Monthly Archives: March 2015

Trish’s Soda Bread

Soda Bread is made in a few countries other than Ireland but it remains quintessentially Irish. So I decided to learn how to make it. Never refuse an invitation is one of my rules here in Ireland so when Trish from Lahinch offered to show me I jumped at the opportunity. What is Soda Bread? It is a simple quick bread that uses sodium bicarbonate (what the Irish call ’bread soda’) as the leavening agent instead of yeast. It relies on mixing buttermilk (weak acid) with the soda (alkaline) to produce tiny carbon dioxide bubbles which cause the bread to rise. It does not need kneading or time to stand. It has an Australian equivalent in Damper widely made in rural Australia and popular with indigenous Australians.

Trish's Soda Bred - the final product

Trish’s Soda Bred – the final product

Here is Trish’s Recipe which she got from her mother and who knows how far back it goes beyond that.  Trish’s recipe uses half and half white flour and wholemeal flour but it can be mixed in any proportion depending on taste. It’s very simple – here goes. Take 20 ounces of mixed wholemeal and plain flour and add one heaped teaspoon of bread soda. Crush it between the fingers to break up the lumps. Mix. Add buttermilk, a little at a time, and lightly mix until consistent slightly sticky dough is attained. Salt is optional. Make into a ball with a little flour on the bench and flatten into the desired shape and place on a floured baking tray.  Make fairly deep cuts into quarters and place into a preheated oven at 200˚C for about 30-35 minutes. Check regularly in last five minutes. Tap bottom – a hollow sound means it is cooked! That’s it. The proof is in the pudding and it was delicious with Kerry butter and Irish Cheddar or spread with Clare jam (Strawberry and Baileys!). I had a go and mine was made with just white flour and with raisins (about 3-4 oz). Pretty proud of it – check the final photo. It’s in the freezer so yet to taste it. Thanks Trish for taking the time to open another window for me on the real Ireland. Give me half an hour’s notice if you’re coming to visit and I’ll have a hot loaf ready for you!


1. Add 10 oz wholemeal flour


2. Add 10 oz plain flour


3. Add heaped teaspoon baking soda


4. Add buttermilk


5. Mix to make dough


6. Round and flatten to shape


7. Quarter


8. Place in oven at 200 deg


9. Tap bottom to check if cooked


10. Ready to serve


11. Portions can be frozen and eaten later


12. Sliced soda bread delicious with butter and jam


13. My version of Trish’s soda bread with white flour and raisins

Categories: Real Ireland | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Solar Eclipse in Co. Clare

I dutifully set the alarm for 8 am after the usual late night playing tunes, so that I could see the much hyped total eclipse of the sun.  Well it’s not actually total where we are but it was to be pretty damn close. I didn’t have high hopes as there was a thick blanket of fog when I drove home last night at 1 am. Sure enough I looked out the window at as the alarm sounded to a complete whiteout and promptly rolled back over to sleep.

Something woke me up an hour later and made me look out the window again This was what I saw peeking through the haze.


First glimpse of the eclipse March 20 2015

I madly grabbed the camera put the telephoto on and, while mindful of all the dire warnings that I would lose my sight, pointed it in the general direction and fired away. Of course I didn’t have a sun filter so the first shots were completely blown out but the fog was working in my favour and as the slowly diminishing sun peeped in and out I kept clicking. For the technically minded I shot on my Canon 5D Mark 2 at the lowest ISO and on  programmed automatic stopped down between 1 and 1 2/3 stops to cut the light. I only had a 200m lens so couldn’t get in that close.

It was an amazing experience as I watched the light fade. As we reached near “total” the fog closed in and there wasn’t enough light from  the sun to get a shot. So I turned my attention to the rocks and the sea. It was deathly quiet. Eerily so. I think the word ‘eerie’ must have been coined during a total eclipse of the sun.  It was not as dark as I expected but it was the quietness and stillness that struck me.  Not even familiar sounds like the birds, which are my constant companions, or the lowing of cows, which only minutes earlier had welcomed the dawn.  The only sound was the restless sea and even it was unusually quiet. It lasted about ten minutes as the light gradually returned and I heard the first quack of a wild duck heralding the new dawn.

