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The Road To Speyfest

Since 2016, we have been delighted to return to the village of Fochabers in Scotland for the Speyfest Celtic Music Festival. We have made several friends and our experiences have informed our compositions and research. We have facilitated workshops and performed at the festival in 2016, 2018, 2019, 2022 and 2023, and Daithí attended Fochabers Fiddle Week in 2017.

The Road to Speyfest

​In July 2016, an Irish traditional music group from Dundalk travelled to Scotland for a series of performances that included a performance at the National Piping Centre for the International Society for Music Education World Conference. It was the second time Adèle and Daithí were part of a group selected, having previously performed as members of Ireland’s first ever performing group at the event in Brazil in 2014. In Scotland, the group also performed and facilitated workshops at Speyfest in Fochabers, which was celebrating 21 years in 2016.

The performing group under the direction of Adèle and Daithí included Martha Guiney and Maurice Mullen (flute), Brianna Madden (button accordion, vocals), Conor Bogue (banjo), Mike Waters (guitar), Ciara Brannigan (tin whistle, dance), Jane Meehan (fiddle). As well as the performers, two documentary makers, Hannah Conroy and John McCallig,  accompanied the group to make a documentary entitled The Road to Speyfest which premiered at DkIT in June 2017.

You can watch a short promo here!

The engagement with Fochabers continued and inspired teaching, creative arts practice including composition, and research including conference papers listed below. Daithí undertook a research fieldtrip to Fochabers Fiddle week at Easter 2017, which culminated in new ideas and compositions, including a song entitled 'The Ghosts of Fochabers'. You can read all about these adventures in our blog.

Finding Fochabers

Daithí and Adèle returned to Speyfest again in 2018 with the support of Culture Ireland. As part of this, they led another Summer Undergraduate Research Project to Speyfest in 2018 that included students Conor Bogue, Caoimhe McKiverigan, Calvin McManus and Jane Meehan, as well as film production student Desmond Ooi Xian Wei who documented the trip and subsequently worked with Daithí to create a documentary-pilot entitled Finding Fochabers.

Finding Fochabers was released online in time for Speyfest 2019 when Daithí and Adèle returned again to Fochabers to facilitate workshops.

After the Break

Like many festivals, Speyfest fell victim to COVID-19. We returned in 2022. Sadly, the festival took place just months after the passing of festival founder James Alexander, who was an inspirational figure. For this festivals, we were assisted in our workshops by Briony and Erika Stewart, who had attended our first workshops in 2016 as students. We were delighted when they joined us on stage. At this festival, we included our compositions 'The Shy Octopus', 'Farewell to Fochabers', 'Alexander's Fancy' and 'Speyside Delight'.

Towards the Future

Daithí and Adèle's research on Speyfest and the musical heritage of Fochabers continues, while we have also had the opportunity to attend events including Celtic Connections in Glasgow and the North Atlantic Fiddle Convention in Aberdeen.  We look forward to developing our research and returning to Scotland in the near future again.

Conference Presentations:

  • Kearney, Daithí. ‘Grappling with ‘Celtic’: William Marshall’s 21st Century Struggles’. Society for Musicology in Ireland Annual Plenary, CIT Cork School of Music, 16  June 2018. 

  • Kearney, Daithí, Commins, Adèle, Conroy, Hannah and McCallig, John. Encountering Speyfest. Screening, 44th ICTM World Conference, Irish World Academy of Music and Dance, University of Limerick, 13-19 
July 2017 

  • Commins, Adèle  and Kearney, Daithí. ‘Let’s put up a stage: Experiencing Speyfest and a Scottish Music Community’. ICTM Ireland Annual Conference, NUI Maynooth, 25 February 2017. 

Blog Entries (click for direct link):

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