Posts Tagged With: Fleadh Nua

Frank Custy. A Legend. “The best day of my trip”.


Frank Custy is a legend in Clare music.

Never moving far from his birthplace at Dysart the man has nurtured and inspired hundreds to play and participate in Irish traditional music. A visionary who, as a schoolmaster at nearby Toonagh, integrated music into the teaching day and beyond.  Many came under his spell.  Sharon Shannon, Gary Shannon, Siobhan Peoples, Sean Conway, Yvonne Casey, Tola Custy and Mary Custy and hundreds who are not household names – all going on to make their own mark on Clare music. His work was recognised with the Mór glor award for his contributions in 2016.

But the thing is he is still doing it.

At Fleadh Nua held in Ennis in May Frank runs the Foinn Seisiún, held every afternoon during the Festival.



Frank on the banjo and friends

This is a slow session aimed at developing musicians where they can get confidence in playing or singing in front of others in a supportive environment. It is always well attended. Anything could happen. Everyone gets a go to try out a new tune or a song.  No matter the age.  There are no barriers. You might even get an Australian singing the Clogher Road.

Or you could get a Connemara Set or a Seige of Ennis, with unsuspecting visitors being cajoled into it.


The joy on the faces of Jo from Birmingham or Megan from Texas, new to Irish dancing,  as they are swept up onto the floor,  says it all.


Jo from Birmingham in good hands



Megan from Texas and Jo from Birmingham, learning the steps for the Siege of Ennis.


All ages enjoy it.  

I met TJ,  travelling here with Megan from Texas.  They dropped into Ennis for a day.    As TJ said. “the best day of our trip”.

Who knows how many have gone on to play Irish music or learn to dance after having heard Frank and having the “best day of their trip”.

A big thank you to Frank Custy.


Categories: Real Ireland, Sessions, Stories, Trad Irish Music | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

It’s a long, long way from Alburquerque to Clare

I hope you don’t mind me telling this little story.

I was busy doing what I do, juggling the camera and the fiddle, at a café session on Tuesday, 24th May at the Fleadh Nua. Session leaders were Cyril O’Donoghue and Blackie O’Connell. These Café sessions are a tradition now and for me one of the highlights of this festival. During a break I was approached and asked “You’re not that blogger are you?” After establishing which blogger she meant, Jeanne went on to say I was the reason she was here in Ennis at the Fleadh Nua.  She was here with three of her four nieces, all musicians, and other assorted family all the way from Albuquerque, New Mexico. A mini-bus full of them.  She filled me in on the story. They had been searching for information on Festivals in Ireland and google directed her to my blog on Fleadh Nua from 2015. What they read and saw there was enough to convince them to come to Fleadh Nua and Ennis.

They managed only one day there in a hectic short trip but, for sure, they made the most of that day. Joining in enthusiastically with Cyril and Blackie and doing a duet there with fiddle and bodhran and later singing a wonderful version of Orphan Girl at Frank Custy’s afternoon session. Following that with a mesmerising version of The Sally Gardens. Their fresh, energetic sound and gospel-like harmonies was warmly received.

I was grateful to meet Jeanne, Natasha, Evelyn and Gabrielle and the other travellers and more than humbled that my blog touches people such as them all around the Irish Music world.

That’s why I blog. Thanks guys.




Categories: Festivals, My Journey, Sessions, Stories, Trad Irish Music | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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

Fleadh Nua 2015 Day 9

Phew! After 9 days Fleadh Nua 2015 is over.

I really hit the wall last night – totally Fleadhed Out! No formal events, just quiet (?) sessions, firstly in the afternoon at The Diamond with Siobhann Peoples, Murty Ryan. Cyril O’Donoghue, Caroline Keane, Niamh Parsons and the few remaining foreign stragglers (sorry Steve, Juan, Tony  etc – just a figure of speech).

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Then to Knox’s for a couple of hours with Eric Healy, Tom Delaney, Caroline Keane, Brian O’Laughlin, Seamus MacMahon and Anita Broderick. Despite the many continuous days of music for all these musicians there was still energy and lift and the (now much smaller) crowds enjoyed it thoroughly.

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Then I finished up at Ciaran’s with the mighty Joan Hanrahan and Andrew MacNamara and Bríd Long. And there was a bit of Breton dancing (!), singing (!!) and guitar playing (“*?) thrown in. We were joined at the end by the irrepressible Tony Cullinan but by 1.30am fatigue set in and, with the Gardai hovering outside, with a rousing rendition of that old traditional Irish waltz, the Yellow Rose of Texas, I sadly said goodbye to an amazing week of music, song and dance.

See you next year.

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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!

