Posts Tagged With: Summer School

Ireland. A Feast of Festivals


Visiting an Irish Music Festival should be on the must-do list for any visitor to Ireland.  It is not easy however to find information on these, especially the smaller ones.  I am often asked by my friends in the blogosphere what is on and when during their proposed visit.  I’m happy to help where I can but I thought a list might be useful to anyone planning a trip.  On researching this I found a number of sites where festivals are listed but they are incomplete or not up to date.  I am sure I too have left some out and I’ve only included those from March through September 2018 but if you are aware of a festival that I’ve missed let me know and I’ll add it.

Do try and incorporate a festival on your next trip;  you’ll be made very welcome.

Festival Location Start Finish
Shannonside Winter Music Festival Six Mile Bridge, Clare January?
TradFest Temple Bar Dublin January?
IMBOLC International Music Festival Derry January?
Packie Duignan weekend Drumshanbo, Leitrim January?
Feile na Tana Carlingford, Louth February?
Scoil Cheoil an Earraigh Ballyferriter, Kerry February?
The Gathering Traditional Festival Killarney, Kerry February?
Concertina Cruinniú Miltown Malbay, Clare February?
Russell Memorial Weekend Doolin, Clare February?
Welsh Annual Singers Weekend Ballyvaughan, Clare February?
Mount Leinster Traditional Music Festival Borris, Carlow February?
Tionól Niocláis Tóibín An Rinn, Waterford February?
Éigse an Spidéil, Spiddal, Galway 14 Feb 18 18 Feb 18
Corofin Traditional Festival Corofin, Clare 27 Feb 18 4 Mar 18
Aran Celtic Music Festival Inis Mor, Galway 9 Mar 18 11 Mar 18
NYAH Traditional Music Festival Cavan 10 Mar 18 17 Mar 18
Kilkenny Tradfest Kilkenny 17 Mar 18 18 Mar 18
Ceardlann Earraigh Celbridge, Kildare 23 Mar 18 25 Mar 18
Inishowen Singing Festival Donegal 23 Mar 18 26 Mar 18
Blossom Harp Festival Tuamgraney, Clare 23 Mar 18 25 Mar 18
Feile Patrick Byrne Carrickmacross, Monaghan 24 Mar 18 25 Mar 18
Maurice O’Keefe Weekend Kiskeam, Cork 31 Mar 18 1 Apr 18
Carlow Pan Celtic Festival Carlow 3 Apr 18 8 Apr 18
Clifden Trad Fest Clifden, Galway 5 Apr 18 8 Apr 18
Cruinniú na bhFliúit Flute Meeting Ballyvourney, Cork 4 Apr 18 7 Apr 18
Consairtin Ennis, Clare 6 Apr 18 8 Apr 18
Ballydehob Traditional Music Festival Ballydehob, Cork 13 Apr 18 15 Apr 18
Kilfenora Music Festival Kilfenora Clare 27 Apr 18 30 Apr 18
Feile Neidin, Kenmare Irish Music Festival Kenmare, Kerry April?
Fleadh nagCuach (Cuckoo Fleadh) Kinvara, Galway 4 May 18 6 May 18
Joe Heaney Festival Carna, Galway 4 May 18 7 May 18
Cup of Tae Festival Ardara, Donegal 4 May 18 7 May 18
Feile Chois Cuain Louisburgh, Mayo 4 May 18 7 May 18
Carrigaholt Oyster & Trad Festival Carrigaholt, Clare 5 May 18 7 May 18
Cos Cos Sean Nos Festival Drumcliffe, Sligo 7 May 18 13 May 18
Fiddle Fair Baltimore, Cork 10 May 18 13 May 18
Feile Chnoc na Gaoithe, Tulla Trad Music Festival Tulla, Clare 11 May 18 13 May 18
Skerries Traditional Music Weekend Skerries, Dublin 18 May 18 20 May 18
World Fiddle Day Scartaglin, Kerry 18 May 18 20 May 18
World Fiddle Day Glenties, Donegal 20 May 18
Fleadh Nua Ennis, Clare 20 May 18 28 May 18
Michael Dwyer Festival Allihies, Cork 8 Jun 18 10 Jun 18
Doolin Folk Festival Doolin, Clare 15 Jun 18 17 Jun 18
Con Curtin Festival Brosna, Kerry 23 Jun 18 25 Jun 18
Jim Dowling Uilleann Pipe and Trad Festival Glengarriff, Cork 25 Jun 18 29 Jun 18
Craiceann Summer School Innis Oir, Galway 25 Jun 18 29 Jun 18
Blas International Summer School Limerick 25 Jun 18 6 Jul 18
