was kind enough, so that while Maurice took the kids’ class, I went for a short walk with Vince, Bridge’s partner. They live with their family in a stone cottage that, chameleon-like, blends into the rocky Connemara landscape. Bridge tells me it has been in her family for generations. They have turned a traditional stone cottage into a wonderfully warm and welcoming family home. Adjacent is an abandoned cottage, apparently formerly that of a tailor. It seems to have been empty for decades but still stands remarkably intact as a reminder of the hardship that must have been life in these parts. There was no road and customers would have to ride up the rocky ridges to be fitted. The house has a central room with a large fire place and a door on either side. One can imagine this was the kitchen and the centre of family life. Maybe even where music was played. On either side of this is what would have been the bedrooms each with a smaller fire. Relics of a tough existence are everywhere including bottles and empty containers, an old Singer sewing machine stand and empty and derelict hand crafted furniture. The roof is made of timbers nailed together and filled with bog material and then presumably covered in thatch but now corrugated iron. The windows small anyway are almost completely blocked with stone allowing only a tiny opening to minimise the ingress of rain and wind but making the house very dark. There were no windows on the western and southern sides speaking eloquently as to where the weather comes from. A marvellous window into a past world but not too far distant from the reality of living here now.

Nearby in the rocky bog-covered landscape was a delightful creek with water cascading over granite boulders and flowing through the brown tufts of grass, dotted with patches of bright green where richer glacial tills have provided more fertile ground. Numerous walled fields provide evidence of a much more intensive agriculture on the slopes of the barren hills.

This area was a renowned location for the manufacture of poteen, the famed liquor made traditionally from malted barley but later from corn or potatos. Poteen manufacture was and is of course illegal and so it prospered in remote areas like Connemara where unwelcome visitors could be seen coming for miles. It is said that from the top of the hill behind the house you could see someone coming from Oughterard, 20km away as the crow flies. Vince showed me an old still, one of four in the immediate area. These are used to build a turf fire and heat the wash for several days while guards stood watch ready to respond to anyone attracted by the smoke. The quality of the poteen was highly variable and it needed a fair bit of skill. A bad batch is said to cause blindness. I was given a taste by a fiddler friend when I visited Cork City recently, and I have to say it was terrific. Sure packed a punch though.

As the misty rain set in and hid the snow-capped hills in the distance we returned in time for me to join Maurice for the workshop. There were seven of us and it was a delight. Plenty of good advice on how to hold the bow and how to get a better sound and we learned a couple of Maurice’s own tunes in an intensive hour and a half. Then a quick trip to the nearest pub (about 20 minutes away) for a cleansing ale and some fresh air with Maurice. I don’t want to offend anyone who may come from this part of the world but you could hardly say we were welcomed, or if we were it was with suspicion. There was no small talk as the half dozen or so punters went about their business as If we weren’t there. Slightly uncomfortable.

Returning for some tunes and some curry we then settled in for a concert in the front room of Bridge’s house, in front of a roaring fire, comprising a couple of hours of solo fiddle and viola from Maurice. There was some inspired playing.  We all joined in for a couple of sets at the end. Really a special night with the stone walls reflecting a brilliant sound. Those who travelled into the Connemara wilderness were well rewarded.

I was very kindly put up by Bridge and even before the scrambled eggs were put on the stove next morning I joined Bridge and her talented daughter Siofra in some tunes around the kitchen table. When Maurice arrived back from his lodgings he joined in. A true ‘kitchen session’.

I had decided to spend a couple of extra days in Galway and catch some of the sessions of which so many people had raved. So dragging ourselves away at lunch time I returned with Maurice who was also staying in Galway. There was a slight detour as I stopped every now and then for some photos and a further delay as we caught the second half of the Manchester United – Liverpool game (won by Man U) in a pub in Oughterrard.