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Fleadh Nua 2015 Day 7

It’s Saturday and the Festival is in full swing. Ennis is buzzing. People everywhere. So much choice. For me the day kicked off with another Café session. Rowan Tree is an amazing location on the river with bay windows and high ceilings and music led by Eoin O’Neill and Joan Hanrahan. The usual Fleadh Nua Family were there and it was great to catch up with some old friends. I left early so missed a song from Luka Bloom on his birthday. You can’t be everywhere.

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Off to the CD launch where Caitlín Nic Gabhann and Ciarán Ó Maonaigh delighted us with their fiddle and concertina and of course the effortless and extraordinary sean nos dancing of Caitlin. This is dancing fit for a President (she has).

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In contrast an hour later we were rocking to the sounds of Four Winds at the launch of their cd. They are Caroline Keane on concertina Daoiri Farrell on bouzouki and vocals, Tom Delany on pipes and whistles and Robbie Walsh on the bodhran. A band without a fiddle? How could I possibly like that? But these guys nailed it.l   The explosive energy of Tom’s pipes and the driving rhythms of the bouzouki and bodhran carry the music forward. Surprisingly Caroline’s concertina does not get lost and merges perfectly with the pipes. It reminded me a bit of Moving Hearts…..

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Then the session search began and I found a few beauties. There were quiet tunes in Queens with Eileen O’Brien, Martin O’Connor and Thierry Masur, a cracking session at Faffa’s with Blackie O’Connell, Damien O’Reilly and Cyril O’Donoghue and great tunes at Knox’s with Kevin Finucane, Martha Clancy, Kieran Kissane with, Nicole, Maureen, Steve, Fu, and the lovely Cliona and Abby from Cork. A couple of great dance sets and some sean nos from Suzanne Leahy. Didn’t want it to finish. How on earth do you beat that?

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Well, you go to Kelly’s. I’ve raved about this pub before. I go every Saturday night I am in town and just love playing with the regulars there. This night it felt like a giant party to which the whole of Ennis were invited. Kelly’s is Irish for “good time”. Coming a bit late there was already no space and I was surprised to see Eileen O’Brien with Andrew MacNamara and Jack Talty on piano rather than the usual. Great tunes indeed but not what I expected. Then there was a shift change. Eileen left for another gig and Joan Hanrahan and Brid O’Gorman joined us. And then Carmel O’Dea and then Geraldine Cotter. Let the party begin. Just a few lucky visitors were there to experience this including Tony Illanes, Steve Brown and Beannie O. The session ebbed and flowed from one glorious set to another. Impromptu dancing from the omnipresent Suzanne Leahy, and then when you thought it was all over, a singing session that went to 2.30 am led by Alan Hogan and the inimitable Hanrahan sisters. You knew it was a good night when they started singing Scottish songs! This was another of those magic moments I spoke of in an earlier blog. I could write a book on the nights at Kelly’s alone.

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I heard the craic was continuing at O’Keefe’s so I headed there but a frustrated doorman wouldn’t let me in saying they were closed and he was trying to get rid of everyone. Fat chance! A sneak look in the door and the place was packed. Oh well there’s always tomorrow. You can’t be everywhere.

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

Fleadh Nua 2015 Day 6

Friday and the Festival proper has begun. A struggle after getting to bed at 4am but I made it to the Café session at Bia Agus Caife. This is a great spot tucked around the back near the Abbey but Yvonne Casey and Eoin O’Neill really gave us a treat. It was more like a big house party or a family reunion than a session. And in many ways it was. The tune selection was brilliant ensuring that everyone could play along and the joy was evident everywhere, dare I say even among the session leaders!

On then to the Sanctuary for some terrific music from Conor Keane, Johnny Ringo, Kevin Finucane and Dave Harper. The Riches of Clare concerts continue to be packed out. Excellent move to relocate it to the Queens.

Then sessions. And there were some beauties. Just caught the end of some tunes at Fawls with Cormac Begley, Jack Talty and Claire Egan. Wow. I would walk across hot coals to hear these guys. Too short. Then stayed at Fawles with Moya Fitzgerald and Dave Harper.

After dinner I ended up at Knox’s for the early session. Hugh Healy, Brian O’Lauglin and Johnny Kelly among others. Love playing with these guys. And so did the audience. In fact this tall Texan (I’m assuming here) dressed in black and with a black Stetson threw $200 on the table as a tip. There was a stunned silence! No one had ever seen a tip of this size. God bless Americans.

Then I took a break and had a wander, popping in to sessions at Ciaran’s, Faffas, Old Ground, Fawls and Temple Gate, Check out the photos.

Today (Saturday) promises a lot with three cd launches, wall to wall sessions and a concert. Some hard choices coming up.

