Posts Tagged With: Fleadh

Fleadh Cheoil na hÉirean. Ennis 2016

I usually don’t do diary-type blogs.  But for the Fleadh in Ennis I will make an exception. This is essentially a rehash of my daily posts on Facebook but many of my blog followers are not on Facebook so I am repeating it here for you. Apologies to those who have read it before.

August 13th 2016.  Day 1

Just the beginning…  The first night of the Fleadh for me was at PJ Kelly’s Pub.  Mental. Pub was packed by 9:30 for the regular Saturday session with room for only half a dozen musicians. Great craic but I can only guess what it will be like later in the week.




August 14th, 2016.  Day 2

I’ve said this before, but what happens outside a festival can be as good as being there. This night was a completely different chilled out experience with songs and tunes at one of my favourite haunts, Cornerstone Bar Lahinch. With Eoin O’Neill, Brid O’Gorman, Willie Cummins, Noirin Lynch, Lorraine Battersby and Luka Bloom seeking respite from the mayhem.


August 15th, 2016.  Day 3

There is a great buzz in Ennis and today I felt it for the first time. It was a glorious sunny day and the town looked a treat. Streets adorned with bollards. Ha. No seriously; shops were painted, there were window displays everywhere, some pop-up shops selling music stuff and there were people on the street. I went to a concert in glor with Christy McNamara, Yvonne Casey and Eoin O’Neill.  Great music. Narrowly missed Martin Hayes, doing a spot for FleadhTV, looked in at Knox’s, played some tunes at Cruises with Denis Liddy and family, Brid O’Gorman, Lorraine Battersby, Caoilfionn Mooorhead, Veronika von Ruden and Kathleen Bremer and listened to The Fiddle Case in the Sanctuary. In the process I wandered around town and caught a bit of the vibe. Like a street carnival.



August 16th, 2016.  Day 4

The sun beckoned; so today I ended up on Lahinch Beach with my Fleadh houseguests from Czech Republic (Iva and Tereza) and from Germany (Katherina). It was a very high tide and the sea was rough and smashed against the rocks. The red flag was flying so there were just a few mad surfers in the water. I now see why Lahinch brings the surfers. We found a patch of sand near the river mouth and I ended up in the water for my second swim of the summer. Hardly the sun bronzed Aussie but it was a perfect tonic. Eventually we ended up in town for Supermacs and to catch the last of the evening light. Crowds are bigger today and the buskers have hatched. They are everywhere. Then the rain came around 930 and scattered them and the pubs filled. It was tunes at Cruises again and then we ended the night with Los Paddys de las Pampas. Thanks Lorraine for dragging me onto the dance floor. I hope the bruises have recovered. There’s no doubt about where this Fleadh is being held. Ennis is writ large. Thanks to Tereza for the photos with me.



August 17th 2016, Day 5.

Stayed away from Ennis today but not away from the music. My cottage was filled during the afternoon with the fiddle and pipes of house guests Haley Richardson  and Keegan Loesel from New Jersey in the States practicing for their Competition spots. Keegan had entered eight! JC Talty would have been very pleased. And in the evening a very special session at Duggan’s at Spancil Hill where Haley and Keegan and I joined in with Yvonne Casey, John Weir, Christy McNamara and a few other lucky people. There were some some gorgeous songs and a sean nos dance from Kristen, another visitor from Boston. Back into the mayhem tomorrow.


August 18th, 2016.  Day 6

Every day is different, Today started with threatening weather and a battle with the Fleadh traffic. Eventually I found a park miraculously two minutes walk from town but it still took half an hour to get through the throng at 3.30 to the Tune Challenge organised byBoston-based Tommy McCarthy. We were supposed to play Humours of Tulla but we played some reels and barn dances and listened to some songs and then just as we were all ready to launch into it the  rain came. Ten minutes later it was fine again. Oh well. This is Ireland. Then I had the most fabulous time dressing up in ridiculous clothes and rehearsing for the Chapel Gates Wren Boys gig (All Ireland Champions you know) and then on to the Gig Rig at 9pm for the absolute highlight for me, of the Festival. What a thrill playing in front of the jam packed street. Many thanks to all the wonderful people who allowed me to participate. Too many to thank but in particular Grainne Fennell and Joan Hanrahan.  Thanks also tomy friend from Boston, Kristen, for grabbing my camera and taking some amazing shots. The street party continued until late in the night as the rain held off. Even the security guards were getting into the silent disco!



