Festivals

It’s a long, long way from Alburquerque to Clare

I hope you don’t mind me telling this little story.

I was busy doing what I do, juggling the camera and the fiddle, at a café session on Tuesday, 24th May at the Fleadh Nua. Session leaders were Cyril O’Donoghue and Blackie O’Connell. These Café sessions are a tradition now and for me one of the highlights of this festival. During a break I was approached and asked “You’re not that blogger are you?” After establishing which blogger she meant, Jeanne went on to say I was the reason she was here in Ennis at the Fleadh Nua.  She was here with three of her four nieces, all musicians, and other assorted family all the way from Albuquerque, New Mexico. A mini-bus full of them.  She filled me in on the story. They had been searching for information on Festivals in Ireland and google directed her to my blog on Fleadh Nua from 2015. What they read and saw there was enough to convince them to come to Fleadh Nua and Ennis.

They managed only one day there in a hectic short trip but, for sure, they made the most of that day. Joining in enthusiastically with Cyril and Blackie and doing a duet there with fiddle and bodhran and later singing a wonderful version of Orphan Girl at Frank Custy’s afternoon session. Following that with a mesmerising version of The Sally Gardens. Their fresh, energetic sound and gospel-like harmonies was warmly received.

I was grateful to meet Jeanne, Natasha, Evelyn and Gabrielle and the other travellers and more than humbled that my blog touches people such as them all around the Irish Music world.

That’s why I blog. Thanks guys.

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Categories: Festivals, My Journey, Sessions, Stories, Trad Irish Music | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Monday, Monday. Corofin Trad Fest 2016

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?

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Categories: Festivals, Sessions, Trad Irish Music | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

There is a God and He was in Doolin last weekend

The Devil went down to Georgia apparently but God was in Doolin last weekend. And I don’t mean Frankie Gavin, though he was there too!

It was the Russell Memorial Weekend, an event held in honour of members  of the Russell family since the untimely and tragic death of Micho Russell in 1994.

There are concerts and there are workshops but it’s about the sessions.  They go all day and night from around 2pm and all four pubs are buzzing.  The opening concert is a showcase of young local talent and always impresses and there is a headline concert this time featuring Frankie  and DeDannan, which I didn’t get to.

Nevertheless there were plenty of highlights for me.  A quiet session with Dermot Byrne and Eoin O’Neill and Quentin Cooper in Fitz’s,  with Dermot again and Floriane Blanke  in McGann’s, a mighty session with Frankie Gavin, James Cullinan and a host of others at O’Connors that lifted the roof off,  playing with Blackie O’Connell and Cyril O’Donoghue, singing a couple of songs myself and watching  a future star – young Seannai McMahon work the audience at McGanns, with his infectious songs.

Not much more to say really.  Here are a few photographs which I think tell the story. Thnks to Melanie Nolley for the ones of me and Frankie.

Oh, one more thing.  Let me tell you why I think God was in Doolin; and that He/She must be a lover of Irish trad music.   It was Saturday night I had been playing music all day and was suffering with a cold and a cracked rib (long story).  It was 9ish and the pubs were packed and you could hardly move and I had had enough.  So I was ready to go home via a few quiet tunes at the Roadside in Lisdoonvarna.  When I got in the car however I discovered I had no petrol.  Warning lights were flashing and the trip computer said 0 km remaining! I couldn’t risk the 30km home.  So I looked for an hostel room which I eventually found.  Stuck in Doolin now with no transport I called in to O’Connor’s and lucked in to a session with a fired up Frankie Gavin, Noel O’Donoghue,  James Cullinan, Michael Queally, Seanie Vaughan and many more. To sit next to Frankie and play a few tunes was a real buzz.

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Categories: Festivals, Sessions, Trad Irish Music | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Scoil Cheoil an Earraigh 2016, Ballyferriter, Co Kerry

This is my second time at Scoil Cheoil an Earraigh, held in February at Ballyferriter on the beautiful Dingle Peninsular.  I said in my blog a year ago that it was one of the best and nothing has happened to change that view.