For a moment the fog thinned and I saw the sun emerge on the other side of the moon.  Just for a moment.  Long enough to take one last photo.  Then as the sun became bright enough to penetrate the haze it was impossible to photograph let alone look at.

In the end I had to be grateful for the fog and cloud. It enabled me to witness something that the gods have continually conspired  to prevent me seeing.

Roll on 2024.


Eclipse, Caherush March 20 2015. About 15 minutes before “total”.


Eclipse over Mt Callan from Caherush March 20 2015


Eclipse Caherush, March 20, 2015. Minutes before “total” and just before the cloud covered the sun.


Caherush during the “total” period of the eclipse March 20 2015


Eclipse, Caherush March 20 2015, Minutes after “total”, the sun emerges briefly before being covered by cloud again.







Categories: My Journey, Real Ireland, Wild Ireland | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

St Patricks Day in Ennis. Fifty Shades of Green.

My first St Patrick’s Day in Ireland.

It has always been something I have avoided in Oz. An excuse for all and sundry to parade themselves as being Irish (whether they are or not) fuelled by green beer and endless renditions of Wild Rover and the Fields of Athenry. Not always a pretty sight. And sessions on St Pats Day are non existent as every person who can hold a fiddle or accordion is gigging somewhere that night. So I was keen to find out what it was like back here.

St Patrick’s Day honours the death of St Patrick, patron saint of Ireland, in 461 and it is celebrated as a national holiday in Ireland and Northern Ireland and around the world by the Irish diaspora. It has moved from being a religious holiday to a day of secular celebration much to the chagrin of the church. I like this quote from Father Vincent Twomey who wrote in 2007, “It is time to reclaim St Patrick’s Day as a church festival without mindless alcohol-fuelled revelry” and concluded that “it is time to bring the piety and the fun together.” This plea seems to have fallen on deaf ears.

March 17th was a glorious sunny day in Clare so I headed into Ennis. The place was decorated with bunting and flags in preparation for the Parade, which kicked off at 11.00. Parades are a big deal here and every town and village has one. Not as big as Dublin of course which is now supposedly beats that in New York but definitely not as small as the one in Dripsey in Co Cork (which celebrates the fact that it has the shortest parade in the world – 100 yards between the village’s two pubs).


They are often staggered so the limited number of brass bands and prime movers can rotate between the villages. Community groups and schools go to a lot of effort and there are prizes for the best float or display. And everyone dresses up, with green of course being the dominant colour. At least fifty shades of green. Somehow it’s not tacky as it tends to be in Australia. It is the Irish celebrating their Irishness. So I saw nothing incongruous in leprechaun beards and green wigs as I might have in Australia if worn by Australians.

The other thing that struck me as the Parade moved past me was that just as in Australia now, Ireland is a multi-layered society and a quick flick through the photos shows groups with a diversity of ethnic identities. There is a strong representation of support groups for people with special needs. It was quite a window into what is important to the people of Clare. The whole thing is very much a family day and this spilled over into the pubs and restaurants with family groups continuing the celebrations as others geared up for a big night.

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I had heard there would be tunes all day at Cruises so at 1:00 I joined Eric and Hugh Healy with Brian O’Loughlin and Catherine for some great tunes.  Energetic and fast – great fun. Accompanied as we were by a young lad who practiced his dance steps continuously for well over two hours! Gradually the families left the pub and by 4 pm there was a change in musicians to Eoin O’Neill and Quentin Cooper and friends.  The pub was rapidly filling up but at 6:00 I decided to head back to Friels at Miltown Malbay where there was a session in full swing when I arrived with with Damien O’Reilly, Caoilfhionn Ni Fhrighil, Eamonn O’Riordan, Brian Mooney and Thiery Masur .  The pub was packed like I haven’t seen it since Willie Week and there was plently to like about the music. At 8.30 it wound up and my next stop was Liscannor where Ennis band Los Paddys de las Pampas were playing at Egans.  I have to say I had never heard them before and wasn’t sure what to expect – Ireland meets South America?  But with talent like Adam Shapiro and Kirsten Allstaff involved it had to be good.  And what a great night.  The music was surprisingly infectious and even a boring old fart like me was up on the dance floor bopping along.  There were some great cameos from Clara Buettler and two flamenco dancing sisters (can’t remember their names) and then Lenka Hoffmanova took to the floor looking resplendent in her dress of orange white and green.  Flamenco meets sean nos!  Great stuff!

