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

Friday, April 6, 2012

Guest blogger: Waterford Festival of Learning, Hurling, Blaas, Wine and Song

Festival Junkie Mark Graham with Wanderly Wagon
My guest blogger today is Mark Graham, who is on a mission to cover three festivals a week for a year. I met Mark at Waterford Writers Weekend last month  (you can read his report a Bookish Bonanza Down the Desise  here which includes my contribution)  I always enjoy reading Mark's reports and admire his enthusiasm both for the festival trail and the recording  of the events via his blog.  Last week  he was in his home territory, Waterford, the town in which I grew up. Deise folk are very good at  finding synergies in their activities and  running festivities diverse in range and extent and my blog frequently features events in the South East. The Spraoi  Festival with a weekend of free street entertainment is one of my favourites and indeed, the Spraoi team have become nationwide parade specialists.

 Mark features several  star performers here and a pleasing diversity of activites. John Mullane is the first sports person to feature on my blog and  will need no introduction to GAA followers. For those of you who aren't, Mullane is one of a group of indefatiguable Waterford hurlers known for his passion and 100% commitment over a decade to the county team.  Malcolm Proud may not be so familiar but is a a world renowned harpsichord player and organist . Based in WIT he frequently travels all over Europe to perform in the most prestigious venues collaborating with elite ensembles. His recital with Roisin O Grady was one of my highlights of 2011. Mezzo  Bridget Knowles also features, most recently as soloist in Come the Sails, a choral extravaganza launching the Tall Ships Festival, (also featured in the year's highlights)
Blaas may not be the most distinctive of culinary delights but I notice the exclusive 5 sar resort hotel, Doonbeg Lodge  features them on their menu.
Thanks for the report Mark. It makes me wish I had been there.! You can read the full report and keep up to date with Mark's progress on

Hurling, Blaas, Wine and Song – Waterford Festival of Learning

First up on Tuesday was a lunchtime recital by Bridget Knowles (Mezzo Soprano) and Malcolm Proud (Piano). Who performed two song cycles – seven Spanish folk songs (Siete canciones populares Espanolas) by Manuel de Falla and 7 Shakspeare Songs composed by Madeleine Dring. These are two performers at the very top of their game. I’m no expert when it comes to this kind of music, but the dexterity, fluidity and skill displayed by both performers was impressive. As impressive was the ease with which they performed together – an ebb and flow between both performers that was as natural as the gentle waves that were lapping the beach in an unseasonably sunny Tramore that afternoon. The sun shone on the leafy grounds of the WIT College Street campus and The Cuckoo performed by Bridget and Malcolm fit perfectly.

Three events jumped out at me from the Festival of Learning programme. A wine appreciation class (free grog), the blaa making class (free grub) and the training session with hurler and All Star Legend – John Mullane (cos it had Mullanimal in it!).  Now Gabir butty (my Indonesian subscriber), you may be wondering what a blaa is, and in fairness to you, there are probably some readers from Donegal wondering the same thing. It’s a specific type of bread, only found in Waterford. “Is it like a bap?” is a common question that usually earns a crack on the head with a hurley and a slap on the arse with a crystal salmon. It is nothing like a bap, it’s a f&@kin’ blaa, right!? We don’t have much, so don’t mess with our blaas. The blaa has an ancient history, at the end of the 17th century the Huguenots travelled over from France and on board their ships were a particular strain of goat. The goats fell overboard near Billberry hill in Waterford. These goats had the recipe for this particular type of bread cake and they began making them in their new home. These bread baking goats were so unique that they are now a protected species and they still make the blaas of Waterford to this day. Or something like that…
Blaas straight from the oven

ducked into the Introduction to Wine class and they were in full swing, discussing Beaujolais and the like. I have to be honest here too – I never got wine. Chateau du Clonmel is about where my palate is at. I’ve been in France more often than I’ve been in Fermanagh. I’ve had garcons sit me down in an effort to try and educate me, but alas, to no avail. Beer, cider and buckfast. I can’t help it, I’m a classy dude! But I get that some people have a taste for the stuff and if you have that taste, this was the place for you. There were a good few bottles teed up, cheese, grapes and slivers of apple for cleansing the palate. But there were also buckets for spitting into. Sacrilege! Swallow, don’t spit. Wha?
Wine tasting
If only school had been like this!
I headed up the road to St. Pauls School on Browne’s road, where there was a hurling training session open to young teenagers. No ordinary training session – John Mullane was taking it. Who is John Mullane? Get out, you’re barred!
 d up the road to St. Pauls School on Browne’s road, where there was a hurling training session open to young teenagers. No ordinary training session – John Mullane was taking it. Who is John Mullane? Get out, you’re barred!
John Mullane 
Will Smith me arse! Mullane is Legend.
After a couple of months rest, Mullane returned to the Waterford Senior team last Sunday and helped secure a valuable one point win over Galway. It had been a pretty dismal league performance up to that. To say that I have an interest in the exploits of the Waterford Hurlers is a understatement akin to saying that Shane McGowan needs a couple of fillings. I’ve given up a good deal of things in order to head off to 3 festivals a week for a year – blossoming relationships haven’t come to flower (jaysus, call Mills and Boon!), quiet weekends are non-existent, I stopped playing with two bands and time with family and friends is scarce on the ground. But what’s been killing me over the past couple of months is I haven’t gotten to one league game… and I have a feckin’ season ticket! End of rant ;-) John was in good form and the young lads seemed to be turning it on for their new coach. I was impressed by John knowing the young fellas names as he shouted encouragement to them from the sideline.
John Mullane 
Words of wisdom for the lads
It wasn’t difficult to imagine how the young fellas felt to have John Mullane coaching them, I was excited too! A great opportunity for young lads to get to meet, train and interact with one of the best hurlers in the country.
Tomorrow there is an edible sea-weed hunt out at Kilfarassy Strand and it promises to be a fantatic day for it. I won’t be able to make it out for the Dilisk foraging, but I would if I could. The purpose of the festival is to celebrate learning, highlight the learning opportunities in the City and to show how enjoyable learning can be. Job done! Back on the festival trial tomorrow night, bigging up the French culture – grub, jazz and a little bit of the aul parlez vous. Until next time…
Voyages Sécuritaires, Ne Meurent Pas. ;-)

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