What was different though was that this year the Festival lost its funding from the Arts Council .  This was a heavy blow and there was some doubt about how the quality of the festival would be affected.   The organisers however redoubled their efforts and raised the extra money from various sources so there was no real visible evidence of the funding cuts.

it was great to catch up with the many familiar faces that make an annual pilgrimage to this Festival and the quality of the musicians attracted to the Festival remained outstanding.

The Scoil is actually two distinct events.  There is of course the school which runs for three days and finishes with the traditional performances in the Church  on Saturday at lunch time and parallel to this is concerts and events with a strong Irish cultural focus centred around the West Kerry music and dance tradition.  And there is the bonus of the sessions which are legendary.

I will say a few words about the School.  I had Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh as my tutor.  He is an inspirational character and for three days we explored the fiddle and what it was capable of.  how to discover new ways of expressing ourselves.  So many variables that come in to play and the many choices we can make in playing each note.  He has made me think quite differently about my approach.  I also had a master class from Paddy Glackin.  This was a nerve wracking experience as we were each asked to play a tune which he then proceeded to critique.  It was a bit of a buzz for me spending a couple of hours with Paddy.  His album with Jolyon Jackson, which I have on vinyl is one of my all time favourites.

I only went to a couple of events this time.  I enjoyed immensely  a presentation of songs, poetry and music which told the story of 1916 written and performed by Mike Hanrahan and Breanndán Ó Beaglaoich.   And the concert on the Saturday night was a cracker though I was not familiar with any of the acts other than Dermot Byrne and Florianne Blancke.  This led to some wonderful surprises.  The standard was incredibly high and included a virtuoso performance of Scottish fiddle from Ian MacFarlane.

Mark my words Ballyferriter is different.  It is a festival where everyone comes away happy.  Musicians, singers, dancers, listeners.  It is a festival for the locals and they embrace it and it is a festival for the loyal visitors who come year after year.  The sessions are never so crowded that you can’t find a seat and there is huge respect for the music.  The Irish language is everywhere  and many times announcers would forget (?) to translate.  It didn’t matter.  It is in a spectacular location; though other than the first Wednesday there was no sunshine until the Monday when everyone had Ieft.  More than anything else for me though, it was the quality of the sessions and accessibility of the musicians.  Leading by example the Begleys were everywhere.  Breandann, Seamus, Maibh, Cormac, Neil;  as were the headline acts who all participated.  There was no session trail and sessions popped up organically.   The four venues were all so close you could check them in a minute or two and decide where to settle.

This one is a permanent fixture on my Calendar.  We have a year to work on the Arts Council to restore funding to make it bigger and better.

Congratulations Breandann and Niamh and team.

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Not everyone likes the bagpipes

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Hands and hearts.  

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

Ennis Trad Fest 2015 – The Last Three Days

I have been remiss. Immersed as I have been in the Ennis Trad Festival I have just not found the time to sort photos and write my thoughts. Now it’s over and I have repaid some of my sleep debt I can give it some attention.  Where do I start?

Facebook has been flooded with praise for the Ennis Trad Fest so there is probably little that I can add but as many of my blog followers are not on Facebook I will record my impressions here in my blog.   And if you’re bored hearing how good the Festival was then just adopt the Playboy philosophy and skip these words and just look at the pictures.  I think you will agree they tell a story just on their own.

As someone who has been to all the major schools and festivals over the last 18 months (and a lot of the minor ones) I am often asked what is my favourite Festival.  I have avoided an answer.  Really because I have found it almost impossible to answer.  I have discussed this before in other blogs.  but every Festival gives me something to take away.  Indeed I have a love-hate relationship with many Festivals.  I can’t stay away yet the session experience is often unsatisfying.

