Posts Tagged With: Doolin

Oh no! Not more pictures of the Cliffs of Moher.

With all this fabulous weather in West Clare recently I decided to take the cruise from Doolin to visit the cliffs. I’ve been to the Cliffs of Moher many times but never before have I seen them from the water.  I checked the forecast. Fine for the next couple of days.  Brilliant.  So I booked the late boat for the following day as I dreamed of perfect photos lit by the late evening glow.

The morning dawns and I open the window to the bay at Caherush shrouded in thick fog. I wasn’t worried and smugly congratulated myself at my foresight in booking the late boat. The fog will lift of course by midday and there will be blue skies. My optimism was rewarded as it did lift and by mid afternoon some blue sky appeared. A perfect plan?

So I drive the 40 minutes to Doolin.  Around Lahinch the fog starts to roll back in, getting heavier as I drive across the bog and down the hill to Doolin until by the time I reach the Pier visibility is just a few tens of metres. My heart sunk.  Visions returned of a trip to Jungfrau in the Swiss Alps many years ago.  Up the cog railway in a total wipeout.  I saw nothing of the roof of the world.

We set off nevertheless with, in my case, no real expectation.  So much for all those dramatic photos I was going to take of walls of rock framed by skies of blue.

But for fleeting moments as we approached closer the fog would shift and you would get glimpses of green through the grey.  You got a real sense of the powerful presence of these cliffs though you never saw them in their totality and could only imagine how high they actually were.  The changing  views were tantalising and somehow seductive.  As the boat rocked and shifted, the angles changed and I snapped away but with no real hope of capturing this feeling.

I’ve stopped looking for explanations of the Irish version of the way of the world.  An hour later the fog lifted. But never was the expression ‘go with the flow’ more apposite. Taking advantage of the extended daylight in June I spent the remaining hours exploring the rocky coast north of Doolin, in total thrall of the wonderful rock garden that is the Burren in spring.  I forgot about the the Cliffs.

But when I got home that evening (early next morning I should say, after tunes in Doolin and Ennistymon) and looked at the photos and I was surprised and happy at what I had captured.  I still have a lot to learn about photography but I think the images say just as much or perhaps more than if we were seeing every minute and vivid detail.  Sometimes showing just a little reveals a lot.

Turns out that fog was a lucky break.

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Categories: My Journey, Wild Ireland | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Cliffs of Moher Cycle Challenge. Never Refuse an Invitation

No I haven’t joined the lycra brigade.  Let me explain.

Never refuse an invitation has been one of the mantras that I have followed since I started living in Ireland and I know I have written before about some of the surprising encounters that have resulted.  This was demonstrated yet again one wet Saturday in early April.

A couple of days previously I had received an email from a friend telling me that the organisers of the Cliffs of Moher Cycle Challenge were looking for musicians to entertain the riders during their lunch stop in the very north of Clare at Ballyvaughan.  Without knowing anything about the event of course I agreed.

The instructions were simple.  “Be at the Hall at 11.30”.  It’s about an hour’s drive from Spanish Point and as I headed north of course, sun turned to rain.

This event, hosted by the Riverside Cycling Club Ennistymon, is in its 6th year. It has built up to become an important part of the Clare cycling calendar with 630 participants this year.  The Burren and the Atlantic coast of Clare hosts some very popular cycle events such as the Tour de Burren, Ring of Clare, SRAC Atlantic Challenge and a ladies only ride Turas na mBan.

It’s not surprising really as the route is rated as one of the finest in Europe.  There were a number of shorter journeys of 40 and 80 km  but The full loop started and finished in Ennistymon and takes in the Cliffs of Moher (of course) and other iconic Clare sites such as Doolin, Fanore and Black Head on the spectacular Burren coast road, Ballyvaughan, Carran, the hairpin bends of Corkscrew Hill and spa-town Lisdoonvarna.

So I arrived in Ballyvaughan with the rain just in time to see the first riders arrive.

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The first riders enter Ballyvaughan

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Not far behind was this colour coordinated group

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Riders make their way through the town

Some kept going, not bothering to take a break but most were diverted to the National School Hall for an inviting spread of sandwiches, fruit and warm tea.

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Decision time.  Most chose lunch.

And who could resist the local smoked salmon on soda bread and the piles of home made sandwiches.  It was also time to exchange stories, meet new friends and check progress.

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Time to show off the new bike.

I joined a small group of musicians belting out jigs and reels with a mighty Kilfenora rhythm. How could it not be so with Anne Rynne (a member of the Kilfenora Ceili Band) and her family leading.  It was so much fun to be part of.  The riders seemed to enjoy it though I am not sure they  realised that despite the youth of  a number of the players , the music was world class.

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It is a surprisingly small country Ireland, and the music world which I am part of has strong links across other activities. I think of it this way.  Traditional music  is like a strong thread in a patchwork quilt that seems to stitch everything together. From farming to football. To illustrate, there in the crowd was my friend Thierry, a keen cyclist and fiddler, who, still clad in riding gear, helmet and gloves,  just couldn’t resist the temptation to borrow my fiddle and play a few tunes. Best of both worlds.

