Music and Reviews from Clare, Limerick, Waterford and sometimes further afield

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Druid brings Big Maggie to Glór Party

Druid cast at Glór for 10th anniversary
New Glór director Gemma Carcaterra
Tom Coughlan
The Glór arts centre was opened in Ennis 2001 in another economic age. Ten years on, the decade of delivering arts in The Banner County was marked with  a gala celebration and a performance of Big Maggie.(Review Below)

Before the performance, Glór hosted a pre-show reception to acknowledge the support of  its various stakeholders; sponsors, friends, local press and Clare County Council. There was a convivial glass of wine and delicious canapés courtesy of Dromoland Castle and Old Ground Hotel with both Mark Nolan and Allen Flynn in attendance. Among the guests, I met Terence Mangan, of Mangan Holdings Bros long standing sponsors, with his antipodean guest Alan Aughney and Madeline McAleer of Clare Focus, Eoin O Neill of the Ceili Bandits and media expert, Ciana Campbell . 

Garry Hynes
Val Balance
Speakers included; Chairman of Clare County Council Tom Coughlan and Garry Hynes of Druid Theatre who stressed the importance of state sponsored professional live theatre and that  she was delighted that her company had featured in 9 of  last 10 years programming at the venue. Val Balance representing the Arts Council spoke of the great record of Glór in delivering live entertainment and he particularly highlighted the commitment of Clare County Council to the arts. The contribution of the outgoing director Katie Verling was lauded and  new director Gemma Carcaterra was introduced by the chairman and she spoke of her delight at assuming the role. The audience boasted not one but two Clare mayors, as Alan Augney the Mayor of Clare in Southern Australia and Pat Hayes the 'local' Mayor of Clare were both in attendance.

Review of Big Maggie: There was a full house for the set piece of the evening, the Druid Theatre's production of John B Keane's 'Big Maggie'. The play is at the early stages of a national tour, it  recently finished a week in Dublin, and is  selling out in most venues. The eponymous Big Maggie character is a rarity in drama or literature; a malevelont female lead, her blackness exceeded only by Greek anti heroine, Medea. Aisling O'Sullivan dominated the play as she delivered a compelling performance as the grotesque matriarch that overpowered her family. Recently widowed, Maggie is driven by the need to instil independence in her children and to protect  her recently secured financial freedom after the death of her husband. All this within  a   valley  of the squinting mirrors type community when an anonymous letter  updates her an the indiscreet daliance of her daughter. In a brave move (with perhaps an eye on expanding their audience demographic), Druid cast Keith Duffy, the pop star and soap actor, as Teddy Heelin the playboy charmer and he was quite convincing in the role. It was good to see Abbey Theatre veterans John Olohan and Des Nealon among the cast, a blend of youth and experience.  I particularly liked Olohan's performance as as the gossipy stonemason and would-be suitor.

 John B Keane wrote Big Maggie in 1969 and whilst as a country we have undoubtedly moved on from the vice-like-grip of church imposed morals of that time, the play stands up well and the timeless tale of divvying up family assets amongst children is a good plotline.

Anna Managhan the original Big Maggie
Anne Marie Hourihane, writing in yesterday's Irish Times, claims 'nostalgia is a growth industry in these tough times' and the number of people I met  who claim to have been at the Gaiety in 1969 to see Anna Manahan's legendary portrayal of Maggie Polpin was reminiscent of the legions purporting to be present in the GPO in 1916! It seems that many of the successful  productions we see now are revivals with audiences  seeking to relive theatrical experiences of the past.
  There is of course  room for nostalgia,  particularly when it is as well executed as this production. But, I believe current theatre programming in general lacks  the rough edgy sense  of  drama of recent decades when premiers were more prevalent. Is theatre in Ireland in the 21st century 'a glorious anachronism, a form revelling in its own afterlife? as claimed by Fintan  O'Toole in a  recent piece. Where are the Brenton, Hare, Churchill  and John B Keane's of this era who  are not afraid to tackle heavyweight  modern social or political plotlines?  The truth is, I can't think of an Irish contemporary equivalent and yet there is a wealth of good source material.  My impression  is that we look  outside mainstream theatre  for our commentary and satire of the present age.  The success of the recent Kilkenomics Festival, where  relatively young audiences in great numbers paid good money to hear comedians debate with economists might seem bizarre but suggests a demand  for a live forum for airing of weighty topics. Comedian Mario Rosenstock sells out regularly in his solo stand comedy routines lampooning major figures in our contemporary national scene.   Aristophanes must be turning in his grave.
John B
 I enjoyed this production enormously.  It was very funny and  I was reminded of some of my own granny's acerbic repartee. The performances  were flawless. Mostly I enjoyed the sense of bustle of a community gathering for the telling of a tale,  the enhancement effect of laughter when it is shared by 400 people all  on the same wavelength, the common talking points at the interval and the party atmosphere and sense of occasion at the pre show celebration . I look forward to more drama at Inis We don't have too wait too long as the finals of the country's amateur one act drama competitions  will be held in Glór this weekend.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Chez Jack L at Glór