August 19th, 2016.  Day 7.

At the heart of the Fleadh is the All Ireland Competition. It’s why Comhaltas started the whole thing back in the 1950s. Today I went to the Fiddle Competition. I watched extraordinarily talented kids perform with aplomb in the Under 15s, with my house guest from South Jersey in the US, Haley Richardson coming in second. And then second again in the Slow Air. Congratulations Haley. Amazing playing. There were sessions everywhere like at Nora Culligan’s with Claire Egan, Jack Talty and Paraic Mac Donnchadhna and  Friends but try finding a seat! Dodging the showers I settled in for the night at PJ Kelly’s with Eileen O’Brien and Deirdre Mc Sherry etc. Great tunes in a great pub. The picture of the lad with the massive trophy is of William who had just won the U15 Mouth Organ!



August 20th, 2016.  Day 8.

No tunes for me today. Just caught the end of the Under 15 Ceili Band Competition. Absolutely jam packed tent. Congratulations to winners Tulóg Ceili Band from Tulla. Up the Banner! Another showery day but the music continued in the pubs and on the street, in tents, in a caravan at the back of the Old Ground Hotel and even in the shops where I stumbled on the Toyota Ceili Band from Japan. The ferrets were captivated. The crowds were a real challenge and by 9pm many pubs had closed their doors and just weren’t letting anyone else in. So I settled into a corner of Cruises with some new friends and enjoyed the party until the small hours. A quiet day tomorrow? Maybe!


August 21st, 2016.  Day 9.

Wet, wet, wet. So not a lot of time on the streets today. I spent the afternoon checking out the merchandise tent (been there, done that, got the t-shirt) and catching some of the sean nos dance competition. Class. The evening I headed to Miltown Malbay in the pouring rain for a concert by the Tulla Ceili Band. Except it wasn’t a concert it was a mini-ceili. With a few guest acts. This was such a wonderful contrast to the streets of Ennis and very few of the Fleadh visitors made the trek. This was real. No need for the whoop-whoop of FleadhTV. I even got up and danced the Siege of Ennis (appropriate?) A first for me. Then a mighty session at Friels Lynch’s with Joanie Madden and couple of the other Cherished Ladies and Haley Richardson.  I like to think of this Fleadh as a Plum Pudding. A great big blob of delicious sweetness but with explosive surprises dotted through it. This was one of those plump little raisins……..

Thanks to Kristen and an anonymous punter for the last two photos.



August 22nd, 2016.  Day 10

The Final Fling!

Monday was such a glorious day of sunshine I didn’t make it in to Ennis until 6.00pm. After saying goodbye to my Fleadh houseguests, Donn and Haley and Lynette and   and Keegan, the afternoon was spent on the shoreline at Caherush but I needed just one final fling. So I headed to town. It was quieter on the streets but the pubs were still doing a roaring trade until the rain returned and Ennis regained some semblance of normality. I played a bit in Nora Culligan’s before doing a final wander and returning home well sated.

Some final words. There is something different about a Fleadh in your own home town. I enjoyed it so much more than Sligo. This was a truly unique week. OK I didnt play much and I went to very few concerts but just being part of something like this was enough. Despite the occasional cold and wet there was warmth and welcomes everywhere. It didn’t matter that you couldn’t move in the pubs or get a seat. Everyone was here to enjoy themselves and they did.  This is the natural home of the Fleadh.

See you next year. And 2018?


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

Dungarvan TradFest and Danú

How many Festivals have you gone to recently with a line-up of musicians such as this? Connie O’Connell, Gerry Harrington, Andrew MacNamara, Eileen O’Brien, Charlie Piggott, Matt Cranitch, John Carty, Jackie Daly, Donal McCague, Sean Ryan, …… oh and Danú and heaps more. This was Dungarvan TradFest 2015 held in the Waterford town over the June Bank Holiday weekend. It’s a pity more musicians don’t make the trip to take part, because it was well worth it.

