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

Monday, November 21, 2011

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'


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