Posts Tagged With: Corofin

Monday, Monday. Corofin Trad Fest 2016

I spent last weekend at the Corofin Trad Fest.

This is one of those Festivals that after fifteen years, the organisers have got absolutely right.  Corofin is twenty minutes from Ennis in County Clare and like all the good Irish music festivals attracts a loyal band of followers from all around the world .  And why do they come.  It’s not for the concerts, even though they are of a high standard (the venue only holds around 100 people so they sell out very quickly);  it’s not for the workshops, though they have top notch tutors;  it’s not for the dancing (because there is none);  it’s not for the singing (though the odd song crept into a couple of sessions).

It’s all about the tunes.  That’s why the musicians flock here and that’s why the pubs are packed.

The organisers Damien and Padraic O’Reilly very cleverly select musicians to ensure a uniformly high standard.  Not the same-old-same-old that you get in many festivals but if you want to hear new musicians this is the place.  There are also some really interesting pairings.  Musicians that have never met, let alone played together. And sometimes the results are electric.  I still cherish the memory from last year’s festival when Claire Egan was paired up with Derek Hickey.  Wow.  All the pubs are close by and this year there was an extra venue with the reopening of Daly’s.

I didn’t go to any of the concerts so I can’t report on those but I attended sessions on Friday night and all day Saturday and Sunday.  I won’t go into detail.  There’s no real point.  I can only think of one session where I was disappointed but I won’t dwell on that.  The music everywhere was sensational and the crowded pubs were testament to this.

So I ask you to look at the photos and if you strain your ears you might even hear  some of that wonderful music filtering through the ether.  If not then book now for the first week in March of 2017.

But actually I wasn’t going to talk about any of this at all.    Nevertheless I was totally exhausted by the time Sunday night came around.  I had been playing for nearly 12 hours each day and I was suffering with a cracked rib and the last vestiges of a cold.  I was more than ready to head home first thing Monday, with the rest of the throng.

Facebook to the rescue.  A post from Eoin O’Neill, well known Clare bouzouki player and broadcaster, saying he would be at Daly’s for a session from 1:30.  OK I’ll stay.  So I had three hours to fill in.  A stroll along Bridge Street looking for breakfast was interrupted by the sound of my name echoing down the empty street.  It was Eoin O’Neill himself sitting in the entrance of the local supermarket at a laminex table with a cup of black coffee.  I joined him.  And as so often happens we were then joined by one of those characters that make Ireland the treasure that it is.

Mrs O’Brien from the Burren came in and instead of walking past us to pick up the milk and despite having her son sitting in the car outside, she stopped and chatted and stayed for nearly half an hour.  We learnt a lot about Mrs O’Brien but it was one of the most delightful half hours I have spent in Ireland.  She was 82 and sharp as a tac.  She had ten children, she has tinnitus and her husband had died many years ago.  We talked about the music.  Eoin is a master at engaging people and there was an instant rapport, especially when he said she only looked 76.  Touching Eoin’s arm she leaned over and quietly told us there were three things that she loved in life: “music, a bowl of porridge and the hurling and football”.  So we talked about the football.  Full of wisdom, meeting Mrs O’Brien set me up for the day.

And then I had the biggest breakfast ever at Bofey Quinns.

The three hours magically disappeared and I found myself in Daly’s Pub at 1:30 tuning the fiddle.  Just me and Eoin.  And did I mention Brian O’Loughlin and Siobhann Peoples and Blackie O’Connell?  And 22 very lucky people. I counted them.   It was fast.  It was tight and it was brilliant to be part of.  As if that wasn’t enough there was another session after this at Mack’s with Blackie joined by Cyril O’Donghue and and Hugh Healy.  I did a lot more listening than playing.  None of this was in the programme.  When I asked about that, the response was:  “Oh it happens every year”.  I could so easily have missed it.

That was the end of the Corofin Festival but it wasn’t the end of my Monday.  On then to a packed Fitz’s Bar in Doolin for the regular Wild Atlantic Session with the satisfying sound this night of a half a dozen fiddles.

Who said Mondays were a drag?

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

Corofin Traditional Festival, Co Clare

The festival at Corofin is the 25th festival I have been to in Ireland since I arrived in May 2014. Is it the best? Hard to answer but for me it had everything. Some festivals have better workshops, bigger concerts, more variety, but this one to my mind gets the balance just right. Let me tell you about it.

The festival committee headed by the dynamic O’Reilly brothers have developed a tried and true formula and know better than to tinker with it. In fact the Festival won the MórGlór award last year in recognition of its contribution to music in Clare and the efforts of the organisers to put on a consistent and high quality festival.