Twirling a cane, Jack L swashbuckled his way through the stalls and bounded onto the Glór stage last night to deliver the first number of his homage to Belgian songwriter, Jacques Brel. Looking rather devilish in a Johnny Depp sort of way  and clad in theatrical black and red right down to his guitar, he was accompanied on stage by accoustic bass, electric piano and drums.

While Jack Lukeman is a charismatic and engaging performer, what set this performance apart was the audio visual element with live action coordinated  with striking animation and images projected onto a backdrop. One might think that this extraneous effect would distract from Jack L's compelling stage presence but for the most part it literally added an innovative new dimension to the perfomance and brought colour to a monocrome performing space. A range of images in different styles assemble and are deployed to great effect, sometimes playful, colourful and sometimes monochrome and mimimalist. Portrait images of cigarette toting Brel  are followed with childish colourful animated images of bullfighgters and the boulevards of Paris are summoned  after a trippy psychedelic kaleidoscope display. Most striking perhaps are the sea scenes for probably  Brel's most famous song The Port of Amsterdam'  (see link below).

Unfortunately some patrons misunderstood the band's mid set  departure  from  the stage and made a break  for the bar when stillness was  needed for a solo accompanied only by a miniature accordion.
Unamplified for the number Stardust Falling,  Jack L demonstrates a powerful voice with  great  colour and range of pitch and I was left wanting more  of the reduced ensemble of voice and piano. Overall, while  the overamplification was not as marked as when I had previously heard the artist at this venue,  some numbers were  too loud for my taste, with drums the dominant musical element in the mix  detracting from the splendid voice and making the all important lyrics less discernible.

    Animation for Port of Amsterdam

I hope we will see more of this visual approach to musical presentations. A venue like Glór with good projection facilities makes it particularly suitable and I haven't seen many acts exploit this facility beyond projecting a few abstract images. Brendan Bowyer used  projected  images of his Hucklebuck days to enhance the sense of nostalgia in his show and Gilbert O'Sullivan also used thisapproach. Further afield  Russian  pianist Mikhail Rudy  has caused quite a stir recently in classical music press with his rendition of Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition to projections  animation of Kandinsky images.  There was a large  loyal and enthusiastic following in Glor for the gig and it was good to have one of the major successes of last year's Edinburgh Festival  in Ennis

Mikhail Rudy 'accompanied' by Kandinsky

Support act Fiach Moriarty provided good entertainment and the audience warmed to his understated set and self deprecating wry humour. His is a sophisticated and distinctive new voice and I look forward to hearing him in a venue more suitable for a solo performer.

An increasing irritant in Glór is members of the audience texting or consulting their mobile phones during performances. The glare is indeed a considerable distraction and nuisance. A gentleman next to me was seething and short of confronting a culprit. Perhaps the venue could address this in their show preamble.

Zoe Conway and John McIntyre in session at SMB Courthouse

Zoe Conway and John McIntyre at SMB Folk Club
Music for a Found Harmonium Jeffe
Mazurka set
Slow Air Bessy the Beauty Toss the Feathers
Wild Strawberry Hill/The Horses Tail
Brid Og Ní Mhaille John

Decorate the Mahogany/ Ringing the Bell
Orange Blossom Special
Pair of jigs  An Fish Fliuch / Paidin O Rafferty
Taimse im Chodladh Song Zoe acc by John
New composition Liz Carroll
Tiger Desert Storm / Rounding Malin Head
Encore audience request Planxty Joe Burke  reel

Tea Committee
Some years ago I asked a group of musicians which of the fiddle players they had a enjoyed at the Willie Clancy  jamboree and without exception, Zoe Conway was the fiddle players' choice . I finally had a chance to hear this much lauded virtuoso live at at the Court House in Sixmilebridge, a venue where I have enjoyed many a night of excellent music making.  Over the course of the set Zoe demonstrated her versatility with a range of styles and a pure high soprano voice. She was skilfully accompanied by her husband John McIntyre who had a style  very suitable for this intimate setting .