Cross Traditional Music Weekend Cross, Clare 29 Jun 18 1 Jul 18
An Chúirt Chruitireachta (International Harp Festival) Termonfechin, Louth 1 Jul 18 6 Jul 18
Feile Brian Boru Killaloe/Ballina, Clare, Tipperary 4 Jul 18 8 Jul 18
Traidphicnic Spiddal, Galway 6 Jul 18 8 Jul 18
Scoil Samraidh Willie Clancy Miltown Malbay, Clare 7 Jul 18 15 Jul 18
Ceol na Coille Summer School Letterkenny, Donegal 9 Jul 18 13 Jul 18
South Sligo Summer School Tubbercurry, Sligo 15 Jul 18 21 Jul 18
Fleadh Cheoil Na Mumhan (Munster Fleadh) Ennis, Clare 15 Jul 18 22 Jul 18
Ceili at the Crossroads Festival Clarecastle, Clare 15 Jul 18 22 Jul 18
Joe Mooney Summer School Drumshanbo, Leitrim 21 Jul 18 28 Jul 18
Fiddler’s Green Festival Rostrevor, Down 22 Jul 18 29 Jul 18
Meitheal Summer School Ennis, Clare 23 Jul 18 27 Jul 18
Scoil Acla Summer School Achill Island, Mayo 28 Jul 18 4 Aug 18
Donegal Fiddle Summer School Glencolmcille, Donegal 30 Jul 18 3 Aug 18
Belfast Summer School of Traditional Music Belfast 30 Jul 18 3 Aug 18
Sliabh Luachra Summer School Rockchapel, Cork July?
Laois Trad Summer School Portlaoise, Laois July?
Phil Murphy Weekend Carrig-on-Bannow, Wexford July?
Kilrush Traditional Music and Set Dancing Festival Kilrush, Clare 1 Aug 18 7 Aug 18
Sean McCarthy Weekend Festival Finuge, Kerry 3 Aug 18 6 Aug 18
James Morrison Traditional Music Festival Sligo 4 Aug 18 6 Aug 18
O’Carolan Harp Festival Keadu, Roscommon 4 Aug 18 6 Aug 18
Feakle International Traditional Music Festival Feakle Clare 8 Aug 18 13 Aug 18
Scully’s Trad Fest Newmarket, Cork 9 Aug 18 13 Aug 18
Fleadh Cheoil na hEireann Drogheda, Louth 12 Aug 18 19 Aug 18
Feile Ceol Na Locha Tourmakeedy, Mayo 13 Aug 18 17 Aug 18
Masters of Tradition Bantry, Cork 22 Aug 18 26 Aug 18
Crotty Galvin Traditional Music Weekend Moyasta, Clare 25 Aug 18 27 Aug 18
Ballyshannon Folk and Traditional Music Festival Ballyshannon, Donegal August?
Seachtain Ceoil Chois Fharraige Spiddal, Galway August?
Fingal Fleadh and Fair, Swords Castle, Dublin 6 Sep 18 9 Sep 18
Gig’n the Bann Portglenone, Antrim 13 Sep 18 16 Sep 18
Johnny Doherty Music & Dance Festival Ardara, Donegal 21 Sep 18 23 Sep 18
Ceol Na gCruach The Glen Tavern, Donegal September?
Dingle Tradfest Dingle, Kerry September?
Tuam Trad Festival Tuam, Galway September?
Gerry Whelan Memorial Weekend Cootehill, Cavan September?
Feile Cheoil Larry Reynolds Ballinasloe, Galway September?
Frank Harte Festival Dublin September?
Music Under the Mountains Wicklow September?
Cork Folk Festival Cork, Cork September/October?
O’Carolan Harp Festival Nobber, Meath 5 Oct 18 7 Oct 18
Glenties Fiddlers Weekend Glenties, Donegal 5 Oct 18 7 Oct 18
Ed Reavy Traditional Music Festival Cavan 19 Oct 18 21 Oct 18
Foxford Traditional Weekend Foxford, Mayo 18 Oct 18 21 Oct 18
Sligo Live Folk Roots and Indie Festival Sligo 24 Oct 18 29 Oct 18
Cooley Collins Festival Gort, Galway 27 Oct 18 29 Oct 18
Willie Keane weekend Doonbeg, Clare 27 Oct 18 29 Oct 18
Feile Strokestown Strokestown, Roscommon October?
Achill International Harp Festival Achill Island, Mayo October?
Scoil Cheoil na Botha Scotstown, Monaghan October?
Patrick O’ Keeffe Traditional Music Festival Castleisland, Kerry October?
Ennis Trad Fest Ennis Clare November?
William Kennedy Piping Festival Armagh 15 Nov 18 18 Nov 18
Drogheda Traditional Music Weekend Drogheda, Louth November?
Éigse Dhiarmuid Uí Shúilleabháin Ballyvourney, Cork December?
Scoil Gheimhridh Ghaoth Dobhair Gweedore, Donegal December?
Trá Buí /Pearse Holmes memorial Traditional Music Weekend. Dohooma, Mayo December?

