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!