There was much to enjoy in this accoustic session, a rare treat these days. The duo opened with Music for a Found Harmonium , the Penguin Cafe Orchestra hit now established a trad standard and  drew  tunes from a range of sources on both sides of the Atlantic  including a few of her own compositions. The Horses Tail demonstrated a range of virtuoso techniques including rapid string crossings, left and right hand pizzicato  and ricochet bowing.  Zoe combines seemingly effortless  virtuoso technique with eveness of tone and  a controlled wrist vibrato that is not overused. Both performers offered beautiful simple vocal renditions of songs as gaeilge.  Zoe introduced the pieces with anecdotes from  their performing career with. Perhaps the duet were most finely balanced in their playing of Grapelli and Reinhardt's,  Tiger Rag  ( posted below ). 

A noteworthy feature of any evening at SMB Folk Club  is that it is one one of the few venues where patrons are served tea and buns at the interval.  Such welcome hospitality is no  small effort and it gives the evening a very pleasant community social ambience .  By all accounts the first act of the evening the Full Set gave an energetic and entertaining set. Since my last visit a new lighting rig has been installed casting  suitably subdued illumination on the procedings. The programme for the club's Winter Music Weekend was officially launched at the gig this evening. Full Details can be found om

John McIntyre on a  new Irish music  Post show interview
John McIntyre talks about a new music project (mp3)

Friday, November 25, 2011

Ennis Players' Supper Theatre at the Old Ground

In the current economic climate it takes quite an effort to get a crowd of 150+ to come out of a wet November evening. This  is a feat the Ennis Players managed several nights this week at the Old Ground In Ennis. Gathering around to see live bodies assume alter egos to tell a story has enduring appeal and  on Wednesday  night, the large function room   was packed  for the amateur dramatic society's latest offering. This was  the 26th season of the Ennis Players' 'Supper Theatre'. The format is a good one, it entails 2 or 3 short one act plays followed by a supper where one can dine and discuss the performance.Sitting in the Old Ground Hotel  bar always has the feel of a theatrical experience for me with an ever changing cast of 'characters' entering and leaving stage left and right through the doors at each end.

This year's production was 2 one act plays. The first was in the style of Miss Marple or Agatha Christie where the plot  had the giveaway title of 'What Shall We Do With The Body?' by Rae Shirley. This was a three hander comedy  with Carmel Quinn playing the crime writer role of Miss Temple and Ailbhe McMahon as her new new assistant, Miss Worthington. Tony Coffey was the Man visitor. The second play was The Way of All Fish by Elaine May and directed by Joe Varden and I felt this was the stronger piece of the two. This was a 'power play 'between a boss and her assistant. Amy McEnnis captured the New Yawker accent wonderfully as the macho boss whilst Bairbre deBarra delivered a fine performance as the mousey employee who harbours murderous intent.
Old Ground- great venue and service

The supper component of the evening was excellent with the Old Ground staff working wonders to deliver top class food to the many at the same time.

An excellent evening for €15 and  I look forward to Ennis Players' production of a Martin McDonogh play in the New Year and their endeavours on the thriving amateur drama scene.  Meanwhile the Players are hosting the All Ireland One-Act Drama Festival 'Drama in Ennis' from 2nd to 4th December

Monday, November 21, 2011

'From Heav'n on High' - Wylde brings de Regge back home to Ennis

Donagh Wylde and Éanna McKenna
  Oliver Plunkett Mass:  Kyrie ,  Gloria, Credo, Sanctus ,Agnus Dei

Guide Me O Thou Great Redeemer  (Bread of Heaven) Hughs/Williams
S'é mo Tiarna m'Aire , Alleluiah    Fintan O Carroll
Thine be The Glory      Handel

