Arty August Amblings
After a busy and very varied July, we attempted to take it easy in August but with a number of local events, people to meet and the Fleadh, our musical world kept spinning!
At the start of the month we enjoyed a memorable trip to Dublin where, amongst our stops, was a visit to the Seisiún performance at An Cultúrlann in Monkstown. Located at the headquarters of Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann, we enjoyed the intimate performance of music and dance by the resident group and the lovely cup of tea brought to us by our good friend Bernard. We even managed another ‘Shoe the Donkey’ – a feature of our visit to Seisiún in Tralee as well.
Our research returned largely to deskwork but our fieldwork included interviews with important informants. We engaged in plenty of newspaper and archival research also and it was interesting to gain perspectives from others on the stories that we are coming across. Daithí also spent some time in Tralee, which you can read about in our earlier blog posting here.
We were delighted to be involved in the Carrickmacross Arts Festival this year. As part of the Fringe events, we facilitated a workshop on tune composition at the fabulous Carrickmacross Workhouse, supported by Carrickmacross Comhaltas. We had an enthusiastic and creative group who each composed a jig that was performed on the Living Room Stage on the Sunday of the festival.
Carrickmacross is a lively town near our home and the festival was one of a number of successful events held there during the summer. We really enjoyed performing at the festival on the Sunday afternoon, having earlier participated in a slow session with some young musicians from Monaghan and Louth. We enjoyed attending a number of other events also and other traditional acts included Zoe Conway and John McIntyre and the band Kern. We also thoroughly enjoyed Booka Brass whose energy and commitment was inspiring. We hope that the ‘Workhouse Collection’, a compilation of tunes by local composers, will continue to develop in the coming years.
Speaking of sessions, it was great to meet up again with Josephine Keegan and together we travelled from Mullaghbawn to Newry for a session in the Railway Bar. The session, located in the back room, allows the gathering of musicians, often numbering over a dozen, a special space into which listeners can enter if interested while other punters occupy the front bar. It was special to play some of Josephine’s compositions with her accompaniment on the piano. Uilleann piper Tommy Fegan told me of the preparations for the Thomas Darcy McGee Summer School which is this year celebrating the 150th anniversary of Confederation in Canada and of a Fenian Rising in Ireland. Darcy McGee is a historically important Louth many who was deeply involved in both as a father of confederation and an opponent of Fenianism. This year’s guests include General John de Chastelain and is sure to raise interesting political questions that demonstrate the role of history in understanding the modern world.
Our next road trip took us down to Ennis for Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann. Like many others, meeting friends and catching up was an important part of our Fleadh experience. We also engaged in a number of other aspects of the Fleadh. One of these was the ‘Legacy Day’ chaired by Professor Gearóid Ó Tuathaigh and featuring a large number of speakers representing different interest groups. Broadly themed on the Creative Ireland programme, it was interesting to place our Abair Trad day in a broader context and we were encouraged to continue the conversation. The summary document from the event in Youghal can be downloaded here.
Speaking of Abair Trad, we were delighted to catch up with Ceolta Sí at the Fleadh and honoured to be invited to perform with them on the Gig Rig. As part of the programme we performed Adèle’s composition Lighting Capel Island with the group. Later on the Saturday afternoon we also enjoyed a lovely session with Sinéad Mansfield at the Templegate Hotel in the centre of town. It was great to catch up with Carmel and John Burke who had hosted us on our recent trip to England. They were busy here with their grúpa cheoil. We met many of the Dundalk gang down and there was great Louth success for several competitors. We also attended the launch of the Ceol an Chláir CD from 1978 during which there was a special and memorable performance by the Kelly family.
We were both on the road again the following week. Adèle was in Dublin for a meeting of the Society for Music Education in Ireland (SMEI) with plans rapidly coming together for the Annual Conference which will be held this year in Dundalk. We are very much looking forward to the event which will combine academic and community presentations engaging with all aspects of music education and we will welcome a great friend of ours, Professor Magne Esplande from Norway, as the keynote presenter. Adèle is heading up a local committee that is committed to showcasing local talents and sharing knowledge that will be of benefit to our local community.
Meanwhile Daithí was in Cork where he enjoyed a session with Tommie Cunniffe, Paul Clesham and Richie Delahaunty in The Rock, one of his own former session haunts. He also made it along to the céilí at The Lough, a historical and very unique experience in a wonderful setting. There were many old friends at The Lough including Fionán de Cogán from the Cork International Folk Dance Festival and Owenabue Valley Traditional Group and members of Craobh na Dúglaise CCÉ. He also enjoyed a few tunes with button accordion player John Gildea, with whom he enjoyed performing, particularly on a memorable trip to Poland when they were roommates. Daithí was also delighted to deliver a guest lecture on the Early Start Programme co-ordinated by Dr Michelle Finnerty at his alma mater, University College Cork.
As August brings the summer to an end, we are preparing to return to term time but plans are well underway for next summer, not to mention many weekends along the way. We hope that you will continue with us on our journey.