Posts Tagged With: concert

The Legend, the Master and the Pupil. Culture Night. Ennistymon 2016.

So, What’s an Australian blogger doing writing about Irish Culture? Well any culture really. OK Let’s get the jokes over.

What is the difference between yoghurt and Australia?         Yoghurt has a little culture

“I don’t despair about the cultural scene in Australia, because there isn’t one here to despair about.” said the dancer Sir Robert Helpmann in the mid-1960s,

And I could go on.

As of now, though I think Australians punch above their weight in artistic endeavours as we do in sport.   Hollywood and Broadway are filled with Australian actors. I hear Australian music all the time on radio and people don’t even know it is. “Oh are ACDC Aussie?” “Love that classic Irish song Band Played Waltzing Matilda” etc….

So there. I am going to talk about Culture Night here in Ireland anyway.

Culture Night this year was Friday 16th September and it is an annual fixture sponsored by the Irish Government. It’s a terrific innovation. Free events are held all around the country covering all branches of the arts. In fact 3,000 of them in 1,300 venues. I chose to spend the evening in and around Ennistymon in West Clare.

ig3c8160

ig3c8443ig3c8509

Ennistymon is a pretty town hidden in the hills at the southern end of the Burren. The town dates from the 18th century and is built around a bridge crossing of the Cullenagh River and its famed Cascades. It has always been a market town but the famine hit hard with 5,000 dying in its various workhouses in the five years from 1847.  Subsequently it prospered and is now a lively centre of commerce. The “Troubles” came to Ennistymon in 1922 when the British, in reprisal for the ambush at Rineen, near Miltown Malbay (which killed six Black and Tans), burned a number of pubs and houses.  The only troubles now are whether a bridge widening should be permitted at Blake’s Corner.

It is noted for the pretty shop fronts but as in most Irish villages and towns today the struggle for survival in rural Ireland is evident in many of the abandoned shops.

I visited an art exhibition in the Old Court House. It was an exhibition by Clare based artist Martina Cleary. There were really three exhibitions. Each with a different personality. One explored her attempt over ten days to recreate the search in 1926 in Paris by poet and author Andre Breton.  He became infatuated with a girl called Nadja and it became the subject of a book. She has created a number of panels using maps and photographs where she retraces and reinterprets the story. I loved the way she blended her own photos with contemporary photos, mainly old postcards.

This was a theme similarly explored in the exhibition of the photos of Dorothea Lange, a renowned photographer for Life Magazine, who came to Clare in 1954. Martina has revisited the places and themes to create modern versions of these images, many in black and white and many with a suitcase which was her constant companion. She has also cleverly woven her own images with historical images in a number of long collages.

I loved this exhibition. The pieces were quite eclectic and inventive in the use of multimedia, postcards, photographs, rocks, string, paper, books and found objects. One piece I particularly loved was of an open book with the words and images flowing out of it.

ig3c8098

I can’t actually recommend you go see it because it was its last day.  Sorry about that.  but do keep an eye out for her.

I then decided to treat myself to a nice meal at Byrne’s Restaurant overlooking the Falls. I was very impressed. I am a sucker for duck and will order it whenever it is on the menu. This duck confit was one of the best meals I have had in Ireland. Well done to the chef at Byrne’s and others for keeping alive the culinary arts in remote Ireland.

ig3c8292

On my walk back to the car I stumbled upon a street session at the market square organised by the local Comhaltas Branch. There were some familiar faces there and I was asked to join. So a quick trip to the car and I had my fiddle, trying to balance it with my camera to get these few shots. I never cease to be amazed by the quality of musicianship and dancing I keep coming across in Clare. This was a classic example of the depth of the musical culture here and how vibrant it is today.

ig3c8547ig3c8606aig3c8634a

But my main destination for the evening was Kilshanny House, so my stay was short. This is a pub on its own in the middle of nowhere just a few kilometres from Ennistymon. These sort of pubs are a dying breed and struggle to survive but fair play to owners Mary and Aidan who have promoted good food and music to attract clientele.

They would have been happy this night. Blackie O’Connell the renowned Ennis based piper and the doyen of the local piping world was hosting Davy Spillane. Davy, a master whistle and piper set the trad world alight with Donal Lunny and Christy Moore and the extraordinary sound of Moving Hearts in 1982.  He provided many solo albums and collaborations since. With massive names such as Kate Bush, Van Morrison, Elvis Costello, Enya, Steve Winwood and Chris Rea. And Riverdance. And that tune Equinox on Bringing it All Back Home from 1991. A huge favourite of mine and almost an anthem for me.

He lives in West Clare but rarely plays publicly now, so this was a chance to see and hear him.  Blackie and Davey were the stars, though a number of other local pipers participated. The word had got out and the pub was nicely full. I saw many fellow musicians in the audience.

