I spent last weekend at the Corofin Trad Fest.
This is one of those Festivals that after fifteen years, the organisers have got absolutely right. Corofin is twenty minutes from Ennis in County Clare and like all the good Irish music festivals attracts a loyal band of followers from all around the world . And why do they come. It’s not for the concerts, even though they are of a high standard (the venue only holds around 100 people so they sell out very quickly); it’s not for the workshops, though they have top notch tutors; it’s not for the dancing (because there is none); it’s not for the singing (though the odd song crept into a couple of sessions).
It’s all about the tunes. That’s why the musicians flock here and that’s why the pubs are packed.
The organisers Damien and Padraic O’Reilly very cleverly select musicians to ensure a uniformly high standard. Not the same-old-same-old that you get in many festivals but if you want to hear new musicians this is the place. There are also some really interesting pairings. Musicians that have never met, let alone played together. And sometimes the results are electric. I still cherish the memory from last year’s festival when Claire Egan was paired up with Derek Hickey. Wow. All the pubs are close by and this year there was an extra venue with the reopening of Daly’s.
I didn’t go to any of the concerts so I can’t report on those but I attended sessions on Friday night and all day Saturday and Sunday. I won’t go into detail. There’s no real point. I can only think of one session where I was disappointed but I won’t dwell on that. The music everywhere was sensational and the crowded pubs were testament to this.
So I ask you to look at the photos and if you strain your ears you might even hear some of that wonderful music filtering through the ether. If not then book now for the first week in March of 2017.
But actually I wasn’t going to talk about any of this at all. Nevertheless I was totally exhausted by the time Sunday night came around. I had been playing for nearly 12 hours each day and I was suffering with a cracked rib and the last vestiges of a cold. I was more than ready to head home first thing Monday, with the rest of the throng.
Facebook to the rescue. A post from Eoin O’Neill, well known Clare bouzouki player and broadcaster, saying he would be at Daly’s for a session from 1:30. OK I’ll stay. So I had three hours to fill in. A stroll along Bridge Street looking for breakfast was interrupted by the sound of my name echoing down the empty street. It was Eoin O’Neill himself sitting in the entrance of the local supermarket at a laminex table with a cup of black coffee. I joined him. And as so often happens we were then joined by one of those characters that make Ireland the treasure that it is.
Mrs O’Brien from the Burren came in and instead of walking past us to pick up the milk and despite having her son sitting in the car outside, she stopped and chatted and stayed for nearly half an hour. We learnt a lot about Mrs O’Brien but it was one of the most delightful half hours I have spent in Ireland. She was 82 and sharp as a tac. She had ten children, she has tinnitus and her husband had died many years ago. We talked about the music. Eoin is a master at engaging people and there was an instant rapport, especially when he said she only looked 76. Touching Eoin’s arm she leaned over and quietly told us there were three things that she loved in life: “music, a bowl of porridge and the hurling and football”. So we talked about the football. Full of wisdom, meeting Mrs O’Brien set me up for the day.
And then I had the biggest breakfast ever at Bofey Quinns.
The three hours magically disappeared and I found myself in Daly’s Pub at 1:30 tuning the fiddle. Just me and Eoin. And did I mention Brian O’Loughlin and Siobhann Peoples and Blackie O’Connell? And 22 very lucky people. I counted them. It was fast. It was tight and it was brilliant to be part of. As if that wasn’t enough there was another session after this at Mack’s with Blackie joined by Cyril O’Donghue and and Hugh Healy. I did a lot more listening than playing. None of this was in the programme. When I asked about that, the response was: “Oh it happens every year”. I could so easily have missed it.
That was the end of the Corofin Festival but it wasn’t the end of my Monday. On then to a packed Fitz’s Bar in Doolin for the regular Wild Atlantic Session with the satisfying sound this night of a half a dozen fiddles.
Who said Mondays were a drag?