Posts Tagged With: concert

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

Eoin O’Neill and the Mórglór Award

Every now and then something comes along that, for me, reaffirms my raison d’etre for being here in Ireland.  Something that underscores and reinforces the creative core of Irish music and gives a window into the Irish psyche.   Such an event was the Mórglór concert held on 10th October in the glor Theatre.  The Mórglór award is relatively new and the brainchild of Tim Collins, leader of the Kilfenora Ceili Band among other things, and is presented to an individual or group who have made an outstanding contribution to culture in Clare.  It is not so much the concert (and it was fantastic by the way but I will have more to say on that) which made this event outstanding  but it was the way it embraced and fired up the local and international community of traditional music followers.

Last year the award was deservedly won by the organisers of the Corofin Festival.  The recipient this year was Eoin O’Neill.  Eoin is a giant on the Clare music scene.  His contribution to music in this county is deep and profound.  He has been playing trad,  particularly in Doolin and Ennis, since he arrived here from Dublin 35 years ago, playing with many of the greats.  He has recorded dozens of CDs both his own collaborations or as a session musician with many of the big names, adding his sometimes subtle, sometimes driving, bouzouki always in tune with the music and always with soul.  He has mentored many younger musicians encouraging them to play in public and to record and he has also identified many older musicians ensuring their legacy is preserved. To watch him work a room during a session and bring everyone along with him for the ride is to watch a master communicator and someone who really understands the pull of Irish Music and why people come here. Through his contribution to the ClareFM programme West Wind he has built an enormous international following.  It would be difficult to overstate the contribution this has made to Clare’s reputation as the go-to place for Irish Music.  This is evidenced by the response to this concert.  As soon as it was announced tickets flew out the door even before the line-up was announced.  Many of these bookings came from Eoin’s followers all round the world.  People came for this concert from Netherlands, Belgium, UK, France, Germany, the US and who knows where else.  Many of these are regular attendees of festivals in Clare and many have their strong connection to Clare music through Eoin.

As I say it wasn’t just the concert.  What was remarkable was that this award triggered a Festival-like celebration and an almost continuous weekend of traditional music.

On Friday night was a session at PJ Kelly’s with Eoin, Joan Hanrahan and Brid O’Gorman and many visitors.  It was hard to get a seat at the table.  Kelly’s is one of the great pubs in Clare to listen to and play Irish music and I have written about this before but this night had something extra.  Particularly of note was the singing, which soared, with contributions from Noirin Lynch, Willie Cummins, Steve Brown, Job Cornelissen and singers from the bar.  A particular highlight for me was when the whole pub joined in with the singing of Red is the Rose.

I might digress here to mention briefly Eoin’s influence on me.  I play with Eoin regularly.  Musicians that Eoin plays with are the kind of musicians that I enjoy playing with.  So he has become a friend.  With a dry sense of humour, his mastery of the Irish tradition of slagging, his deep knowledge of music and his strong opinions, which he is only too willing to share, it is a pleasure to spend time in his company.  He has tolerated my musical inadequacies with good grace and always made me feel welcome.  And recently he has encouraged me to sing more and play guitar even suggesting songs, one of which was Red is the Rose.  That night at Kelly’s I understood why.

Saturday afternoon saw visiting musicians gather at Cruises from 2pm to share tunes and stories.  I love playing in the afternoon.  The pubs are quieter the music somehow seems cleaner and everyone is more relaxed.  This turned out to be the case here.

But all this was a precursor to the main event which kicked off at 8pm.  The programme had Eoin’s stamp all over it.  Mainly a reflection of where he is at now musically, but with clear reference to where he has come from.  Ever generous with his time and his words, he paid tribute to Tony Dalton who he acknowledged as his greatest influence on his arrival in Doolin and who broke a 30 year playing hiatus to join Eoin on stage.  There were also some of his old sparring partners such as Kevin Griffin, Terry Bingham and Kevin Crawford and among his current collaborators were Yvonne Casey, Joan Hanrahan, Brid O’Gorman, Luka Bloom, Quentin Cooper, Adam Shapiro, Dermot Byrne, Noirin Lynch and Willie Cummins.   And surprise packets (though not to me as I was well aware of their talents) were some of his protégés such as concertina player Aiobheann Queally and the sweet, sweet voice of Clara Buetler.  It was a complete concert with various combinations of the who’s who of Clare music weaving their tunes and songs through a packed glor theatre.  The common thread was Eoin’s ever-present bouzouki and his ever-present sense of humour.  The obvious friendship with all of the musicians and, in particular, his long-time colleague Quentin Cooper, binding it all together.  The music reached great heights.  Luka Bloom put in an excellent set with his more driving contemporary sound being a strong counterpoint to the class traditional music that we had most of the night. This was a gentle reminder that Eoin is not just about trad but has wide musical tastes as evidenced by his eclectic radio show on Sundays where, as was pointed out during the night, you can have Purple Rain followed by Micho Russell. There were many highlights for the night.  But for me the biggest buzz is what happens when you put class musicians together who understand each other and enjoy playing together.  This was no more in evidence than in the last set where everyone joined in and took the roof off.  Ever humble Eoin was somewhat bewildered by the standing ovation which he so clearly deserved.

