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!