Posts Tagged With: Ennis Trad Fest

Ennis Trad Fest 2015 – The Last Three Days

I have been remiss. Immersed as I have been in the Ennis Trad Festival I have just not found the time to sort photos and write my thoughts. Now it’s over and I have repaid some of my sleep debt I can give it some attention.  Where do I start?

Facebook has been flooded with praise for the Ennis Trad Fest so there is probably little that I can add but as many of my blog followers are not on Facebook I will record my impressions here in my blog.   And if you’re bored hearing how good the Festival was then just adopt the Playboy philosophy and skip these words and just look at the pictures.  I think you will agree they tell a story just on their own.

As someone who has been to all the major schools and festivals over the last 18 months (and a lot of the minor ones) I am often asked what is my favourite Festival.  I have avoided an answer.  Really because I have found it almost impossible to answer.  I have discussed this before in other blogs.  but every Festival gives me something to take away.  Indeed I have a love-hate relationship with many Festivals.  I can’t stay away yet the session experience is often unsatisfying.

I am reminded of Sydney in 2000 when we staged the Olympic Games .  The now disgraced Juan Samaranch proclaimed during the Closing Ceremony  “I am proud and happy, to proclaim that you have presented to the world the best Olympic Games ever.”  Well for what it’s worth, “Ennis – You have presented the Best Festival I have been to in Ireland”

There I have done it.  I’ve said it.  The Best Festival in Ireland!

I suppose I should give my reasons.  Firstly it is the best location.  Ennis in the heart of Clare is the spiritual capital of Irish Traditional music.  Ah sure, there’s Donegal and Sligo and Galway and Kerry and I know not everyone will agree but nowhere have I seen music, song and dance so deeply ingrained as part of the culture.  It bursts out everywhere, in young and old, in pubs and cafes, among visitors and locals and in players and listeners.  So if ever a festival was going to work it was in Ennis.  There are heaps of venues.  Many of the pubs are widely recognised ‘music pubs’ outside festivals such as Faffa’s, Kelly’s, Brogan’s, Cruises etc and many are large enough to accommodate the inevitable giant festival session.  There are hundreds of musicians resident in Ennis and the surrounding villages.  While tourists go to Doolin, ‘real’ musicians come to Ennis.  It is a mecca for many from overseas,  some making it their home.

You can hear all kinds of music in this town.  The classic ‘Clare-style’, whatever that is, to the fast, furious and wild.  So much choice. In fact why not hold the Fleadh Cheoil here?

Ok so it has everything going for it but of course that’s not enough.. ..

This Festival is a special experience.  It delivers on so many levels where the larger Summer Schools and Festivals and the small local ones can’t –  It is a musicians festival!  Whereas if you go to a Fleadh Cheoil the streets are packed with massive throngs of people.  Many families and tourists.  And that’s great but walk the streets of Ennis during Trad Fest and you will see crowds, but the great majority of people carry an instrument on their back.

The sessions here are at a different level.  The core of each session is usually four musicians but up to 30 may join in.  Virtually without exception the music is of the highest quality.  Something that cannot be said of Willie week or the Fleadh or Drumshanbo.  Yes there are ‘session wreckers’ of course  but somehow they don’t seem to destroy the ambience.  And you can always move on as there are so many sessions at the same time; scheduled and unscheduled.  Just have a look at the pictures and you will see the quality of musicians you can hear.

And my pet hate… pubs so noisy you can’t hear yourself or the fiddler sitting next to you and patrons so disrespectful it becomes unpleasant.  Just not a problem here.  I love to watch people while I play and there are so often smiles; or listeners with their eyes closed and those chatting do so without disturbing.  Yes there is sometimes tension as many don’t understand the unwritten rules around sessions but somehow it works itself out.

I reread my blog from last year and I’m going to repeat what I said then,  Not because I am lazy but because what I observed then is confirmed this year and I can’t really add to it.

For me the fact that this was a ‘special’ festival was apparent from the very first session on Thursday to the last note played on Monday night. In my short time here in Ireland I have made many musical friends and this Festival made me realise how important that is to enjoying the musical experience to the fullest. A music festival is not just about the music you hear or make but how you fill the spaces between the music. There was such a sense of goodwill and around the place that it was so easy to make new friends and there was not the negative influence of the, shall we say, over-excited crowds of visitors seeking a different kind of craic, that was a feature of Miltown.

I made heaps of new friends again ,  John and Maureen from the States, Isabelle from Quebec, a contingent of 25 young musicians from Sweden, Etha from Bali, probably the only fiddle player in Indonesia, Ben from UK, Angela from Germany.  And of course renewed contact with many in the real, rather than virtual, world such as Veronika, Steve, Sarah, Clare, John, Jim and Barbara, Tony and the rest of the Festival Family.

I didn’t get to many concerts this time because I wanted to play but I did see Beoga which inspired some of the most creative dancing I have ever seen, and I saw Dermot Byrne and Flo Blancke; beyone sweet! And there were some great music in CD launches – including the wonderful Claire Egan’s first CD.