As is often the way in this town, the concert was only the beginning of the night and many adjourned to the Old Ground where the Guinness flowed along with the music until well after 4am.  To his credit Eoin was there until the very end, when I departed, stumbling back to my bed in the Rowan Tree to grab some fitful sleep.

As if that wasn’t enough the Sunday saw the remnants gather at Brogan’s at 1pm for what one would have thought would have been a nice quiet recovery session.  But no.  The tiredness was evident but the music did not suffer.   It was a bit of the old Brogans and it felt good to be part of it.

A wonderful and fitting weekend of celebration for a great man of the music.  Comhghairdeas ó chroí le Eoin.

01-IMG_1336 02-IMG_1339 03-IMG_1340 04-IMG_1350 05-IMG_1351 06-IMG_1358 07-IMG_1370 08-IMG_1372 09-IMG_1388 10-IMG_1383 11-IMG_1393 12-IMG_1398 13-IMG_1400 14-IMG_1423 15-IMG_1432 16-IMG_1440 17-IMG_1461 18-IMG_1464 19-IMG_1479 20-IMG_1483 21-IMG_1492 22-IMG_1496 23-IMG_1502 24-IMG_1522 25-IMG_1542 26-IMG_1543 27-IMG_1552 28-IMG_1567 29-IMG_1561 30-IMG_1575 31-IMG_1593 32-IMG_1592 33-IMG_1594 34-IMG_1598 35-IMG_1599 36-IMG_1604

38-IMG_1609

Categories: Concerts, Sessions, Trad Irish Music | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 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.

01-IMG_0100 02-IMG_0106

03-IMG_0113 04-IMG_0118 05-IMG_0132 06-IMG_0142

07-IMG_014808-IMG_0149 09-IMG_0159

10-IMG_0181 11-IMG_0194

12-IMG_0208 13-IMG_0212 14-IMG_021515-IMG_0219

16-IMG_0223

17-IMG_0277

18-IMG_0296

19-IMG_0309 20-IMG_0339

21-IMG_0346 22-IMG_0351

23-IMG_0355 24-IMG_0357

25-IMG_0365 26-IMG_0374

27-IMG_0385 28-IMG_0397

29-IMG_0439 30-IMG_0447

32-IMG_0470

33-IMG_0503 34-IMG_0498

36-IMG_0522 37-IMG_0544

38-IMG_0557 39-IMG_0598

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

Feakle Matters

Since I last posted on Willie Week I have been to schools and festivals at Tubbercurry, Drumshanbo, Achill and Feakle.  So I have a bit of catching up to do. I will start with Feakle and post on the other festivals as I have time.

As I write this, the sun is shining and the Quilty coastline looks stunningly gorgeous outside my study window. I should be out there and I will but first I need to say a few words about Feakle before it becomes too distant a memory. Does Feakle matter? (well I thought it was funny at the time – last year in a Guinness-fuelled creative frenzy the idea of a local newspaper with the name Feakle Matters popped up so it seemed logical as the heading for this blog) The answer: yes.

Feakle is an otherwise sleepy village with the four pubs and a fifth, the famous Peppers, about half a mile down the road. It is legendary as the home of PJ Hayes and his illustrious son Martin, and the surrounding villages are the home of many musicians, now and in the past, some of them icons of Irish music. On this weekend it is a one lane street choked with musical pilgrims visiting the spiritual home of East Clare music and the Tulla Ceili Band.

Feakle markets itself as an International Festival. That ‘international’ flavour comes from the hoards of overseas visitors who come specially, though there was one international act ‘The London Lasses’. The music however is pure Irish. I won’t say pure Clare, because visitors from Kerry and Sligo and Galway and elsewhere see to that, but the influence of Mary MacNamara, Martin Hayes and the legacy of Paddy Canny and PJ Hayes shines through everywhere.

There are many highlights and I can’t begin to list them. You could have done a lot worse than to just grab a seat in Peppers and stay there for the full four days. You would have heard Seamus Begley, Martin Hayes, Cliare Egan Paraig Mac Donagh, Derek Hickey Gerry Harrington, Conal O’Grada, Benny Macarthy, Andrew MacNamara, The London Lasses, Pat O’Connor, Mark Donnelan, Cormac Begley, Anne-Marie McCormack, Eileen O’Brien, Dave Sheridan, Charlie Harris, Joan Hanrahan, Brid O’Gorman, Conor Keane, Joe Fitzgerald and the rest.  What separates Feakle from the other summer schools and festivals is that people here come for the music. Yes they come for the craic and the Guinness but there is a reverence here that I didn’t find everywhere and often the music was so good that the pub was stunned into silence without the need for a chorus of ssshhhsshh’s. Peppers is one of the best places to listen to Irish music. It is intimate but there is room for both the listener and the player and there is room for the occasional set dance. Sessions at Festivals can be a mixed bag and there are always some that disappoint (I will talk about this in another blog) but here at Feakle the quality is so high that whether you play or listen you can’t fail to be satisfied.

