A musical trip to Kenmare and Scartaglen

In the weekend of 11 and 12th of April, I travelled to Ireland for two musical occasions: the Kenmare music festival, also known as Feile Neidin, and the last installment of the Handed Down series in Scartaglen; a series of presentations and performances of the rich music tradition in that area.

In this short blog I hope to give an impression of the two occasions and share some of the moments that were had there. Note that this is of course from my personal perspective and contains only a small fraction of what was going on during these events. For more information visit and

Kenmare Music Festival

The Kenmare music festival is a lovely festival in County Kerry. Kenmare is a lovely place to visit any time, but during this festival a lot of excellent music can be heard. In addition to concerts and sessions, there were various music and dancing workshops, sightseeing opportunities and more.

Since I came in rather late during the day, I wasn’t able to go to the fiddle workshop in the morning where Matt Cranitch was teaching. Fortunately, I was in time for the presentation that Matt Cranitch and Jackie Daly gave called ‘Music of the County Bounds’.


Matt Cranitch and Jackie Daly during their presentation ‘Music of the County Bounds’

I explicitly use the word ‘presentation’ as it was neither solely a workshop, lecture or recital, but actually a mix of these. The audience, consisting of young and some older people, musicians and non-musicians, could enjoy some of the tunes that they played, intermingled with (funny) anecdotes and stories about the tunes and the musical tradition.

A special ‘surprise’ was unfolded during this presentation as my girlfriend Caroline Vermeulen, who is an Irish step dancer, was asked to dance a traditional set – The Blackbird – with Matt and Jackie providing the music.

Blackbird set dance

During the final half hour, Matt and Jackie taught a few tunes to those who brought their instrument and after that they concluded the presentation with a smashing set of reels.

We came back the next day for the sessions in town where a lot of great music was heard with a very good atmosphere.

Handed Down Scartaglen

4223392534_23e6d782abOn the 11th of April was the last episode of the Handed Down series in Scartaglen Heritage center. The reason why I really wanted to see this was that this last talk was about the great fiddle player Paddy Cronin who sadly passed away last year.

Paddy Cronin, as you may probably know, was a gifted student of the fiddle master Padraig O’Keeffe and lived a very large portion of his life in Boston, USA. Apart from his fiddle playing he was also very well known for his good sense of humour. In 2007 he was awarded the TG4 Lifetime Achievement award for his contribution to Irish music. In this clip  we see him talk about his teacher Padraig and the way he was introduced into fiddle playing.

Paddy Cronin recounts his tuition by Padraig O’Keeffe

The setup of this lecture was roughly divided into 3 sections: first there were performances of local musicians playing tunes in honour of Paddy, then there was an extensive talk by Nicky McAuliffe about the life and music of Paddy Cronin which included rare recordings of the fiddle master. Lastly some video clips were shared with rare footage of Paddy Cronin, one of them seeing Paddy playing the fiddle while receiving a haircut!

Read the article in the Main Valley Post for more pictures and information!

What made the evening extra special was that we were sitting next to a lady who happened to be related to Paddy Cronin! We had a very nice talk after the lecture about Paddy but also our own adventures into Irish music and dance.

Luckilly, some of the performances are available on YouTube:

In the last clip, one can see Connie O’Connell playing the fiddle. It is great to visit his website, especially if you are learning an instrument yourself,  as it contains over 60 of his composed tunes, including MP3s and sheet music to learn them!

World fiddle day Scartaglen

I will be returning to Scartaglen on May 15th to celebrate World Fiddle Day in Scartaglen! You can read all about this celebration at their Facebook Page!