There were only a few formal functions with a free choral concert on the opening night a concert with John and Maggie Carty and the highlight, Danu’s 20th anniversary concert. In between was a gig rig with appearances from well-known groups along with local bands and wall to wall sessions. The festival coincided with the County Fleadh so it was possible to attend these competitions also. And there were events that I hadn’t seen elsewhere including a Busking Competition (for which yours truly was dragooned into being a judge!) and a Bucket Singing Competition.

It started on the Thursday with the Official Opening by the worldwide head of Comhaltas, Vince Jordan, some tunes from local young musicians and then a concert by the Cor Fear na nDeise,  a local male choir and 120 children from local schools. Aside from the spectacular achievement of coordinating this throng, the music was delightful. All in Irish and all sung with gusto. The choir led by Darren O Droma really pulled it off and to see the unbridled enthusiasm of the children performing to a packed auditorium of largely proud parents was wonderful to see.


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There was no formal session that night but I was told of a session afterwards at Lismore, an half an hour away. It was held in the appropriately named Classroom Bar and led by young musicians including All –Ireland champions, Sarah and Seamus O’Gorman. Great tunes. Fast and energetic. The session was hijacked though by locals and it became a good old Irish ‘sing song’ with one song starting almost before the other had finished. We had a plethora of old favourites and some rousing and not-so-rousing renditions. In fact we had songs sung in keys not yet invented. Nevertheless it was all sung with passion and it was great craic. It was amusing to watch the frustrated musicians waiting patiently for the tiniest gap to jump in with a tune.

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I had got a tip there may be music out at Ring. Ring (An Rinn) is only fifteen minutes from Dungarvan and on the way to to Helvic Head (I really must learn that tune). It is a small Gaeltacht area and fiercely proud of it. So I headed out there next day. After a long chat with fisherman Jack at the harbour at Helvic and a few deep breaths to recharge the batteries I headed to Mooney’s Pub where sure enough some of the best local music talent was gathered to help celebrate the end of the school term. I recognised musicians from the concert the night before including the leader Darren.. What a pleasant way to spend a sunny afternoon.

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That night there was a concert by John Carty and his daughter Maggie at The Local, so I got there early to take up a seat in the front row. I have always admired his playing since I met him in Perth back in a previous century. How deliciously sweet it is, with effortless bowing and a beautiful flowing rhythm, Maggie’s talented banjo playing provided a terrific counterpoint. It was gorgeous music enhanced occasionally by guest spots from Donnchadh Gough from Danu on the bodhran, who just happens to own the pub. And then the icing on the cake, they stayed around for a session with some of the young local musicians and a few others dropped in such as Andrew MacNamara. I was privileged to be part of this . Perhaps the less said about the dancing though the better.

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The weather was not kind the next day with squally rain and occasional hail though there were sunny breaks. I had just ordered my hamburger at the The Local when an harassed organiser came in. “We have a problem, can you help”? Turns out that a judge for the busking competition had pulled out and they needed an urgent replacement. Like right then! The busking was underway and there was about half an hour to go. Never one to refuse a challenge I agreed and after scoffing my burger I was discussing strategy with the Chairman of Comhaltas, who was the other judge. There were no guidelines;  how on earth do you judge a busking competition? So we went our separate ways and arrived at three “winners”. Turns out however that this was just Day One and there were another 15 contestants next day AND Vince was leaving that night so I would have to judge the remainder and and pick the winners out of both days. As it turned out the winners were obvious and I was able to remain in town unscathed without being hacked to pieces by irate parents.

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Of course my raison d’etre for being at festivals is to session and each day from 4 pm I followed the Session Trail until the small hours. In fact most nights I went to bed as the sun rose. There were many highlights. For example a truly tasty session in a quiet pub with Gerry Harrington, Charlie Piggins and James Duggan being one. Another was to be joined on a couple of occasions by living legend and genius John Dwyer (brother of Michael, Finbar and Ritchie), a delightful man and a wonderful musician. Here is a selection of photos. You’ll get the picture.