Now that was how St Patricks Day should be celebrated.

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Categories: Real Ireland, Sessions, Trad Irish Music | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Stocktons Wing Concert Ennis

There was one vinyl above others which rested nearly permanently on my turntable in the early 80s and that was ‘Light in The Western Sky’. I loved the freshness and the energy and the post-Planxty inventiveness – they were my favourite band. Then I saw them live during the Guinness World Tour (of 1984 I think) in Perth, Western Australia and I remember them as being standouts on a bill that included Mary Black and Christy Moore.

Fast forward now to Treacy’s West County Hotel in Ennis in March 2015 and I am sitting in a crowded room hearing those same songs and tunes being belted out and sounding just as fresh thirty plus years later. It is the Stocktons Wing Reunion tour and they have returned to Ennis where it all began for them in 1977. The locals are excited to have them back and they did not disappoint. The concert focussed around that seminal album so we heard Walk Away and the Belltable (which Maurice informed us was written upstairs in Brogans) and the Golden Stud as well as other hits such as Take a Chance. Of the original line up Paul Roche, Maurice Lennon and Tommy Hayes remain but it was brilliant to see Steve Cooney and Mike Hanrahan back in the line up too. For me the unique sound of the band rests on the driving guitar of Cooney and the brilliant percussion of Tommy Hayes which elevates the music and takes you along for the ride. Maurice Lennon has lost none of his fiddling prowess and weaved his magic brilliantly with his long time collaborator Paul Roche on flute and whistle and essential to that original sound was the familiar vocals of Mike Hanrahan.  And I shouldn’t forget Cooney’s didgeridoo which back then was such a revelation but still works so brilliantly to enhance the music. There was plenty of energy on stage and it was clear they were enjoying being there as much we were; this despite some issues with the sound, which was frustrating to band and audience alike.

I left the hall humming the Belltable Waltz which I couldn’t get out of my head and, in the mood for music, managed to squeeze in some tunes at Kelly’s before heading home well satisfied. I look forward to seeing the band again at Doolin in July.

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Categories: Concerts, Trad Irish Music | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Wild Dingle, Co. Kerry

With all the festivals of late I haven’t had any time to post any pictures from the various road trips I have made in the last few weeks. So I will try and catch up slowly. This post is about the beautiful Dingle Peninsular. When at Ballyferriter ( I had a couple of opportunities, with breaks in the weather, to get out and have a look at the countryside between Slea Head and Mount Brandon. I was pretty lucky but it was frustrating as well as I couldn’t help thinking she was like a heavily-veiled Turkish dancer shyly lifting her shroud to reveal the beauty within and then quickly covering up again. Tantalising me with fleeting glimpses, just as the sun peeks out before another squall or hailstorm swept in. You had to be quick with the camera to catch it. There was a snowfall the day before I arrived and another while I was there so Mt Brandon had a good dusting which, when the mist lifted, contributed to an Alpine feel.

The west Kerry landscape is so beautiful. A little more ordered than Clare (without the wildness of the Burren) but a patchwork of stone-walled verdant fields dotted with quaint villages – almost the archetypal Ireland. It has a rugged Atlantic coastline in common with West Clare and some spectacular beaches, which on this particular weekend were being pounded by some mighty waves. It is no wonder the area attracts tourists in droves along with artists, filmmakers, musicians and people seeking the ‘real’ Ireland.

