Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Cootehill is trad capital for Gerry Whelan Festival

Whatever about the weather, Cootehill is always guaranteed a sparkling weekend of traditional music towards the end of September, when some of the biggest names in the business mix it with talented local artists in a festival that has become firmly established as one of the highlights on the Co Cavan town's annual calendar of events.
And whatever about the economy, this year's fifth annual Gerry Whelan Memorial Weekend, from September 18 to 20, looks guaranteed to bring the summer season to a close on an upbeat note of celebration and cheer, as fiddle legend Frankie Gavin heads another all-star line up in honour of a man whose lifelong support and commitment helped build the music tradition into the great bulwark of Irish culture that it is now.
A lively and well-attended pre-launch night of music and song to hail the advent of the festival was held in Mullen's Lounge, Cootehill last Friday night. The memorial weekend itself will see hundreds of local people and visitors alike enjoy concerts, seisiúin, marching band parades and other events, all showcasing what's best in the tradition - and it's only fitting that it takes place in the town that Gerry Whelan, a great supporter of Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann and Irish music had made his home.
Comhaltas, in turn, has returned the compliment over the last five years by enthusiastically playing the part of chief sponsor to this sparkling annual celebration of traditional music and song in Gerry's memory. Marching bands were a particular passion for Gerry, and the annual Whelan festival always brings the town of Cootehill to life with some of the bands that take part in the Gerald Whelan Memorial competition held in his memory at each year's All-Ireland Fleadh.
The weekend's festivities will again include the very cream of traditional music performers, including musicians like fiddling greats Frankie Gavin and Jim McKillop, box maestro Martin Donohoe, Téada guitarist Sean McElwain with concertina specialist Rona Dinkin and fiddler Barry McLaughlin, and great traditional singers like Cavan's Aoife Murray, Frances Rodgers from Down, veteran vocalist Mick Quinn of Armagh and lilting legend Seamus Fay.
For those who want to play the music or enhance their skills, a series of workshops will be given by tutors who are well-recognised masters of their instruments. These include Gerry O'Connor on fiddle, Martin Quinn on accordion, Angelina Carberry on banjo and Áine McGeeney on tin whistle.
The late Gerry Whelan, a native of Mohill, Co Leitrim, was actively involved with Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Eireann since the organisation was set up in 1951, and was President of the Ulster Council for a period of thirty years.
As a successful business leader in the footwear industry, he ensured that Irish music and culture benefitted greatly from his entrepreneurial skills, donating generously to fleadhs and other events organised by Comhaltas. With his beloved melodeon or bodhran in hand, Gerry liked nothing better than to settle down to a good seisiún.
The organisers give thanks to sponsors Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann, Wrangler Footwear, Inishfree Dance Shoes, to Cootehill CCE committee members, and to supporting publicans Kieran Mullen, Don Smith, Hannigan Bros, Gene Bannon, Fergie Donaghue, Kenneth Connolly as well as the White Horse Hotel, Cootehill.
For the full programme of events and more information on what is already showing all the hallmarks of another memorable weekend, log on to, or contact Geraldine Whelan-O'Meara at 085 776 6217 or, or Roisin Lyons at 086 333 9242 or for more information on workshop bookings and concert tickets.

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