Monday, 31 August 2009

Erin Feis draws more than just the Irish

Journal Star

Why are so many drawn to Irish culture whether or not they are natives of the country? Third-generation Irish Sean Sullivan of Brimfield offered his answer: "The Irish are just good people. It's like camaraderie. Everybody enjoys each other's company."

When asked about the beer, he replied, "Well, that's a given. Nothing like Irish music and a Guinness."

The bagpipes blowing at the entrance of Festival Park on Friday signaled the first day of the annual Irish festival Erin Feis, which is sponsored by the St. Patrick Society of Peoria and the Peoria Park District. The first day of the event, called "The Gathering," featured music, food and drink vendors and cultural exhibits.

The event continues Saturday and Sunday with dozens of music and dance performances scheduled.

"It's a family-oriented activity," said event co-chairman John Martin, "It gives people the opportunity to see and learn about the Irish."

The event was first held in 1981 at Hickory Grove Park and was moved to Festival Park in 1996. Now a three-day event, it has grown to include six performance stages.

This year, a special stage reserved only for Irish dance is set up for Saturday's event, called "The Day," and will feature many dance groups such as Isle of Erin, Central Illinois Irish and Flynn's School of Irish Dance.

"The entertainment is always the primary draw," Martin said. "There's an endless amount of Irish entertainment."

Local Irish band Bogside Zukes kicked off the music stage under O'Neill's Irish Pub's tent at 5:15 p.m.

Dancing her own Irish jig outside the tent was 2-year-old Lily Tejero of Peoria.

"Lily likes Irish music," said her mom, Meghan Tejero. "So we came down to dance."

Tejero, who's Irish, said she used to Irish dance when she was younger, and said she makes it out to the event each year.

"They have stuff for everybody to do," she said. "There are some really good vendors."

Along with the music and dance, visitors can take a walk through the "Cultural Village," which includes Irish vendors, bakers and cultural demonstrations.

Saturday and Sunday also include various Irish games of strength, such as throwing bails of hay, Martin said.

"I think the Irish have a knack for turning disaster into something humorous," Martin said. "They have a sunny disposition about looking at life."

Sunday's event, named "The Scattering," will host two worship services: one Catholic service and one Celtic Vesper service. Both services will begin at 10:30 a.m., and those who bring in a can of food for donation will get into "The Scattering" for free, Martin said.

Stephanie Gomes can be reached at 686-3194 or

Saturday, 22 August 2009


In three years Ceann have become one of the most successful independent bands in the country. Over the last two years Ceann have played more shows than any other national touring Irish band in the country. They've sold more CD's and have appeared or have had their music played on more radio stations than 80% of all bands releasing CD's on music labels over the same two-year period.

They're latest album "Making Friends" was one of the top charting Independent national releases on the CMJ music charts. It was picked up by over 200 stations nationally and they were also the top charting unsigned band in from any genre in any category. Because of their unparalleled success in radio and CD sales, Ceann have been singled out by music industry executives as one of the most successful business models for independent music artists.

Musically Ceann have made a name for themselves as one of the most fun, entertaining and musically adventurous bands in the country. With their roots in Irish music Ceann mix in modern musical styles and a cutting edge sense of humor that has won them fans across the globe. Ceann are often compared to the Barenaked Ladies and They Might Be Giants. They've also been called been called anything from a funnier version of Flogging Molly, to a Celtic Mighty Mighty Bosstones, to Adam Sandler meets the Pogues.

Ceann formed as an Irish Rock Band in Pittsburgh in 2005 with the release of their first album of all-original material "Almost Irish." Ceann continue to mix fun Irish music with their popular originals. While some of Ceann's songs revolve around the culture of being Irish Americans many of Ceann's most popular songs have distinctively more contemporary themes. Their songs appeal far beyond the normal reach of Irish music and have given them access to unprecedented access for an Irish band to commercial radio and have allowed them to play at non-Irish music festivals to equal success. Ceann have also become one of the most sought after college music acts in the country.

With the release of their album "Rave, Rant, Lose Pants" in June of 2007 Ceann's reach extended even further. The release of the album coincided with their song "Pretty On The Inside" being selected as the NPR song of the day. The overwhelming listener response led to the song subsequently being added to a large number of AAA radio play lists across the country. From 2007-2008 Ceann appeared on over 50 commercial radio stations across the northeast including Country, Classic Rock, Alternative, Talk Radio, and Top 40 radio stations. Ceann are redefining the definition of cross-over success. With the radio success of their latest album "Making Friends" Ceann have established themselves as one of the most intriguing and successful bands in a changing music market.

Thursday, 20 August 2009

Paddy O’Brien will be remembered in Tullamore

By Paul Keating

This week the town of Tullamore will be abuzz with traditional Irish music as one of the largest gathering of traditional Irish musicians and students descend upon the Offaly town.

With the convening of Scoil Eigse and Fleadh Cheoil na hEireann, the annual Comhaltas Ceoltoiri Eireann event that may draw over 200,000 tradheads to the Midlands in one of the largest cultural displays in Ireland, the focus will be on the musicians living and deceased who are credited with making all this magic happen year after year.

One of the most storied musicians in the entire history of trad music, Paddy O’Brien, will certainly be remembered through many of his compositions as the tunes are taught, learned and shared over the week-long celebration.

And earlier this summer with the release of a new publication, The Definitive Collection of the Music of Paddy O’Brien 1922-1991, launched at both the Willie Clancy Summer School and the Catskills Irish Arts Week by his daughter Eileen O’Brien Minogue who edited it and compiled it, the importance of a musician like Paddy O’Brien was brought home anew to the Irish music community worldwide.

No ordinary compendium of tunes from the iconic box player from Newtown, Co. Tipperary is this 212-page opus produced by his fiddle-playing daughter, Eileen as a byproduct of her research in garnering a master’s degree at the Irish World Music Center at the University of Limerick.

Recognizing the extraordinary legacy of music she and her brother Donnchadh inherited through both the O’Brien and Seery families of their parents Paddy and Eileen, Eileen Og went well beyond the 1992 publication of the earlier collection of O’Brien compositions that came out a year after his death at the age of 69 in 1991. The Arts Council of Ireland helped to fund the new collection that was more than just a labor of love and precision.

The latest collection contains all 100 compositions of the master accordion player who revolutionized the B/C button box back in the 1950s and is generally considered one of the giants in Irish traditional music lore.

In addition, we are presented with a good number of arrangements and settings of popular Irish traditional music tunes that have come to be associated with Paddy O’Brien’s playing or given extra lift and drive through his talented hands.

Whether people heard his early 78 recordings, radio and television broadcasts, live performances at fleadhanna, feisianna, ceili dances, house parties or pub sessions and music classes, the reaction was always the same -- no one could bring as much to Irish music on the two-row B/C accordion like Paddy O’Brien from Nenagh, Co. Tipperary.