I am reminded of Sydney in 2000 when we staged the Olympic Games .  The now disgraced Juan Samaranch proclaimed during the Closing Ceremony  “I am proud and happy, to proclaim that you have presented to the world the best Olympic Games ever.”  Well for what it’s worth, “Ennis – You have presented the Best Festival I have been to in Ireland”

There I have done it.  I’ve said it.  The Best Festival in Ireland!

I suppose I should give my reasons.  Firstly it is the best location.  Ennis in the heart of Clare is the spiritual capital of Irish Traditional music.  Ah sure, there’s Donegal and Sligo and Galway and Kerry and I know not everyone will agree but nowhere have I seen music, song and dance so deeply ingrained as part of the culture.  It bursts out everywhere, in young and old, in pubs and cafes, among visitors and locals and in players and listeners.  So if ever a festival was going to work it was in Ennis.  There are heaps of venues.  Many of the pubs are widely recognised ‘music pubs’ outside festivals such as Faffa’s, Kelly’s, Brogan’s, Cruises etc and many are large enough to accommodate the inevitable giant festival session.  There are hundreds of musicians resident in Ennis and the surrounding villages.  While tourists go to Doolin, ‘real’ musicians come to Ennis.  It is a mecca for many from overseas,  some making it their home.

You can hear all kinds of music in this town.  The classic ‘Clare-style’, whatever that is, to the fast, furious and wild.  So much choice. In fact why not hold the Fleadh Cheoil here?

Ok so it has everything going for it but of course that’s not enough.. ..

This Festival is a special experience.  It delivers on so many levels where the larger Summer Schools and Festivals and the small local ones can’t –  It is a musicians festival!  Whereas if you go to a Fleadh Cheoil the streets are packed with massive throngs of people.  Many families and tourists.  And that’s great but walk the streets of Ennis during Trad Fest and you will see crowds, but the great majority of people carry an instrument on their back.

The sessions here are at a different level.  The core of each session is usually four musicians but up to 30 may join in.  Virtually without exception the music is of the highest quality.  Something that cannot be said of Willie week or the Fleadh or Drumshanbo.  Yes there are ‘session wreckers’ of course  but somehow they don’t seem to destroy the ambience.  And you can always move on as there are so many sessions at the same time; scheduled and unscheduled.  Just have a look at the pictures and you will see the quality of musicians you can hear.

And my pet hate… pubs so noisy you can’t hear yourself or the fiddler sitting next to you and patrons so disrespectful it becomes unpleasant.  Just not a problem here.  I love to watch people while I play and there are so often smiles; or listeners with their eyes closed and those chatting do so without disturbing.  Yes there is sometimes tension as many don’t understand the unwritten rules around sessions but somehow it works itself out.

I reread my blog from last year and I’m going to repeat what I said then,  Not because I am lazy but because what I observed then is confirmed this year and I can’t really add to it.

For me the fact that this was a ‘special’ festival was apparent from the very first session on Thursday to the last note played on Monday night. In my short time here in Ireland I have made many musical friends and this Festival made me realise how important that is to enjoying the musical experience to the fullest. A music festival is not just about the music you hear or make but how you fill the spaces between the music. There was such a sense of goodwill and around the place that it was so easy to make new friends and there was not the negative influence of the, shall we say, over-excited crowds of visitors seeking a different kind of craic, that was a feature of Miltown.

I made heaps of new friends again ,  John and Maureen from the States, Isabelle from Quebec, a contingent of 25 young musicians from Sweden, Etha from Bali, probably the only fiddle player in Indonesia, Ben from UK, Angela from Germany.  And of course renewed contact with many in the real, rather than virtual, world such as Veronika, Steve, Sarah, Clare, John, Jim and Barbara, Tony and the rest of the Festival Family.

I didn’t get to many concerts this time because I wanted to play but I did see Beoga which inspired some of the most creative dancing I have ever seen, and I saw Dermot Byrne and Flo Blancke; beyone sweet! And there were some great music in CD launches – including the wonderful Claire Egan’s first CD.