For me. Two days of workshops with Martin Hayes and a day from an equally impressive Yvonne Casey was a major highlight. Martin spoke at length of his approach to playing and there was much wisdom. We were also treated during his class to an impromptu concert from Martin and Mary MacNamara.  Wow.  Yvonne’s workshop complemented this beautifully and I came away inspired just as a School should.  Best of all there was a tutor’s session where a privileged few of us had the opportunity to play for two hours in PJ’s Corner with Martin and his nieces Aiofe and Ciara. It was 4pm so the pub was quiet and it was sublime, respectful and not just a highlight of the festival but of my stay in Ireland.

I was also very lucky to catch up with Joe Fitzgerald. Joe lives in Melbourne with his brothers and is at the centre of the session scene there. He was making a rare visit back to his home near Feakle and I was surprised with the reverence he was held in here. We had a great chat and it turned out he was a sometime prospector and had worked the area around Kookynie in the WA goldfields where I cut my gold exploration teeth in the early 80s.  TG4 were filming him for a documentary and afterwards he joined in a session in Peppers. This session was memorable as it had Aiofe and Ciara Hayes and Amy and Sarah Donnelan and other young Feakle/Tulla musicians and amply demonstrated the continuity of the musical tradition in this part of the world. Almost like a handing over of the baton from Joe to the new custodians of this great tradition.

While on the young players, there was a tremendous opening concert with groups of local young musicians, many of whom are County and Provincial champions and will no doubt come home from Sligo as All Ireland champions. Mary MacNamara and Eileen O’Brien and all the others who put so much time into ensuring the young inherit the strong local tradition of quality dance music, with the characteristic bounce and ensure that it is played with honesty, passion and heart are to be commended and thanked.

Feakle is a great meeting place and if the weather is good there is no better place to spend time than on the benches outside Peppers. May this continue well into the future.

There’s plenty more I could say and should but I’ll just put a few pics up. I was so busy playing that I left the camera behind on a number of occasions so I haven’t caught everyone or every great moment but I think you’ll get the picture.

03-004-IMG_5607 02-003-IMG_5592 04-010-IMG_5641 05-011-IMG_5673 06-013-IMG_5699 07-014-IMG_5718 08-015-IMG_5721 09-016-IMG_5737

10-021-IMG_5757 11-026-IMG_5812 21-063-IMG_6122 12-034-IMG_5841 13-036-IMG_5848 14-038-IMG_5851 15-042-IMG_5862 16-044-IMG_5868 17-047-IMG_5886 20-057-IMG_607722-065-IMG_6138

25-068-IMG_6155

23-066-IMG_6146

26-069-IMG_6163 27-071-IMG_6169 28-072-IMG_6175 29-074-IMG_6196

31-078-IMG_6252 32-079-IMG_6307 33-080-IMG_6338

30-076-IMG_6218

34-081-IMG_6353 35-083-IMG_6375 36-087-IMG_6403 37-092-IMG_6425 38-093-IMG_6435 39-096-IMG_6462 40-097-IMG_6465

24-067-IMG_6149 42-099-IMG_6474 43-100-IMG_6487 44-101-IMG_6516 45-103-IMG_6611

46-104-IMG_6618 48-109-IMG_6655 49-110-IMG_6664 50-112-IMG_6700

47-105-IMG_6624

Categories: Festivals, Trad Irish Music | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Willie Week 2015 – Chasing the Dream or Living the Reality?

My silence of the last few days does not mean I have nothing to say about Willie Week. Firstly I just haven’t had the time but I am also having trouble formulating the words to describe the experience.

What a difference a year makes; last year I was chasing a dream this year I lived the reality.

As a Willie Virgin in 2014 I found it overwhelming.  The sheer quantity of music, the crowds and the whole atmosphere was almost crushing. I had only been here a little over a month and my insatiable desire to participate in sessions and to play with Legends and Gods led to much frustration. The crowds were oppressive, particularly in the popular pubs such as Friels and the Blondes and at night it was a challenge at many levels. OK I was naiive.

This year was different though;  I decided not to do the School which immediately meant I got more sleep and was able to ease into the day. I was at my home which is only a short drive away and had a houseful of guests so that added an extra dimension. Beanie and Anne and Jeff from North Carolina, Ana Carolina from Brazil and Bardon from UK and Julie from Denmark. I was able to retreat to my little oasis and chill out if needed.  Sometimes play a few quiet tunes and eat properly with some magnificent cooking from my housemates.

Yes the crowds were there, and the weather was bad and despite spending a lot less time looking for the killer session I actually played in better sessions and enjoyed them more.  I was much happier to stand and listen. Of course there were sessions I would love to have joined such as with Seamus Begley and Clare Egan in the new room in Fries or with Frankie Gavin and Noel Hill or the street session with Anton Mac Gabbhann, but there were many I did such as with Jacky Daly and Matt Cranitch. Some of the best sessions however were with people I had never met but are now good friends. That’s how it works at Willie Week.