As a highly regarded musician and teacher herself, Eileen Og O’Brien goes beyond just boasting about the family musical inheritance, and her father’s prowess in this work as its extra-added value is to see how so many others viewed the impact of Paddy O’Brien’s music on themselves and its overall evolution.

Wednesday, 19 August 2009


COSCÁN is a four piece Trad / Contemporary Folk band based in Slane, Co. Meath, Ireland. We play an exciting style of world music and song incorporating contemporary music and Traditional music from Scotland, Galicia and South America with emphasis on our root music - Traditional Irish Music.

Having performed at various festivals and venues throughout Ireland e.g. Fiddler's Green Festival in Rostrevor, Co. Down, Tara Solstice Festival, Le Cheíle Festival and the National Concert Hall to name but a few, we have supported some well known bands such as The Dubliners, Kíla and Four Men & a Dog. COSCÁN has also performed live on several Irish radio shows e.g. Áine Hensey's The Late Session, Kieran Hanrahan's Céilí House, Ryan Tubridy's The Tubridy Show and the RTÉ TV documentary covering the Autumn Equinox at Loughcrew in Co. Meath.

This year we will perform at some well known festivals throughout Ireland, such as: Celtic Fusion International Festival, Fiddlers Green International Festival, Ballyshannon Folk Festival and on the main stage at Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann as well as numerous lesser known festivals and fairs.

In August '07 COSCÁN was invited to perform at Festival Interceltique de Lorient, France (the largest Celtic music festival in the world attracting some 850,000 visitors annually). At this festival we performed 5 concerts, the first supporting The Dubliners and sharing the same billing as Sharon Shannon, Solás, Cappercaille as well as supporting the leading Spanish group Tejédor. While at Festival Interceltique we performed live on several radio stations, most notably Blue Breiz Izel and RGB France

Our range on instruments include Fiddle, Button Accordion, Whistles (Low & Tin), Bodhrán, Keyboards, Guitar and Percussions. We have just recorded our 2nd CD of tunes and songs, composed by the band, called Dinnseanchas (Lore of Places) with Gerry Simpson at Sidetrax Studios in Drogheda Co. Louth which is now available to purchase at our gigs. If it not possible to attend one of our gigs, sent us an email. Dinnseancahs (Lore of Places) will also be available to download via iTunes shortly.

Fleadh Cheoil gig for Coscán

COSCÁN, the traditional Irish music group will play a headlining show at the Fleadh Cheoil na hEireann on Friday next, 21st August in Tullamore. They will headline the concert on main stage on the Friday night in the town.
The band plays traditional and folk music and includes three men from the Slane area: Gerry Doggett on fiddle, accordion and tin whistle, David Nevin on bodhrán, percussion, keyboards and vocals, and Harry Long who plays low whistle, tin whistle and vocals; as well as John Shankey from Nobber who plays guitar and vocals.
They will also play in Malones in Kingscourt on Saturday 12th September at 10.30pm, and two shows in the Oldcastle House Hotel on Saturday 29th August and Saturday 26th September.
Coscán recently launched their new album 'Dinnseanchas' (Lore of Places) in Doyle's of Slane. They just played the Ballyshannon Folk Festival which was an amazing success for the band. They also performed at the Celtic Fusion International Music and Arts festival in Belfast and at the Fiddler's Green International Music Festival in Rostrevor, Co Down where folk singer Tommy Sands also launched their new cd. They have played in McKennas in Kilmainhamwood and in Dee Local in Nobber over the last two weekends.
'Dinnseanchas' will be available to buy from the bands website and at the gigs. The album is available for download through Itunes.
David Nevin says that the tunes and songs on the album are associated with places from Tara to Spain, to local areas like Ballinlough and Stackallen and then to South America and so on. The traditions and lore of these places, which is what the word Dinnseanchas means, is what is captured in this album.

Kilfenora Ceili Band big draw at forthcoming O'Carolan Fest

The annual O'Carolan Harp, Cultural and Heritage Festival will takes place in Nobber from Thursday 1st October until Sunday 4th October and will feature a wide range of events, including the legendary Kilfenora Ceili Band and Sileas, the renowned Scottish harpers.
On the opening night of the festival, archaeologist Matthew Seaver will give a talk on Nobber and the Barony of Morgallion in Nobber Community Hall at 8pm, under the auspices of Meath Archaeological and Historical Society.
Sileas will play in O'Carolan College on Friday 2nd October, with support from harpists Dearbhail Finnegan and Cormac De Barra. This is the first time that Sileas has played at the O'Carolan Festival, and their playing will add to the centuries-old relationship between Irish and Scottish harpers.
On Saturday 3rd October at 11am in O'Carolan College, Kathleen Loughnane from Nenagh will give a talk on 'The Harpers Connellan'.
The brothers Thomas and William Connellan were born in Co. Sligo in the 1640s; both brothers were harpers and are famous for the words and music of 'Molly MacAlpin'.
Turlough O'Carolan is said to have loved this piece so much that he is quoted as saying that he would have traded all his own tunes in order to have been its composer.
Kathleen Loughnane has being researching these two fascinating brothers and will present her findings at the O'Carolan festival.
Harp competitions for the O'Carolan Commemoration Perpetual Cups and Crystal begin at 11am on Saturday in O'Carolan College in several sections: under-10 where competitors must play two contrasting tunes. Ages 10-12 must also play two contrasting tunes. In the senior section, competitors must play one O'Carolan and three contrasting traditional tunes.
In the ages 12-15 section, they must perform one O'Carolan and one traditional tune and in the 15-18 section one O'Carolan and two contrasting traditional tunes must be played.
Competitions will conclude at 4.30pm.
Instrumental workshops will be held in O'Carolan College from 10am till 1pm for tin whistle, conducted by Liam Stapleton; button accordion, Paddy Howell; fiddle, Jeremy Spencer; guitar accompaniment for Irish music, Sean Leahy. Enrolments for workshops is at 9.30am.
Harp workshops will be held by Kathleen Loughnane in the school at 12 noon following a presentation by her at 11am.
A tour of the O'Carolan Country will be held on Saturday 3rd October.
The Kilfenora Ceili Band will play in O'Carolan College on Saturday 3rd October at 8.30pm. Support will be by the Meath Harp Ensemble.
2009 is the centenary celebration of the formation of the Kilfenora band. Not only is this an historic milestone for the band itself, but a reminder that Irish culture and traditions are thriving and have survived the test of time.
The 10-piece band features three fiddles (Anne Rynne, Pat Lynch and Annemarie McCormack), two flutes (Anthony Quigney and Garry Shannon), two sqeezeboxes (Tim Collins and his wife, Claire Griffin), banjo and leader (John Lynch), drums (Sean Griffin) and piano (Fintan McMahon).
The current lineup has been together by and large for 17 years under the leadership of John Lynch. With the previous generation advancing in age, the band was going through something of a hiatus in the early 1990s and then John Lynch emerged. He proved quite conservative to begin with and they confined their activity to rehearsal and competition. However they took on some gigs and the bug took hold. They have now been invited to Britain, France, America and elsewhere.
They often play for dancers but in recent years have moved further towards concert performances and this has proved successful. Their forte is instrumental music with some harmony and a driving rhyth.
On Sunday 4th October, the Aifreann Tradisiunta will be held in St John the Baptist Church, Nobber, at 11am, followed by a wreath-laying ceremony at the O'Carolan monument near the fire station in the village. The 2009 recipients of the Tony Finnegan Memorial Award - Michael O'Neill and Grace Crilly - will provide music at the monument. Refreshments will then be served in Nobber Community Hall.
Later on Sunday, Davey Joe Fallon will play at a ceili in Nobber Community Hall at 3pm till 6pm.
Music sessions will be held in Dee Local on Friday at 10pm and in Keogan's Lounge on Saturday at 10pm.