From almost the first note without any fanfare you could tell this was going to be different.  It was music from another realm. Fast or slow it didn’t matter. As the night wore on Blackie and Dave entered into a special place. They sat close together, facing each other, their pipes almost physically entwining just as their sublime music did. This music came from inside them and we were allowed to witness it. It was totally absorbing and spellbinding. Energy and fire. Many times, the other musicians just stopped and listened. And then Davy would play that Low Whistle. Extraordinary sound with incredible economy of finger movement. It wasn’t just Davy though. It made you realise what a phenomenal piper Blackie is.  During a break he wowed the crowd with the full version of the Fox Chase. Barking dogs and all.

ig3c8655aig3c8696aig3c8699ig3c8750ig3c8733ig3c8793

Oliver, Blackie’s dad, came over and whispered in my ear at one stage, “have you ever heard anything like this before?” And this wasn’t just a proud dad talking. I know, speaking to Blackie afterwards that it was special for him too.ig3c8775a_1ig3c8781

The two masters were joined for a couple of tunes by Kevin Nunane.  Kevin, didn’t look ten yet and is a student of Blackie’s. This is the future of piping and to have the three generations of pipers there playing was as profound an expression of the depth of Irish Culture as you will ever see. The Legend, the Master and the Pupil.

ig3c8711ig3c8712

I’ll leave it to WB Yeats to have the last word

But he heard high up in the air
A piper piping away,
And never was piping so sad,                                                                                                                                 
And never was piping so gay.

 

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

Fleadh Cheoil na hÉirean. Ennis 2016

I usually don’t do diary-type blogs.  But for the Fleadh in Ennis I will make an exception. This is essentially a rehash of my daily posts on Facebook but many of my blog followers are not on Facebook so I am repeating it here for you. Apologies to those who have read it before.

August 13th 2016.  Day 1

Just the beginning…  The first night of the Fleadh for me was at PJ Kelly’s Pub.  Mental. Pub was packed by 9:30 for the regular Saturday session with room for only half a dozen musicians. Great craic but I can only guess what it will be like later in the week.

IG3C0304IG3C0325IG3C0370

 

IG3C0542

August 14th, 2016.  Day 2

I’ve said this before, but what happens outside a festival can be as good as being there. This night was a completely different chilled out experience with songs and tunes at one of my favourite haunts, Cornerstone Bar Lahinch. With Eoin O’Neill, Brid O’Gorman, Willie Cummins, Noirin Lynch, Lorraine Battersby and Luka Bloom seeking respite from the mayhem.

IG3C0763IG3C0782IG3C0794IG3C0806IG3C0836

August 15th, 2016.  Day 3

There is a great buzz in Ennis and today I felt it for the first time. It was a glorious sunny day and the town looked a treat. Streets adorned with bollards. Ha. No seriously; shops were painted, there were window displays everywhere, some pop-up shops selling music stuff and there were people on the street. I went to a concert in glor with Christy McNamara, Yvonne Casey and Eoin O’Neill.  Great music. Narrowly missed Martin Hayes, doing a spot for FleadhTV, looked in at Knox’s, played some tunes at Cruises with Denis Liddy and family, Brid O’Gorman, Lorraine Battersby, Caoilfionn Mooorhead, Veronika von Ruden and Kathleen Bremer and listened to The Fiddle Case in the Sanctuary. In the process I wandered around town and caught a bit of the vibe. Like a street carnival.

IG3C0913IG3C0948IG3C1013IG3C1086IG3C1132IG3C1176IG3C1194IG3C1212IG3C1217IG3C1229IG3C1284IG3C1292IG3C1343IG3C1362IG3C1428aIG3C1448IG3C1468IG3C1525IG3C1553IG3C1581IG3C1678

 

August 16th, 2016.  Day 4

The sun beckoned; so today I ended up on Lahinch Beach with my Fleadh houseguests from Czech Republic (Iva and Tereza) and from Germany (Katherina). It was a very high tide and the sea was rough and smashed against the rocks. The red flag was flying so there were just a few mad surfers in the water. I now see why Lahinch brings the surfers. We found a patch of sand near the river mouth and I ended up in the water for my second swim of the summer. Hardly the sun bronzed Aussie but it was a perfect tonic. Eventually we ended up in town for Supermacs and to catch the last of the evening light. Crowds are bigger today and the buskers have hatched. They are everywhere. Then the rain came around 930 and scattered them and the pubs filled. It was tunes at Cruises again and then we ended the night with Los Paddys de las Pampas. Thanks Lorraine for dragging me onto the dance floor. I hope the bruises have recovered. There’s no doubt about where this Fleadh is being held. Ennis is writ large. Thanks to Tereza for the photos with me.