And for those interested in a different experience you can attend any of the County or Provincial Fleadhs, which are to enable qualification to the All Ireland Fleadh, which is in the list above.  Here are the dates.



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

Irish Music Summer Schools and Scoil Acla

For the last forty years one of the great fixtures of the Irish summer is the Irish traditional music school. There is a now well-worn trail that starts with the Willie Clancy School in Milltown Malbay in the first week of July and then moves  to Tubbercurry in South Sligo and then to Drumshanbo in Lietrim and, if you are still up for it, to Achill in the last week of July. And of course you can go on back to Clare to Feakle which is a shortened version and a number of other weekends in late Summer and indeed right through the year. Not everyone goes to them all so I think I am in the rather unique position of having been to each of the big ones twice now.
Each summer school has its own personality and it is meaningless to say which is best because they all deliver something different. They are all structured around five or six days of classes with three hours a day. Tutors are often world class musicians and the classes are nominally graded. I say ‘nominally’ because the grading process is largely fairly haphazard. At some, such as Willie Week, you are auditioned and are placed in a supposedly appropriate class. At others they ask you how many years’ experience you have and base it on that. Some let you choose your tutor. In any case most schools then allow you to change to whichever teacher you want. So it can be fairly random. Not a perfect system and sometimes it can lead to individual frustrations but for the most part it works and I should say that mixing adults and kids doesn’t worry me as the younger ones are often much quicker to pick up tunes.
People go to the schools with different objectives. Many just go to learn tunes – the more the better. And some teachers oblige. Other tutors talk about their approach to the music or focus on technical aspects or rhythm or bowing or some other detail. These are the ones I like most. One school I attended earlier this year in Ballyferriter we had Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh who worked for the whole workshop on one note, dealing with dynamics, tone and expression. I got so much from that. But on the other hand learning lots of tunes by ear is a great discipline and that’s what I got at Scoil Acla (more later).
First of course was Scoil Samhraidh Willie Clancy set up in 1973 to honour the contribution of the extraordinary piper, Willie Clancy. After a slow start it gathered momentum to become the premium music school in the country with now over 1200 students each year. Fiddle alone attracts 450 students and there are 26 tutors. Right from the start the teachers have been of the highest quality and people come from all over the world to be there. Very quickly it also became a meeting place for musicians and sessions were legendary. Many of the local pubs in Miltown Malbay and surrounding villages have become institutions. Pubs such as Friels, Queeley’s, the Blondes (Cleary’s), Crosses of Anagh, Gleeson’s, McCarthy’s and more. Some of these have unfortunately gone. This model was used for all the other schools which came later and most also attract musicians, listeners, and dancers who are not attending classes. This turns the School into a Festival and there are often concerts, recitals, talks, cd launches and a formal or informal session trail. The quality of sessions at the Schools is highly variable and ranges from messy to brilliant and many of the small villages just do not have enough pubs to accommodate the influx.  I will talk about this another time.
For now though I would like to focus on Achill which is actually quite unique as a result of its special location and character .
Achill Island is in the west of Mayo and is just an hour from Westport and easy to reach over a bridge from the mainland. This connection detracts a little from that wonderful feeling of isolation that you get by taking a boat such as to the Arran Islands but once you are there you are ensnared by the charms of the place. It is the perfect location for a Summer School. It is a Gaeltacht and so Irish (the unique Achill dialect) is spoken everywhere, it is starkly scenic in that west coast sort of way. There are hills, lakes, beaches, oh and sheep. Any place that gives right of way to sheep has to be special!