Here are some photos which I think will give a taste of the extraordinary beauty of this part of Ireland.  But it is only a taste and I will return to have another look and explore further when the weather is kinder.  So expect more.

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Categories: Wild Ireland | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Corofin Traditional Festival, Co Clare

The festival at Corofin is the 25th festival I have been to in Ireland since I arrived in May 2014. Is it the best? Hard to answer but for me it had everything. Some festivals have better workshops, bigger concerts, more variety, but this one to my mind gets the balance just right. Let me tell you about it.

The festival committee headed by the dynamic O’Reilly brothers have developed a tried and true formula and know better than to tinker with it. In fact the Festival won the MórGlór award last year in recognition of its contribution to music in Clare and the efforts of the organisers to put on a consistent and high quality festival.

Corofin is a small village on the edge of Clare’s spectacular Burren (see my blogs at and about 14 km from Ennis. The festival was held over the week 2nd March to 8th March 2015.  It kicked off on the Monday night and there were events every night until the weekend when the festival proper got into full swing. I didn’t attend the opening by Eoin O’Neill on Monday (I was still enjoying the final session of the Russell Weekend in Doolin ( so I can’t comment on that but Tuesday and Wednesday saw two more free events in the Teach Ceoil. This is an intimate venue where there is a great connection between the artists and the audience. On Tuesday we heard Mick, Donal and Conor McCague launching their album of mainly Mick’s original compositions. It was lovely music, a highlight for me being; yes you guessed it, the fiddle playing of Donal. Wednesday was a tribute night to the irrepressible Joe Rynne from Inagh who has had such a big influence on music in North Clare As recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award, we were treated to some wonderful cameos from members of his family, from renowned flute players, Christy Barry and Brid O’Donoghue and then finishing with an all in session comprising 25 of Joe’s friends, many of them legends themselves and some previous members of the Corofin Hall of Fame. Their playing of the ‘Tulla’ set was something to behold.

Then there were three concerts on Thursday Friday and Saturday. One can’t be everywhere so the only one of these I saw was on Friday with the Yanks, a group of yes, you guessed it, Americans, led by 2014 All Ireland Senior Fiddle Champion Dylan Foley and the most gorgeous flute from Conal Ó Gráda with Colm Murphy backing on bodhran. I had never heard flute playing quite like that of Conal. It was light, full of energy and spirit and I was mesmerised. Performers at the other concerts included Angelina Carberry and Dan Broudar, Noel Hill and Liam O’Connor and Jesse Smith and Colm Gannon, and while it was disappointing not to see everyone, I was able to catch up with some of these at the various sessions.

I attended the fiddle workshop and in the allocated three hours we had an hour each from Jesse Smith, Dylan Foley and Conor McEvoy. This was nowhere near enough time and in particular Jesse Smiths’ insightful perspective was particularly helpful to me.

This festival however very much revolves around the virtually continuous sessions that take place from Friday night to the death on Sunday evening. It is a musicians’ festival and quality players turn up in droves and this brings a big contingent of international trad followers. It felt at times a bit like Willie Week without the baggage, if you know what I mean. Of course there were some sessions that didn’t deliver, just as in any festival – too much noise, too big, whatever; but there were so many that did. I played on the Saturday (not counting the workshop) from 2:30 to close at around 2am (after three hours sleep the night before) and again on the Sunday for twelve hours, exhausted but satisfied. There were both large sessions such as at Crowley’s on Saturday where despite there being possibly forty musicians, the music was fast and tight and had a good strong pulse, and there were small intimate sessions, such as with Stefan and Paolo at the Anglers Rest on Sunday or on Saturday where I had the great pleasure of playing with the incredibly talented Sarah, Ellen and Seamus O’Gorman, All Ireland champions from Waterford and the future of fiddle playing in Ireland. Great stuff. And I have to mention the Sunday evening session at the Angler’s Rest, with Derek Hickey, Claire Egan, Eoin O’Neill (box), Liam O’Brien, Dan Brouder, Angelina Carberry and Geraldine Cotter among others. This was sublime music played at a gentle pace and with wonderful restraint and despite the number of boxes you could hear each instrument clearly. It became almost hypnotic at times and a largely silent and appreciative crowd were treated to a memorable evening and a great finale to a weekend of wonderful music. Great to be part of it.