 

IG3C2946

August 17th 2016, Day 5.

Stayed away from Ennis today but not away from the music. My cottage was filled during the afternoon with the fiddle and pipes of house guests Haley Richardson  and Keegan Loesel from New Jersey in the States practicing for their Competition spots. Keegan had entered eight! JC Talty would have been very pleased. And in the evening a very special session at Duggan’s at Spancil Hill where Haley and Keegan and I joined in with Yvonne Casey, John Weir, Christy McNamara and a few other lucky people. There were some some gorgeous songs and a sean nos dance from Kristen, another visitor from Boston. Back into the mayhem tomorrow.

IG3C2983IG3C3006IG3C3022IG3C3041IG3C3056IG3C3078IG3C3091IG3C3122IG3C3130

August 18th, 2016.  Day 6

Every day is different, Today started with threatening weather and a battle with the Fleadh traffic. Eventually I found a park miraculously two minutes walk from town but it still took half an hour to get through the throng at 3.30 to the Tune Challenge organised byBoston-based Tommy McCarthy. We were supposed to play Humours of Tulla but we played some reels and barn dances and listened to some songs and then just as we were all ready to launch into it the  rain came. Ten minutes later it was fine again. Oh well. This is Ireland. Then I had the most fabulous time dressing up in ridiculous clothes and rehearsing for the Chapel Gates Wren Boys gig (All Ireland Champions you know) and then on to the Gig Rig at 9pm for the absolute highlight for me, of the Festival. What a thrill playing in front of the jam packed street. Many thanks to all the wonderful people who allowed me to participate. Too many to thank but in particular Grainne Fennell and Joan Hanrahan.  Thanks also tomy friend from Boston, Kristen, for grabbing my camera and taking some amazing shots. The street party continued until late in the night as the rain held off. Even the security guards were getting into the silent disco!

14060312_1032648183522490_1293862721_o14074514_1032648116855830_1113540601_o14087222_1032648353522473_1009042803_o

IG3C3229IG3C3238IG3C3307IG3C3315IG3C3334IG3C3388IG3C3406IG3C3411IG3C3420IG3C3436IG3C3451IG3C3461IG3C3509IG3C3527

August 19th, 2016.  Day 7.

At the heart of the Fleadh is the All Ireland Competition. It’s why Comhaltas started the whole thing back in the 1950s. Today I went to the Fiddle Competition. I watched extraordinarily talented kids perform with aplomb in the Under 15s, with my house guest from South Jersey in the US, Haley Richardson coming in second. And then second again in the Slow Air. Congratulations Haley. Amazing playing. There were sessions everywhere like at Nora Culligan’s with Claire Egan, Jack Talty and Paraic Mac Donnchadhna and  Friends but try finding a seat! Dodging the showers I settled in for the night at PJ Kelly’s with Eileen O’Brien and Deirdre Mc Sherry etc. Great tunes in a great pub. The picture of the lad with the massive trophy is of William who had just won the U15 Mouth Organ!

IG3C3678IG3C3565IG3C3611IG3C3609IG3C3632IG3C3641IG3C3648IG3C3675IG3C3677IG3C3708

IG3C3697

August 20th, 2016.  Day 8.

No tunes for me today. Just caught the end of the Under 15 Ceili Band Competition. Absolutely jam packed tent. Congratulations to winners Tulóg Ceili Band from Tulla. Up the Banner! Another showery day but the music continued in the pubs and on the street, in tents, in a caravan at the back of the Old Ground Hotel and even in the shops where I stumbled on the Toyota Ceili Band from Japan. The ferrets were captivated. The crowds were a real challenge and by 9pm many pubs had closed their doors and just weren’t letting anyone else in. So I settled into a corner of Cruises with some new friends and enjoyed the party until the small hours. A quiet day tomorrow? Maybe!

IG3C3817IG3C3857IG3C3866IG3C3879IG3C3885IG3C3894IG3C3909aIG3C3932aIG3C3941aIG3C3951

August 21st, 2016.  Day 9.

Wet, wet, wet. So not a lot of time on the streets today. I spent the afternoon checking out the merchandise tent (been there, done that, got the t-shirt) and catching some of the sean nos dance competition. Class. The evening I headed to Miltown Malbay in the pouring rain for a concert by the Tulla Ceili Band. Except it wasn’t a concert it was a mini-ceili. With a few guest acts. This was such a wonderful contrast to the streets of Ennis and very few of the Fleadh visitors made the trek. This was real. No need for the whoop-whoop of FleadhTV. I even got up and danced the Siege of Ennis (appropriate?) A first for me. Then a mighty session at Friels Lynch’s with Joanie Madden and couple of the other Cherished Ladies and Haley Richardson.  I like to think of this Fleadh as a Plum Pudding. A great big blob of delicious sweetness but with explosive surprises dotted through it. This was one of those plump little raisins……..