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A great cross section from all over Ireland turned up.  Even the Mayor of Clare was there, wearing not his official garb, but riding colours.  This was a charitable event and a community event.  There were no winners and everyone was a winner.  Oh God.  Did I write that!

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A Mayor from Clare

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Everyone wanted to be in the picture

I headed back home, but not after a little bit of drama leaving my fiddle behind in the hall.  Retrieved it eventually.

I ran into the cyclists again on my way back (figuratively speaking that is) as the sun dramatically re appeared occasionally.  I stopped at the beautiful Carran Church on the roof of the Burren to watch them ride past. You have to admire cyclists’ dedication.  Still plugging away, only 40 km to go, I wonder how many were in the frame of mind to take a look at the stunning scenery or was their mind focused on the formidable Corkscrew Hill just a few kilometers ahead.

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Ruins of Carran Church

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View towards Mt Callan.

I finally ended up back in Ennistymon around 4pm as the last riders were triumphantly ending their 125 kilometer journey.   6 hours and 12 minutes is a long time to be peddling a bicycle.

These events take quite a lot of organising.  Route marking,  food and drink stops, publicity, traffic management and a host of volunteers contribute in all kinds of ways.

A very pleased Committee posed for me outside the Community Hall.

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I hope the cyclists had as good a time as I did. Like I say, never refuse an invitation.

 

Categories: My Journey, Real Ireland | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Musical Week in Clare, Ireland

I have lived for the past 2½ years on the coast near Spanish Point in County Clare. There has been a constant stream of visitors during this time. Some were family, some good friends but some were strangers. Some stayed for a night, some for more than a week. All leave as life long friends.  I have hosted 76 guests, many more than once.

They are all people I meet through music, or the music session, or during my travels in Ireland. They have come from Ireland, Australia, France, Germany, Switzerland, Spain, United States, UK, Canada, Japan, Brazil, Denmark and Czech Republic and each has a story. Every single one of them has enriched my time here and it has been a joy to have met, enjoyed their company and shared a shared passion for things Irish.

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French Windows

 

Just last week I hosted three wonderful friends, Julie, Romain and Anna from Carcassone in the south of France. Of course we played tunes, that’s what they came for, but we cooked, imbibed, sampled cheese (sorry, fromage!), and exchanged stories.

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The sun came out on the last day.  Lunch on the porch.

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Cheese, wine and bread from Carcassone.  View from Caherush. 

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It didn’t matter that it rained. I am grateful that we were able to experience an ideal slice of Clare music and musicians in the week they were here. This is what is so special about this place. So many memorable moments, but come next week and it will be the same, but completely different.

So many highlights. Sunday. A pub session in Miltown Malbay at Hillery’s with Conor Keane and Jackie Daly firing on all cylinders, Julie and Romain brought some elegance to the proceedings as they danced a mazurka, French style. Monday.  Fitz’s Bar in Doolin, Tuesday. The cosy Cooley’s House in Ennistymon. On Wednesday a trip to Ennis – a chilled out session at Brogans did little to prepare my guests for the madness of Moroney’s in Ennis where the victorious young Clare hurling team were in full voice and there was some fiery sean nos style dancing from Canada, US and Ireland. A visit to the Burren Thursday and sharing some tunes stories, songs and poems in the kitchen of the irrepressible Oliver O’Connell . And they joined in on my regular Thursday house session with some local West Clare musician friends. The craic went until 4am.  Situation normal.  Oh and what a way to finish! A phalanx of pipers led by Blackie at the Friday Piping Heaven Piping Hell session in Ennis.

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Sunday.  Jackie Daly, Conor Keane and Dave Harper at Hillery’s Bar in Miltown Malbay.

 

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Sunday. A French mazurka in an Irish pub.

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Monday.  Tunes in Fitz’s Doolin.  Photo Anna. 

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Monday.  Fitz’s

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Tuesday.  Cooley’s House.  Ennistymon.  Photo.  Anna.

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Wednesday.  Eoin O’Neill, Brid O’Gorman, Jon O’Connell.  Brogan’s Ennis

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Wednesday.  Anne Marie McCormack, Marcus Moloney and a member of the young Clare hurling team.  Moroney’s Ennis.

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Thursday.  Joining Oliver O’Connell in his kitchen.  Photo Anna.

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Thursday.  House session at Caherush.  With John Joe Tuttle, Ciaran McCabe and J-B Samazan. 

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Friday.  Piping session, Blackie O’Connell, Tom Delaney and friends.  O’Connell’s Bar, Ennis,

 

For me these musical experiences are enhanced immeasurably when I am joined by those who approach the music with the same ardor as me. It is my privilege indeed to host such people.

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New friends.

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Blue and green. 