I caught up with a host of overseas musicians, some regular visitors to Clare who include Corofin on their must-visit list along with Willie Week and the Tradfest in Ennis and judging by the variety of inter-county number plates jostling for parking space there were visitors from all over Ireland drawn to this celebration of the best of Irish music. And as usual I made many new friends. Who wouldn’t want to be part of the traditional music scene?

There was not a bed to be had in Corofin as I discovered when my car was locked inside the Centra Car park, but that’s another story!

I only had one issue, and I mention it as something for the organisers to think about next time. There was a fantastic session going at Bofey Quinn’s on Saturday evening and the place was packed and buzzing. At 10pm the musicians who play at the regular scheduled session arrived and virtually mid-tune the session came to an abrupt end. As the regulars took over, the pub quickly cleared both of musicians and drinkers. This was not in the best interests of the Festival or the pub. I don’t know what the answer is but, like I say, I just mention it as something to think about.

Fair play to the O’Reilly brothers who seem to be the driving force behind this festival (I hope that’s not being unfair to others who contribute), while at the same time appear in the concerts, do MC’ing and turn up at sessions all over town as well as being at the end of the phone to answer requests for lost caps. Thank you.

So is it the best? Let me just say if it was a restaurant I’d give it three hats!

See you there next year.

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Categories: Festivals, Trad Irish Music | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Russell Weekend, Doolin. Co. Clare

Another week another festival.  This time in my backyard at Doolin, pretty much the spiritual home of traditional music in Clare. This festival, held over the weekend 27th February to 2nd March 2015, honours the Russell family but in particular the much loved Micho Russell who died tragically in 1994. This is now its 14th year.

Doolin, for those who don’t know it has three pubs and a hotel and is spread out over a couple of kilometres just north of the famed Cliffs of Moher, Ireland’s biggest natural attraction. So it gets lots of foreign visitors. It has been something of a mecca for those seeking traditional music and for most of the year there is music every night in all the pubs. In itself this has brought about quite a change in Doolin as the pubs are very crowded and noisy and ironically it is not always the best place in Clare to hear traditional music. But there is no denying that the craic is mighty. This festival seems to mark the reawakening of Doolin from its winter slumber. Not that there wasn’t any music through the winter (take the Monday session at Hotel Doolin for instance) but this weekend brings out the punters in a big way and is a promise of what’s to come.

The festival kicked off on the Friday with the opening function in the hall. This was a showcase for the young talent of the district and the hall was packed with proud parents and relatives. And they had a lot to be proud of. From whistle-toting tots, who could hardly read and write, to All Ireland age champions on a variety of instruments. For over an hour there was a cavalcade of young musicians and dancers. I couldn’t help feel a sense of wonder at how important this music was to the soul of Ireland and how great it was that this was being passed to the kids. Yes kids learn musical instruments all over the world but nothing like here in Ireland. I have said it before but the future of Irish traditional music and dance seems safe. I was particularly taken with the set dancing where they were clearly enjoying themselves, even though they all had to rush to a disco afterwards. Good to keep a sense of perspective.

Then there was the main concert. This is traditionally held on the Saturday afternoon and was a cracker. I loved the format with all the musicians on stage, taking turns at solos and interspersed with performances from the whole band.   With musicians such as Oisín Mac Diarmada and Kieran Hanrahan and the amazign Seamus O’Donnell, the music was absolutely brilliant. We also had some brilliant sean nos dancing from Samantha Harvey and two show stopping performances from the 74 year old dancing singing fiddler Desssie O’Halloran, who had the enthusiastic crowd on their feet. For me the high point of the concert was the saxophone playing of Seamus O’Donnell including a soulful rendition of Danny Boy. Something I had never heard before. I was sceptical but wow!. What a lift it gave to the music. Not ‘traditional’ I know but played from the heart.