Thanks to Kristen and an anonymous punter for the last two photos.

 

IG3C4005IG3C4014IG3C4038IG3C4051IG3C4069IG3C4133IG3C4157IG3C4315IG3C4329IG3C4382IG3C4405IG3C4423IG3C4457IG3C4476IG3C4483IG3C4489

August 22nd, 2016.  Day 10

The Final Fling!

Monday was such a glorious day of sunshine I didn’t make it in to Ennis until 6.00pm. After saying goodbye to my Fleadh houseguests, Donn and Haley and Lynette and   and Keegan, the afternoon was spent on the shoreline at Caherush but I needed just one final fling. So I headed to town. It was quieter on the streets but the pubs were still doing a roaring trade until the rain returned and Ennis regained some semblance of normality. I played a bit in Nora Culligan’s before doing a final wander and returning home well sated.

Some final words. There is something different about a Fleadh in your own home town. I enjoyed it so much more than Sligo. This was a truly unique week. OK I didnt play much and I went to very few concerts but just being part of something like this was enough. Despite the occasional cold and wet there was warmth and welcomes everywhere. It didn’t matter that you couldn’t move in the pubs or get a seat. Everyone was here to enjoy themselves and they did.  This is the natural home of the Fleadh.

See you next year. And 2018?

IG3C4919IG3C4535IG3C4564IG3C4633IG3C4701IG3C4703

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

My First Gig with a Ceili Band

I’ve done a lot of things in Ireland that I had never done before. I’ve blogged about most of them. Participating in the Guinness World Record attempt for the biggest session, been a Wren Boy, slept in a 16th century castle; but there’s one thing I hadn’t done. Until last night.

Friday 24th June 2016 and I was on stage with the brand new Lissycasey Ceili Band under a marquee at Lissycasey, a village to the south of Ennis in Co Clare. The occasion was the first Lissycasey Music Festival, a community organised event which will showcase traditional, country and a range of other music. For the occasion they had erected a giant marquee. Not just an ordinary marquee mind you but a glass walled one complete with chandeliers. And a dance floor. And an optimistic amount of seating which by the end of the night was fully rewarded with bums on seats.

Talking to some Lissycasey locals I was told that regular marquee dances were the social events of the 1940s and 50s, with dance bands and show bands entertaining all ages. Indeed many people met and courted under the marquees. This event harked back to those days, with the majority of the patrons well old enough to have been at those dances and probably were. I imagine it recaptured many nostalgic moments. Maybe many of them met their partners there.

The event had added poignancy as it celebrated and honoured a much loved daughter of Lissycasey, concertina player, Dympna O’Sullivan, who so sadly passed away last year.

I have always had mixed feelings about ceili bands. There is some disdain towards them in some quarters but I have to say my first experience playing in one was an absolute blast. From the moment that wood block sounded its click, click-click  heralding in, in perfect unison, fiddles, concertinas, accordions, flutes, and keyboard belting out familiar tunes in perfect unison (well most of the time) at a brisk pace and with that characteristic ceili rhythm, I was flying. There was a Caledonian Set and the Siege of Ennis and some waltzing and there were smiles all around the room.

It was much faster than I usually played. Not a problem. I was carried along with the other musicians and even got most of the changes right. And boy don’t you love those tune changes. And that feeling when the music ends in perfect agreement with the dancers. I’m hooked.

After us there was a band featuring Don Stiffe and the dancing continued with plenty of enthusiasm.

Thanks to Joan Hanrahan for the invitation to play and to the many wonderful Lissycasey musicians who welcomed me, a refugee Aussie, aboard. And to the organisers who did such a fantastic job. It is amazing what people can do on their own with just the support of local sporting and cultural bodies, looking for no kudos other than to provide something to their community.

This is the real culture of County Clare.

Thanks to Martin O’Malley for the photos of the Band (photos 6 – 10).