But for me it was about the sessions.  Of course I can only talk about the ones I was at.  And you can’t be everywhere.  But I have to mention the first with the Lahawns (Andrew MacNamara and Friends) in Ciarans and the last in the front bar of Queens with those still on their feet at 3am on Tuesday morning.  In between my musical buttons were pushed by Yvonne Casey and Brid O’Gorman in Cruises,  Yvonne and Eoin O’Neill and Damien Werner  in Suas.  Martin Connolly, Eileen O’Brien and Geraldine Cotter in The Old Ground.  Blackie etc in the Diamond, the Clancy sisters in Copper Jug,  and some sessions not in the programme such as Monday morning at Queens with a host of international visitors and in the Rowan Tree at 4am on the Saturday morning.  And then there was time to let the hair down literally with the legendary Trad Disco and Paddy de los Pamas in Cruises.

It was the right move to get accommodation in Ennis and I really want to thank all those who made this possible for me with my current travelling limitations.  Particularly Yvonne and Steve for the lifts in and out, Lorraine for her couch, when all the hotels were full, and the organisers for delivering the Best Festival in Ireland.  You have something special here.

I particularly enjoyed photographing this event and I am very happy with some of my images despite my camera playing up and the really high ISO I needed for flashless photography.  So here goes…

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Farewell and Thanks to Ennis TradFest 2015

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The final session at Queens

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All too much for some

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It starts here.

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The Ennis Bard

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Part of the International Brigade

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Relaxing at Suas Cafe

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

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Sweet

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I love this photo

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Part of the Swedish invasion

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Tara Howley CD launch

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Some running repairs

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Bliss

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When Quebec meets Ireland

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Interpretive Dance 1

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Interpretive dance 2

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Beyond sweet

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there you are Alistair. A serious shot

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

Ennis Trad Fest 2015 Day 2

Day 2.  In full swing now.  Sessions kicked off at 430 and by this time I was well in the mood for tunes.  I popped in to the piper’s session in Dan O’Connor’s.  Now I love the pipes, don’t get me wrong but I love the fiddle more so I continued my search heading to the Old Ground  Here was Niamh O’Dea and  Anne-Marie McCormack and friends.   In the words of an onlooker “lively isn’t it?”

I won’t go into detail of every session but I dropped into a few, playing in most.  There was Brogan’s with Carmel O’Dea, Murty Ryan and Seanie McGrath.   Knox’s where Hugh Healy and friends were holding court and Martha and Geraldine Clancy in the Copper Jug.  Oh and Mickey Kerin’s as a night cap.  What a selection.

You have gotta love this Festival.  There’s plenty for everyone.  If you really want there are enough sessions to get a seat at the table and if you can’t well the quality of the sessions is so good that you are happy to just listen.  And many come here just to do that.  On Thursday I spotted Martin Hayes soaking up the Lahawns in Ciaran’s and last night I chatted with Daithi Gormley, this year’s All Ireland box champion and Aiofe Cunningham, All Ireland fiddle, just happy to sit in the corner and listen to the eclectic mix of tunes from the Clancy sisters.

This year there seem to be more people.  I walked into Fawles and there was an unscheduled session with a dozen players none of whom I reconginsed.  There are surprises around every corner.  In the Copper Jug I caught up with Dave Garner, from Manchester who I had met in Australia nearly three years ago. A class fiddler. There is a group of young Swedish musicians here as part of a six month course on Irish music in Sweden.  And I met lots of old friends and made plenty of new ones; including a lady who must be Indonesia’s only trad Irish fiddle player.  She is passionate about the music despite there being no sessions there.

Let’s see what tomorrow brings.

 

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

Ennis Trad Fest 2015 Day 1

Thursday November 5th.  The opening day of the Ennis Trad Fest for 2015.  I have decided this year to book a room at the Rowan Tree.  To be in the thick of it.  Ennis is ripe with anticipation.  Like a rehearsal for the Fleadh.  There are already sessions in the lounge of the Hostel when I arrive.

By the time the official opening   gets underway at the Queen’s Hotel the front bar is packed.  Mercifully short speeches from Blackie O’Connell, the Mayor and Ron Kavana who sang his wonderful song ‘Reconciliation’ and we were away.  Two CD launches, first by Phillip Duffy and Liam Kelly.  I had seen these guys play at Tubbercurry and bought the CD there so I headed off for some tunes.     First stop Brogans.  With Damien O’Reilly, Caoifhionn Ni Fhrighil and friends.  This quickly built up to over twenty musicians.  A great taster.  Where to next? – the perennial problem.  Tonight though I only had to choose between Siobhann Peoples at Faffa’s or the Lahawns.  I chose the Lahawns this time – and they took the roof of Ciaran’s  Pub.  The line up was Andrew MacNamara, Joan Hanrahan, Anne-Marie McCormack, Eileen O’Brien, Jim Corry two pipers plus whoever could find a seat.

From the first chord on the piano the place was hopping.  Their music was infectious and they were still going at half one when I left.  A quick walk around town and there were sessions popping up everywhere.  I spotted Tom Delaney and friends in Dan O’Connells.  And way after 2am there were still tunes in the lounge of the Rowan Tree.

This is only day 1.  Boy are we in for a cracker!

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

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