But for me it was about the sessions.  Of course I can only talk about the ones I was at.  And you can’t be everywhere.  But I have to mention the first with the Lahawns (Andrew MacNamara and Friends) in Ciarans and the last in the front bar of Queens with those still on their feet at 3am on Tuesday morning.  In between my musical buttons were pushed by Yvonne Casey and Brid O’Gorman in Cruises,  Yvonne and Eoin O’Neill and Damien Werner  in Suas.  Martin Connolly, Eileen O’Brien and Geraldine Cotter in The Old Ground.  Blackie etc in the Diamond, the Clancy sisters in Copper Jug,  and some sessions not in the programme such as Monday morning at Queens with a host of international visitors and in the Rowan Tree at 4am on the Saturday morning.  And then there was time to let the hair down literally with the legendary Trad Disco and Paddy de los Pamas in Cruises.

It was the right move to get accommodation in Ennis and I really want to thank all those who made this possible for me with my current travelling limitations.  Particularly Yvonne and Steve for the lifts in and out, Lorraine for her couch, when all the hotels were full, and the organisers for delivering the Best Festival in Ireland.  You have something special here.

I particularly enjoyed photographing this event and I am very happy with some of my images despite my camera playing up and the really high ISO I needed for flashless photography.  So here goes…

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Farewell and Thanks to Ennis TradFest 2015

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The final session at Queens

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All too much for some

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It starts here.

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The Ennis Bard

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Part of the International Brigade

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Relaxing at Suas Cafe

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Kieron, do you really think you can show the master?

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Sweet

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I love this photo

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Part of the Swedish invasion

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Tara Howley CD launch

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Some running repairs

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Bliss

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When Quebec meets Ireland

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Interpretive Dance 1

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Interpretive dance 2

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Beyond sweet

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there you are Alistair. A serious shot

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

Ennis Trad Fest 2015 Day 2

Day 2.  In full swing now.  Sessions kicked off at 430 and by this time I was well in the mood for tunes.  I popped in to the piper’s session in Dan O’Connor’s.  Now I love the pipes, don’t get me wrong but I love the fiddle more so I continued my search heading to the Old Ground  Here was Niamh O’Dea and  Anne-Marie McCormack and friends.   In the words of an onlooker “lively isn’t it?”

I won’t go into detail of every session but I dropped into a few, playing in most.  There was Brogan’s with Carmel O’Dea, Murty Ryan and Seanie McGrath.   Knox’s where Hugh Healy and friends were holding court and Martha and Geraldine Clancy in the Copper Jug.  Oh and Mickey Kerin’s as a night cap.  What a selection.

You have gotta love this Festival.  There’s plenty for everyone.  If you really want there are enough sessions to get a seat at the table and if you can’t well the quality of the sessions is so good that you are happy to just listen.  And many come here just to do that.  On Thursday I spotted Martin Hayes soaking up the Lahawns in Ciaran’s and last night I chatted with Daithi Gormley, this year’s All Ireland box champion and Aiofe Cunningham, All Ireland fiddle, just happy to sit in the corner and listen to the eclectic mix of tunes from the Clancy sisters.

This year there seem to be more people.  I walked into Fawles and there was an unscheduled session with a dozen players none of whom I reconginsed.  There are surprises around every corner.  In the Copper Jug I caught up with Dave Garner, from Manchester who I had met in Australia nearly three years ago. A class fiddler. There is a group of young Swedish musicians here as part of a six month course on Irish music in Sweden.  And I met lots of old friends and made plenty of new ones; including a lady who must be Indonesia’s only trad Irish fiddle player.  She is passionate about the music despite there being no sessions there.

Let’s see what tomorrow brings.

 

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Ennis Trad Fest 2015 Day 1

Thursday November 5th.  The opening day of the Ennis Trad Fest for 2015.  I have decided this year to book a room at the Rowan Tree.  To be in the thick of it.  Ennis is ripe with anticipation.  Like a rehearsal for the Fleadh.  There are already sessions in the lounge of the Hostel when I arrive.