Arriving late in the afternoon I went on a search for music. I ended up meeting fellow Aussie friend , Alice at Taaffe’s Bar where there is a 5:30 session every day. So civilised. Why don’t they do this in Ennis? This was the first of three sessions I attended that night and over the three days I was there I went to eight. There was a memorable session late on Sunday at the Old Forge where we were entertained among other things by a Santa-clad mini-skirted drag queen doing an Irish step dance with a packet of Tayto’s in one hand. Brilliant. It was great craic everywhere and hopefully the pictures give some idea of it. I met some wonderful people with as much passion for the music as I see in Ennis. Plenty of blow-ins who have made Galway home. As well as Alice from Oz, there is Ana from Brazil, Brandon from England, Anders from Netherlands, Patrick and Sean from San Francisco, and others from Spain, Germany and the odd Irishman. Lots of interaction too between the musicians and the punters, many of them tourists hearing Irish music for the first time and having a fabulous time. I was kindly invited to a great house session on Tuesday, led by Sean Flanagan, a box player, designed for intermediate players to learn and share tunes. Brilliant idea. I returned to Ennis renewed and inspired and vowing to visit Galway again soon. Thanks to everyone who made me feel so welcome.

The sun shone briefly on Monday and I took the opportunity to go for a drive through the magnificent Connemara hills to Clifden. Glorious. I will post some photos from these travels soon in another blog. The photos here are all from near Bridge’s house or in Galway City.

Distant snow, Connemara

Distant snow, Connemara

Tailor's cottage, Connemara

Tailor’s cottage, Connemara

Tailor's Cottage, Connemara

Tailor’s Cottage, Connemara

Inside Tailor's Cottage, Connemara

Inside Tailor’s Cottage, Connemara

Poteen still, Connemara

Poteen still, Connemara

Cascade, Connemara

Cascade, Connemara

Barn, Connemara

Barn, Connemara

Maurice Lennon, Fiddle Master Class, Connemara

Maurice Lennon, Fiddle Master Class, Connemara

Maurice Lennon Fiddle  Master Class, Connemara

Maurice Lennon Fiddle Master Class, Connemara

Maurice Lennon Fiddle  Master Class, Connemara

Maurice Lennon Fiddle Master Class, Connemara

Maurice Lennon Fiddle  Master Class, Connemara

Maurice Lennon Fiddle Master Class, Connemara

Maurice Lennon, Adult Fiddle  Master Class, Connemara

Maurice Lennon, Adult Fiddle Master Class, Connemara

Maurice Lennon, Adult  Fiddle  Master Class, Connemara

Maurice Lennon, Adult Fiddle Master Class, Connemara

Maurice Lennon, Adult students Fiddle  Master Class, Connemara

Maurice Lennon, Adult students Fiddle Master Class, Connemara

Maurice Lennon, Kitchen session at Bridge Barker's, Connemara

Maurice Lennon, Kitchen session at Bridge Barker’s, Connemara

Maurice Lennon, Bridge Barker.  Kitchen Session

Maurice Lennon, Bridge Barker. Kitchen Session

Hungry sheep, Connemara

Hungry sheep, Connemara

Session, Taaffe's Pub, Galway

Session, Taaffe’s Pub, Galway

Session, Taaffe's Pub, Galway

Session, Taaffe’s Pub, Galway

Session, Taaffe's Pub, Galway.  Sandra

Session, Taaffe’s Pub, Galway. Sandra

Session, Taaffe's Pub, Galway. Alice

Session, Taaffe’s Pub, Galway. Alice

Session, Taaffe's Pub, Galway.  Happy listeners

Session, Taaffe’s Pub, Galway. Happy listeners

Session, Taaffe's Pub, Galway

Session, Taaffe’s Pub, Galway

Session. Tig Coili, Galway

Session. Tig Coili, Galway

Session, Taaffe's Pub, Galway.  Maurice Lennon

Session, Tig Coili, Galway. Maurice Lennon

Session, Tig Coili, Galway

Session, Tig Coili, Galway

Session, Old Forge Pub, Galway

Session, Old Forge Pub, Galway

Session, Old Forge Pub, Galway

Session, Old Forge Pub, Galway

Session, Old Forge Pub, Galway.  Dancing Santa

Session, Old Forge Pub, Galway. Dancing Santa

Session, Garvey's Pub Galway

Session, Garvey’s Pub Galway

Session, Garvey's Pub, Galway

Session, Garvey’s Pub, Galway

Visitors from Germany, Garvey's Pub Galway

Visitors from Germany, Garvey’s Pub Galway

House Session, Galway

House Session, Galway

Another session at Taaffe's Galway

Another session at Taaffe’s Galway

Categories: Sessions, Stories, Trad Irish Music | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Traid Phicnic – An Spidéal