One wonders how the European musicians who came to Ireland in the latter decades of the 19th century and the early 20th century, viewed their new home.  It must have been a huge change from the continental milieus they left behind and how different the musical landscape would be without the input of the knowledge and skills of musicians like Ernest de Regge in Clare, Aloys Fleischmann Snr and Jnr in Cork and  Heinrich Bewerunge in Maynooth .  Ernest de Regge was organist and choir director at Ennis Cathedral from 1923 to his untimely death in tragic circumstances in 1958 in the Carmody Hotel disaster. On Saturday night, Ennis native Donagh Wylde whose late father was a student of De Regge brought his choir, Enniscorthy Choral Society to the cathedral in his home town to sing the de Regge, Plunkett Mass at the 6.30 Mass. The church was full with many present specially for the occasion including Professor de Regge's daughter, Marie Louise and members of the Wylde extended family . Following the service, there was a launch of a CD recording of the work at the Old Ground Hotel with addresses by retired Bishop Willie Walsh, Donagh Wilde and Mayor of Ennis, Michael Guilfoyle . Bishop Walsh in  self deprecating manner recalled his days as a student of Prof. de Regge  at Flannan's College and his days also as a teacher in the same college when Donagh Wylde was one of his physics students. 

There were many prominent members of the local musical and business circles at the launch. Carmel Griffin, director of  Colaiste Muire Choir and herself a former organist and director of the Cathedral Choir was among those attending and  was  she said 'very pleased with Colaiste Muire's contribution of some Irish song settings on the recording'. I spoke to choir director Donagh Wylde , clearly relieved and delighted to have arrived at the close of a long process of editing , rehearsing and performing. Donagh commented that de Regge's  composition style was very influenced by plainchant and also Romantic composers such as Weber and most importantly, the choir loved singing the work. Certainly the music is  elaborate in places with difficult four part singing that would not suit for regular worship  but made for a wonderful sense of occasion and resonance with the past. Other former cathedral choir directors present were Kieran O Gorman, Mary Curley and the present director Michael Hennessy.  Nigel Bridge, organist at St Columba's in Bindon Street was also in attendance and Doireann Wylde represented the younger generation in a flurry of organists (a collective noun for organists?) present for the occasion. 

Enniscorthy Choral Society were last in Ennis on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the composer's death in 2008 when they sang parts of the Plukett Mass at the Cathedral followed by a commemorative event at Colaiste Muire  Congratulations to Donagh Wylde, Enniscorthy Choral Society on the culmination  of  a long project.

I enjoyed the other hymns chosen for the Feast of Christ the King. The gathering  and recessional hymns were stirring, the first a familiar Welsh rugby anthem.  My own music teacher, Fintan O Carroll, director of music at Waterford Cathedral was represented in the psalm setting and Alleluiah and organist Éanna McKenna at the console coaxed a wonderful variety of sounds from what surely must be one of the secret treasures of Ennis, the Cathedral organ. Speaking to Éanna following the event, he said that the Ennis  organ was a historic instrument and was in fact designed by the man commemorated this evening Ernest de Regge.  May he rest in peace.

Organist Éanna McKenna at the console

Displayed on altar 19th Nov 2011
Sunday Independent  12 July 1947 'Ennis Choir will broadcast Mass Oliver Plunket'.

The Raw Bar; Clare Festival of Traditional Singing

Elizabeth Stewart
 A fig for those by law protected!
Liberty's a glorious feast!

Courts for cowards were erected,
Churches built to please the priest.
Robert Burns

I caught the Farewell session of the Clare Festival of Traditional Singing taking place in West Clare over the weekend.  A group of fifty or so were  gathered in Malones Market House Tavern in Miltown Malbay, the renowned live music venue.  This was a hospitable gathering with refreshments on the house  to fortify the singing patrons. There was a sense of hush as each singer took their turn, performing accapella from where they were sitting.  The songs ranged from familiar ballads, gentle lovesongs, comic songs and up-to-the minute self penned satirical songs with a political edge. Not many of the songs had a chorus but many  had a line or two that the audience joined in with. The lines  quoted above were from a ballad on the life of Thomas Morton penned by Robbie Burns and the group joined in this chorus with gusto.   
Other Scottish voices included Ellen Mitchell and Elizabeth Stewart who offered the Wedding of Lockie McGrath.  It was lovely to hear  an old school favourite The Singing Bird with the singer  prefacing his song with some observations on the changes in local wildlife features. There was a beautiful rendition by Joyce of the English folk song Oh The Snow it Melts The Soonest, When the Winds begin to Sing. Michael Gray acted as MC calling on singers in turn to offer their piece and establishing  newcomers' willingness to participate. I am proud to say, I enjoyed doing a turn myself and offered Love is Teasin' , a theme which was picked up by Jinny Thomas's humourous parody of Black is the Colour. Headline singer Thomas McCarthy was in attendance offered a tale of domestic bliss with the last line spoken sean nos style.