The school in its current incarnation has been going 30 years but actually dates back to 1910 making it one of the oldest in the country. Classes are held in all popular instruments at beginner and advanced level as well as Irish language (Gaelig’ Acla), sean nos singing and dancing, set dancing, creative writing and, believe it or not, one of the most popular classes, basket weaving. Venues are spread out and students worry about how they will get there but they do and miraculously it all works.
The school is run by a dedicated committee of locals, much as a church fete, and as I say you wonder how it all comes together; but it does. I guess they’ve had thirty years to get it right. Just a few people running around madly make it all happen. I didn’t meet everyone on the committee but the few I did such as Diarmid Gielty and Orla and Siobhan McGinty throw themselves into it wholeheartedly. They are involved also in the teaching and bring a personal touch. I saw Orla sit with a young concertina player in a session for at least an hour coaxing and coaching her through the tunes and settling her nerves. This to me was the Spirit of Scoil Acla.
It is a great way to combine music with an holiday. In fact after the daily workshop there are no organised events so depending on the weather you can swim at Keel Beach or Keem Strand, or walk through the deserted village or climb Slievemore or explore the tiny hamlets, or visit megalithic monuments or practice fiddle or sleep. Or meet up with some fellow students for some quiet tunes. Then the challenge of the evening is to find a session. There are only three venues but they are spread out and you do need to plan or have a car. But then you can luck in. You often have to rely on intelligence (I have my network of spies now) so I was lucky with a session of locals including four pipers at Lynagh’s (a tiny one room pub well out of town which fills pretty quickly and when there is a session musicians take up most of the seating!).  There is a traditional Bb session at the Wave Crest Hotel (a decaying symbol of former better times for tourists on the Island) led by Mick O’Brien with the likes of Harry Bradley, and a host of other pipers, A session at the Annexe with a packed bar most nights and one memorable night, following a text I received at 1230 am at Geiltys with tunes with Declan Folan, Diarmid Geilty and some world class (sic) dancing from Cormac and Brendan Begley until way after 3 am. One night I even found myself at an Italian themed party at the local hostel with the owner and his family and the extended temporary family of international residents.
But what of the School. I can’t speak for the other classes but I had a week of tutor Liam O’Connor, a powerhouse of a fiddler based in Dublin. We were learning up to four tunes a day, very quickly going through it phrase by phrase and then playing it over and over until it had sunk in. The standard of students was very high so most picked it up quickly. Some didn’t, but no one left the class. For me, I struggled last year but this year I was able to cope and I guess that’s a sign the hard work of the last year is starting to pay off. I loved it.  Then there is the traditional students concert, which I also love. An audience of adoring parents and grandparents, phones and cameras trained on the semi trailer bogey as the kids and some adults have their big day up on the stage. It is unique among the schools. Of course being Achill, despite the sunny start a storm swept through on cue, but the music continued unabated.  Check out the phot of the little red boot poking out from under the umbrella!
And finally  I should also mention the great camaraderie between visitors, musicians, locals, publicans, punters, tutors; everyone is included. Oh and a special thanks to Diarmid for finding my shoulder rest which I lost last year! Who would have thought that twelve months later it would still be sitting behind the bar.  And to all the wonderful friends I have made from Germany, France, Spain, Italy, Israel, Japan, Australia and of course every corner of Ireland.
I hope these photos give you something of the Spirit of Scoil Acla and that you will make the effort to get there next year. And thanks to Nuria for the shots with me in them.