Don’t miss the exciting Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann this weekend in Tullamore

Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann is one of the premier cultural events in Europe and it’s set to leave its distinctive mark as the annual festival of music, song and dance began its exciting and innovative programme of events this week. It is expected that the event will bring over 230,000 visitors, 10,000 performers and 131 competitions to the town of Tullamore and generate up to €30 million

The 59th Fleadh made a welcome return to Tullamore, Co Offaly having been hosted in the midlands town for the past three years, following phenomenal success. Each year, the Fleadh provides a meeting place for those who carry on the great traditions of playing and cherishing our music, songs and dance.

The Fleadh includes Scoil Éigse, which comprises of a week of workshops and classes of Irish traditional music, song and dance and the Fleadh weekend follows including the World’s Largest Session Attempt and its colourful and bold opening parade and much much more.

Senator Labhras O’Murchú, Ard Stiúrthóir CCÉ, noted the extra challenges of hosting the event in the current economic climate. However, he marvelled at the enthusiasm of the organising committee and how they were continuing to get on with the work involved in organising Fleadh Cheoil.

Newly elected President of CCÉ, Séamus Mac Cormaic, extended his heart felt congratulations to the organising committee and noted that they have “certainly put their distinctive stamp” on the Fleadh.

For further details on the Fleadh, the competitions and the entertainment, visit our website on
For further information please contact Karen O’Grady, PRO, Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann 2009, on 087 1397438 or email
Glenn Hogarty / Karen Morgan, Limelight Communications at 01 668 0600

Versatility with a local accent

At the Masters of Tradition festival, the main requirement is ‘to be who you are’, according to its curator, Martin Hayes – a generous invitation which this year’s headline act, who combine Sliabh Luachra muscularity with Clare finesse, do not take for granted, writes SIOBHÁN LONG .

‘THE IDEA IS that you don’t have to do any cartwheels here to entertain the audience,” explains Martin Hayes, sharing his vision for this year’s Masters of Tradition festival, an event that’s grown organically over little more than a handful of years. “You don’t have to do anything except be yourself – that’s the message I give everybody who plays here. You don’t need to impress the audience, because they expect you to be who you are.”

Masters of Tradition has nurtured its audience with care, and has seen it grow incrementally, with some crossover from the chamber-music fan base built up by West Cork Music. It’s the notes (and, at times, the space between the notes) that matter, not simply the genre of music, Hayes suggests. “It’s not about mass audiences, and it’s not enough to fill football stadiums, because it’s not about huge commercial success. But for people who come to hear it, a great thing happens musically, I think.”

This year, Masters of Tradition features the Mulcahy family – Mick, Louise and Michelle – who bring a riveting mix of Sliabh Luachra muscularity and Clare finesse to the programme. Natives of Abbeyfeale, on the mythical Sliabh Luachra border, Louise and Michelle between them play pipes, flute, harp, concertina and fiddle, while their father, Mick, is a widely respected accordion player.

The family’s latest (and second) CD, Reelin’ in Tradition , has drawn together an eclectic range of tunes, from those of the late Sliabh Luachra accordion giant, Johnny O’Leary, to those of American-born tunesmith Charlie Mulvihill.

LOUISE MULCAHY IS one of less than a handful of female pipers who can be heard playing in public. It’s a lonesome furrow if you’re seeking role models, although the number of young girls taking up the instrument in Na Píobairí Uilleann classes is growing steadily.

“People see it as a difficult instrument”, Louise says, “and it’s certainly dominated by male players. Looking back, historically, pipes were given to the male members of families, and even in terms of present-day attitudes, they’re perceived to be a very difficult instrument to play. I also find that a lot of technical language surrounds the pipes too: discussions about making reeds and fixing the pipes, so you have to engage in that as well.”

Michelle Mulcahy’s harp-playing is a standout on the family’s latest collection. Playing fiddle and concertina as well, she lists as influences a diverse mix of musicians, among them Noel Hill, Tommy Peoples, Tony Linnane, Seamus Ennis, Tony MacMahon and Matt Molloy, as well as the Sliabh Luachra holy trinity of Pádraig O’Keeffe, Julia Clifford and Denis Murphy. Michelle is quick to emphasise the need to balance technical prowess with emotional investment in the music.

“I suppose you need technique to a certain extent,” she says, “but, for us, it was never the be-all and end-all. ‘From the heart’ was what dad always emphasised to us growing up. Technique developed for us as we grew up, but what really matters, I think, is the feeling and having the ‘grá’ for the music. I think that’s the one thing that we all share in common and what binds us together when we play.”

A local accent is undeniable in the Mulcahys’ playing. Sliabh Luachra, with all its inherent rhythm and joie de vivre , propels the polka set, Captain Moonlight’s Army , back to its roots in the Rushy Glen (on the border of counties Cork, Kerry and Limerick), but there are a number of reels which, in their more delicate execution, whisper of the affection for Clare music handed down to Louise and Michelle by their father. As far as Louise is concerned, finding one’s own voice takes precedent over preoccupations about whether an accent is authentic or not.

“It’s up to the individual,” she says, “and our choice is to stay as close to the tradition as possible. Growing up with Dad, we’ve been steeped in the music of Sliabh Luachra, and you can’t deny that, for sure, but we love the rhythms in Clare music too, so I suppose we’ve been drawn to those tunes for that reason.”

Michelle, TG4’s Young Traditional Musician of the Year in 2006, has composed more than her share of tunes already, and one of them, The Road to Cree , made it on to the Mulcahy family’s 2005 debut, Notes from the Heart . For the most recent album, she has been less forthcoming, with no tunes contributed at all. Might she be saving them for a solo outing perhaps?