I started a few sessions myself in the afternoons and that was a new experience. Just quietly playing a few tunes with a friend in the kitchen at the Blondes or at the back of Martin Flynns and feeling the session grow around us. The evenings however were chaotic. There were times you could not move in Friels and being on the street was challenging so most evenings were spent in Mullagh or the Quilty Tavern. At Quilty I could play with Johnny Connolly, Johnny Og Connolly, Colm Gannon, John Blake and avoid the crowds.

The Willie Week experience happens on many levels. There are actually a number of parallel worlds and sometimes they don’t meet. There is the Summer School with over a thousand pupils mainly kids many of whom never leave it; There are the concerts and recitals and ceilis, there are the sessions in Milltown, there are the mini festivals at the Bellbridge, Mullagh and Coore, there is the dance festival at the Armada and there is the private world of the house sessions in the many cottages around.  But mostly there is the catching up with people not seen for a year. People go there for any of these reasons and are rewarded accordingly,

There were many highlights. Meeting Tommy Peoples for one. But perhaps for me what will stand out was dropping in to Friels on the last Sunday afternoon. I was getting ready to drive to Tubbercurry but just had to have one more dose. There was no music but sitting in the front bar was Padraig Mac Donnacha. who I had met at Ballyferriter, and he invited me to join him for a few tunes. Initially there was just the two of us but then Thiery Masure and a few others sat in. I won’t overplay it but itnwas special moment for me.

So that’s Willie Week for 2015.  I get it now.  I get the mystique and the draw. Such that I know where I’ll be in the first week of July next year.

Just a few of the many photos I took. I know I missed many opportunities but you cant be everywhere. The photos of me were taken by Anne Gerhardt.  Thanks Anne.

02-IMG_8284 03-IMG_8263 04-IMG_8293 05-IMG_8332 07-IMG_8386 08-IMG_8396 10-IMG_8411 11-IMG_8427 12-IMG_8445 15-IMG_8469 16-IMG_8475 17-IMG_8484 18-IMG_8517 19-IMG_8538 20-IMG_8552 21-IMG_8569 22-IMG_8586 23-IMG_8603 25-IMG_8644 26-IMG_8663 27-IMG_8675 28-IMG_8695 31-IMG_8777 33-IMG_8846 34-IMG_8872 35-IMG_8874 36-IMG_8887 38-IMG_8898 39-IMG_8903 15-IMG_8263 25-IMG_8324 34-IMG_8396 02-IMG_9015 03-IMG_9032 04-IMG_9036 05-IMG_9047 06-IMG_9073 07-IMG_9081 08-IMG_9149 09-IMG_9174 10-IMG_9181

01-IMG_9659 02-IMG_9673 04-IMG_9731 05-IMG_9780 06-IMG_9785 07-IMG_9834 09-IMG_9870 11-IMG_9977

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

Willie Clancy Summer School – Monday.

It seemed like a good idea at the time. The sun was shining, not too much wind – I’ll ride to Miltown! It’s only five kilometres. Great. No problem with traffic or parking. What was I thinking!  I rode home in the driving rain at 1am buffeted by squally winds in the pitch black being overtaken at breakneck speed by an endless stream of Willie-ites heading back to their cottages, caravans or campsites. The Bellbridge was a safe haven about halfway so the obvious solution was to sit there, soaked through, in the warm pub and play tunes with complete strangers. A silk purse from a sow’s ear?

In between though I experienced just a little of the magic of Willie Week. I played with Sean Moloney from East Galway in the sun at the back of the Blondes, I saw Frankie Gavin and Noel Hill at Michael A’s (no chance of a seat there!) , then there was Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh and Eileen O’Brien at Friels and Jacky Daly and Matt Cranitch at the Yard and…….

In the evening we were treated to a smorgasbord of fiddling styles from some of the best in the country and beyond. It is so good to hear all these fiddles back to back. I know it’s unfair but highlights for me were Tara Breen and the wonderful sweet fluid playing of Yvonne Casey and then Claire Egan. Perhaps I’ve been in Clare too long.

Then I finished the night with a session at the Bellbridge; but I’ve already mentioned that.

And this is only Monday.

Just a handful of photos.  I will wait until the end to sort them all.

1-fiddle concert

1-Willie Clancy Monday1-IMG_7532 2-IMG_7555

2-IMG_7652 3-IMG_7675 4-IMG_7757 5-IMG_7766

1-IMG_76486-IMG_7776 7-IMG_7815 8-IMG_7843 9-IMG_7888

 

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

Doolin Folk Festival 2015 Day 3

Phew! How did I survive?

I was wrong the other day when I said the hardest gig was playing first up at the Festival. Sorry David, but Dingle-based Ríona had an even tougher job opening the Sunday. Clearly many had not yet got up after Aldoc and whatever after that, but this was a shame for them as they missed a great new voice with her own heartfelt songs and lovely understated guitar. How do you find these gems, Conor?

