Carlingford is the prettiest of towns in the very north of the Republic of Ireland. It is situated on a beautiful Lough and across the water is Northern Ireland in the shape of the Mountains of Mourne. It has ruined castles and abbeys and medieval gates and quaint contorted narrow streets and beautiful done up pubs and a backdrop of the Cooley Mountains dotted with the patchy remains of a recent snowfall. The perfect location for a Festival?
The Feile Na Tana is a new weekend winter school and was held in Carlingford on the first weekend of February. It is the brainchild of renowned fiddler Zoe Conway and her partner guitarist John McIntyre. She managed to assemble an extraordinary array of top class musicians for a programme of workshops and concerts. Zoe herself, Seamus Begley, Noel Hill, Mary Bergin, Gerry O’Connor and many others gave one day workshops to packed classes. There were a number of concerts where the talents of these musicians were on display to an enthusiastic audience of grateful locals.
The opening night had Zoe and John with some local young talent. I was blown away by the two youngsters who kicked off the night (sorry can’t remember their names) particularly the bright yellow bodhran doing a remarkable impersonation of John Joe Kelly. There was also a group of young musicians from Dublin, Caiseach, who put in a great set and Zoe and John did not disappoint.
Workshops the next day were split into two sessions – a great idea. I can only speak for the Fiddle but the tune choice from Zoe Conway was excellent and there was plenty of good advice to improve tone and feel. Well worth the trip alone.
The main concert was played to a packed house and was kicked off with a work entitled “Re imagining Songs and Music of Oriel”. It was performed by a huge ensemble of students from four local schools and included some of their own compositions. This was a wonderful experience for the kids and well received by the audience, filled no doubt with many proud parents. A great initiative and something that will hopefully stay with these kids and fan the musical fire within them. There was also a smaller group of young musicians from Wicklow and some wonderful songs from renowned local singer and author Padraigín Ní Uallacháin. And then the main act of the night, a brilliant performance from Seamus Begley and Donogh Hennessy joined later by the incomparable Noel Hill.
The tutor’s concert on the Sunday afternoon however was the highlight for me. An extraordinary line up of talent playing together and individually left the crowd wanting more.
I met some great new people especially at the Session on Sunday at Omeath, about ten kilometres away, including Rose, Clayton and Stuart from Boston, Kenji and Satoko from Japan and local musicians Gearoid, Ciaran and Andrew among others.
Thanks Zoe and John. See you next year.