Posts Tagged With: Lissycasey

My First Gig with a Ceili Band

I’ve done a lot of things in Ireland that I had never done before. I’ve blogged about most of them. Participating in the Guinness World Record attempt for the biggest session, been a Wren Boy, slept in a 16th century castle; but there’s one thing I hadn’t done. Until last night.

Friday 24th June 2016 and I was on stage with the brand new Lissycasey Ceili Band under a marquee at Lissycasey, a village to the south of Ennis in Co Clare. The occasion was the first Lissycasey Music Festival, a community organised event which will showcase traditional, country and a range of other music. For the occasion they had erected a giant marquee. Not just an ordinary marquee mind you but a glass walled one complete with chandeliers. And a dance floor. And an optimistic amount of seating which by the end of the night was fully rewarded with bums on seats.

Talking to some Lissycasey locals I was told that regular marquee dances were the social events of the 1940s and 50s, with dance bands and show bands entertaining all ages. Indeed many people met and courted under the marquees. This event harked back to those days, with the majority of the patrons well old enough to have been at those dances and probably were. I imagine it recaptured many nostalgic moments. Maybe many of them met their partners there.

The event had added poignancy as it celebrated and honoured a much loved daughter of Lissycasey, concertina player, Dympna O’Sullivan, who so sadly passed away last year.

I have always had mixed feelings about ceili bands. There is some disdain towards them in some quarters but I have to say my first experience playing in one was an absolute blast. From the moment that wood block sounded its click, click-click  heralding in, in perfect unison, fiddles, concertinas, accordions, flutes, and keyboard belting out familiar tunes in perfect unison (well most of the time) at a brisk pace and with that characteristic ceili rhythm, I was flying. There was a Caledonian Set and the Siege of Ennis and some waltzing and there were smiles all around the room.

It was much faster than I usually played. Not a problem. I was carried along with the other musicians and even got most of the changes right. And boy don’t you love those tune changes. And that feeling when the music ends in perfect agreement with the dancers. I’m hooked.

After us there was a band featuring Don Stiffe and the dancing continued with plenty of enthusiasm.

Thanks to Joan Hanrahan for the invitation to play and to the many wonderful Lissycasey musicians who welcomed me, a refugee Aussie, aboard. And to the organisers who did such a fantastic job. It is amazing what people can do on their own with just the support of local sporting and cultural bodies, looking for no kudos other than to provide something to their community.

This is the real culture of County Clare.

Thanks to Martin O’Malley for the photos of the Band (photos 6 – 10).

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

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