Then two of the real stars of Clare music got together to revisit their seminal album ‘Setting Free’ released over twenty years ago. Cyril O’Donoghue and Tola Custy. For Tola this was back to his roots and very different to recent explorations such as Guidewires and Tradivarious. But we were reminded what a good traditional fiddler he really is. And Cyril’s magic voice! we hear it so rarely these days in sessions around Ennis.

What a treat, the virtuosic mandolin of Brendan O’Regan. And the inspired combination with Floriane Blancke’s harp and Dermot Byrne’s exquisite box playing transported us from an Irish pub to a French café, to the drawing room of a stately home, to ‘Deliverance’ country and then back to Ireland. There is no other word for it – delicious!

Stone the Crows! (Aussies will know what I mean). Sligo boys, No Crows were a revelation. I had never heard them before, though I had heard of them during my visit to Sligo last year when I had the interesting experience of playing with Seamus Tansey at Shoot the Crows. With the amazing Steve Wickham and two other extraordinary fiddlers their music defies pigeon-holing. Celtic meets gypsy jazz with a dose of Jimmy Hendrix! I was absolutely blown away when I heard Steve sing. What an extraordinary voice. And his inspiring narrations of tales of the Aran Islands made for riveting listening.  I almost forgot to take photos.

How could you beat that? You bring on Paddy Keenan and Daoiri Farrell. And then you get Paddy to invite his mates onto the stage: Eddie Lee (amazing bass player with No Crows), Katie Theasby, then Conor Byrne. Then you bring Flo and Dermot and Seamus back and you lift the roof off the tent. Great songs from Daoiri and those wonderful old favourite tunes such as Jenny’s Wedding and Craig’s Pipes and then Paddy on the low whistle with A Stór Mo Chroi seamlessly blending into The Boys of Tandragee.

Then we had Luka Bloom’s most recent carnation Oh! Sahara, a trio with Jon O’Connell and Quentin Cooper.  Their set built up after a mellow start until by the end they were rocking and the audience was belting out the lyrics.  I won’t say anymore as I reviewed them at a previous concert they gave recently at Kenny’s(https://singersongblog.wordpress.com/2015/05/08/osahara-at-lahinch/). Was this their last gig?

The tent then swelled in expectation of Stockton’s Wing. Their wings were unfortunately clipped with the unfortunate absences of Maurice Lennon and Steve Cooney (speedy recovery guys) but the replacements who included Tara Breen on fiddle stepped into the breach magnificently. The light continued to shine in the western sky and the audience loved it. I reviewed their recent concert in Ennis in March. Check it out at https://singersongblog.wordpress.com/2015/03/18/stocktons-wing-concert-ennis/

And to finish the night and the Festival, and what a great choice, Arum. I know little about them but that mattered not. The crowd that was left after midnight did and they were all there to see the amazing flute of Conor Crimmins. Unfortunately I had hit the wall and left soon after 1 am. I have no doubt the party went on till the small hours became large.

Well done Conor, Lisa, Hana, Roisin and all the other nameless helpers that worked so hard to put on this Festival.

I have one more blog to come. Keep an eye out for it.

01-IMG_2018 02-IMG_2011

10-IMG_2114 04-IMG_2055 05-IMG_2049 06-IMG_2103 07-IMG_2127 09-IMG_2152

11-IMG_2352 14-IMG_2452 12-IMG_2384 15-IMG_2474 16-IMG_2509

17-IMG_2665 18-IMG_2644 21-IMG_2817 22-IMG_2838 20-IMG_2698 24-IMG_2857 19-IMG_2678

26-IMG_2944 29-IMG_3066 27-IMG_2974 30-IMG_3088 31-IMG_3111 33-IMG_3162

28-IMG_2981 34-IMG_3249 42-IMG_3459 41-IMG_3446 36-IMG_3307 37-IMG_3293 38-IMG_3359 39-IMG_3385 40-IMG_3399

43-IMG_3498 44-IMG_3514 45-IMG_3517 46-IMG_3524 47-IMG_3550 48-IMG_3562 49-IMG_3567 50-IMG_3577 51-IMG_3581 52-IMG_3584 53-IMG_3604 54-IMG_3606 55-IMG_3609 56-IMG_3617 58-IMG_3706 59-IMG_3707 57-IMG_3677 60-IMG_3818 61-IMG_3828 62-IMG_3835

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

Doolin Folk Festival 2015 Day 1

From the moment I walked out the door and into the festival marquee it had an air of familiarity. There were the seats and fires in drums and hay bales and over to the right was the food area with my tongue already salivating for a pulled pork roll; the L-shaped marquee, everything was the same. And that great vibe that I only found here at this Festival, last year in my travels around Ireland.

But yet it was different. Lots of new music with only one band familiar from last year. This is remarkable that organiser, Connor Byrne could have managed this. But it is testament to the depth of music talent in this tiny country.

