fiddle lessons dresser tea delph old photograph

Winter Music Projects

It’s been a while since I’ve blogged. As a colleague when I worked in the then Clare Vocational Education Committee said once, ‘life got in the way’. An expression I instantly committed to memory as being useful in a multitude of situations, requiring no further explanation whilst being easily relatable!

We have had strong winds, snow (yesterday!), various large moons and many dramatic skies. Meanwhile music continues at Burren Fiddle Holidays, with the repertoire for regular classes ranging from various reels (obscure and not so obscure) and jigs to Ed Sheeran and Harry Potter themes for the younger fiddle-playing fans.


Sessions in Corofin village are well established on Friday nights with the usual good mix of tunes and songs.

Whistle tunes burren fiddle holidays

Whistle duet – photo by John Lambe

Mick Nestor has a lovely low F whistle –  and a whole bunch of other whistles –  while I play fiddle and improve my whistle playing skills. Liam Jones backs on guitar and sings beautiful songs and his wife Ellen is a powerful fiddle player. Tony Trundle often joins on fiddle and sings  songs, many are his own compositions. Lots of musicians from the locality come in and help keep the session going.


trad session crowleys corofin burren fiddle holidays

Crowley’s Session, Corofin – photo by Orla McGuinness




In December Frank Kilkelly invited me to take part in his ‘Cabin Session’ series – a series of music videos showcasing many different musical genres and styles recorded from one of his Eco-cabins. Frank is a great musician, who kindly played with me on some demo recordings and he has a guitar tutor out, see  And if you are ever in Kinvara, Co. Galway, you can book a stay in one or two of his cabins also! Based on a German house boat design, they are bright, energy efficient and have everything you need. We had fun playing these tunes and hope you enjoy the videos, I have pasted them in below:

The second musical project of late is collaboration with my friend Rachel Conlan. We were in college together and recently she moved to Clare with her partner, Alan. Rachel plays fiddle and bouzouki (she can play whistle, concertina, bodhran and banjo too if you ask her!) and Alan plays banjo, whistle, oud and bodhran (apologies both of you if you are reading this – I’m sure there are a few instruments I’ve omitted from the list! Anyway, it’s great that we are now neighbours. While Alan was away touring with the band Goitse, myself, Rachel and Frank played a few tunes on Clare FM. Link is below, we are on for the last 35 minutes or so:


If you get a chance to listen to Rachel and Alan’s CD I can recommend it. A relaxed yet spirited selection of unusual tunes which would be great to have in wider circulation again, it’s aptly titled ‘A Quare Yield’. You can find it here:


Ennis Trad Festival 2017 Poster Burren Fiddle Holidays

Ennis Trad Festival 2017

Music for me is one of the easiest ways of expression. What better than to have someone stay, play tunes, take a few lessons, chat, drink coffee and even organise a session in sitting room of a free afternoon – as has just happened over the Ennis Trad Festival. Thanks Orla! Returning to normal everyday stuff is like coming out of a dream, only with a sense of joy and gratitude for what you have just experienced.

Session by the Range at Burren Fiddle Holidays HQ

Session at Burren Fiddle Holidays HQ

Friday I spent in Corofin, where I have been playing lately in Crowley’s pub. Thursday night and Saturday through to Monday I enjoyed the Ennis Trad Fest. John Lyons launched the festival with a select few, well-chosen words, and a few verses of a song sung with a spirit to match. Saturday was a day for catching up with friends, and going to see Four Men and a Dog – there was plenty dancing! Sunday I listened to Tony O’Connell play tunes to launch his new CD, ‘Live and Well’. It has been in the car CD player ever since – a great balance of tune types, keys and tempos. To me, there is an art-form evident in the order of the tracks as well as in the selection of tunes (and – almost without saying – the playing!). Our evening gig was relaxed, and in the best of company we played until closing time, whist Frankie Gavin, Derek Hickey and Alec Finn were playing a reunion concert around the corner.

Ennis Trad Festival 2017 Burren Fiddle Holidays

Ennis Trad Festival 2017 – Window into another world.

