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.