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Categories: Festivals, Sessions, Trad Irish Music | Tags: , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Willie Week 2015 – Chasing the Dream or Living the Reality?

My silence of the last few days does not mean I have nothing to say about Willie Week. Firstly I just haven’t had the time but I am also having trouble formulating the words to describe the experience.

What a difference a year makes; last year I was chasing a dream this year I lived the reality.

As a Willie Virgin in 2014 I found it overwhelming.  The sheer quantity of music, the crowds and the whole atmosphere was almost crushing. I had only been here a little over a month and my insatiable desire to participate in sessions and to play with Legends and Gods led to much frustration. The crowds were oppressive, particularly in the popular pubs such as Friels and the Blondes and at night it was a challenge at many levels. OK I was naiive.

This year was different though;  I decided not to do the School which immediately meant I got more sleep and was able to ease into the day. I was at my home which is only a short drive away and had a houseful of guests so that added an extra dimension. Beanie and Anne and Jeff from North Carolina, Ana Carolina from Brazil and Bardon from UK and Julie from Denmark. I was able to retreat to my little oasis and chill out if needed.  Sometimes play a few quiet tunes and eat properly with some magnificent cooking from my housemates.

Yes the crowds were there, and the weather was bad and despite spending a lot less time looking for the killer session I actually played in better sessions and enjoyed them more.  I was much happier to stand and listen. Of course there were sessions I would love to have joined such as with Seamus Begley and Clare Egan in the new room in Fries or with Frankie Gavin and Noel Hill or the street session with Anton Mac Gabbhann, but there were many I did such as with Jacky Daly and Matt Cranitch. Some of the best sessions however were with people I had never met but are now good friends. That’s how it works at Willie Week.

I started a few sessions myself in the afternoons and that was a new experience. Just quietly playing a few tunes with a friend in the kitchen at the Blondes or at the back of Martin Flynns and feeling the session grow around us. The evenings however were chaotic. There were times you could not move in Friels and being on the street was challenging so most evenings were spent in Mullagh or the Quilty Tavern. At Quilty I could play with Johnny Connolly, Johnny Og Connolly, Colm Gannon, John Blake and avoid the crowds.

The Willie Week experience happens on many levels. There are actually a number of parallel worlds and sometimes they don’t meet. There is the Summer School with over a thousand pupils mainly kids many of whom never leave it; There are the concerts and recitals and ceilis, there are the sessions in Milltown, there are the mini festivals at the Bellbridge, Mullagh and Coore, there is the dance festival at the Armada and there is the private world of the house sessions in the many cottages around.  But mostly there is the catching up with people not seen for a year. People go there for any of these reasons and are rewarded accordingly,

There were many highlights. Meeting Tommy Peoples for one. But perhaps for me what will stand out was dropping in to Friels on the last Sunday afternoon. I was getting ready to drive to Tubbercurry but just had to have one more dose. There was no music but sitting in the front bar was Padraig Mac Donnacha. who I had met at Ballyferriter, and he invited me to join him for a few tunes. Initially there was just the two of us but then Thiery Masure and a few others sat in. I won’t overplay it but itnwas special moment for me.

So that’s Willie Week for 2015.  I get it now.  I get the mystique and the draw. Such that I know where I’ll be in the first week of July next year.

Just a few of the many photos I took. I know I missed many opportunities but you cant be everywhere. The photos of me were taken by Anne Gerhardt.  Thanks Anne.

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

Scoil Gheimhridh Ghaoth Dobhair. Winter School, Gweedore.

I posted the other day on the final night of the Winter School in Gweedore, County Donegal. Here is a selection of photographs from the earlier days of the Festival which ran from 27th December 2014 to 1st January 2015.

I am going to let the photos do the talking but as you will see it was a fabulous event. Can’t speak for the other workshops but Brid Harper’s fiddle was outstanding. Concerts and recitals from Boys of the Lough, Liz Carroll and Brid Harper, Harry Bradley, Brendan Begley, Seamus Begley, Seamie O’Dowd and great sessions where humble plebs like me could find themselves playing next to these guys or a host of others, perhaps less well known but just as good. A smooth, well-organised Festival. Great job Conor Byrne and all the volunteers who made it all happen. There were even a couple of days of sunshine.

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

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