The hardest gig in a festival is to kick it off. People are still dribbling in and it takes a lot to grab attention. Clare man David Hope did this creditably with his guitar and self-penned songs. . The rapidly filling tent gave him a warm reception and by the time he handed over to Fiddle Case the crowd was well and truly in the mood. Musicians in this band are well known to people from this part of Clare. Eoin O’Neill (of West Wind fame and current recipient of the Mór Glor award for his contribution to Clare music), the multi-talented Quentin Cooper, Adam Shapiro and Jon O’Connell can be seen regularly in sessions at Doolin, Lahinch, Ennistymon, Lisdoonvarna or Ennis. This familiarity however did not take away from what was a fresh and vibrant set of tunes interspersed with songs from Jon. The mellow unhurried delivery suited the situation to a tee. It was especially nice to see a larger audience get to hear the wonderful voice of Jon and, in particular, Liscannor Bay, a song he has made his own.

The boys were joined by the legendary Christy Barry, who impressed with The Coolin on low whistle and then a duet of Paddy Fahey tunes with Adam Shapiro. Adam is one of those modest unsung fiddling talents of West Clare and brought the house down with his playing. The set was interrupted by Luka Bloom who announced Christy as the recipient of the Doolin Festival award for lifetime achievement. When an emotional Christy recovered his composure he delivered a fine speech. Modest to the end he thanked everyone, saying how grateful he was to get the award because it meant he didn’t have to play. He was profuse though in his praise of Doolin. ‘There is no theatre in the world like Doolin’.  And Christy is a huge part of that. We had a cameo dance piece from Tess McGovern and then it was time for Sharon Shannon.

Sharon and her band burst onto the stage and gave us everything we wanted. This was a very different Sharon to the one I remembered way back in Fremantle maybe 15 years ago at the Fly by Night Club. Here she engaged the audience, chided them for not dancing, there was banter and there was fun and she was clearly happy to be back home in Clare. There were all those familiar favourites mixed in with some classical, some slow airs, some mouth music turned beat boxing and some out-there electric guitar. Particularly memorable was Black Betty morphing into the Mouth of the Tobique. A deserved encore gave us, of course, Galway Girl. All through it there was Sharon’s infectious smile and sense of joy and you couldn’t help but go along for the journey.

Mea culpa time now. I have to admit I hadn’t heard of Declan O’Rourke before. Shame on me as he actually started his music in Australia and his first album (Since Kyabram) referenced that time. I was soon brought up to speed. The largely female audience thronged to the front as the seats were removed. A deep gravelly voice one moment and then falsetto the next. Declan is a unique talent. I recognised the song Galileo and the audience joined in enthusiastically with Love is the Way. Here is a real musician, a singer songwriter with a unique talent and a similarly unique soulful voice. This is what Festivals should be about – discovering new music that touches you.

In the Main Arena Moxie were given the party spot starting at 12 and keeping a large crowd there until after 1:30 when I called it quits. I remembered them from last year and this bunch of young guys deliver a distinctive energetic, sometimes frenetic, instrumental Celtic-based music. I say Celtic-based because while the instrumentation is familiar to the trad heads (banjos, accordions) the sound is not. A great way to finish the night.

Meanwhile in the Whitehorse Sessions there was some fantastic music on display. I only caught bits of it but was blown away by The Evertides, three Dublin girls, with gorgeous harmonies and Marc O’Reilly and his band. A great innovation.

What a start! Talk tomorrow. 03-IMG_8317 bs2nger$ 02-IMG_8293 04-IMG_8564 06-IMG_8447 08-IMG_8542 09-IMG_8554 10-IMG_8620 05-IMG_8407 12-IMG_8609 15-IMG_8730 16-IMG_8801 17-IMG_8789 18-IMG_8805 19-IMG_8819 20-IMG_8851 21-IMG_8905 22-IMG_8944 29-IMG_9063 35-IMG_9218 52-IMG_9853 40-IMG_9345 46-IMG_9606 54-IMG_9902 43-IMG_9478 47-IMG_9718 55-IMG_9907 57-IMG_9920 58-IMG_9933 1-IMG_9591 2-IMG_9457 63-IMG_0020 59-IMG_9958 64-IMG_0032 68-IMG_0067 66-IMG_0058 67-IMG_0062 69-IMG_0081 70-IMG_0039 71-IMG_0038 72-IMG_0034 2-IMG_0080 3-IMG_0083 1-IMG_8229 14-IMG_8704 61-IMG_9992

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

Dungarvan TradFest and Danú

How many Festivals have you gone to recently with a line-up of musicians such as this? Connie O’Connell, Gerry Harrington, Andrew MacNamara, Eileen O’Brien, Charlie Piggott, Matt Cranitch, John Carty, Jackie Daly, Donal McCague, Sean Ryan, …… oh and Danú and heaps more. This was Dungarvan TradFest 2015 held in the Waterford town over the June Bank Holiday weekend. It’s a pity more musicians don’t make the trip to take part, because it was well worth it.

