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

Sunday, July 15, 2012

The Singer and the Song at Willie Clancy Week

Young Buskers Miltwn Malbay - photo Cathy Desmond


I'll roam the deserts of wild Abyssinia And yet find no cure for my pain I'll go and enquire on the Isle of St. Helena No there we will whisper in vain Now tell me ye critics now tell me in time The nation I'll range my sweet linnet to find Was he slain at Waterloo or at Elba on the Rhine If he was I shall never see him more
     The Green Linnet

The Willie Clancy Summer School, held annually in Miltown Malbay, Co Clare  is celebrating 40 years of activity dedicated to the memory of the influential uilleann piper. The format of classes, ceilis , lectures and concerts has remained reassuringly  unchanged over the years and on Friday I heard the afternoon of 'Traditional Singing in Irish & English' at the Community Hall.

Traditional Singing fromSean Garvey at Miltown Malbay Hall an Pobail
The singers in turn offered two numbers each from their sean nós reperoire of unaccompanied song. Pauline Hanley from Donegal was followed by Mary Smith from Isle of Lewis who sang lullabies in Scots Gaelic. Sean Garvey from Kerry gave us the Napoleonic song,  The Green Linnet and a song of emigration from Valentia by Sean Murphy . Representing the younger generation, Nell Ni Chrónín. a Cork singer in her early twenties had a lovely warm delivery in her lilting song. All gave short introductions to set the context and the provenance of the song. Young Scottish singer, Griogar Labhruaidh's  charming introduction to a song of cattle rustling in the Scottish Highlands was  as long and as much a part of the performance as the song itself. A piper himself, his vocal style imitated that instrument at times almost like scat singing.
What a pleasure to hear Ulster Singer, Len Graham, surely one of the most authoritave voices in the sean nós tradition . His powerful  delivery of The Wee Lass on the Brae and a North Antrim version of The Parting Glass were a highlight of the afternoon. Mike Flynn represented Clare and closed the proceedings with his rendition of The Rocks of Bawn

Gown and Parchment for late Muiris O Rochain cofounder 

This was music stripped to its barest elements, a solo voice unsupported by any instrument telling  stories.  Perhaps the most notable aspect of the afternoon was the intensity with which the audience of locals and international visitors listened to each singer to catch every nuance in the lyric. It was the same intensity which surrounded me in an audience  in a packed French Theatre last week for a new opera production at the prestigious Festival d'Aix. While the forces and scale may have been different, the impulse of storytelling through song and the eagerness to listen were the same in the  Grand Theatre de Provence and Halla an Pobail , Miltown Malbay
Here's to the next 40 years of Willie Clancy Festivals in Clare. Long may it prosper.

Shop Window Ben Lennon Fiddler centre

Other related posts you might enjoy The Raw Bar Festival of Singing in Clare

For the Great Gaels of Ireland are the man that God made mad, for all their wars are merry and all their songs are sad.

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