By the time the official opening   gets underway at the Queen’s Hotel the front bar is packed.  Mercifully short speeches from Blackie O’Connell, the Mayor and Ron Kavana who sang his wonderful song ‘Reconciliation’ and we were away.  Two CD launches, first by Phillip Duffy and Liam Kelly.  I had seen these guys play at Tubbercurry and bought the CD there so I headed off for some tunes.     First stop Brogans.  With Damien O’Reilly, Caoifhionn Ni Fhrighil and friends.  This quickly built up to over twenty musicians.  A great taster.  Where to next? – the perennial problem.  Tonight though I only had to choose between Siobhann Peoples at Faffa’s or the Lahawns.  I chose the Lahawns this time – and they took the roof of Ciaran’s  Pub.  The line up was Andrew MacNamara, Joan Hanrahan, Anne-Marie McCormack, Eileen O’Brien, Jim Corry two pipers plus whoever could find a seat.

From the first chord on the piano the place was hopping.  Their music was infectious and they were still going at half one when I left.  A quick walk around town and there were sessions popping up everywhere.  I spotted Tom Delaney and friends in Dan O’Connells.  And way after 2am there were still tunes in the lounge of the Rowan Tree.

This is only day 1.  Boy are we in for a cracker!

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

Traid Phicnic Spiddal 2015

I know it’s a while ago now but I have been on the go ever since; so before I forget I want to say a few words about the Traid Phicnic held in Spiddal on the weeked before Willie Clancy Week back in early July.  I spent two days there this year instead of the three as I had to rush off to Miltown for the chance to meet Tommy Peoples…….

This festival is on the verge of something big.  This is my second year there and it seemed to have grown this year with great crowds.  An wonderful relaxed family atmosphere exhibiting the real spirit of the Gaeltacht. Blessed this time with sunshine taking full advantage of the spectacular location looking towards the spiritual home of Irish music across Galway Bay to Clare (ha ha).

The festival has a lot going for it.  It is a great concept where you can relax on the grass, mingle with musicians, experience wonderful acts and attend amazing sessions in the evenings.  There is a wide demographic with families, young and old, locals and people from ‘away’.  Bridge Barker and her team have really hit on something here.  This Festival will continue to gain momentum.  There were three film crews from Irish TV and BBC making documentaries so this can only help.  The donation ethos is unique.  Pay what you can afford.  I haven’t seen this anywhere else but despite Bridge telling me that people were generous, I know how hard she and the committee worked to cover costs.

In addition to the music there are circus acts, workshops, craft activities and it is hard to see where improvements can be made.  Also a special mention of the food.  A small selection but real quality.  I wasn’t going to review this festival but I guess I sort of have.

Anyway it was great to catch up and meet with so many wonderful friendly people, I think more than any other festival what makes this one is the way the musicians mingle with the punters.  There is no green room other than the surrounding lawns.  You could bump into Steve Cooney, Liam O’Brien, Brid Harper, Charlie Lennon, Tola Custy,  Laoise Kelly, Jessie Smith and they will make you feel comfortable.  And their was participation at all levels both on and off the stage.  Fair play to you Bridge.

 

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

All Ireland Wren Boy Champions!

You don’t have to be in Ireland long to become aware of Kilkenny’s dominance of that uniquely Irish sport, hurling.  They have been All-Ireland Champions eight of the past ten years.  But you may not be aware of the dominance of one West Clare village, in recent times, of another quintessentially Irish pastime – the Wren Boys Competition.  That village is Cooraclare, 10 km from Kilrush on the south western tip of the County and they have just returned from the All Ireland Wren Boys Championship in Listowel, Kerry, where they have been crowned for the fifth year in a row.  OK, there was only one other team competing but this does not diminish the achievement.  You may not even be aware that there was a Wren Boys Competition I wasn’t.  But I am now and my participation in the 2015 team makes me a most unlikely All-Ireland champion.  Might have to rewrite my CV.