IG3C1101IG3C1118IG3C1111IG3C1141IG3C1143IG3C1145IG3C1156IG3C1159IG3C1170IG3C1172IG3C1201IG3C1203IG3C1214IG3C1246IG3C1264IG3C1273IG3C1278IG3C1311IG3C1325

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

Doolin Folk Festival 2016 Day 1

This is my third year at this Festival, which has rapidly become one of the must-attend events of the Festival year.  Day 1 delivered everything it promised.  Local stars included Tara Howley and friends (and family, Sharon Howley and Eimear Howley) and Tara Breen and the Tri Tones.  There was the extraordinary virtuosity of Cathal Hayden, Mairtin O’Connor and Seamie O’Dowd.  Luka Bloom weaved his magic to his local legion of fans and there was the surprise packet that was Scottish band Lau with its inventive mix of traditional and new instruments.  The night was capped with a return of ALDOC with Pauline Scanlon up front.  And a song from a Norwegian choir thrown in.  For those who weren’t there here are a few photos to show you what you missed.
Roll on Day 2.
 IG3C7003IMG_7736IMG_7651IMG_7585IMG_7567IMG_7428IMG_7274IMG_7179IMG_7158IMG_7049IMG_7024IMG_6981IG3C7940IG3C7935IG3C7863IG3C7859IG3C7857IG3C7826IG3C7778IG3C7744IG3C7706IG3C7664IG3C7643IG3C7640IG3C7623IG3C7615IG3C7604IG3C7583IG3C7523IG3C7520IG3C7515IG3C7486IG3C7466IG3C7425IG3C7336IG3C7306IG3C7260IG3C7230IG3C7220IG3C7170IG3C7144IG3C7022
Categories: Concerts, Festivals, Trad Irish Music | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Dungarvan Trad Fest 2016

Hard to believe really that it was a year ago that I was at Dungarvan, in Co Waterford, last. This time the weather was super kind. Blue cloudless skies meant shorts and thongs all weekend. But really little else had changed. No gig rig this year as they had pulled up the streets to repave, but the same Busking Competition, same super sessions, concert by Danu and the Bucket Singing.

 I urge you to check out my blog from last year, https://singersongblog.me/2015/06/04/dungarvan-tradfest-and-danu/  because I think I covered it all there. The main attraction as always was the sessions. There is no shortage of quality musicians here with some wonderful combinations. A treat was Bobby Gardiner, Matt Cranitch, Jackie Daly, Andrew MacNamara and Gerry Harrington. An amazing and unique assortment.  And Charlie Piggott with Gerry Harrington and too many others to mention. This Festival is a Hidden Secret. Not on the International circuit, like Willie Week, Feakle or Ennis TradFest,  which have their bands of loyal followers,  and that’s good in some ways, but really such depth of musicianship deserves to be seen by many more.

Only downside (?) this time was that all the pubs were mental on Saturday night due to the result of some hurling game or other  (can’t actually remember the result). Put this on the calendar though and try and get there for next year.

Here are a few shots from sessions, street buskers, singers and the Sunday concert featuring Danu.

I will put some video up in due course so keep an eye out on my YouTube channel.  In fact follow it and you’ll be notified.

 IG3C8959IG3C8983IG3C9002IG3C9246IG3C9260IG3C9322IG3C9332IG3C9338IG3C9358IG3C9362IG3C9386IG3C9393IG3C9405IG3C9437IG3C9482-1IG3C9507IG3C9530IG3C9533IG3C9538IG3C9547IG3C9557IG3C9561IG3C9568IG3C9576IG3C9579IG3C9663IG3C9680IG3C9757IG3C9785IG3C9798IG3C9814IG3C9846IG3C9893

IG3C9897IMG_6602IMG_6608IMG_6613IMG_6617IMG_6631IMG_6647IMG_6652IMG_6666IMG_6670IMG_6682IMG_6713IMG_6716IMG_6729IMG_6748IMG_6754IMG_6755IMG_6758IMG_6777IMG_6778IMG_6780IMG_6781IMG_6782IMG_6791IMG_6796IMG_6810IMG_6816IMG_6825IMG_6830IMG_6836IMG_6838IMG_6840IMG_6865IMG_6870IMG_6900IMG_6911

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

The Music House Returns to Doolin

Though the pub session is now considered to be the customary gathering place for playing Irish traditional music it is actually a recent innovation.  Probably dating from the 50s and 60s when expatriate musicians gathered in London pubs to share the tunes they played back home.  Many returned home and the pub session took off in Ireland  and it became the centre of musical life.  Before this most music was played in the home.   Some houses would be well known as music houses and musicians, local and visitors, would gather there to share tunes or the kitchen table would be pushed aside and a set would be battered out on the slate floor.

Well known Doolin flute, whistle and spoons player, Christy Barry is trying to bring back this tradition by opening his house to guests to share his tunes and stories.  I was lucky enough to attend the one of these nights when Christy and his wife Sheila entertained 18 guests in his cosy living room and, with the help of some fiddler friends,  kept the crowd of mostly Americans enthralled for almost two hours and served some delicious local cheese, smoked salmon and a glass of wine.