“Writing tunes is instinctive, and I love it,” she offers, modestly and reluctantly. “If I’m writing, I might just take up the harp or fiddle, but I wouldn’t necessarily write it down in notes. I would tend to write from the sound of what’s coming from the fingers.

“I’ve written a fair few tunes now. I’ve written them for the different instruments that I play, and I’d love to record them at some stage. If I do a solo album, maybe I’ll include a couple more of them.”

Having graduated from the Young Masters of Tradition, an associated festival which West Cork Music developed in order to nurture emerging musicians, Louise is delighted to find herself sharing top billing with her family, alongside singers John Flanagan and Niamh Parsons and guitarist Graham Dunne.

Playing in such a glorious setting, to an attentive audience, is something she doesn’t take for granted.

“I’m so looking forward to going back there,” she enthuses. “It does wonders for the soul really.”

AT THE HEART of this Masters of Tradition festival is a two-way conversation between musician and audience. Martin Hayes speaks volubly of the challenge facing any musician when trying to define what he or she does as either entertainment or art.

“Every performer sits somewhere on that continuum,” he says. “You’re either a person who ignores the audience entirely and just plays internally, and doesn’t embrace the situation, or you’re somebody who can’t imagine anything except embracing the audience irrespective of what you have to do.

“The difference between entertainment and art is that entertainment is a passive activity, and if you enjoy the art, you have to participate as a listener, you have to engage in the journey somehow. You have to come towards it a little bit, without getting uppity or stuffy about it, of course.”

Hayes has curated this festival since its inception, and it’s a role which, while initially alien, has turned out to tap into familiar skills.

“I really didn’t think that I’d enjoy doing it, and they kinda talked me into it initially,” he says, “but, you know, it’s not an awful lot different to picking a set of tunes for a concert, and deciding on combinations of moods and tempos to sculpt an evening. Picking artists and putting them in a certain order over a few days to generate something – I approach it a little bit like putting a session together, in a way. Loosely, I say that, of course!”

Masters of Tradition runs from Aug 12 to 16 in Bantry House, Co Cork. Artists featured include Martin Hayes and Dennis Cahill, Kevin Crawford, Steve Cooney, Paddy Keenan, Peadar Ó Riada, Seán Ó Sé and John Spillane. Flute player John Wynne will also perform, with John and Jacinta McEvoy on fiddle and flute. Christy Moore will play one of the late-night sessions, which is already sold out. Bookings: or 027-52788. Reelin’ in Tradition, the latest CD from Mick, Louise and Michelle Mulcahy is on the Cló Iar-Chonnachta label;

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Looking to the music to lead us back

THE ARTS: It shouldn’t be left to politicians and economists to show the way forward for Ireland’s economy – our traditional musicians have their own story to tell and a long history of healing ills, writes SIOBHÁN LONG

SEPTEMBER LOOMS large, and with it the prospect of a raft of swingeing cuts that threaten to decimate the arts. There’s no doubting the need for some radical reform, but since when did we define ourselves primarily as an “economy”? Is there more to Ireland and to the Irish identity than a dumpster full of bad bank(er)s, errant developers and slumbering regulators? Do we run the risk of tossing the baby out with the bathwater if we respond in purely economic terms to our current crisis?

For years, we’ve dined out on the kudos that came with the success of Riverdance and its countless spin-offs. We revelled in the perception of Ireland as a country rich in a tradition which we carefully stewarded into the 21st century. But is it possible that some of the answers to our current crisis of identity and confidence may lurk in the corners where our traditional arts – our music, stories, songs and dance – thrive? Many of our singers and musicians think so, and are adamant that they won’t sit idly by while our future is brokered solely by economists, accountants and solicitors.

Clare fiddler Martin Hayes is convinced of the centrality of our traditional music in this debate. It’s as much about re-shaping our identity as it is about rebalancing our books, he believes.

“I think the music becomes a metaphor for life, in a way”, he muses. “Traditional music continually struggles with the need to retain things of value from the past. It also examines those things in our past that are particularly unique. It’s always trying to navigate its way into being relevant today and tomorrow, in a wider world. And if you look at the economy at large, you’d have to say that for many years, we were abandoning a lot of who we were and how we recognised ourselves, in favour of saying that we were the most dynamic economy in Western Europe. That, in large measure, became our identity, particularly outside of Ireland.”

We’ve seen our own artists take action in the past in response to key events in our social history. The Carnsore Point campaign of the 1970s and Self Aid in the 1980s are just two instances where artists sought to galvanise public opinion, to stimulate it into taking action about its own future. More recently, a contingent of Irish harpers marched to the Dáil in protest at the building of the motorway at Tara. Should our traditional musicians be taking up the gauntlet at a time when the arts are under such explicit scrutiny on foot of the McCarthy report? It’s not necessarily a question that will be answered on the picket lines, Martin Hayes believes.

“Ï’ve always felt that there’s an implicit sense of the value of our music, and what’s being said,” he offers. “You don’t always have to say explicitly what you believe and what you feel, but musicians, poets, artists, intellectuals, historians, anybody who is not part of the process of generating wealth and affluence, are regarded as being simple-minded almost, and are regarded as not having anything to contribute in real terms to our way of life or to our identity. It’s as if these things were very nice attachments but not central – as if you have to be a property developer or a businessman to retain true credibility in what people refer to as to the ‘real’ world. But the real world encompasses everything. The loss of a central narrative for us to hold on to at this time is a big loss, and it’s a big gaping hole that people are filling with anger and resentment and fear and doubt and humiliation and all kinds of other things.”

Gerry Godley, director of the Improvised Music Company, again curated the OPW Summer Salon Series of free concerts at Farmleigh this year, which included performances from Julie Feeney and Martin Hayes and Dennis Cahill. The intimacy of the performance in a convivial setting was a timely reminder of what it is that’s at the heart of great music and great art.

“There’s something that happens that’s not just the music and not just the great communal spirit that it engenders,” Godley observes. “It’s a swelling of the collective breath. It’s where we realise that this is ours, and it’s something of which we must be rightly proud. And maybe that’s the most tangible thing that music can do right now, to sit there as a counterweight against the feeding frenzy of negativity that we seem to be collectively involved in.

“The last decade has been very challenging for artists, not to get suckered into what was going on. And I think a lot of us did,” Gerry admits. “We may have to look into our own conscience and ask if we were complicit in all of this. And if we were, perhaps we were human and went down the same acquisitive road that the vast majority of our society did, but the job of the artist is to be a constant, to be there when society chooses to turn back to it. I think that orbit is always an elliptical one and not a circular one. What we’ve witnessed over the last number of years is that we’ve now passed through the apogee of that orbit and we’re now coming back towards each other. The artist’s job is to be that constant, that lodestone.”

Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh, flute player and singer with Danú, is equally sanguine about the role our traditional arts can play in our national recuperation.