There was copious quantities of food and wine afterwards and then a singing session capping a great evening.

I love to attend workshops.  I had not heard of the tutor so it was to be a complete surprise. After two very late nights it was a wonder that I actually managed to turn up. And I am so glad I did. Unusually the fiddle workshop was scheduled for McGann’s pub, definitely a new one for me. I was the only one there. So I had a one on one with Catriana Ruine. I learnt five tunes but learned so much more than that, just playing and listening, It sounded so great just two fiddles in a quiet pub with the main distraction the crackling from the fire. I was very pleased with how quickly I picked up the tunes. When Catriana left I stayed in my corner near the fire and played tunes on my own for nearly an hour as the pub filled with diners, who happily, largely ignored me. It felt so good. Somehow I got inspiration from the moment. I don’t know where I got the confidence from but here I was, me playing on my own in one of the most famous music pubs in Ireland to a full house (even though they were more interested in their black pudding and crispy bacon than me) and playing competently enough not to be asked to shut it. All good things however come to an end and unceremoniously the piped music was turned on and I couldn’t compete. As I packed my fiddle away I was met with a lovely burst of applause from the diners which really surprised me as I didn’t think anyone was actually listening.

The workshop on the Sunday was equally good but for different reasons. There were two of us this time, and eventually our tutor turned up. We had the irrepressible and enthusiastic Cáit Ryan from Upperchurch in Tipperary. And while we only learned a couple of tunes, for one so young she was so full of good advice. In particular emphasising the importance of learning to sing in Irish.  I now have a new challenge! We even had a crack at the air Ned from the Hills.   This time the pub was not the best place as we were constantly interrupted, sitting as we were on the way to the toilets. Her family runs a music pub in Tipperary called Jim of the Mills, a place that is now firmly on my agenda to visit.

The sessions continued all afternoon and night over the weekend with musicians of quality. Highlights for me were a session that went at least 7 hours with the Clancy sisters and Mary Shannon at McGanns, some quiet tunes with Adam Shapiro and Terrry Bingham at O’Connors on Sunday and, at least for a while, some great music at McGanns with James Cullinan and others on Sunday. I say for a while because this session was brutally murdered by the arrival of two additional guitars (there was already one) competing with each other to see who could be the loudest and drowning completely the music. A shame. Fiddles were packed up and flutes disassembled and pretty soon the lads had McGann’s to themselves. The arrival of a cahone was the final plunge of the knife. This was more than made up for though on the Monday. James Cullinan again, his wife Carol, Noel O’Donoghue and Kevin Griffin kicked off in O’Connor’s at 3pm They were joined at various stages by others such as Donie Nolan, Seamus MacMahon, Carmel O’Dea, Anita Broderick and a couple of very talented kids, until it finally concluded at 12:30 am . A marathon 9 ½ hours of the most wonderful music that ebbed and flowed with the change in personnel. no guitars, no spoons and no bodhrans! Despite the pub noise that increased through the evening the music stayed pure and real. I changed my plans to go to Corofin that night and stayed to the very end. I had heard of James Cullinan’s quality and was not disappointed. And for a couple of hours I had the added privilege of meeting and playing with Carmel O’Dea. Another class fiddler. It was also special to hear a wonderful version of the Clogher Road from the fine voice of Donie Nolan. This is a session that will stay with me for years. Unfortunately I could not drag myself away so I missed what looked like another mighty session with Terry Bingham, Christy Barry and Anne Rynne in the other bar.

The craic was mighty, as they say, all weekend.  I met lots of new people and everyone was so friendly.  I have to share one story.  As I walked past the bar in McGann’s, with my fiddle on my back one young guy grabbed my arm and stopped me saying “you play the spoons”. A bit taken aback I pointed to my fiddle and said “no what makes you think that?” “You just look like it” came the response. I wasn’t sure what to say when he finally registered my accent.  “Fuck! you’re American” he blurts out.  After telling him he had now insulted me on two counts, we parted the best of friends. Just love it…..