Christy is a direct link to the Doolin of the 70s.  He personally knew and played  with all those whose portraits hung on his living room wall including Willie Clancy and the Russells.  And he spoke fondly of them.  Christy’s monologues between tunes could go anywhere and that is part of the charm of nights like this.  They are not scripted and you could go again on Monday and I am sure it would be very different.

The concept of the ‘house concert’ has become popular particularly in the States but also in Australia and I am sure elsewhere,  where a home owner brings an international performer into their home,  does all the organising  and the artist gets all the proceeds.  This is different.  This is Christy and Sheila sharing  their home with visitors  but the formula has all the signs of being a great success.  With initial recommendations through the B&B’s the numbers at this Good Friday event surprised Christy.  Perhaps the lack of alcohol anywhere else in Doolin (or the whole of Ireland for that matter) was a factor but I think the chance to hear Christy and friends play music and talk about his life, the people and the music was the main inducement and it will continue to draw people.

Christy was very generous in inviting people to join him for a song or dance and many stayed on afterwards to linger and chat.

It was a memorable night for those who were there and visitors to Doolin now have an alternative to packing into a noisy pub to hear Irish music. The intention is to do this three times a week, so if you are in Doolin during the Summer, check it out.

 

IG3C4518IG3C4526IG3C4610IG3C4697IG3C4717IG3C4761IG3C4786IG3C4816IG3C4870IG3C4922IG3C4982IG3C5004IG3C5012IG3C5065IG3C5135

Categories: Real Ireland, Sessions, Stories, Trad Irish Music, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

The Good Mixer – Music from a London Pub in West Clare

Talk about a wild night.  I stepped outside in the wind and it blew me into Friel’s pub last night.  That was mighty lucky as Noel O’Grady (bouzouki), Henry Benagh (fiddle), John Carty (banjo) & Marcus Hernon (flute) were there launching their album “The Good Mixer”.  And what a good mix it was.  The title of the album references The Good Mixer pub in  Camden Town in London where these four guys lived in the 1980s.  For five years this pub was the go-to place for Irish music both among locals and Irish visitors alike.  And this CD gives us an inkling as to why.  The recordings were made one afternoon in 1989, in the home of John Carty, as the sessions were coming to an end.  Essentially live to tape.  And it is surprisingly good.  The band has got back together to do four low-key launches in the home towns of each of the members,  Henry is from Miltown Malbay (hence Friel’s), next stop is Galway, then Matt Molloy’s in Westport and finally in Roscommon, John’s home.

The CD contains a terrific selection of lively tunes and I love it but to hear and see the musicians in the flesh was a real treat.  Even though they had not played together for over 25 years it was tight and energetic with a fresh, original sound.  But the boys soon got sick of playing on the stage and adjourned to the middle bar of Friel’s where they were joined by John’s daughter Maggie and some of the local musical talent in Miltown including Liam O’Brien, Therese McInerney and Bernadette McCarthy who had played piano on some of the tracks on the recording.  Interestingly this was the first time Bernadette and Marcus had met for 27 years.  It was a great night and a privilege for me to play with them and we were totally unaware of the storm raging outside until we staggered into the night at 1:30.

If you get the chance try and catch them or failing that keep an eye out for some video I will post in the next few days.

1-IMG_5983

6-IMG_6019 5-IMG_6003 4-IMG_6007 2-IMG_5990 3-IMG_5996

20151205_000734_resized

20151205_005124_resized 20151205_000806_resized

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

Martin Hayes and Dennis Cahill, Kilkee; November 2015 – A Review

Winter has arrived on the west coast of Clare.  After an unseasonal spell of sunshine and balmy weather, well into the second week of November, the wind from the Atlantic has now brought the rain, sometimes horizontal, and hail and with it the cold air.  So situation normal really.  But none of that matters.  Martin Hayes and Dennis Cahill played  at Kilkee on Thursday night 12th November, about a half hour’s drive away and thanks to fiddling friend Yvonne, who solved my transportation problem, I found myself upstairs in Cultúrlann Sweeney staring with eager anticipation at two empty seats on the bare stage. Kilkee is not on the must-visit venues for international music stars but how lucky West Clare was to have enticed them this time.  The theatre is located behind and above the local library and is a terrific space with capacity for 102 lucky patrons.  The place was full of people and full of expectation.

I have heard Martin and Dennis a number of times in Australia but never in Ireland and never in such an intimate space.     This was the perfect place for their music.  You could almost feel it wash gently over us while almost in harmony with the rain and occasional rumble of thunder from outside.