I know it’s a while ago now but early in July I headed to Spiddal in Galway for the Traid Phicnic. This is only in its third year and it is a great concept where a terrific assemblage of artists performed in an outdoor stage in the heart of the town. The programme included a swag of luminaries appearing over two days and was faultlessly organised by Bridge Barker and her colleagues. Unfortunately she couldn’t organise the weather and the showers may have kept some away but it didn’t dampen the spirits of those who did make the trek to Connemara.

Headlining were Dezi Donnelly and Mike McGlodrick but we were treated to some special music from among others, Charlie Lennon, Tola Custy and Laoise Kelly, Siobhan Peoples and Murty Ryan and Dermot Byrne and Steve Cooney. There were workshops for fiddle, concertina, flute, accordion, harp, lots of craft workshops and stuff for the kids. And there was a session on the Saturday night that was worth the trip on its own. Where else could you play with Dermot Byrne, Mike McGlodrick, Laoise Kelly and Tola Custy? Brilliant.

maith thú, Bridge and I’ll be there next year.

Here are some photos of the weekend.IMG_7950 IMG_7969 IMG_7974 IMG_7990 IMG_8119 IMG_8478 IMG_8621 IMG_8644






































Categories: Festivals, Trad Irish Music | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Is it really six months??

I have now been in Ireland over six months.

I was going to write some profound piece about my time here and reflect on my experiences since I arrived at Dublin Airport with my fiddle on back in mid-May. I was going to write about the fact that I have played music at an organised session every night since I have been here, about the fact that I have played in at least 400 sessions possibly as many as 500, about the fact that I have attended over twenty Festivals and Summer Schools, about the fact that I have played music in Clare, Sligo, Lietrim, Mayo, Offaly, Galway, Tipperary, Cork, Dublin and Armagh, about the fact that I have had lessons from Tola Custy, Siobhan Peoples, Maurice Lennon, Yvonne Kane, Eileen O’Brien, Martin Hayes, Yvonne Casey, James Kelly, Liam O’Connor and many others, about the many ‘famous’ musicians I have played with and met, about the wonderful places I have visited in Clare and beyond, about my house by the sea, about….. But no. I won’t even mention those things.

Instead I just want to talk about the music over the last three nights. Firstly at PJ Kelly’s Bar in Ennis on Saturday night, then at Pepper’s in Feakle on Sunday, at home on Monday afternoon and at Fitz’s Bar in Hotel Doolin that evening. Because these three nights say everything about why I am here and why I can’t see myself returning to Australia for the foreseeable future.

Saturday night had kicked off with a CD launch upstairs at the Old Ground. Dymphna O‘Sullivan, wonderful Ennis based concertina player had gathered together an eclectic collection of musicians who entertained a large crowd for well over two hours. There was great variety with visiting musicians including Joe Carey from Mayo and members of the Droney family, and a whistler (the ‘put-your-lips-together-and-blow’ type of whistler), along with elite players from Clare including Eoin O’Neill, Eileen O’Brien, Joan Hanranhan, Eileen Cotter and many others. There was dancing including sean nos, step dancing and a set to finish it off. While I love listening to Irish music in the concert situation it always leaves me wanting more and the desire to play becomes overpowering. So the word was that some of the musicians would be heading down to Kelly’s. This is my regular Saturday session as I love the tinge of Tulla provided by regulars Andrew MacNamara, Brid O’Gorman and Joan Hanrahan.