There were only a few formal functions with a free choral concert on the opening night a concert with John and Maggie Carty and the highlight, Danu’s 20th anniversary concert. In between was a gig rig with appearances from well-known groups along with local bands and wall to wall sessions. The festival coincided with the County Fleadh so it was possible to attend these competitions also. And there were events that I hadn’t seen elsewhere including a Busking Competition (for which yours truly was dragooned into being a judge!) and a Bucket Singing Competition.

It started on the Thursday with the Official Opening by the worldwide head of Comhaltas, Vince Jordan, some tunes from local young musicians and then a concert by the Cor Fear na nDeise,  a local male choir and 120 children from local schools. Aside from the spectacular achievement of coordinating this throng, the music was delightful. All in Irish and all sung with gusto. The choir led by Darren O Droma really pulled it off and to see the unbridled enthusiasm of the children performing to a packed auditorium of largely proud parents was wonderful to see.

IMG_3282

IMG_3231 IMG_3346 IMG_3519 IMG_3506

There was no formal session that night but I was told of a session afterwards at Lismore, an half an hour away. It was held in the appropriately named Classroom Bar and led by young musicians including All –Ireland champions, Sarah and Seamus O’Gorman. Great tunes. Fast and energetic. The session was hijacked though by locals and it became a good old Irish ‘sing song’ with one song starting almost before the other had finished. We had a plethora of old favourites and some rousing and not-so-rousing renditions. In fact we had songs sung in keys not yet invented. Nevertheless it was all sung with passion and it was great craic. It was amusing to watch the frustrated musicians waiting patiently for the tiniest gap to jump in with a tune.

IMG_3546 IMG_3611 IMG_3615

I had got a tip there may be music out at Ring. Ring (An Rinn) is only fifteen minutes from Dungarvan and on the way to to Helvic Head (I really must learn that tune). It is a small Gaeltacht area and fiercely proud of it. So I headed out there next day. After a long chat with fisherman Jack at the harbour at Helvic and a few deep breaths to recharge the batteries I headed to Mooney’s Pub where sure enough some of the best local music talent was gathered to help celebrate the end of the school term. I recognised musicians from the concert the night before including the leader Darren.. What a pleasant way to spend a sunny afternoon.

IMG_3839 IMG_3853 IMG_3873 IMG_3884

IMG_3926

That night there was a concert by John Carty and his daughter Maggie at The Local, so I got there early to take up a seat in the front row. I have always admired his playing since I met him in Perth back in a previous century. How deliciously sweet it is, with effortless bowing and a beautiful flowing rhythm, Maggie’s talented banjo playing provided a terrific counterpoint. It was gorgeous music enhanced occasionally by guest spots from Donnchadh Gough from Danu on the bodhran, who just happens to own the pub. And then the icing on the cake, they stayed around for a session with some of the young local musicians and a few others dropped in such as Andrew MacNamara. I was privileged to be part of this . Perhaps the less said about the dancing though the better.

IMG_4215 IMG_4045 IMG_4272 IMG_4363 IMG_4328 IMG_4386 IMG_4420

The weather was not kind the next day with squally rain and occasional hail though there were sunny breaks. I had just ordered my hamburger at the The Local when an harassed organiser came in. “We have a problem, can you help”? Turns out that a judge for the busking competition had pulled out and they needed an urgent replacement. Like right then! The busking was underway and there was about half an hour to go. Never one to refuse a challenge I agreed and after scoffing my burger I was discussing strategy with the Chairman of Comhaltas, who was the other judge. There were no guidelines;  how on earth do you judge a busking competition? So we went our separate ways and arrived at three “winners”. Turns out however that this was just Day One and there were another 15 contestants next day AND Vince was leaving that night so I would have to judge the remainder and and pick the winners out of both days. As it turned out the winners were obvious and I was able to remain in town unscathed without being hacked to pieces by irate parents.

IMG_4440 IMG_5244 IMG_5267

Of course my raison d’etre for being at festivals is to session and each day from 4 pm I followed the Session Trail until the small hours. In fact most nights I went to bed as the sun rose. There were many highlights. For example a truly tasty session in a quiet pub with Gerry Harrington, Charlie Piggins and James Duggan being one. Another was to be joined on a couple of occasions by living legend and genius John Dwyer (brother of Michael, Finbar and Ritchie), a delightful man and a wonderful musician. Here is a selection of photos. You’ll get the picture.

IMG_4532 IMG_4554 IMG_4611 IMG_4669 IMG_4729 IMG_4768 IMG_4870 IMG_5084 IMG_5487 IMG_5757 IMG_5927 IMG_5930 IMG_5937

IMG_4812 IMG_4989

The headline concert on Sunday night was at a function room at the Park Hotel and 600 plus people crammed into a space that they really shouldn’t have. It was bursting at the seams and there was a mad rush to get more seats to accommodate some of those standing. The warm up act was a group of young local musicians featuring Claire and Niamh Fennell, Clara Mannion & Sarah O’Gorman and really they did a fantastic job.