“One way I would see traditional music as a whole helping us emerge from all this is to continue on just doing what it says on the tin,” she offers. “By that I mean that the real essence of traditional music to me is a coming together of people, a sharing of culture and heritage, and a language that joins old and young, rich and poor across many boundaries.”

LEADERSHIP IS CENTRAL to our way forward, Martin Hayes suggests. As a long-time US resident, he’s had some experience of what shape that might take.

“This is an opportunity for re-invention”, he suggests, “to re-chart the course, politically, economically, socially and culturally. It’s a chance to sit back and take a look at the long-range future of the country, and I think that artists and poets have every right to be involved, and not to feel peripheral to those discussions.

“For me, living in America, watching the election of Barack Obama was like watching America re-forge its identity and reshape its past, and he was able to get people to align along principles of identity. It’s a long time since we had politics like that in Ireland, where someone’s been able to shape it in a way that we can wake up and say ‘yes, this is why we are who we are. This is what we’ve been and what we can be’. For example, traditional music is a non-hierarchical music, a music of community, and I’m sure we have that latent in society as well, in that it’s part of what we are, that we can instinctively relate to. We’ve tried capitalism on hyperdrive, and it’s really not who we are. There’s some part of us that not 100 per cent comfortable with that.”

Petr Pandula is a Czech-born music promoter and owner of one of the last 10 traditional music shops in the country, the Magnetic Music Café in Doolin, Co Clare. He is agitated by the seeming absence of traditional artists from the current economic debate.

“Many musicians today are apolitical and complacent,” he says. “I was in Prague in 1968 when the Russian tanks drove into the city and I returned to Prague during the Velvet Revolution [of 1989]. What inspired me was the fact that this revolution was, in large part, triggered by artists, writers, actors and musicians. But here, I don’t see the same potential in the Irish cultural scene, yet I’ve seen what kind of power cultural forces can produce to implement change in my own home place.”

Lasairfhíona Ní Chonaola, a sean nós singer from Inis Óirr, is convinced that our music can be a touchstone in this age of anxiety.

“Music is how I interpret the world”, she says, “because that’s the world I grew up in. Recession or no recession, there will always be people craving music, and a sense of identity. By definition, sean nós songs were handed down through many generations and through many recessions and the songs survived. There’s joy and sadness in music, and I think it helps us to deal with all kinds of problems in our lives, whether emotionally, financially or spiritually.”

THE HEALING POTENTIAL of our music can’t be underestimated, according to Siobhán Warfield, one of the harpists who participated in the march to the Dáil recently.

“We musicians can make a difference to public opinion,” she says. “Most recently, the murder of Manuela Riedo in Galway two years ago sent bad PR messages across Europe about Ireland. No longer were we seen as a safe, friendly place to send a child to university. Just a few weeks ago, musicians got together in Switzerland to help counteract this bad feeling about Ireland . . . by staging a concert in Basle for the Manuela Riedo foundation. This is just one example of how traditional Irish music can help heal wounds.”

The music, song and dance that define us are resilient as old boots, and Gerry Godley is adamant that we need to recognise this for what it is, and what it can offer us.

“What we have, you can’t wipe it out,” he insists. “A couple of generations of economic growth can’t alter the fabric of how we relate to music. Many other countries don’t have this amazing ecosystem of music that we have, which hasn’t bent the knee to globalising forces. It hasn’t smoothed out all the rough edges. We have something that’s ruggedly individualistic.”

For Godley, the McCarthy report may be a point of departure, but we can’t allow it to write the entire script for our future.

“There is an aspect to our psyche which is on the one hand very discursive, thoughtful and serious, and that manifests itself in our artists and writers, and allows us to grapple with big, philosophical questions.

“Then we have this infantile side to us which is the party that can’t end and the craic, and we are both people. I think the last decade has been about that infantile part and I hope that over the next while, this other side of our character will come back into focus.”

Saturday, 15 August 2009

New York Irish musicians Joe and Joannie Madden

Sadly, the end of 2008 saw the passing of one of the most popular of Irish traditional musicians in the USA, accordionist Joe Madden. Joe emigrated from his native Co. Galway in 1956. This set of reels, featuring Joe, his daughter Joannie (one of the great exponents of the concert flute and leader of "Cherish the Ladies") and Felix Dolan on piano was recorded in April 2004 at the Comhaltas North American Convention in Parsippany, New Jersey. Joe introduces the reels, including "The Caucus" and two which he learned from the playing of Mike Rafferty and Johnny Doherty. The wonderful rapport between himself and Joannie is evident in the music.

Celtic Woman coming to i wireless Center

Press release submitted by i wireless Center



Coming To The i wireless Center October 11

(August 13, 2009) – The international Irish music phenomenon, CELTIC WOMAN, will play the Quad Cities on Sunday, October 11 at 7:30 pm at the i wireless Center in an intimate theater setting. Tickets start at $32.50 and go on sale Monday, August 24 at 10 am. Tickets are available at the i wireless Center box office, by calling 800-745-3000, all Ticketmaster outlets, or visiting

Four years ago Celtic Woman traveled from Ireland to America and captivated millions with their inspiring songs of hope and love. Their incredible journey to stardom has been like a dream come true for vocalists Chloe, Lisa, Lynne, Alex and Celtic violinist Mairead. The 2009 "Isle of Hope" tour will dazzle the eye, enchant the ear and stimulate both the mind and the heart.

Fans have the opportunity to experience Celtic Woman"s most magical production yet, featuring brand-new renditions of "Fields of Gold" and "Have I Told You Lately That I Love You," as well as an original anthem by Brendan Graham, writer of "You Raise Me Up." Musical Director David Downes has composed stunning new music for the 19- member ensemble featuring the wonderful voices of Celtic Woman and the energetic musical inventiveness of Celtic violinist, Mairead.

The show will also feature cornerstone favorites such as "The Sky and the Dawn and the Sun," "Danny Boy," and "Spanish Lady," among others.

Celtic Woman has been winning over audiences worldwide with their heavenly renditions of Irish standards, classical favorites and contemporary hits. In just four short years, the group has sold more than 4 million CDs and DVDs, played seven US tours, and performed for more than 800,000 people. Meanwhile, the three Celtic Woman PBS Specials have aired more than 13,658 times on 342 PBS stations across the country, covering 97% of US television households.

The group has also appeared on several national television shows including Live with Regis and Kelly, Martha Stewart, CBS Early Show,and Brian Boitano"s Skating Spectacular: Skate for the Heart.

Named the #1 Top World Music Artist by Billboard Magazine, Celtic Woman albums (Celtic Woman, A Christmas Celebration, and A New Journey) have held the #1 position on the magazine"s World Music chart for 90 consecutive weeks. Their recent album, The Greatest Journey Essential Collection, debuted at #1.