Jinny Thomas

MC Michael Grey, Anette Munnelly

 I spoke to Annette Munnelly who was enjoying brother Gerry O Reilly's swashbuckling tale of pirate life. Annette, widow of founder of the festival, Tom Munnelly ,   together with a team of local enthusiasts reestablished the festival in 2008 and she was clearly delighted with the weekend . The theme this year she informed me  was Travellers and Fellow Travellers. Visitors travelling to the Western county must have enjoyed not only the musical fare but the uncharacteristic bright sunshine  in Clare over the weekend. Over the couple of hours the crowd thinned out and we left with special guest, Tim Dennehy's sotto voce rendition of The Parting Glass in our ears.
Tim Dennehy

Official  festival poster on Malone's Wall

Antoinette ' sings Maggie'

What I enjoyed most about this afternoon and the Clare Poets gathering yesterday was the merging of the audience and performing group. The listener becomes albeit briefly a performer and there is a inherent sense of collegiality in the endeavour.  With a musicians session, I miss the demension of dancing feet  to give sense to the music and I as a listener I do not feel included in the same  way as I did today. Congratulations to the organising committee on creating a vibrant  artistic and sociable event in west Clare at a quiet time of year.
Young singer Lakes of Ponchartrain'


Sunday, November 20, 2011

November Remembrance in Clare with The Three Legged-Stool Poets.


Guest Edward O Dwyer at Clare Poets Meeting

Maybe it was the installation of a poet in the Áras, the uncharacteristic intense November sunshine bathing the Clare county town or perhaps it was the oxygen of publicity for the meeting in the local press that drew  the largest gathering to date to Glór in Ennis for the monthly gathering of the Three Legged-Stool Poets on Saturday afternoon.   Young Limerick based poet Edward O Dwyer, as guest, opened the procedings and read a selection of poems beginning with We will Always Have Paris. Arthur Watson presided over the proceedings and there were something in the region of a dozen contributers with poems reflecting a range of themes at the open mike. Too many to mention all contributions but  I loved Jinny'Thomas' humourous extended metaphor, The Train of Thought. There  was a lyrical quality to Rosemary Power's lovely translations.  Noel Harrington who will be guest poet next month gave a glimpse of what to expect in Apologies to Teenagers No. 2. Fred Johnson made some thought provoking observations on the response of poets to politics in Possibilities of the Sonnet . Patrick's Stack's poems had an anti war theme and Michael Reeve's poem drew on ballroom dance forms tango and rhumba in his offering. 
Poets Joe Cronin & Peter Kay and a blogger

In our thoughts was the late Brendan O Beirne who was guest poet  when I first played for the group. Can it really be a year since  Julie Feeney  delighted the group with her songs in memory of the late Brecan Mooney.

Joe Cronin at Clare Poets Ennis (mp3)

As musical guest today, I had the privilege of punctuating the procedings with some musical interludes. Taking the theme of remembrance, I thanked the Clare Poets for their help in recording my grandmother, Helen Sheehan's poems earlier this year and offered two of her favourite tunes as an opener. Later I played a movement from a solo Bach suite, perhaps the musical equivalent of a sonnet and the signature music for Bowman on Sunday, based on radio archives. I   paired the Courante with the theme Gabriel's Oboe , Oboe being the title of one of O Dwyer's collections. For a close to the procedings, picking up the World War One theme I played the popular melody for Roses of Pickardy.

Eamonn an Chnoic                 Irish Air          
Andulko                                  Czech Folksong
  Cello Suite no 1 G major     Bach
Gabriel's Oboe                       Morricone
Roses of Pickardy                 Haydn Wood/ Weatherly
More info on the group's activities can be found on

Remembering Clare's Fallen Victims of World War 1 : Exhibition compiled by Peadar McNamara continues until November 30th at Clare Museum , Ennis

Monday, November 14, 2011

Hungarian Rhapsodies in Gort

Péter Sebestyén
J.S. Bach Prelude:  G Major Cello Suite
Saint Saens:  The Swan from  Carnival of Animals
Saint Saens: Allegro Appasionato op.43
Adam Scheck: Romance for Cello and Piano
D. Popper: Hungarian Rhapsody op. 68
Liszt: Mephisto Waltz no 1    piano solo
Tchaikowsky: Rococo Variations op.33

Péter Sebestyén : Cello
David Szabó : Piano
Guest :Adam Scheck Piano

 Péter Sebestyén presented an evening of cello music  in the Lady Gregory Hotel, Gort, Co Galway last night. Having dawdled  too long among the Ennis Trad Festival revellers, I arrived too late for the first two items, perhap the the most familiar of the cello repertoire but it was good to see these numbers included particularly as there were many young cello students in the audience. 