With the launch of the festival came sad news. A friend of Mick’s (a musical comrade from the Corofin session), present at the session the week before, had been killed tragically in a car accident on his return to Boston. It was surreal and in conversation with others we agreed that we need to value every experience whilst we have the chance. Dave was highly creative – an artist and creator of kinetic sculpture. Here is a link to his website, and a video of him talking about one of his sculptures:

RIP Dave Lang.

padraig o keeffe castleisland kerry concertina tab burren fiddle holidays

The Pádraig O’Keeffe Festival

The weather has settled now into a kind of sleepy heaviness. Hibernation is tempting but it’s too early!  Will that be it for storms and strong winds for a while?

That sinking feeling when you leave a festival having no more energy to give kicked in late on Monday. This was the October bank holiday just gone. There was a lot on. Traditional music festivals in Gort (the Cooley-Collins), Castleisland (the Pádraig O’Keeffe, which celebrated it’s 25th year), Doonbeg (Willie Keane), Doolin and Carrick-on-Shannon, Co. Leitrim. No doubt there were many more trad music events which escaped my attention. I hung out in Corofin and Ballyvaughan, before heading to Kerry on the Sunday.

Corbelled Roof of a Church in Adare, Co. Limerick

Corbelled Church Roof in Adare, Co. Limerick – taken on a short break on the journey down to Kerry.

The Pádraig O’Keeffe is a festival I had been to many times over the years. Dad used to drive me up when I still lived in West Cork. I remember the frustration of finally getting my school holidays only to get a severe head cold. I headed off with my fiddle anyway, and remember sitting in Brennan’s bar with a cup of tea and a fever, thinking that surely this was better than feeling sorry for myself at home. I think that was the year I first heard Peadar O’Loughlin play, down from Clare. He passed away last week, I didn’t hear him play many times, but he was a great musician. Another time I remember struggling with Leaving Cert English and Irish study in the hotel foyer before packing it away to allow myself to enjoy the afternoon session. Surely everybody thought I was mad – “would you not just leave the books at home, or if you were that much into study, stay at home yourself?”. It wasn’t ideal, and doubtful as to whether that extra bit of study helped in the end.

The second reel is the Ed Reavy composition, ‘The Hunter’s House’. I need to Tunepal the first!

Coming back to the present, I joined 3 lovely sessions on the Sunday and Monday. I am reluctant to name names, as I am sure most people wouldn’t want to be written about without their knowing! Maybe it’s possible to find a diplomatic balance. Richie Dwyer of the famous Dwyer family was about on the Sunday night and in fine form, moving seamlessly from the fiddle to accordion solos of his own compositions, to singing “a priceless pearl, my County Leitrim queen” with super guitar backing. I wish I could remember the names of the other songs he sang!

McFadden’s Reel. Both tracks in this post were recorded on a phone, so the quality isn’t the best!

The main image for this post is notation written out by Pádraig O’Keeffe sometime before his death in 1963. It was kindly shown to my by my housemate whilst I was a student at the University of Limerick – his mother had been a former student of Pádraig’s. It would have been used in teaching accordion or concertina (not fiddle!). Thanks Conor, for showing this to me!


Burren Fiddle Holidays panorama

Storms and Tunes

So, we’ve just had Ophelia pass over us – they say the worst storm to hit Ireland in 50 years. Here in Corofin we were lucky not to lose power and (I think) the damage did not go past a few fallen trees. The rest of the country is still regaining power in places, cleaning up and assessing the damage. The two days before she arrived were unusually warm and still, and the day after was bright, beautiful and sunny – like a day from 6 weeks earlier. Now it’s gone back to typical October weather, and I’m reading about the next storm, Brian. I hope he’s not too severe as I’m planning to go out walking in the Burren National Park at the weekend!