For further press information or to schedule an interview, please contact:

JR Rich, EMI Music; phone: 212-786-8628; e: or

Renee Pfefer, On Tour PR; phone: 914-273-0007; e:

Tread Live at Passionfruit, Athlone

Saturday 19th September

8.30pm, Tickets €15

Phone 086 3338457/Email
"EXPERIENCE THE MAGIC AND EXHILARATION of a new, exciting show brought to you by five young people who delight in the musical traditions of Ireland, Scotland and Canada."

This combination of instrument and dance thrills the audience with its vitality, passion and exuberance.
(harp), Jon Pilatzke (fiddle), Cara Butler (Irish stepdance), and Nathan Pilatzke (Ottawa Valley stepdance) take temporary leave from the iconic show of The Chieftains with whom they have toured for many years.

Add to this the sonorous voice and guitar of Jef McLarnon, and you have a show that will live in the memory."

Tubberclair & Glasson Notes


Congratulations to local girl Audrey Murphy who qualified in four different competitions at the recent Leinster Fleadh in Wicklow on the weekend of July 10-12 last.
The 19-year-old went through in the Fiddle Slow Airs, Whistle Slow Airs, Flute Show Airs and Whistle general competitions and now goes forward to represent Leinster at the Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann in Tullamore on August 21 to 23 next. Audrey is wished the best of luck in all competitions.

Music Lessons

Traditional music lessons on tin whistle, flute and fiddle for all ages, from beginners to advanced now available in Glasson. For further information contact 086 3790754.

Westmeath Independent

Friday, 14 August 2009

Internationally Acclaimed Celebrities Lead Support for Future of Music Institution Francis McPeake School of Music

Internationally acclaimed celebrities including Michael Flatley, The Pogues, Moya Brennan, Phil Coulter, Ash, Brian Kennedy, Sir James & Lady Galway, sportsman Wayne McCullough and multi-millionaire entrepreneur Bill Wolsey, have today come together to lead in supporting the future of Ireland's world renowned Francis McPeake School of Music by purchasing tiles within the Mosaic of Support.

The Mosaic of Support is the brainchild of Francis McPeake IV and has been created to encourage musicians, businesses and music lovers across the globe to become a supporter of the school by purchasing a tile within the Mosaic to keep the dream of learning traditional music alive.

An integral part of Belfast's musical culture, the school of excellence has provided thousands of pupils with traditional music tuition in its 32-year history and the Mosaic of Support will raise funds to take the school forward.

Attending the official launch of the campaign in The Merchant Hotel, Belfast, The Lord Mayor of Belfast, Councillor Naomi Long, said: "I admire the creative approach the four generations of the McPeake family have dedicated to nurturing musical talent in Belfast. I welcome the innovative Mosaic of Support campaign they have developed to fund the school into the future."

Speaking about the campaign, Michael Flatley, said: "I wish The Francis McPeake School of Music the very best of luck. Music is a very important part of life, not just when we're young but its also invaluable as we get older."

Bill Wolsey, owner of the most public houses in Ireland's history, said: "The McPeakes have taught all classes and creeds for four generations in Belfast. They have taught through good and bad times, through times of trouble and times of peace. To me, The McPeakes represent everything that is good about Ireland in general and Belfast in particular they have always extended the hand of friendship!"

Francis McPeake IV said: "The support we have received for the school to date has been phenomenal and the great thing about this campaign is that via the internet, people can support us globally and, with the click of a mouse, see the people, businesses and artists who have endorsed us by purchasing a piece of the Mosaic of Support. Each supporter receives a tile on the virtual mosaic which will eventually form a piece of artwork created by award winning designer Jake Tilson."

And thats not all, since the McPeake ethos is that everyone can make music, this has inspired a new musical composition entitled Jam Piece and we are encouraging all our supporters to record a note which will be incorporated into this new score.

A documentary charting the school's history is also being filmed and I hope that as many supporters as possible will record their note for Jam Piece to feature within the documentary.

Join the Mosaic of Support by simply logging onto or calling +4428 9024 4544 for further details.

Note to Editors

The world renowned McPeake Family, who have been at the forefront of keeping traditional music alive in Ireland since 1904 and who gave the world the folk-anthem Wild Mountain Thyme and taught John Lennon the Uilleann Pipes, founded The Francis McPeake School of Music in 1977, during the height of the Northern Ireland Troubles.

Classes were intended to last no more than 6 weeks but are now entering their 32nd year they have inspired and changed thousands of childrens lives through musical education.

A documentary is currently being filmed, charting the history of the school. One major strand within the documentary is an exciting musical work Jam Piece. This will give all Mosaic supporters, even without musical experience, a chance to participate and come together to make music for the first time.

Each tile within the Mosaic of Support cost £140 (165/$230)

Jam Piece is being produced by Tom Newman, producer and engineer of Tubular Bells.

Mosaic Supporters (as at 10 August 2009)

Entertainment: Michael Flatley, Moya Brennan, Frances Black, Brian Kennedy, Ash, Therapy?, McPeake, The Fureys & Davey Arthur, Donal Lunny, High Kings, Martin Hayes & Denis Cahill, Sharon Shannon, Kieran Goss, Tommy Fleming, Phil Coulter, The Pogues, Brendan Graham, Patricia Daly, Sir James & Lady Galway
Sport: Wayne McCullough
Business: The Merchant Hotel, EMI Music, Junction One, Belfast City Airport, Belfast City Sightseeing Tours, Belfast Duck Tours, Bernard Campbell Solicitors, Big Bear Sound, Windmill Lane Recording Studios, Fingerprint Learning, The Garrick Bar, Cafe Carberry, Morris Estate Agents, Willie Clancy Summer School, Sinful Design, Custom Pro Golf, One Zero Zero

Media Contact Information

Name: Nicola Bothwell
Phone: 00447590606727
City: Belfast
Country: United Kingdom

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Irish Music and Multi-Activity Holidays


Irish Music and Winter Activities: in January 2010, Tradschool is organising an Irish Music / Winter Activity trip in Ceillac (Parc Régional du Queyras, 05) in association with France Outdoors .

The Chieftains Live DVD

(Kayos) Switzerland's legendary Montreux Jazz Festival has always boasted a variety of talent, in all musical genres. In 1997, it proudly hosted a feast of Irish culture, when The Chieftains graced the stage.

On September 1, Eagle Rock Entertainment, through its EagleEye subsidiary, will bring this special performance to DVD, when Live At Montreux 1997 hits stores.

Bringing a unique aesthetic to the Montreux stage, The Chieftains effortlessly engaged the crowd on this night. Celebrating a stellar 35-year career at the time, they brought their seemless blend of Irish culture, folk, pop, and classical influences to the festival. Complete with special appearances from step-dancers and bagpipe players, this is a set that gave a whole new flair to the jazz festival.