Taking a bow
 Peter, born into a family steeped in Hungarian folk music  played with a most satisfying   vigour and passion and  with such a range of colour in the dynamics, totally in control of the technical aspects of a demanding virtuoso programme.
He was sympathetically accompanied by David Szabó on piano .  Adam Scheck who served as page turner  took a turn at the keyboard himself to accompany his own Elegy for Cello, a charming piece in  rhapsodic  idiom.

The L shaped function room in the Lady Gregory Hotel was packed to capacity of a hundred or so and  made a very suitable performing space for chamber music.  I was delighted to meet some former cello students now studying with Peter who is a member of the faculty of the progressive Coole Music School, Gort now in it's sixth year.  These three young musicians are no doubt among the first rank of young Hungarian musicians. What a valuable  contribution they make to the musical circles in the Shannon region.  Bravo! also Katarina  Baker, director  of Coole Music for presenting artists of such calibre in this very convivial venue!

My report on 5th birthday celebrations of Coole Music at Lady Gregory Hotel Gort here

Sunday, November 13, 2011

' Back to the Well' Sights and Sounds at the 2011 Ennis Trad Fest

Al fresco trad

Yes it is that time of year again.  The proliferation of people toting boxes of assorted shapes and sizes  wearing gleeful expressions signals the onset of Ennis Trad Festival.  This year they are blessed with the weather making the activity of session hopping all the more pleasant and made some al fresco trad
possible. Here is a round up of some of the sessions I attended and the people I met.

Nicholas John Jones from Oslo at the Ennis Trad Festival (mp3)

A mixture of youth and experience was on display in The Brewery Bar where experienced trad virtuoso Maeve Donnelly  joined  young Donal McCague who launched his new CD 'Bits & Pieces' at the festival.  Among the people I met were Kathy, a Boston librarian and Yorkshire man Mike who had travelled from his home in Spain for the festival.
Fiddle player Joan Hanrahan was anchoring the session in Cruises on Saturday afternoon where musicians spread over two chambers. Back in the Brewery Bar,  eleven year old Michael, a student of Joan McNamara's was having his first experience of playing in a session and aquitted himself very well with
Stephen Power
 John Kelly photographer with the Clare Champion, one of the sponsors of the festival   snapping some of the action.

Who would have thought , people playing outside in November. A group of young men were set up outside The Irish Shop making the most of the mild conditions.  Inside Stephen Power ably assisted by Tracy Crawford was signing copies of his new book  of photographs. A handsome volume of featuring shots of iconic folk in their own homes, worth it alone for the shot of Alec Finn of De Danaan (note two a's)  in his interesting looking drawing room.  In the Temple Gate Hotel, there was not one but two groups at opposite ends of the bar, (stereo trad session!)  I met Breton  photographer Miriam who was very impressed with the teenage group occupying the snug.

The ladies in O Connor's cake shop remarked they hadn't seen too many of the trad revellers. 'Tis more of a thirst they have I'd say', one staff member commented when I asked her about the cake eating habits of traddies. 
Comfy Trad  in the Old Ground Hotel
Margaret Rowan from Meath
'It is very important to come back to the well ' commented one participant in  one of the best  and certainly the  most comfortable sessions of the day  in The Old Ground Hotel where participants of Brendan Mulkere's workshop were trying out their new tunes. Boasting no less than six fiddlers, they formed a very cohesive musical entity and the tunes flowed efortlessy. One of the group Nicholas John Jones, a musical instrument repairer based in Oslo recorded a short interview with m (below)


Quentin and Eoin: Céilí Bandits
 Tracy Bally o (mp3)
Twin chambers in Cruises pub

 Eoin O" Neill (mp3)

Well done to the organisers and sponsors (including Shannon Development) of this great event at a quiet time of the year and attracting such vibrancy to the public places of Ennis Co.Clare. Last years report here

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Remembering Clare's War Victims