Corofin is a small village on the edge of Clare’s spectacular Burren (see my blogs at https://singersongblog.wordpress.com/2014/06/20/the-burren/ and https://singersongblog.wordpress.com/2014/08/29/the-burren-again/) about 14 km from Ennis. The festival was held over the week 2nd March to 8th March 2015.  It kicked off on the Monday night and there were events every night until the weekend when the festival proper got into full swing. I didn’t attend the opening by Eoin O’Neill on Monday (I was still enjoying the final session of the Russell Weekend in Doolin (https://singersongblog.wordpress.com/2015/03/06/russell-weekend-doolin-co-clare/) so I can’t comment on that but Tuesday and Wednesday saw two more free events in the Teach Ceoil. This is an intimate venue where there is a great connection between the artists and the audience. On Tuesday we heard Mick, Donal and Conor McCague launching their album of mainly Mick’s original compositions. It was lovely music, a highlight for me being; yes you guessed it, the fiddle playing of Donal. Wednesday was a tribute night to the irrepressible Joe Rynne from Inagh who has had such a big influence on music in North Clare As recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award, we were treated to some wonderful cameos from members of his family, from renowned flute players, Christy Barry and Brid O’Donoghue and then finishing with an all in session comprising 25 of Joe’s friends, many of them legends themselves and some previous members of the Corofin Hall of Fame. Their playing of the ‘Tulla’ set was something to behold.

Then there were three concerts on Thursday Friday and Saturday. One can’t be everywhere so the only one of these I saw was on Friday with the Yanks, a group of yes, you guessed it, Americans, led by 2014 All Ireland Senior Fiddle Champion Dylan Foley and the most gorgeous flute from Conal Ó Gráda with Colm Murphy backing on bodhran. I had never heard flute playing quite like that of Conal. It was light, full of energy and spirit and I was mesmerised. Performers at the other concerts included Angelina Carberry and Dan Broudar, Noel Hill and Liam O’Connor and Jesse Smith and Colm Gannon, and while it was disappointing not to see everyone, I was able to catch up with some of these at the various sessions.

I attended the fiddle workshop and in the allocated three hours we had an hour each from Jesse Smith, Dylan Foley and Conor McEvoy. This was nowhere near enough time and in particular Jesse Smiths’ insightful perspective was particularly helpful to me.

This festival however very much revolves around the virtually continuous sessions that take place from Friday night to the death on Sunday evening. It is a musicians’ festival and quality players turn up in droves and this brings a big contingent of international trad followers. It felt at times a bit like Willie Week without the baggage, if you know what I mean. Of course there were some sessions that didn’t deliver, just as in any festival – too much noise, too big, whatever; but there were so many that did. I played on the Saturday (not counting the workshop) from 2:30 to close at around 2am (after three hours sleep the night before) and again on the Sunday for twelve hours, exhausted but satisfied. There were both large sessions such as at Crowley’s on Saturday where despite there being possibly forty musicians, the music was fast and tight and had a good strong pulse, and there were small intimate sessions, such as with Stefan and Paolo at the Anglers Rest on Sunday or on Saturday where I had the great pleasure of playing with the incredibly talented Sarah, Ellen and Seamus O’Gorman, All Ireland champions from Waterford and the future of fiddle playing in Ireland. Great stuff. And I have to mention the Sunday evening session at the Angler’s Rest, with Derek Hickey, Claire Egan, Eoin O’Neill (box), Liam O’Brien, Dan Brouder, Angelina Carberry and Geraldine Cotter among others. This was sublime music played at a gentle pace and with wonderful restraint and despite the number of boxes you could hear each instrument clearly. It became almost hypnotic at times and a largely silent and appreciative crowd were treated to a memorable evening and a great finale to a weekend of wonderful music. Great to be part of it.

I caught up with a host of overseas musicians, some regular visitors to Clare who include Corofin on their must-visit list along with Willie Week and the Tradfest in Ennis and judging by the variety of inter-county number plates jostling for parking space there were visitors from all over Ireland drawn to this celebration of the best of Irish music. And as usual I made many new friends. Who wouldn’t want to be part of the traditional music scene?

There was not a bed to be had in Corofin as I discovered when my car was locked inside the Centra Car park, but that’s another story!

I only had one issue, and I mention it as something for the organisers to think about next time. There was a fantastic session going at Bofey Quinn’s on Saturday evening and the place was packed and buzzing. At 10pm the musicians who play at the regular scheduled session arrived and virtually mid-tune the session came to an abrupt end. As the regulars took over, the pub quickly cleared both of musicians and drinkers. This was not in the best interests of the Festival or the pub. I don’t know what the answer is but, like I say, I just mention it as something to think about.

Fair play to the O’Reilly brothers who seem to be the driving force behind this festival (I hope that’s not being unfair to others who contribute), while at the same time appear in the concerts, do MC’ing and turn up at sessions all over town as well as being at the end of the phone to answer requests for lost caps. Thank you.

So is it the best? Let me just say if it was a restaurant I’d give it three hats!

See you there next year.

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

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