I arrived at 11:00 to an already packed bar. I knew half the musicians there, which was great as I felt welcomed but it didn’t help get a seat! I was lucky to get a stool just outside the circle. They were already in full swing so I wasted no time in getting the fiddle out. Plenty of tunes I knew and at a good steady pace – just the way I like it! Though as the Guinness flowed of course the music got faster. More musicians arrived as the CD launch wound down and there were soon 14 musicians playing. Other well-known musicians arrived but could not get a seat. Unfazed, they were happy to stand at the bar and listen. And that’s what makes nights such as these special. Egos are put to one side. It’s all about the music and the craic. It’s when the realities of being a working musician get subsumed by the sheer pleasure of making music and listening to music and being with others who are making music. The music lifts off the page or from out of the cd cover and becomes real.

This was indeed one of those nights. The music might not have always been to everyone’s taste with four accordions but it’s hard to imagine how you could have a better time in a pub. There was impromptu dancing, some gorgeous singing, waltzes and of course the Guinness and the cider. The music didn’t even stop when an older guy, who I had noticed earlier, head drooped on his chest sleeping at the bar, fell off his stool, crashing to the floor among the musicians. It was in the middle of a haunting air being played on the accordion and while a few concerned punters went to his aid the tune carried on and by the time the air had changed to a reel the fellow was back on his stool and his coke refilled (yes the tap had been turned off for him) as if nothing had happened.

As a couple of musicians drifted away I took a seat near the fire in the thick of it relishing my privileged position. I could not wipe the smile off my face and I observed that sense of joy in all the players and I should say the listeners. The music and craic went until 2 am by which time the increasingly panicky publican was desperately trying to clear the bar for fear the Gardaí might pay a visit.

This experience only happened to me because I live here. A visitor might stumble on this session if he or she is lucky, but would they feel part of it, or would they just be an observer. This is a dilemma for those irregular visitors. Sure you can find great sessions in Festivals but it is somehow different. I was the only foreigner here. In a Festival situation the session might be dominated by visitors . Not that that is necessarily a bad thing but it does change the tone and quality. This was ‘real’. This was Irish people enjoying their music and tradition for themselves. This was as close to ‘authentic’ as I can imagine a Session in 21st Century Ireland could be. I arrived home at 3am satisfied and fulfilled.

A friend had told me there was to be music the next day from 4pm at Pepper’s Bar in Feakle. This was to celebrate the 40th year of management by Gary Pepper. For those who don’t know, Peppers is one of the iconic venues for East Clare music. A favourite haunt for Martin Hayes and his father PJ it is still a great place for the craic. Where better than to celebrate my 200th continuous night (sorry, I said I wasn’t going to mention it) than here. And what a fabulous night it was. It was like being back at the Feakle Festival, one of the summer’s great events, but without the crowds. The music was in full swing when I arrived at 4pm being led by Pat O’Connor, and Padraig MacDonncha. They were joined later in the evening by Andrew MacNamara, Eileen O’Brien and Deidre McSherry. When I left exhausted at 12pm after eight hours of pretty much continuous playing and surviving on bar snacks, they were still at it. There’s not much more to say except that it was a privilege to be there. I never got home that night though as I realised too late that I didn’t have enough petrol to drive home to Caherush and when I got to Ennis at 1am could not find an open garage. I shouldn’t have been surprised by this but with my car computer telling me I had 8 km left in the tank I knocked on Graham’s door at Kilnamona. It was 3.30am and a few whiskeys later that I finally got to bed. Thanks mate!

Not long after I eventually got home on Monday I was disturbed by a knock on the door. Disturbed is not the right word as it was John Joe Tuttle, long time resident and fiddler from Crosses of Anagh just outside Miltown Malbay. I had played with him occasionally at Friels in Miltown and had invited him to call in. Here he was taking me up on this and we settled down in front of the fire with a cup of tea (he did refuse my offer of a whiskey) for a couple of hours of wonderful tunes and reminiscences. John Joe knew PJ Talty, whose house we were in, as well as Willie Clancy and Paddy Canny and everyone else since. He had played with them in kitchens, in Ceili Bands and from the late 50s in pubs. It was an absolute treat for me as he shared tunes he learnt from his early days in West Clare to ones he had learnt just this week. He had a particular liking for the tunes of Sean Ryan and said they were very popular in those days. I then joined him for a few tunes which was the icing on a wonderful afternoon.