One of the first bands to popularize traditional Irish music, The Chieftains have enjoyed a long and celebrated career, and are still undisputed as one of the greatest Irish folk bands of all time. Originally founded in 1962 by Paddy Maloney (Uilleann pipes, tin whistle), the band has enjoyed massive success, earning six Grammys and an Emmy through the course of their fantastic journey. The classic line-up of Maloney, Matt Molloy (flute, tin whistle), Kevin Conneff (bodhran, vocals), Martin Fay (fiddle), Sean Keane (fiddle), and Derek Bell (harp, piano), truly made an impact on this night, with a blend of music, dance, and culture that is truly superb.

Also available from Eagle Rock Entertainment is their Live Over Ireland: Water From The Well DVD, which was released in July 2007.

Eagle Rock Entertainment is an international media production and distribution company operating across audiovisual entertainment programming. Eagle Rock Entertainment works directly alongside talent to produce the highest quality programming output covering film, general entertainment and musical performance. Eagle Rock Entertainment has offices based in London, New York, Germany, France & Toronto.

Track Listing:
1.) Opening Medley: O'Neill's March / Rosin Dubh / Reels And Dance
2.) Changing Your Demeanour
3.) Donegal Reel / Ladies Pantalette
4.) Lady Dillon
5.) Album Medley: Have I Told You Lately That I Love You / Mo Ghile Mear / The Rocky Road To Dublin / Reels And Dance
6.) Song Of Immigration / Kerry Slides
7.) Galician Overture Medley / Dueling Chanters
8.) Carrickfergus
9.) Maneo
10.) Murphy's Hornpipe and Dance
11.) Matt Molloy: A Fig For A Kiss / Mulhares Reel / Gravel Walks
12.) Guadalupe
13.) Did You Ever Go A Courtin' Uncle Joe
14.) Give Me Your Hand / The Trip To Durrow / Flogging Reel

Register for Irish music, dance and language classes at the Irish Arts Center, New York

Have you ever yearned to play an Irish fiddle tune, to learn intricate step-dancing footwork or to speak the Irish language of the Aran Islands?

Classes for everyone from "absolute beginners" through advanced are offered this fall at the Irish Arts Center at 553 West 51st Street in Manhattan.

Registration begins Tuesday, September 8, with classes starting on September 21. The term runs for eight weeks.

Musical instruction includes lessons in playing the fiddle, Celtic harp, Irish banjo, Bodhran, tin whistle and bagpipes. Try a beginning step-dancing class or polish up the dances you already know while getting quite an "aerobic workout." Learn footwork and technique for Ceili dancing or take an introduction to set dances. The Irish language is taught at four levels of experience beginning with introductory, and moving forward with vocabulary and grammar for conversational use.

Tuition varies according to class and there is a discount for members of the Irish Arts Center.

For a full list of music, dance and language classes check out Or call the Irish Arts Center at 212 757-3318 ext. 209.

Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann

FLEADH Cheoil na hÉireann is often described as the Olympics of Traditional Irish music, culture, song and dance.
The 59th Fleadh will take place in Tullamore between August 16- 23 and is going to be even bigger and better then the two previous years.

The Fleadh Cheoil has found a wonderful home in Tullamore and has enjoyed phenomenal success over the past two years since its inaugural visit to Tullamore in 2007.

It is expected that the event will bring over 250,000 visitors, 10,000 performers and over 100 competitions to Tullamore over the nine day period. It is one of the premier cultural events in Ireland and one of the largest in Europe.

Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann began in 1951 and has increased in popularity and size over the past fifty years. It will include thousands of musicians, dancers and storytellers from all over Ireland, the UK, Europe, Asia, Australia, and the USA.

Each year, the Fleadh provides a meeting place for those who carry on the great traditions of playing and cherishing our music, songs, and dance. Following on from last year’s event, Tullamore, has in itself, now become known as a great location to host such events.

The Fleadh includes Scoil Éigse, which compromises of a week of workshops and classes of Irish traditional music, song and dance, an action packed programme of events during Seachtain na hÉigse, Seachtain na Gaeilge and then the competition weekend.

The centre piece of the All Ireland Fleadh Cheoil is the competitions, which take place on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, August 21-23, and these draw capacity crowds.

For many, the public face of the Fleadh is the music sessions, which take place in every pub, hotel, café, doorway, and street throughout the weekend.

The organising committee has been hard at work for ten months putting together this exciting and dynamic programme for the 2009 event and people can expect the same action packed nine days as the previous two years.

PRO Karen O’Grady, said that the organising committee will see the culmination of months of preparation when the Fleadh kicks off on Sunday, August 16.

“To undertake it for the third year is phenomenal and we are looking forward to people coming to Tullamore again. The Fleadh belongs to the people and we are hoping that people will come once again to Tullamore and enjoy Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann 2009,” she enthused.

These will include the World Record Attempt for the Largest Traditional Irish Music session, the opening parade, the Ard Ollamh Celebration Dinner, and much much more.

For further details on all the Fleadh events, checked out our website at or watch for a Fleadh programme near you.

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

World Fleadh

Galway Advertiser

Michelle Lally, Frankie Gavin, Ron Wood, and World Fleadh organiser Eric Cunningham.

By Kevin Mcguire

OVER THE past three years Headford’s Eric Cunningham has been staging concerts and performances showcasing the best of Irish trad and Celtic music through his World Fleadh festivals.

Co Kerry played host to the first World Fleadh in 2006 and brought together the most celebrated performers of Irish music, song, and dance. In 2007 and 2008 the festival moved to Portlaoise and was generally considered an outstanding success.

Eric always harboured the ambition of bringing his music extravaganza to his home province and next week he makes that dream a reality when the World Fleadh takes place in Castlebar, Co Mayo.

From Friday July 31 to Saturday August 8 the Royal Theatre Castlebar will play host to The Saw Doctors, Moving Hearts, Mary Black, Sharon Shannon, Frankie Gavin, and American country stars such as Randy Travis, Martina McBride, Hal Ketchum, and Georgette Jones.

Trad entrepreneur

Growing up in a very musical family Eric was steeped in Irish traditional music from an early age. He performed throughout Europe, the US, and Australia in his teens and was exposed to a whole world of new music.

In 1992 he was awarded a scholarship to study music at NUI Cork, and as a musicologist contributed to the publication of The Companion to Irish Traditional Music. In 2000 Eric began to compose and produce his own musical productions.

“I grew up with music around me and I spent years playing with my father’s band,” Eric tells me. “My interest in getting involved in producing and promoting was when I travelled the world with people like Frankie Gavin playing music.

“I’d always watch what was happening at major music events and try to figure out how it was being done. I thought if all these great events were happening overseas then there’s no reason why they shouldn’t be happening in Ireland as well.