A  fabulous festival and as I drove home that night through the light snowfalls I thought on this and the many other festivals I have attended. Every festival I go to gives me something. That’s why I keep going. Can’t wait for Corofin.

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Categories: Festivals, Trad Irish Music | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Burren Backroom Series Concert Ennis


A concert of traditional Irish music was held in Ennis on Thursday 26th February at the Queens Hotel, not a usual venue for this style of music but those who braved the cold February night were well rewarded.

The concert was staged by Tommy McCarthy, from Galway and Boston, in aid of the Walk in my Shoes campaign to support the St Patrick’s Mental Health Foundation. This Foundation helps vulnerable young adults with a need for mental health services. This is one of a series of concerts which Tommy has staged under the banner ‘Burren Backdoor Series’ and it follows on from an earlier successful Facebook campaign involving traditional musicians in Ireland and the US.

Tommy gathered together an extraordinary array of talent mostly from Clare but with a few welcome blow-ins from places such as Donegal, Galway and Tipperary, all who generously gave their services to the cause. What a night.

The evening was very ably hosted by Paula Carroll, one of the presenters on Clare FM’s West Wind programme (which by the way is unquestionably the best nightly Irish traditional music show in the world and a showcase for music from Clare and elsewhere). The show began with the Tulla Junior Ceili Band, all aged between 11 and 14 and displaying a maturity way beyond this. They certainly captured that Tulla sound and this augurs well for the senior band in years to come. Their act had plenty of variety with a shortened brush dance and a delightful recitation from young seanchaí (shanachie), Naois O’Sullivan entitled ‘The Restaurant’. Great to see this fading tradition being handed down from her grandfather, who is also a shanachie. This well and truly set the scene.

There were too many acts and too many wonderful musicians to describe individually. So what were the highlights? A good mix of songs from Mullagh’s own PJ Murrihy and, the internationally renowned Sean Tyrell singing of his native Galway and at the end of the evening a beautiful rendition of Beeswing, but the night belonged to traditional instrumental music. There was a group of local musicians led by Siobhan Peoples who called themselves simply “The Ennis Trad Musicians”, with that energetic sound that regulars at Faffas or Dan O’Connell’s would be very familiar with and there were delicious counterpoints from groups such as the Boruma Trio (Andrew MacNamara, Eileen O’Brien and Geraldine Cotter) with their self-deprecating description of the band as the ‘RTE Light Orchestra’ (though they showed they could pump it out too with a rousing rendition of the Bucks, Rakish Paddy and the High Reel to finish their set!) and the sweet combination of the harp and concertina of Eimear Coughlan and Francis Cunningham.   In between we had the McCarthy family Tommy, Louise, daughter Rose and from Miltown, Tommy’s sister Bernadette, a group from Lissycasey, who call themselves ‘In Tune’ (and they were!), which spanned the generation gap, and I have to say my favourite of the night, some gorgeous fiddle playing from Yvonne Casey with tasteful bouzouki from Eoin O’Neill. There was a group called Moher (another ensemble of Clare musicians), some strong representation from Miltown Malbay with regulars from Friel’s Pub and the incomparable Frankie Gavin for good measure. Frankie was worth the 20 euros alone and it was great to see him with just Geraldine Cotter’s piano and without the distraction of other instruments. His effortless bowing and vivacious playing, though definitely not “Clare-style”, was undeniably music from the top drawer and the product of a musician who has been at the top of his game for over forty years.

For those lucky enough to attend, despite the cold inside and out, which even with numerous layers left me with cold knees and toes throughout (God knows how they could play in t-shirts!!), it was a memorable evening with well over four hours of class music.

Another reminder why so many of us call Clare home!

Well done Tommy.

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Categories: Concerts, Trad Irish Music | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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