 

Categories: My Journey, Sessions | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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

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.

 

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

There is a God and He was in Doolin last weekend

The Devil went down to Georgia apparently but God was in Doolin last weekend. And I don’t mean Frankie Gavin, though he was there too!

It was the Russell Memorial Weekend, an event held in honour of members  of the Russell family since the untimely and tragic death of Micho Russell in 1994.

There are concerts and there are workshops but it’s about the sessions.  They go all day and night from around 2pm and all four pubs are buzzing.  The opening concert is a showcase of young local talent and always impresses and there is a headline concert this time featuring Frankie  and DeDannan, which I didn’t get to.

Nevertheless there were plenty of highlights for me.  A quiet session with Dermot Byrne and Eoin O’Neill and Quentin Cooper in Fitz’s,  with Dermot again and Floriane Blanke  in McGann’s, a mighty session with Frankie Gavin, James Cullinan and a host of others at O’Connors that lifted the roof off,  playing with Blackie O’Connell and Cyril O’Donoghue, singing a couple of songs myself and watching  a future star – young Seannai McMahon work the audience at McGanns, with his infectious songs.

Not much more to say really.  Here are a few photographs which I think tell the story. Thnks to Melanie Nolley for the ones of me and Frankie.

Oh, one more thing.  Let me tell you why I think God was in Doolin; and that He/She must be a lover of Irish trad music.   It was Saturday night I had been playing music all day and was suffering with a cold and a cracked rib (long story).  It was 9ish and the pubs were packed and you could hardly move and I had had enough.  So I was ready to go home via a few quiet tunes at the Roadside in Lisdoonvarna.  When I got in the car however I discovered I had no petrol.  Warning lights were flashing and the trip computer said 0 km remaining! I couldn’t risk the 30km home.  So I looked for an hostel room which I eventually found.  Stuck in Doolin now with no transport I called in to O’Connor’s and lucked in to a session with a fired up Frankie Gavin, Noel O’Donoghue,  James Cullinan, Michael Queally, Seanie Vaughan and many more. To sit next to Frankie and play a few tunes was a real buzz.

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

Where Does the Music in Ireland go in Winter? Answer…. Fitz’s bar in Doolin.

It’s the last night of November.  I am in Doolin in West Clare.  The rain is lashing.  It’s windy and cold.  Normal Irish winter actually.  So of course the only place to be is in a pub in front of the fire with a hot whiskey or a Guinness and listening to or playing Irish music.

Well that’s the plan anyway; during the summer here in Doolin you can find music every night of the week in any of the four pubs; not so now.  All the mid-week sessions have pretty much packed up.  Except that is on Monday nights at Fitz’s Bar at the Hotel Doolin.  Every Monday night, summer or winter, for the last couple of years this session has acted like a beacon in the musical desert (sorry about the mixed metaphor).  Or perhaps an oasis in a stormy sea (there I go again!).

That’s where I ended up in any case.  It has a peculiar welcoming vibe.  The session is hosted by Eoin O’Neill, Quentin Cooper,  Adam Shapiro and Jon O’Connell who are collectively The Fiddle Case and all very well-known musicians around Clare.  They love playing together and that infectious energy is picked up by the musicians attracted there to play with them.  This night we had noted box and concertina player Terry Bingham and Christy Moore’s siblings, Anne Rynne and Luka Bloom join us as well as regulars such as Andee from the States and Séverine from France along with local and international visitors.

Walking into this pub on a Monday is like a welcome home party.  There are so many regulars, locals for which this is their only night out and visitors who though strangers at the beginning of the night may be lifetime friends by the end.  There is always a good mix here.  The tunes are of course at the centre but there will be songs, always of surprising quality, and often from unknowns that Eoin plucks from the crowd.  After thirty years of doing this in Doolin he is a master.

Always a highlight for me is when Jon O’Connell sings Liscannor Bay.  This wonderful song written by local man Mick Flynn has been made his own by John and with the subtle and restrained backing of the fiddle, bouzouki and slide guitar from the band has truly become an anthem.  The great news is that a definitive version has been recorded.  It is not yet available commercially and can’t even be heard on line but it is receiving airplay on ClareFM and wherever good traditional music is played.  Keep your ear open for it.  I’m sure you’ll love it as much as I do.  Even better news is that an album will be released soon with Liscannor Bay included.  Can’t wait.  I really hope it catches the spirit that is Fitz’s on a Monday night.  I am sure it will be very sought after by visitors wanting to take a little of that magic home with them.

It continues to surprise me why many pubs get rid of musicians in winter.  Fitz’s shows what you can do if you pick the right musicians and create the right vibe.  But luckily it’s not the only one.  Try Friels in Miltown Malbay on Friday, Saturday or Sunday or Cooley’s House in Ennistymon on Tuesdays or the Cornerstone in Lahinch on a Sunday if you can’t find anything in Doolin or Ennis.

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

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

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.

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

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