Tree down after Storm Ophelia at Burren Fiddle Holidays

Small tree down after Storm Ophelia

Leaves and lichen after storm ophelia at burren fiddle holidays

Leaves and lichen on the ground











Last night I played at the Cliffs of Moher Hotel in Liscannor. Met a couple who had eloped from Germany to get married at Hags Head. They had successfully flown in on the morning of the storm, and undertaken the 3 hour drive to their destination in the storm, all without incident – amazing. The only ‘hitch’ was that the registry office was closed due to bad weather, so they had to go on the morning of the ceremony instead. We played ‘Tabhair dom do Lámh’ (Give me Your Hand). Congratulations again if ye are reading this!

I spent some of last week in the company of friends  – musicians Hélène (flute and voice) and Olivier (fiddle). They were lucky to make it back to Brittany safely on the ferry, two days before the storm hit. Here is a photo of us playing (again in the Cliffs of Moher Hotel) with Kirsten Allstaff (flute), Neil Fitzgibbon (fiddle) and Moya Fitzgerald (fiddle) . The photo is by Seanie Hogan:

session at the cliffs of moher hotel liscannor october 2017 burren fiddle holidays

Session at the Cliffs of Moher Hotel, Liscannor, October 2017

We played quite a bit of music together and swapped tunes. Two or three are now on the top of my list to learn/dig deeper into. Here is a link to Hélène‘s Soundcloud profile, where you can hear her singing:

She also makes amazingly refined keys for wind instruments. Here’s a link to her website:

fiddle position hand lessons clare closeup

Laura’s Playing Style

Those already familiar with traditional music may be wondering about Laura’s own playing style. Growing up in West Cork, Laura enjoys playing slides and polkas and has a special place in her heart for Sliabh Luachra music. However, the Clare style is very different and to say that Clare players do not appreciate the slide and polka forms can sometimes be putting it mildly! More simply put, they rarely play those types of tunes. Understanding lift and drive in the different styles of reel playing in Clare (or indeed universally) is a process which Laura has been absorbed in for several years now. Her realisations are invaluable in advising others on ways to achieve the emphasis/sound they are aiming for. The skills needed to put these realisations into words have also enabled Laura to better communicate the style of the tunes she grew up with, making her a more rounded teacher. She plays in a fairly ornamented, smoothly-phrased style. She enjoys playing the various repertoires in the Clare sessions. She also enjoys playing some of the Sliabh Luachra tunes when she gets the chance. Her influences are too many to list, but they include John Coakley, Denis Murphy and Julia Clifford, Brian Rooney, Frankie Gavin and Tommy Peoples.

burren clare limestone pavement fiddle lessons holiday

Sightseeing and Local Activities

Clare is a beautiful, very varied county – from rolling green hills in the east, to the limestone pavement of the Burren to the rugged coastline from Loop Head to the Cliffs of Moher to the Flaggy Shore. The Information Point for the Burren is in Corofin village with the Burren National Park trailhead a further 4 miles away. Activities are many and of all different types – outdoor, indoor, suitable for families, the active or not so active! Burren Fiddle Holidays appreciate that many people like to explore by themselves in their free time and ‘do their own thing’. However, if you are without transport or would prefer a guided tour, Burren Fiddle Holidays may be able to show you some of the local sights.

session kinvara cuckoo fleadh fiddle lessons tuition classes burren clare ireland holiday

Traditional Irish Music Session Trips

Burren Fiddle Holidays is located 9 miles from Ennis  – the biggest town in Co. Clare –  and its many traditional music sessions. You are a half-hour drive or less from the villages of Miltown Malbay, Lisdoonvarna, Doolin, Ennistymon, Lahinch, Kilfenora, Ballyvaughan, Gort, Crusheen and Kinvara, all of which are great places for music and have their own unique character. You can find sessions nightly once you know where to look!  Visiting sessions is a great opportunity to learn about the trad music scene, make friends and play a few tunes! Again, if you are without transport, we may be able to take you out to some great local sessions.

session cork clare fiddle tuition lessons classes irish traditional holiday burren

Traditional Irish Music Recitals

Visiting Co. Clare gives you a chance to to meet some of the best traditional Irish musicians on their home turf. Burren Fiddle Holidays can, on request, arrange small recitals or sessions of two to three musicians. If there is a someone in particular you would like to meet or a particular combination of instruments you would like to hear, put some details in your booking enquiry and we will see who is available.