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Fleadh Nua 2015 Day 5

Thursday. Every festival has its magic moments. Today was one of the magicest!. More about that later. I decided to take the day off so I can’t report on the Café concert or the lunchtime concert. Sorry about that. Instead I took friend Maureen from Australia on a road trip that included the Cliffs, Poulnabrone and the Sheela-na-gig at Kilnaboy. The Cliffs were a complete white out with just the occasional glimpses through the cloud. Ah well ! that’s Ireland.

Back to Ennis to catch the last of the Fionn Seisun with Frank Custy and then an impromptu session at Cruises with visitors from Czech Republic, Wales, Germany, USA, France, Spain. You get the picture. I had the choice of staying there with Brian Mooney and friends or going to Ciaran’s or Faffa’s. How am I going to be when there are 20 sessions to choose from at the weekend?

I decided to go to Cairan’s, got myself a prime seat and soaked up the sound.  Andrew MacNamara was accompanied by Nuala Hehir and Paolo Cerato.  Three boxes!. And Brendan Hearty on guitar.  It was truly great music with rhythm and lift and I so enjoyed playing along.  And there was a guest appearance from Sean Smyth from Lunasa.   I was in my element. Andrew was in top form which augurs well for the Dungarvan Festival next weekend where Boruma Trio are headlining. See you there!

I popped in to Faffa’s briefly where Siobhann Peoples and Blackie O’Connell were in full flight but there was no chance of a seat in the tiny space in the window. So I took some photos instead.  No real surprise there I suppose.

Back at Ciaran’s it wound up soon after midnight and when I thought it was all over I was packed up and almost out the door, when a friend whispered in my ear to stick around as Tony Cullinan was going to play. The name meant nothing to me. I had never heard of him but minutes later the fiddle exploded in the hands of one of the great characters of Ennis. Here was as unorthodox a fiddler as you will see. He holds the fiddle vertically and almost behind his head. The hand leaves the fiddle regularly. He may not be a fiddler’s fiddler but there is passion and there is ‘nyah’. As my friend said “it is like he’s not playing the fiddle, it’s playing him”.   I could see what she meant. Along with the small crowd that remained I heard him accompanied by Nuala and Brendan and then solo. I was so happy just to listen but then he called me up to join him. It is funny how I had no nerves and playing with him lifted me to a level I didn’t think I was capable of. It was a special experience. I drove back to Caherush in the fog getting home totally exhausted at 3 am. Like I said every festival has its special moments,  I make no apology for including quite a few photos of Tony.  He is a dream to photograph and has a huge variety of expressions.  Hope you see it the same as I did.

Just an afterthought. We sometimes think the world revolves around music (well, I do!) but there are a lot of other facets to Ennis. I’ve included a few photos at the end that show some different sides of Ennis on Thursday. Party town?


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Fleadh Nua Ennis Day 4

Wednesday and struggling to get myself up early enough to get to the Café session at 11.00 am. Glad I did though. Eamonn and Geraldine Cotter at the Tea Cosy. Just brilliant. With the sun streaming (occasionally) in the front window and just a lovely atmosphere with free tea and scones. A lunch time concert at the O’Connell statue by kids from a local school. So much music. And what was also brilliant was seeing these kids dance. Many of them are of obvious non-Irish extraction but they were throwing themselves into it with enthusiasm. What a wonderful way to feel part of your adopted homeland.

A bit of a break for me then until the evening at Knox’s again for a reprise with the Healys and Brian O’Loughlin. Just great driving tunes. Joined for this one by friend Maureen just arrived from Perth. A great introduction for her to the music scene in Ennis. Finished the night with some tunes with Siobhann Peoples, Murty Ryan and Desi Kelliher at a packed Dan O’Connells.

What will tomorrow bring?

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Fleadh Nua 2015 Day 3

A much brighter day Tuesday with the storms and freezing wind of the day before somewhat abated. So off to the Café session at Food Heaven. This is a large modern café with plenty of room for the musicians, today led by Murty Ryan and Desi Kelliher. These sessions continue to be well received by the punters.

The Riches of Clare concert was moved to the Sanctuary Night Club behind the Queens Hotel due to overcrowding at the Museum. I had misgivings about how an acoustic gig would work in this cavernous space but the sound was great. It certainly helped having musicians of the quality of James Devitt, Christy Barry, Conor McCarthy & John Faulkner. It really was lovely music with two terrific songs from John. Great to hear Christy play Christy Barry Nos 1 and 2.

I skipped the Fionn Seissun today but there was an early session at Knox’s with Hugh and Eric Healy, Brian O’Laughlin and Caroline. Brilliant stuff. Clogher Road got yet another airing! Then it was on to Cruises again to finish the evening with Quentin Cooper and Eoin O’Neill and the usual mob of reprobates.

You can feel the build up to the weekend as more musicians arrive every day.

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