 Armistice Day at Ennis Cathedral

Killaloe March                                                  Ennis Brass Band  
Green Fields Of France Eric Bogle                 Sung by Bernie McNelis
Lament on uilleann pipes                                 Frank Whelan
Reading Micah 4
All People That on Earth Do Dwell               Organ  Cormac McGuinness
My Youngest Son Came Home Today             Billy Bragg  sung by                                                 
                                                                                Paula McNamara
Last Post                                                              Clodagh Power                                                     
Amazing Grace

Cure of Troy    Seamus Heaney                        read by Eleanor Feely
Wearing of the Geen                                        Ennis Brass Band     

Limerick Legion member
   Of all the stages of life, it is in leaving it that we most need the comfort of  rituals. Following on from  All Soul's Day when the  deceased of the parish were remembered*, there was a special Armistice Day service at Ennis Cathedral  remembering Clare's War Victims on 11 the November 2011.  There is no  tradition of formally commemorating  this occasion in the dioceses and this is only the 4th year of this service at Ennis Cathedral.
In our relatively peaceful age, war and it's effects  are far outside the range of experience of my generation. MC Dr. Joe Power  deputising for (Peadar McNamara) spoke about the effect of the war on family members and gave a  sense of perspective of  the impact of the war on the county.  While giving the number of war victims as circa 4000, Joe also made the chilling point that for every dead soldier, there were four who returned transformed by their injuries.  The rolling register of the war dead was displayed on a screen to uilleann pipe accompaniment and included an Arthur Considine from Clarecastle and Nurse Delia Davoreen  from Clare. 

Distinguished author and broadcaster, John Quinn evoked very vivid images of  a homesick poet and war victim, Francis Ledwidge both as an ordinary young boy and man but also an extraordinary one. Extraordinary indeed to think of the young poet receiving  a package containing his first published book of poetry amid the chaos of the war front. John quoted from the poet's work and letters home and also Seamus Heaney' Elegy to Ledwidge. He  drew a parallel with another broadcaster the late Cathal O Shannon who went to join the RAF at a young age .
Quinn’s acclaimed documentary on Francis Ledwidge, ‘The Helpless Child of Circumstance’, was broadcast in 1987 to mark the centenary of the poet’s birth.

The service was presided  over by Fr.Tom Hogan of Ennis  Cathedral and Rev. Bob Hanna of St Columba's Anglican Church with members of the Limerick branch of the British Legion present wearing their medals.  Clodagh Power's playing of the Last Post on cornet  perhaps best evoked the zeitgeist  of the day.
I caught up with John following the service and you can hear one of the most distinctive voices in  Irish  broadcasting in this recording.
The service was a fitting memorial for the thousands of Clare volunteers who perished or who were damaged  on European battlefields.

Broadcaster and author John Quinn comments on  Remembrance DayNo I"ll have vinegarboo (mp3)

HE shall not hear the bittern cry
In the wild sky, where he is lain,                                                                    
Nor voices of the sweeter birds,                                                                        
Above the wailing of the rain. 
 * I joined tenor Tony Murray and Nell Hanley in the organ loft on All Souls Day November 2nd.
Hymns included Abide With Me , Be not Afraid, Christ Be Beside Me. My selection on solo viola to accompany the litany of the dead was Airdi Cuain, Taimse im Chodladh, Be Still My Soul, Ag Chriost an Siol and Sliabh na mban. Always a privilige to add something to such an occasion

Carole Rumen's  Guardian article on Ledwidge   with reference to Heaney.

More photos of the event on

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Cracking Lives at Cork Opera House by Guest Blogger

Cast members

This piece was posted by my guest blogger, Jack Foley. Jack is a 4th year student at UCC.

I caught the play “Cracking Lives” in the Half Moon Theatre on Monday evening. The play tackles the uncomfortable issue of the impact of drugs on an everyday suburban family as we follow Mark 'a normal boy from a normal family'.  The story itself is grim, centred around various Christmases through the years of a Cork family. We see the characters grow older and younger and watch the drug problem grow with them. Credit must go to writer Laura Daly and her superb cast of Cork actors who provided a huge amount of realism to the play. I’m sure most members of the audience could see a bit of their own families in their performance. I really enjoyed this piece of work. The show is running in conjunction with Drug Awareness Week. The production  runs till Saturday 12th November  (there is no performance on the Thursday 10th) and it is supported by the B.A.Y. Project  Thoroughly recommended!  Half Moon Theatre (Cork Opera House) website here