I have participated in a Wren Boys event before and I suggest you head to my blog for a bit more of the background.

https://singersongblog.wordpress.com/2015/01/05/st-stephens-day-and-the-wren-boys/

This story though for me started at the Crotty Galvin Festival weekend in August in the village of Moyasta.  I have also blogged on this recently.

https://singersongblog.wordpress.com/2015/09/19/crotty-galvin-weekend-moyasta-2015/

Here I met Grainne, one of the organisers, and she invited me along.  Clearly they were short of numbers to have countenanced such a thing but I never refuse an invitation despite in this case knowing absolutely nothing about it.  I was told to get myself to Cree and a bus will pick me up at 6pm on the Friday night and drop me back at 6am on Saturday morning. She assured me the craic would be mighty and that was all I needed to know.

A couple of weeks later I am sitting next to Joe Joe Marrinan on a bus headed to the Ferry at Kilimer (with forty others)  as he fills me in on some of the history.  The competition had been going in Listowel as part of the Harvest Fair for 57 years.  Cooraclare’s participation started forty years ago when local identitiy Denis Ledane decided it would be a good idea to take a team there.  Interest faded but in 2011 the tradition was revived after 35 years in honour of Joe Joe’s father Marty who died that year.  Joe Joe was installed into the prestigious role of King of the Wren.  In their first visit to Listowel they won and have not lost since and it is easy to see why.

On the surface it looks a bit ridiculous, dressing up in skirts, silly hats and bright colours and tinsel.  (at least there weren’t any bells and sticks a la Morris Dancers) but underneath it is a serious desire to preserve a fading Irish culture.  The competition involves each team putting on a 45 minute show incorporating music, singing, set dancing, step dancing, sean nos, storytelling all presented with humour and passion.  The team marched through the streets of Listowel, with turf fires burning atop hay forks, to a stage in the centre of the town square, to the strains of the Centenary March and from there on it was a celebration of all things West Clare.    Many songs told of West Clare including the eponymous Chapel Gates at Cooraclare (after which the team is named) and this little corner of Kerry certainly knew about the virtues of the Banner County by the end of the night.   A highlight was the finale with a lovely rendition of Feet of a Dancer leading in to a simply outstanding display of set dancing..  There were all ages participating with the dancing dominated by youngsters from villages dotted through West Clare, such as Moyasta, Kilrush, Cree, Mullagh as well as Cooraclare.  Many of them were All Ireland champions from the recent Fleadh in Sligo and it absolutely shone through.  There is no reason not to suppose that Cooraclare will continue to participate in and dominate the Wren Boys competition in the years to come judging by the enthusiasm with which everyone threw themselves into it..

A fantastic session at Foynes in Limerick on the way home and people had to be dragged back to the bus well after 2am.  The music continued on the bus with a rousing singing session and the night finished for most people well after 4am as they were dropped off into the West Clare night by our long suffering bus driver.

Thanks to Grainne and Joe Joe and Tony and everyone else for making me feel so welcome.  I felt privileged to be part of this tradition and I hope these few photos do it justice.

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

Crotty Galvin Weekend Moyasta 2015

I returned to Garrihy’s Pub in Moyasta in the last week of August 2015.  I blogged on this last year and really nothing much has changed.

https://singersongblog.wordpress.com/2014/09/10/the-crotty-galvin-music-weekend/

It benefits from being held in a remote part of West Clare and being off the Festival circuit map. There were quite a few visitors from other counties this time however and if anything the sessions were of better quality.  The Sunday afternoon session was particularly memorable.  How could it not be with Andrew MacNamara, Eileen O’Brien, Carmel O’Dea, Anna Falkenau, James Culinan, Noel O’Donoghue, Paul Gallagher, Geraldine Cotter and Angela Crotty among others.  The workshops were great.  A lovely hour for me with Vincent Griffin on the fiddle.  All the things I remember from last year were there.  Endless supply of sandwiches,  enthusiastic punters, dancing and relentless sessions.  A really good wind down of the Summer Festival Season.  Well done again to the organisers.   Just a few photos to tell the story.

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

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