Posts Tagged With: Doolin Folk Festival

Doolin Folk Festival 2016 Day 2

The day kicked off with a start that couldn’t be more local.  Moher comprises many musicians resident in Clare and well known to Doolin session-goers. The group of eight musicians used their number and skill to produce a surprising nuanced and textured sound which, when it needed to, could rattle the tent pegs.

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After that though I left familiar territory. Ye Vagabonds, another brotherly collaboration, grabbed a stunned audience from the first number which was a haunting and mesmerising version Barbara Allen. This was a Child Ballad reborn and what followed was a spellbinding set, perfect for a drizzly Saturday afternoon.

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More surprises followed with Breaking Trad, who mixed it up with an exciting, energetic delivery and yet could slow it down beautifully, as with their version of Clare to Here.

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In my ignorance I had never heard of Freddie White. Another surprise that knocked me backwards. A fantastic stage experience from a master of his craft. Beautiful songs, some his own and many known to the audience, who sang along with gusto.  An added bonus for me was that he was an absolute joy to photograph with an ever-changing face full of  life experiences and wonderful expression.

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Then there was Dervish who for 27 years have been belting it out producing music from the top drawer. Kathy Jordan was in fine form and there was something for everyone. Particularly fine was her rendition of Down by the Glenside.

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I was a bit dubious as to how Hothouse Flowers would fit in but how brilliant were they. A passionate, exciting, captivating performance from a truly great rock band led by Liam Ó Maonlaí .   An inspired choice for this festival, it really was a privilege to hear them live.  I have to say though it was very hard to dance while juggling two cameras I can tell you.

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For me that was enough but I stayed long enough to catch the beginning of Marc O’Reilly. The crowd looked like they were settling in for a long night.

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

Irish Celebration. Music at the Heart of it.

Maybe I live in an unreal world but I went to two events in the past week which have highlighted for me the hugely important place traditional Irish music has at the centre of Irish culture and celebration.

One was a funeral and one was a birthday party.

For a birthday party fair enough, but you may think ‘celebration’ is a strange choice of word for a funeral.  Let me try and explain.

All of Ennis and the broader Clare and Irish Music communities were saddened by the untimely death of Dympna O’Sullivan.  A noted concertina player and stalwart of the Ennis music scene, I met her briefly and played in a couple of sessions with her last year.  You could not fail to like her and to be inspired by her playing.   I attended her funeral mass at Lissycasey on Sunday 22nd November.  I had not been to a Funeral in Ireland and, though I knew they were a big part of the Irish fabric, I was unsure what to expect.

What I saw when I arrived was a village choked with cars and the spacious church filled to capacity.  Family and friends included many musicians and many brought their instruments.    The traditional mass was interspersed with not-so-traditional traditional Irish Music.  And it made for a wonderful service at times moving and reverential and then stirring.  This brings me back to the ‘celebration’ word.  Yes it was truly a celebration of a wonderful joyous musical life and there was no incongruity in the long line of mourners queuing to pay respects to the relatives while friends and fellow musicians played spirited jigs and reels.  At least thirty musicians played in the packed church and their contribution made for a unique send off.  Later at the graveside a solo accordion player from the village played a haunting air which lingered in the cool crisp winter air.  I can’t think of a better way to remember a life.

The other event was a 60th birthday party for Christy Barry.   Christy is one of Ireland’s most respected flute and whistle players.  He spent much of his life in the States but for some time has lived back home in County Clare.  His birthday party filled the function room in Fitz’s bar in the Hotel Doolin with family coming from all round the world.  This was more than a birthday party though. The gathering was an excuse for a mighty session.  The word was out and upwards of forty musician friends of Christy’s turned up.  The music continued with hardly a break from around 8 until I left at 1.30 am.  Christy was at the centre of it driving many of the sets whether he was on the flute, whistle or spoons. At the same time he found the time to welcome and embrace every new arrival.  The session ebbed and flowed as musicians came and went.  One minute Christy was leading a set with half a dozen whistles and flutes.  Then the fiddles took over, including James Cullinan, Joe Rynne, Michael Kelleher and Paul Dooley, and then there was a duet with Christy and John King and then there were forty musicians belting out Lucy Campbell.  There were songs interspersed and of course some impromptu dancing.  This was true craic.  Christy also formally received his delayed Lifetime Achievement Award from the Doolin Folk Festival to rousing applause.  A well-deserved accolade.

As I said Irish music was at the centre of both events.  This was not a pub session or a concert  or something laid on for the tourists but this was real; an integral part of life and living.

I really don’t have the words this time to explain the connection adequately.  Maybe these photos from Fitz’s will help.  But you have to experience it to understand.

 

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Categories: My Journey, Real Ireland, Stories, 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.

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Doolin Folk Festival 2015, Day 2

Only a few words today. I am going to let the pictures talk. I’ll just say that the full house yesterday was treated to an incredibly strong showing of what ‘Folk Music’ is today in Ireland.

We had solo singer-songwriters such as Fiach Moriarty, we had a dose of Sliabh Luachra with Brian O’Leary’s band and then the perfect hangover cure with Colm Mac Con Iomaire. This group deserves special mention. All eleven of them had made the trip to Doolin and their eclectic and extraordinarily beautiful arrangements of ‘trad meets trance’ was a real eye-opener.

We had ‘modern’ trad with the Four Winds reprising their gig of a couple of weeks ago at the Fleadh Nua in Ennis and if anything they lifted it a notch from that show. I especially loved Farewell to the Gold, a song I have been singing since the early eighties. We had the Lost Brothers, two guys who definitely weren’t lost. Two brothers, two voices and two guitars; lovely stuff. We had more brothers with We Banjos Three (who are actually four – explain that; oh sorry, this is Ireland!) , where ‘trad meets old timey’.  Their extraordinary virtuosity makes them a standout wherever they play.

Then we had Cork man Mick Flannery and his band, another unknown to me.  Not easy to follow the Banjos but they delighted their loyal fans.

The highlight of the day for me though was Fiddler’s Bid, four lads from Scotland and the Shetlands who, surprisingly, all play the fiddle.  They were supported by some of the finest harp playing you will ever here and a rhythm section with guitar and bass and sometimes piano . But wow! Four fiddles, sometimes in unison, sometimes weaving in and out with harmonies and chords but always electric, energetic and enervating. I had heard them at New Year in Donegal a the most amazing Hogmanay and they certainly did not disappoint this time. Not much more to be said. Oh except the night was finished with Aldoc (for me at 1:30) with Alan Docherty’s amazing flute at the core, but with a lot more going on around him.

Today was another perfect gaggle of gigs. Not everything is to everyone’s taste. But as I said yesterday that’s what makes a great Festival.

One last thing. I met heaps of fantastic people yesterday. From all over Ireland and the world. I also took lots of shots of people of all ages enjoying the craic. I will put some of these up on my blog in the days to come. Without these wonderful people there would be not be a Festival.

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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.

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