That night I headed to Hotel Doolin for the regular Monday session. This session is led by Eoin O’Neill, Quentin Cooper, Adam Shapiro and Jon O’Connell.  In the short while it has been going it has become the session in Doolin and for that matter in the whole of West Clare. The pub is always full, with locals and visitors alike and attracts wonderful musicians such as Conor Byrne, Luka Bloom and Noirin Lynch. What sets this session apart is that anything goes. Of course it is rooted in trad and you will get driving reels and haunting songs but you will also get some blues, Bob Dylan, Bob Marley or something from the Balkans. Every night is different.

When I walked in there was a buzz already and that was before the music had even started. There was standing room only and a sense of eager anticipation. From the first tune the night did not disappoint. There was wild applause after each number and reverential silence for the songs. Wonderful singers from the floor and the pace didn’t let up until after midnight.

This was not just a show for the tourists. It felt like the real thing. The musicians gave their all and the punters lapped it up. This is the picture of Ireland that visitors take away and talk about and why they come back year after year to Doolin. Kayla and Emily from Canada, Emma and Becca from Melbourne and Ro from Adelaide and the many others I didn’t meet who were here for one or two nights went away with the experience of a lifetime.

So these three nights say everything about why I came here.

The Ireland I have discovered is surprisingly close to the romantic vision that I came here with. Of course I have had issues, particularly with bureaucracy and rules and regulations, but probably no more than a foreigner would have anywhere else in the world, but the folks of Clare are friendly and welcoming. I have met a host of wonderful people and have been made to feel part of this community, when I was at Kilnamona and now at Caherush. Maybe it is the same all over Ireland I can’t say but when I come back from my travels it is like coming home.

I would like to thank all the musicians and lovers of music and dancing who have made my first six months in Ireland so special. I can’t possibly name everyone but I should single out the people I play with at the regular sessions around Clare – in Ennis, Ennistymon, Miltown, Lahinch, Doolin, Feakle and beyond. People who put up with my musical inadequacies and make me feel welcome. People whose playing from the heart keeps me grounded and ensures that it will be a long time before I have ‘delusions of competence’ but who at the same time inspire me to keep going. To the many people with whom I have shared a Guinness and a story and to the many, many friends I have made from Holland, Belgium, Germany, France, Sweden, Spain, Canada, Switzerland, Japan, the US, Britain and wherever who share this passion for Irish Music and the Irish experience.

I don’t regret for a moment my decision to base myself in Clare as the words of Christy Moore ring constantly in my ears – “Flutes and fiddles everywhere, If it’s music you want you should go to Clare”.



Evening fog. The road to Feakle



Eileen O’Brien, Pepper’s Feakle



Deidre McSherry. Pepper’s Feakle



Andrew MacNamara, Padraig Mac Donncha. Peppers Feakle



Peppers Feakle



Andrew MacNamara, Pat O’Connor, Padraigh MacDonncha



Happy Birthday Eileen. Peppers Feakle



Happy Birthday Eileen. Peppers Feakle



Festive fiddle



Peppers Feakle



Enjoying the craic. Peppers Feakle



Enjoying the craic. Peppers Feakle



John Joe Tuttle. At my house in Caherush. December 2014



Kayla and Emily visiting from Canada. Fitz’s Bar Doolin



Conor Byrne. Fitz’s Bar Doolin



Quentin Cooper, Adam Shapiro, Eoin O’Neill. Fitz’s Bar Doolin



Luka Bloom. Fitz’s Bar



Elaine Doonan, Jon O’ Connell. Fitz’s Bar



Sign Fitz’s Bar Doolin


Categories: My Journey | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

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