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The headline concert on Sunday night was at a function room at the Park Hotel and 600 plus people crammed into a space that they really shouldn’t have. It was bursting at the seams and there was a mad rush to get more seats to accommodate some of those standing. The warm up act was a group of young local musicians featuring Claire and Niamh Fennell, Clara Mannion & Sarah O’Gorman and really they did a fantastic job.

Danú are local heroes and one of Ireland’s most durable traditional bands. Most of their current line up was there and a few guests including previous singer Ciarán Ó Gealbháin joining Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh and Donal Lunny, producer of two of their albums. . This was a high energy concert and there was a buzz in the hall as they were celebrating their twentieth year together. They were clearly happy to be there and from the opening chord to the electric dancing and the rousing climax kicked off with a bodhran solo from Donnchadh Gough there was never a dull moment. The loyal and loving home crowd was screaming for more.

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There were a few intrepid survivors on the Monday and they gathered at Downey’s Pub for the Bucket Singing Competition. This long standing Waterford tradition (well it is at least two years old) involves singing with a bucket over your head and then being savagely demolished by an entirely unsympathetic adjucator. Quality had nothing to do with the final result with rules being invented and broken as the competition went on. The majority of competitors suffered the Downey’s Drop announced solemnly after the adjudicator donned a black handkerchief.  It was great craic and at the risk of my never being allowed to compete again the organisers would have great difficulty defending the accusation that the winner was a not home town decision! I have contacted my lawyers! Congratulations to the organisers and in particular to the MC (Sean) and Judge (Dick) who kept it all together with a marvellous commentary. Bucket Singing may have a controversial history with some saying it goes back hundreds of years but the winner on the night was that other Irish tradition of slagging.

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There were more sessions on the Monday but the enthusiasm was waning and by midnight everyone and believe it or not, yours truly, had had enough.

A memorable weekend and seamlessly organised by the ever present Michael Marrinan and an amazing committee. Well done all.

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

100 Nights of Sessions – 100 photos!


Traidphicnic. Spiddal 2014. “Will I know the next tune?” Siofra Barker

Tubbercurry 2014. Alistair Cassidy. For my next trick…….


Tubbercurry 2014. John Joe Kelly


Tubbercurry 2014. Flute session


Tubbercurry 2014. Paddy Ryan


Ennis 2014. Brogan’s. Yvonne Casey, Josephine Marsh and Fu Akamine.


Drumshanbo 2014. Keith from Wales.


Drumshanbo 2014. Albert from Barcelona


Drumshanbo 2014. Caroline from France


Drumshanbo 2014. Jose from Barcelona


Drumshanbo 2014.


Drumshanbo 2014. Concentration!


Drumshanbo 2014. The kids take over the High Street.


Achill Island 2014. Brendan Begley at the Valley House


Feakle 2014. Fiddles!


Feakle 2014. Pat O’Connor


Feakle 2014. Vincent Griffin


Feakle 2014. Maurice Lennon and Vincent Griffin


Tubbercurry 2014. Alistair Cassidy. Snap!


Willy Clancy Festival. Milltown Malbay 2014. Geraldine Cotter and Kieron Hanrahan.


Tubercurry 2014. Johnny Og Connolly and friends.


Feakle 2014. Yvonne Kane and Cormac Begley


Feakle 2014. Edel Fox, Yvonne Kane, Cormac Begley and friends


Feakle 2014. Joan Hanrahan and Dympna O’Sullivan.


Feakle 2014. Steve from England


Feakle 2014. Eileen O’Brien


Feakle 2014. Young Clare musicians


Feakle 2014. Eoghan O’Sullivan, Dennis Cahill.


Feakle 2014 Eileen O’Brien and Pat O’Connor


Feakle 2014. Thierry Masure


Feakle 2014. Antoin Mac Gabhann


Feakle 2014. Dennis Cahill


Feakle 2014


Sligo 2014. Irish music played by Spaniards in the Itailian Quarter. Jose and Montse.


Traidphicnic Spiddal. Tola Custy, Laoise Kelly and Mike McGoldrick.


Traidphicnic Spiddal 2014. Magic fingers. Mike McGoldrick


Tubbercurry 2014. Nicolle Figueroa Gallaga.