A live performance of Martin and Dennis is truly a captivating, almost mesmerising, experience.  He plays long sets which build slowly, generally with an air to start and then through a succession of slower tunes, which may be barn dances or jigs or slow reels, picking up the pace and the intensity, building excitement and usually finishing with feverish reels.  An example from the first half started with the slow  air, The Lark in the Clear Air and then a jig from Peter O’Laughlin (the name of which I missed)  to Micho Russel’s version of The Boy in the Gap, which as Martin explained has had all the unnecessary notes stripped out, then Charlie Lennon’s Road to Cashel and finishing with Toss the Feathers and a truly wild, Wild Irishman.

All the way Dennis’ inspired accompaniment enhances the journey.  He assists in creating texture and sometimes filling space and other times creating it.  Always with great sensitivity.  Less is more with Dennis and his ability to create mood and anticipation with a single chord or even one note and also to drive the tunes with a pulsating beat is extraordinary.  At times you are not even aware he is playing as he just reinforces the internal rhythm that Martin’s virtuosic playing engenders.

I attended a workshop with Martin earlier this year at Feakle Festival and it was an experience I will treasure.  His knowledge and understanding of the music is deep and he was more than willing to share his insights.  I was particularly taken with the way he explained how he finds what he terms the ‘groove’.  This was in ample evidence this night with both Martin’s feet moving in perfect synchronicity and creating an almost percussive base to the music. All the time his body sways and moves as the music appears to take him over.  In contrast Dennis is a model of intense concentration.  They sit angled toward each other and their eyes hardly ever leave each other reinforcing the extraordinary musical connection.  Martin even joked about it on stage calling it telepathy.  Indeed Martin announced what tunes he will do and then promptly does something else and unfazed,  Dennis is there.

There were many familiar tunes to those aware of Martin’s body of work.  It was especially exciting for me to  see the links many of these have to Clare and to hear of the players that influenced him such as his father and Micho Russell and Patrick Creagh.

Martin was in a relaxed mood engaging the audience in a conversation, at times the sort of interchange you might have in the front bar of Peppers, in Feakle, between tunes. I loved his explanation as to how he ended up as a musician working for tough man Johnny Moloney from Carrigaholt which convinced him there was a better life. Dennis was quite happy to let Martin be the front man.

Audience response was vigourous.  Excited cheers rang out after each number almost as a collective release of  breath, which the audience held throughout the set.  Perhaps the sound of breathing would put them off their music?

The lonesome touch that Martin is of course famous for was there however often his  playing was feverish. But there was always that groove, that lilt and the ‘nyah’ in abundance.  The playing of both was technically brilliant.  Not one wrong note or one note out of place.  This was as good as it gets and as a wannabe fiddle player truly an inspirational performance.   He is constantly varying in particular with the bowing sometimes getting exquisite tone with just the slightest movement of the horse hair and then using long bows to provide dynamic variation.  He is a magician.

A word on the sound.  It was so good and so unobtrusive I was never conscious of the fact they were miked up.   I really felt I was listening to a truly acoustic performance. That was quite an achievement.

The final set of the night kicked off with one of his signature tunes, Port na bPuca, played with intensity and passion with its invocation of the sounds of the wind and the ocean. This was followed a a haunting slow jig and then into another jig and then seamlessly into Lafferty’s Reel, but typical of Martin, almost unrecognisable at times, as he plays in unfamiliar keys and wanders in and out of the tune, and then another reel and then he brings it back with a slow march with a strong pulsating accompaniment from Dennis, then a slip jig  with that lovely rolling rhythm and then he builds it up again into another reel and then into P Joe’s Reel, paying homage to his father, and then into Brendan McMahon’s Reel, an East Clare favourite, which he took into unknown places and then finished with yet another reel which I didn’t recognise,  this time displaying full pyrotechnics. The crowd would not let them go and gave a prolonged standing ovation.  A breathless Hayes returned for an encore asking what they would like to hear.  Names came from all directions: “Sailor’s Bonnet”,  “Morning Star”, “Farewell to Miltown”.    So that’s what we got and a few others thrown in finishing, of course, with a spirited rendition of the Bucks of Oranmore.  Another ten minutes!

And afterwards they mingled in the foyer making one lucky girl’s night by signing her pink fiddle.  What’s left to say?  A memorable concert that’s for sure.

All I could think of afterwards was that I had better get home and practice.

01-IMG_5040 02-IMG_5055 04-IMG_5065 05-IMG_5070 06-IMG_5078 07-IMG_5083 08-IMG_5090 10-IMG_5094 11-IMG_5097 12-IMG_5104

 

Categories: Concerts, Trad Irish Music | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

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…

111-52-IMG_4947

Farewell and Thanks to Ennis TradFest 2015

110-54-IMG_4920

The final session at Queens

108-50-IMG_4899

All too much for some

082-09-IMG_4414

It starts here.