“From the word go my hope was to replicate events such as the America’s Milwaukee Irish Fest, the Inter-Celtic Festival of Lorient in France, and Scotland’s Celtic Connections Festival to showcase Irish traditional and Celtic music in Ireland.”

Through his impressive entrepreneurial skills and thorough attention to detail, Eric has produced shows such as Dance Of Desire, the Dubai Irish Festival, Women Of Ireland, and Bryan Adams at Pearse Stadium. Still in his twenties, he was awarded Young Person of the Year by Junior Chamber Ireland and a mayoral award from Galway City Council in 2005.

“I don’t really think about the age thing,” he says. “The way I look at it is that you’re only as good as your last gig. Every time I take on a new project I strive to raise the bar. The way the music business is though it’s often hard to cater to the tastes of everyone or to make a production work.

“There are always challenges – such as inclement weather conditions or the economic situation at the time – when you decide to put on an event. The World Fleadh was set up as a transient event to move from location to location from one year to the next.

“It started in Kerry and then moved on to Portlaoise and I’m delighted to be bringing it to the west of Ireland this year. The first class facilities at the Royal Theatre and the fact that Castlebar is such a great location were big plus factors in

bringing the event to Connacht.”

The World Fleadh

The programme at this year’s World Fleadh has a distinctly west of Ireland feel to it with Sharon Shannon and Dessie O’Halloran taking part. The festival will also see legendary Galway group De Dannan re-launched with a new line-up.

“It’s a great privilege to be able to re-launch Frankie Gavin and De Dannan at the World Fleadh,” says Eric. “The concert on August 5 at the Royal Theatre is a celebration of the past with some of the best-loved De Dannan members such as Dolores Keane and Mairtín O’Connor taking part.

“The night will also see the group moving into the future with the launch of the new line-up. Both groups of people from the past and future will perform together as Frankie Gavin and De Dannan.”

The World Fleadh will embrace the links between Irish traditional music and American country music with the Ireland Music Awards and the Irish Country Music Awards taking place on August 1 and August 6, respectively. The latter will be attended by leading lights from Nashville such as Randy Travis, Martina McBride, and Hal Ketchum.

“In the last year I’ve begun to branch out the World Fleadh to include American country,” says Eric. “The programming for this year’s event occurred at a time when the Midlands Country Music Festival was no longer happening and so I felt there was a void there to be filled. The inaugural Irish Country Music Awards will feature a wide variety of Irish and international country music stars.”

The Royal Theatre is Ireland’s third largest venue and the largest venue outside of Dublin. In recent years it has played host to Tom Jones, Kris Kristofferson, Kenny Rogers, Crystal Gayle, and Belinda Carlisle. Eric hopes to one day bring acts of that calibre to his home city of Galway.

“The Royal Theatre is known as a place where people go to for concerts and a night of entertainment,” he says. “It’s unfortunate that Galway is lacking in facilities and the only place you can stage large-scale concerts in the west is Castlebar. Galway is lauded around the world for the arts but it is dragging its feet in some respects in terms of facilities. I would love to be able to bring big concerts to Galway.”

The beginning of August will be an exciting time for music enthusiasts in the west of Ireland with the World Fleadh bringing together many big names under one umbrella. The events kick-off tomorrow night with The Saw Doctors and their manager Ollie Jennings is in an upbeat mood about their performance and the festival.

“It’s great that a festival such as The World Fleadh is coming to the west because I think it’ll flourish,” Ollie says. “I remember a big festival in Castlebar many years ago that featured acts such as Madness, Ian Dury, and De Dannan and that was a big success. The Saw Doctors always love playing in Mayo and we hope to celebrate our latest visit with a Top 10 with our new single She Loves Me.”

For more information on the World Fleadh see or

Tickets available by phoning box office on 0818 300 000.

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

Tips for Learning Irish Traditional Music

"The beginner, and strangers coming to this music, should not, initially, bother with the forms of ornamentation. It will be time enough to begin decorating the music when one has impressed the rhythm on the ear and by practice acquired a certain agility with the fingers. It is his rhythm which distinguishes the performer who plays as to the manner born. When beginning to learn this music one should aim to play in that manner. There is no difficulty in doing this, in becoming a native, provided one listens only to genuine players and one has chosen an instrument on which no other form of training had been received."

– from Breandán Breathnach's "Introduction," CRE 2, xiv. Bold emphasis added by me.

That valuable and carefully phrased thought reminds us all at once of the four most important tips:

Tip 1: Use Your Ear, Not Your Eye

Amazingly enough – as I know from my own youth, when I was totally dependent on printed music – school and mainstream music pedagogy emphasizes visual reading skills, even though the art form we are trying to master is aural and physical, not visual or intellectual. Many of you are in the same boat as I was. That's why most newcomers to Irish (or any other culture's) traditional music must first overcome this fundamental misunderstanding about how to learn to play music well. I urge you strongly to never learn a tune from notation, whether from sheet music or abc code. But see the tip below about Transcribing!

So, of What Use Are Tune Books for Musicians?

Here's another beautifully succinct quotation, from Breathnach's preface to Pat Mitchell's valuable book of transcriptions, The Dance Music of Willie Clancy:

"By aiding ear and memory it will help the already proficient piper to add with ease to his repertoire."

Think about that. First you spend time hearing and absorbing music, played by a musician, before you engage your mind with symbols on paper which are supposed to offer some technique-related information about that piece of music. Otherwise your result will be quite unmusical.

Never learn a tune from notation alone, especially if you are not already a proficient Irish musician. You may not learn tunes fast enough to satisfy your otherwise healthy eagerness, but you will learn them right. This is the only way to learn the "nyah," the "draoicht," "lift," "swing," or whatever you want to call beauty. Many Irish music teachers can hear a student (even when the student is a "professional" musician) and instantly pick out every single tune that the student learned from paper or in some other short-cut manner. How do they do it and what was the student missing? – See the next tips.

The next three tips are like the first laws of real estate: "location, location, location."

Tip 2: Rhythm

. . . is so complex and detailed in Irish music that even its most important, absolutely essential aspects cannot be notated using traditional classical notation. Instead it can only be learned and recognized after intensive and lovingly careful listening. For everytune, even if it's your five-hundredth tune.

Tip 3: Rhythm

. . . is the primary distinguishing characteristic between music that sounds Irish and music that does not sound Irish.

Tip 4: Rhythm

. . . is vastly more important than notes, pitches, and ornaments in Irish traditional music. Don't forget that reels, jigs, hornpipes, polkas, slides, mazurkas, etc. are dance music.

Tip 5: Articulation

All that talk about rhythm and no practical advice? Well, to get the rhythm right, after you've done lots of careful listening, you need to figure out the particular physical tricks on your instrument that give you all the same kinds of articulation that you're hearing.


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