Tubbercurry 2014. Emmy and Veronika from Netherlands


Tubbercurry 2014. Rita from Switzerland


Willy Clancy Festival. Milltown Malbay 2014. Adam Shapiro


Willy Clancy Festival. Milltown Malbay 2014. Friels Hotel. Can’t compete with the World Cup and Brazil vs Germany.


Willy Clancy Festival. Milltown Malbay 2014. John Rynne,


Feakle 2014. Orla Harrington, Eileen O’Brien, Andrew MacNamara


Willy Clancy Festival. Milltown Malbay 2014. Enjoying the Craic


Traidphicnic Spiddal. Tola Custy


Feakle 2014 Seamus Begley at Peppers


Willie Clancy Week, Miltown Malbay 2014. Sean Keane


Willie Clancy Week, Miltown Malbay 2014. Laura Ugur and John Rynne


Willie Clancy Week, Miltown Malbay 2014.


Willie Clancy Week, Miltown Malbay 2014. Musician’s Corner

Willie Clancy Week, Miltown Malbay 2014. Gerry Harrington demonstrating the Stroh Viol to James Kelly’s fiddle class


Willie Clancy Week, Miltown Malbay 2014. Maurice Lennon and Sean Ryan


Tubbercurry 2014. The (virtual) reality of the modern session


Tubercurry 2014. Phillip Duffy


Willie Clancy Week, Miltown Malbay 2014. Sean Ryan


Willie Clancy Week, Miltown Malbay 2014. The next generation.


Willie Clancy Week, Miltown Malbay 2014. Adam Shapiro and Patricia Wang


Willie Clancy Week, Miltown Malbay 2014. Busking in the Miltown sun


Willie Clancy Week, Miltown Malbay 2014. Let there be light. And there was. And it shone upon the fiddler


Willie Clancy Week, Miltown Malbay 2014. Fiddler


Willie Clancy Week, Miltown Malbay 2014. Fu Akamine and Patricia Wang

Willie Clancy Week, Miltown Malbay 2014. The genesis of a session, Coore.


Willie Clancy Week, Miltown Malbay 2014. Coore


Willie Clancy Week, Miltown Malbay 2014. Coore


Willie Clancy Week, Miltown Malbay 2014. Liz Coleman


Traidphicnic, Spiddal. Florianne Blanke


Willie Clancy Week, Miltown Malbay 2014. Sean Keane, John Joe Tuttle and friends


Willie Clancy Week, Miltown Malbay 2014. Harry Bradley, Sean McKeown, Connie Connell.


Willie Clancy Week, Miltown Malbay 2014. The front bar at Friels. Gerard Callaghan, Rick Epping (in the mirror) Mick Creehan, Mick Hand


Willie Clancy Week, Miltown Malbay 2014. Rick Epping, Mary Bergin, Mick Hand and Mick Creehan


Willie Clancy Week, Miltown Malbay 2014.


Willie Clancy Week, Miltown Malbay 2014. Kevin Rowsome


Willie Clancy Week, Miltown Malbay 2014. Stefan, Dermie Diamond, Angela Creehan, Sinnead Nic Dhonnachadgh


Willie Clancy Week, Miltown Malbay 2014. Pat Mullins, Macdaragh Mac Dhonnachadgh, Maurice Lennon, Sean Ryan


Willie Clancy Week, Miltown Malbay 2014. All boxed in at the Blondes.


Willie Clancy Week, Miltown Malbay 2014. Lorraine O’Brien, Catherine McEvoy, a bemused Jackie Daly, Aoife Granville, Niall Kenny and Conal O’Grada. Revenge of the flutes.


Willie Clancy Week, Miltown Malbay, 2014. Crosses of Anagh. Alistair Cassidy and Daire Mulhern


Willie Calncy Week, Miltown Malbay 2014, Street Session with Leon Agnew, Antoin Mac Gabhann and Seamus Sands


Willie Clancy Week, Miltown Malbay 2014. Frank Kelly and Leon Agnew


Willie Clancy Week, Miltown Malbay 2014. Enjoying the craic at Friels. Niamh Parsons


Willie Clancy Week, Miltown Malbay 2014. Antoin Mac Gabhann


Willie Clancy Week, Miltown Malbay 2014. Seamus Sands


Willie Clancy Week, Miltown Malbay 2014. Alistair Cassidy, Crosses of Anagh


Willie Clancy Week, Miltown Malbay 2014. In the sunshine at the Blondes. Ciarán Mac Aodhagáin, Siún Ní Ghlacáin, Damien O’Reilly


Willie Clancy Week, Miltown Malbay 2014. the Blondes.


