After the excitement of August, September was for settling back into routines but with some great festivals in surrounding counties, we still managed to engage in some great music through the month, visiting Newry, Dublin, Cootehill, Termonfeckin and Inniskeen along the way.
The Iúr Cinn Fleadh, Newry City Music Festival ran from 6th to the 9th of September 2018. We were particularly delighted to attend a special Thursday night tribute to Josephine Keegan when over fifty musicians from every part of Ireland gathered in Bellini’s where she was awarded the Musical Icon Award. Members of her fiddle group reunited to open the evening, paying homage to their mentor and inspiration and they and others included a number of Josephine’s many compositions in their performances. The performances were interspersed with video messages from leading musicians in Canada, USA, the Shetlands, France and Japan. Daithí, who had presented a paper on Josephine as recently as July at NAFCo in Aberdeen, informed the crowd of the inclusion of a chapter on Josephine in an forthcoming publication on women in music in Ireland. A great night was had by all and a fitting tribute to a wonderful music and composer.
That same weekend, Daithí made his way to Dublin for the Fair Plé event, ‘Rising Tides’, in Liberty Hall. FairPlé aims to achieve gender balance in the production, performance, promotion, and development of Irish traditional and folk music, advocating for equal opportunity and balanced representation for all. Gender and Music is a core element of our research in the Creative Arts Research Centre at DkIT with a number of postgraduate and postdoctoral research projects underway. Our own work includes a project on Armagh fiddle player Josephine Keegan, while the subject of the production To Stay or Leave, grapples with a number of feminist themes.
DkIT Music graduate Joanne Cusack facilitated an early career advice & open floor discussion for emerging artists and contributors included Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh, Ciara O’Leary Fitzpatrick, Tola Custy, Shane Gillen, Nuala O’Connor & Eamon Murray. Prior to that, Úna Monaghan facilitated a panel dealing with sexual harassment and workplace policy with contributions from Ellen O’Malley Dunlop, Paul Henry and Pauline Scanlon. The personal insights from all of the contributors enriched the discussion and this was shared by many of those in attendance who provided feedback as well as questions. The event was a very positive experience for all involved but highlighted the need for greater progress in relation to the issues raised. Check out https://www.fairple.com/ for more information and to get involved.
The following weekend, we were on the road again for the Gerry Whelan Memorial Weekend hosted by Cootehill CCÉ. We attended a wonderful concert in the Drumlin Theatre on Friday night before tunes in Mullins’. On Saturday, Daithí was amongst the tutors at St. Michael’s Hall where workshops were followed by a great session including dancers from the Rafter School of Dancing. There was a wonderful turnout for the workshops on Saturday with Noreen McManus (fiddle), Michael Curran (button accordion), Seán Walsh and Barry Conaty (Tin Whistle) joining Daithí. This was followed by a tutor led session in the afternoon.
That evening the Oriel Traditional Orchestra was welcomed to a fine meal by the local committee. For the concert that night, the local adult group performed, followed by A Louth Lilt and then the Oriel Traditional Orchestra. We concluded the concert by bringing all of the musicians together for a few sets in the fine theatre. Afterwards, it was down to Oaklands for a session. We were delighted to join with the local musicians for mass the following morning and, after a stroll to see some of the local history, we finished our weekend with a lovely session in Connolly’s with Noreen McManus, Ciarán de Bháil and others.
Originally from Mohill, Co Leitrim, Gerry Whelan sponsored fleadhs, festivals and other initiatives that helped maintain interest and ensure the survival of music, song, dance and lore in the region. Gerry was himself a melodeon and bodhrán player and his family are to the fore in continuing his legacy. We are delighted to play regularly with his daughter Geraldine as part of the Oriel Traditional Orchestra. Indeed Geraldine performed on Gerry’s old melodeon at the Friday night concert, along with Finbar Magee and Briege Quinn. The concert also featured piano accordion player Pat McCabe with Michael Curran, Ronan Warnock and Fergus Mullen, as well as Dublin accordion player Ray Lawlor with his family and friends, and there were wonderful performances from the ever young Martin Fay and Eamon Maguire, as well as 2017 tin whistle and flute champion Barry Conaty. A special presentation was made on the night to Sonny McDermott from Roslea by John Molloy, Vice-Chair of Cootehill CCÉ.
We were delighted to go to Termonfeckin for a céilí at An Grianán for the 13th European GIM conference ‘IMAGERY - Realising New Stories Through GIM’. The Bonny Method of Guided Imagery and Music (GIM) is a music-centred integrative form of psychotherapy. Specifically programmed music is used to facilitate a dynamic exploration of consciousness and inner experiences in support of physical and psychological transformation and well-being. There was a fantastically enthusiastic gathering who participated with great energy in the singing and dancing at the wonderful venue.
The network of small cultural festivals, such as the Iúr Cinn Fleadh, Gerry Whelan Memorial Weekend and Patrick Kavanagh Weekend, which took place in Inniskeen at the end of the month, underpin a cultural economy that is an important element in the lives of people in the region. It is interesting to experience these while at the same time reading and reflecting on the report entitled ‘Traditional Music and the Rural Creative Economy in Argyll & Bute, Mapping Report, 2018’ sponsored by the Northern Bridge postdoc fellowship awarded to Dr Jasmine Hornabrook. The work of Jasmine and Dr Simon McKerrell at Newcastle University echoes but also expands ideas that we have supervised previously in the MA research of Ciara Moley and Sylvia Crawford, and elements of which can be found in Daithí’s PhD on the Sliabh Luachra region. Indeed the report makes reference to developments in Sliabh Luachra since the completion of Daithí’s dissertation almost a decade ago.
Ciara included three case studies in her thesis: Féile na Tána, Gerry Whelan Memorial Weekend and William Kennedy Piping Festival. Our experience in Cootehill this December echoed some of the findings presented by Ciara and reinforced her conclusions. Equally, Cootehill, like a number of towns and villages in Sliabh Luachra, is challenged to maintain its commercial centres but benefits from strong community engagement in and support for Irish traditional music. With the O’Carolan Harp Festival in Nobber, Co. Meath and Ed Reavy Festival in Cavan Town in October, both dedicated to seminal figures in the musical history of the region, there is no shortage of spaces in which to celebrate our musical heritage.
Daithí Kearney. Towards a Regional Understanding of Irish Traditional Music. Unpublished PhD: University College Cork.
Daithí Kearney. ‘Scottish Overtones: the influence of Scottish musical traditions on Irish fiddle player Josephine Keegan’ North Atlantic Fiddle Convention, University of Aberdeen, July 2018.
Daithí Kearney. ‘Breaking the glass ceiling in Irish traditional music’ Women and Music in Ireland Conference 2012 Royal Irish Academy of Music 15th September 2012.
Simon McKerrell and Jasmine Hornabrook. Traditional Music and the Rural Creative Economy in Argyll & Bute, Mapping Report,2018. Newcastle University.
Ciara Moley. Exploring festival, place and community in Irish traditional music, DkIT 2016.