Danú are local heroes and one of Ireland’s most durable traditional bands. Most of their current line up was there and a few guests including previous singer Ciarán Ó Gealbháin joining Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh and Donal Lunny, producer of two of their albums. . This was a high energy concert and there was a buzz in the hall as they were celebrating their twentieth year together. They were clearly happy to be there and from the opening chord to the electric dancing and the rousing climax kicked off with a bodhran solo from Donnchadh Gough there was never a dull moment. The loyal and loving home crowd was screaming for more.

IMG_6069 IMG_6108 IMG_6148 IMG_6217 IMG_6300 IMG_6354 IMG_6387 IMG_6407 IMG_6409 IMG_6414 IMG_6430 IMG_6468 IMG_6485 IMG_6529 IMG_6552 IMG_6670 IMG_6675 IMG_6698 IMG_6743 IMG_6747 IMG_6779 IMG_6792

There were a few intrepid survivors on the Monday and they gathered at Downey’s Pub for the Bucket Singing Competition. This long standing Waterford tradition (well it is at least two years old) involves singing with a bucket over your head and then being savagely demolished by an entirely unsympathetic adjucator. Quality had nothing to do with the final result with rules being invented and broken as the competition went on. The majority of competitors suffered the Downey’s Drop announced solemnly after the adjudicator donned a black handkerchief.  It was great craic and at the risk of my never being allowed to compete again the organisers would have great difficulty defending the accusation that the winner was a not home town decision! I have contacted my lawyers! Congratulations to the organisers and in particular to the MC (Sean) and Judge (Dick) who kept it all together with a marvellous commentary. Bucket Singing may have a controversial history with some saying it goes back hundreds of years but the winner on the night was that other Irish tradition of slagging.

IMG_6862 IMG_7197 IMG_7364 IMG_7392

There were more sessions on the Monday but the enthusiasm was waning and by midnight everyone and believe it or not, yours truly, had had enough.

A memorable weekend and seamlessly organised by the ever present Michael Marrinan and an amazing committee. Well done all.

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

Fleadh Nua 2015 Day 8

Sunday. A late start.

Got to town about 3pm and managed to catch the last of the session at Knox’s with the Healeys, Tom Delaney, Derek Hickey, Caroline Keane, and heaps more, but there was a long wait for a seat. And when I did get one it finished. C’est la vie. Nice to listen though for a change. Lovely rousing version of Black is the Colour from Niamh Parsons.

So off to the CD launch at The Old Ground for Neansaí Ní Choisdealbha’s new recording. She had enlisted Eoin O’Neill, Jack Talty and Michael Hynes to help out and then we were progressively joined by flutes and fiddles from the floor until there were maybe 30 musicians. This was something else. It was a Who’s Who of Clare music with a number of welcome visitors from other counties and other worlds. Richie Dwyer, Danny Meehan, John Carty, Tony Smith, Denis Liddy; and that’s just the fiddle players. To hear Lord McDonald played by so much talent was a special experience. There was some great dancing and a wonderful recitation from Oliver O’Connell who was the host for the event. I could have stayed and listened all day and it was all I could do to stop myself running back to the car to get my fiddle and join them!

Downstairs the music continued with Eileen O’Brien, Mary MacNamara, Sorcha Costello and Geraldine Cotter, But I had to drag myself away from there for the Bobby Casey Tribute concert and CD launch. A four hour extravaganza with an incredible array of musicians who knew or were influenced by Bobby. I won’t list everyone but check out the photos. I am sure you will see many familiar faces.

On the way home I popped into Cruises for Los Paddys de las Pampas and they had the crowd bopping as usual and then it lifted a notch when three quarters of the Four Winds joined them on stage. A fitting way to end the day.

The Festival is winding down. Monday brings Recovery Sessions and time to reflect on what has been a wildly successful Festival. It augurs well for the Fleadh Cheoil next year. I kept visualising the streets pedestrianised and packed with thousands and music coming out of every pub. Good luck Alan and the team!  Ennis is definitely the right place!

IMG_1855 IMG_1857 IMG_1870 IMG_1877 IMG_1894 IMG_1907 IMG_1967 IMG_1973 IMG_1986 IMG_1993 IMG_2038 IMG_2044 IMG_2132 IMG_2138 IMG_2202 IMG_2204 IMG_2208 IMG_2218 IMG_2246 IMG_2250 IMG_2251 IMG_2256 IMG_2259 IMG_2261 IMG_2269 IMG_2291 IMG_2300 IMG_2307 IMG_2341 IMG_2351 IMG_2365 IMG_2373 IMG_2395 IMG_2407 IMG_2412 IMG_2419 IMG_2445 IMG_2463 IMG_2469 IMG_2474 IMG_2482 IMG_2518 IMG_2519 IMG_2527 IMG_2543 IMG_2552 IMG_2562 IMG_2569 IMG_2578 IMG_2588 IMG_2602 IMG_2619 IMG_2635 IMG_2650 IMG_2670 IMG_2688 IMG_2720 IMG_2733 IMG_2759 IMG_2767 IMG_2798

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

Blog at WordPress.com.