Willie Clancy Week, Miltown Malbay 2014. Niall Kenny and Caitlin Ni Ghabhann, John Flynn


Willie Clancy Week, Miltown Malbay 2014. Caitlin Ni Gabbhan in the sunshine at Blondes


Willie Clancy Week, Miltown Malbay 2014. Gilles Tabary on flute


Willie Clancy Week, Miltown Malbay 2014.


Willie Clancy Week, Miltown Malbay 2014. Aine Ni Chellaigh, Josephine Boland and Declan Fay


Feakle 2014. Sorcha Costella, Brian Donnelly and Aisling Hunt.


Fleadh Cheoil Sligo 2014. Street buskers


Feakle 2014. Peppers – Half set dance to the music of Seamus Begley


Fleadh Cheoil. Sligo 2014. Seamus Tansey at Shoot the Crows


Fleadh Cheoil. Sligo 2014 Christina and Fiona from London


Achill. 2014.. Brendan Begley and Harry Bradley


Fleadh Cheoil Sligo 2014, Liam Kelly and Shane Mitchell, Martin McGinley at Riverside Hotel.


Willie Clancy Week. Miltown Malbay. My last free Willie


Willie Clancy Week, Miltown Malbay, Geraldine and Martha Clancy at Mullagh


Willie Clancy Week Miltown Malbay, 2014


Willie Clancy Week Miltown Malbay 2014. James Kelly

Recently I completed my 100th continuous night of Sessions since I came to Ireland.  Not something I set out to do but over the moon that it has panned out that way. Since I started at Tullamore on 15th May and then Ennis three days later for the Fleadh Nua I have not missed a night of playing Irish music and have not felt like missing one. My hundredth night was just a lovely quiet way to ‘celebrate’ with Joan Hanrahan and friends at Kelly’s Bar in Ennis – a classic Irish Pub with a long pedigree of traditional sessions.

It would be impossible to estimate how many sessions I have participated in as on some days such as in Miltown or any of the other festival for that matter I might have played in half a dozen. Quality has been variable as you would expect but at every session I felt privileged to be there.

I have played with musicians both ‘famous’ and unheralded (but not necessarily less talented), with musicians from all over Ireland and almost every part of the globe, musicians from 8 years old to 88 and beginners and masters of the tradition. And not only players but lovers of the music who might have travelled from Cork or Canada or Sligo or Sweden to just sit and listen for hours. All brought together to share this wonderful secret we all have that is Irish music. Shhh! Don’t tell anyone.

I have been to eleven festivals so far including Doolin, Willie Week, Spiddal TraidPhicnic, Tulla, Clare Fleadh at Kilaloe, Tubercurry, Drumshanbo, Achill, Feakle and the Fleadh Cheoil at Sligo. I have been to Workshops and Summer Schools and had lessons from fiddlers such as Maurice Lennon, James Kelly, Paddy Ryan, Tola Custy, Siobhan Peoples, John Daly, Liam O’Connor, Martin Hayes, Eileen O’Brien, Yvonne Kane and Yvonne Casey. So if I still can’t play the fiddle after all that then I have only myself to blame.

Whether I will continue at this pace I don’t know but for me the journey is not over and while I get something from each session I go to I will keep going.

I have put together 100 photos to celebrate these 100 days.  Some are amongst my favourite photos and others are of the many wonderful people I have met,  but collectively I hope they give some feel for the mood and magic that is an Irish music session.  Photos come from Miltown, Tubercurry, Drumshanbo, Spiddal, Achill and Feakle. I have included photos from sessions before Willlie Week in my earlier blogs.  Where possible I have tried to identify everyone.  Thanks Niamh and Graham for your help.  If I have missed anyone my apologies and please let me know and I will edit the caption,  and if I have spelt your name wrong, apologies again.

Thanks for the tunes!


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

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