074-30-IMG_4311

The Ennis Bard

075-01-IMG_4323

Part of the International Brigade

072-28-IMG_4291

Relaxing at Suas Cafe

073-29-IMG_4300

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

068-24-IMG_4256

Sweet

063-35-IMG_4235

I love this photo

056-15-IMG_4177

Part of the Swedish invasion

055-20-IMG_4158

Tara Howley CD launch

054-10-IMG_4145

Some running repairs

052-16-IMG_4142

Bliss

051-08-IMG_4135

When Quebec meets Ireland

041-54-IMG_4058

Interpretive Dance 1

040-53-IMG_4034

Interpretive dance 2

029-39-IMG_3835

Beyond sweet

026-32-IMG_3753

there you are Alistair. A serious shot

109-51-IMG_4904 107-49-IMG_4874 106-47-IMG_4825 105-48-IMG_4851 104-44-IMG_4822 103-41-IMG_4723 102-40-IMG_4718 101-39-IMG_4714 100-38-IMG_4713 099-35-IMG_4672 098-34-IMG_4663 096-30-IMG_4638 095-28-IMG_4630 092-23-IMG_4577 090-20-IMG_4564 088-17-IMG_4487 087-18-IMG_4486 086-15-IMG_4464 085-14-IMG_4457 084-13-IMG_4435 083-11-IMG_4428 079-06-IMG_4362 078-05-IMG_4356 077-04-IMG_4353 076-02-IMG_4342 071-27-IMG_4275 070-26-IMG_4266 069-25-IMG_4262 067-23-IMG_4249 066-22-IMG_4247 065-37-IMG_4246 064-19-IMG_4240 062-20-IMG_4230 060-30-IMG_4193 059-29-IMG_4191 058-13-IMG_4182 057-14-IMG_4180 050-07-IMG_4130 049-12-IMG_4123 048-11-IMG_4116 047-05-IMG_4106 046-08-IMG_4104 045-04-IMG_4096 043-01-IMG_4075 042-50-IMG_3972 039-51-IMG_3996 038-47-IMG_3942 037-46-IMG_3939 036-45-IMG_3926 035-43-IMG_3900 034-44-IMG_3909 033-42-IMG_3890 032-35-IMG_3795 030-40-IMG_3841 028-37-IMG_3799 027-33-IMG_3762 025-29-IMG_3721 024-28-IMG_3690 023-27-IMG_3652 022-26-IMG_3612 021-24-IMG_3582 020-22-IMG_3571 019-23-IMG_3570 018-21-IMG_3546 017-20-IMG_3538 016-17-IMG_3530 015-18-IMG_3511 014-16-IMG_3503 013-14-IMG_3473 012-13-IMG_3446 011-12-IMG_3444 010-11-IMG_3435 009-10-IMG_3420 008-09-IMG_3414 007-08-IMG_3413 006-07-IMG_3408 005-05-IMG_3341 004-06-IMG_3368 003-04-IMG_3337 002-03-IMG_3323 001-02-IMG_3296

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

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.

 

01-02-IMG_6087 02-03-IMG_6165 03-04-IMG_6194 04-05-IMG_6208 05-06-IMG_6218 06-08-IMG_6235 07-09-IMG_6269 08-10-IMG_6295 09-15-IMG_6388 10-16-IMG_6397 11-17-IMG_6429 12-18-IMG_6442 13-20-IMG_6489 14-21-IMG_6517 15-23-IMG_6537 16-25-IMG_6619 17-26-IMG_6659 18-27-IMG_6689 19-28-IMG_6729 20-29-IMG_6757 21-30-IMG_6759 22-31-IMG_6779 23-32-IMG_6796 24-33-IMG_6807 25-34-IMG_6825 26-37-IMG_6860 27-39-IMG_6881 28-42-IMG_6934 29-43-IMG_6965 30-44-IMG_6987 31-45-IMG_6992 32-46-IMG_6995 33-01-IMG_7011 34-49-IMG_7020 35-02-IMG_7032 36-52-IMG_7038 37-53-IMG_7047 38-05-IMG_7053 39-06-IMG_7054 40-08-IMG_7059 41-07-IMG_7063 42-09-IMG_7070 43-10-IMG_7085 44-12-IMG_7095 45-13-IMG_7107 46-11-IMG_7114 47-14-IMG_7121 48-15-IMG_7126 49-16-IMG_7131 50-17-IMG_7159 51-18-IMG_7174 52-20-IMG_7213 53-21-IMG_7219 54-22-IMG_7231 55-24-IMG_7251 56-25-IMG_7254 57-26-IMG_7263 58-32-IMG_7268 59-31-IMG_7276 60-30-IMG_7278 61-27-IMG_7283 62-29-IMG_7287 63-28-IMG_7303

 

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

Blog at WordPress.com.