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Handed Down Lecture Máire O’Keeffe

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Scartaglen Heritage Centre

On the 9th of December I made my way Scartaglen (Co. Kerry) for the weekend, together with my friend Christoph. This has, in a way, become a regular trip for us as we have a good reason to go to that part of the world on a regular basis! As aspiring fiddle players with a predominant interest in the music of Sliabh Luachra, we try to attend the yearly World Fiddle Day celebrations as well as the so-called Handed Down lecture series on the music of that area.

In Scartaglen, a small team of dedicated people led by PJ Teahan introduced this unique concept of hosting a regular lecture series with a strong focus of placing the music in the proper historic and cultural context. The ingredients for each instalment are twofold: live music performances by musicians of various generations and a presentation by an experienced musician. Since the beginning of the series, numerous well-known musicians, like Matt Cranitch, Liam O’Connor, Charlie Piggot and Bryan O’Leary to name a few, have shared their knowledge about the music to the audience.

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Máire O’Keeffe

This weekend’s talk was presented by Máire O’Keeffe who, in 2010, received a PhD from the University of Limerick for her work entitled “Journey into Tradition: A Social History of the Irish Button Accordion”. For this talk she decided to take that work as a basis for her presentation and connect the history of the button-accordion with the rich button-accordion tradition in Sliabh Luachra. The fact that this topic was chosen was a good incentive for me to travel to Scartaglen as I have started learning the button-accordion a while back!

Despite the less-than-ideal weather conditions – cold and pouring rain – many people made their way to Scartaglen Heritage Centre where the lecture series is held. At 8 PM all seats were filled and the evening was opened by PJ himself. PJ started the evening by saying thanks to the loyal supporters of the event as well as the Kerry Arts Council for their support throughout the year. There were both musicians and non-musicians in the audience which shows that these talks attract a diverse audience.

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Haruaki Saito

The first part of the night was devoted to live music performances of which a few in particular stood out for me. The first was the performance of Haruaki Saito – a now familiar face in the music scene. Haruaki came from his hometown Tokyo to live in Ireland especially to learn to play the button-accordion and in particular the Sliabh Luachra repertoire. He is a regular guest in sessions and takes part in as much workshops as he can and it is amazing what he has achieved in his playing. Not only is he a supporter of the Irish music scene in Ireland, he also organises a workshop and concert tour in Japan by bringing Bryan O’Leary to Tokyo. Haruaki played two very nice selection of tunes and as he said himself: “When I arrived two years ago <…>. I never imagined playing at the concert here.”.

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Michael Healy

Another impressive performance was given by Micheal Healy, a young lad who is extremely talented on the box. His two sets, one set of jigs he got of Bryan O’Leary and a set of slides, were executed with great precision and musicality. It is great to see that the younger generation of musicians get a chance to show case their talent at a setting like this!

The playing of Eoghan O’Sullivan, the Cork box player who was joined by guitarist Paul de Grae provided some lovely sets as well. The playing style of Eoighan is so relaxed and laid-back which makes it a joy to listen to.

After the musical performances, Máire started her presentation. A good part of her presentation was devoted to the history of the instrument itself and also in relation to the development of the concertina. Next came what can only be described as an extensive account of influential accordion players who have helped the continuation and progression of the instrument in Irish traditional music. In many cases audio and video clips were shown which enhanced the presentation very much.

It was great to see the level of knowledge that Máire had to share about the instrument and their players. Unfortunately, due to time constraints, she was not able to show us all that she had prepared for us as the lecture could have gone on longer! This shows that this topic has so much interesting stories and clips to tell that I hope a continuation of this night will be planned for a future Handed Down lecture!

I would like to thank PJ Teahan and his team for putting in all the hard work in organising these events! Also, the volunteers of the Scartaglen Heritage Centre always do a superb job of arranging tea and coffee on the night!

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Concertina workshop November 2017

jt2In the weekend of 18 November, Irish concertina player Jack Talty will return to The Netherlands for the 3rd Dutch concertina workshop. In this workshop, which is completely dedicated to Irish traditional concertina playing, you will learn both techniques, theory and tunes that will enhance both your playing ability and repertoire!

More details regarding location, times and costs will follow shortly. For enquiries, please mail to martin@irishtradmusic.nl!

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Fiddle workshops and masterclass October 2017

MC fiddleMatt Cranitch will return again this year in the weekend of October 21st for 3 different classes:

  • An intermediate class for Irish fiddle players who have experience between 1 and 5 years
  • An advanced class for Irish fiddle players who have more than 5 years of experience
  • A masterclass aimed at classical and professional violinists who wish to learn more about the specifics of Irish traditional music.

All classes will have a strong focus on rhythmic interpretation and bowing, as well as on phrasing and ornamentation.

More details regarding location, time slots and pricing will be available shortly. For enquiries, contact martin@irishtradmusic.nl.

 

Jack Talty in Klank magazine

Klank magazine publishes article on concertina player Jack Talty

Klank magazine (www.klank.nl) is a Dutch magazine catered to accordeon and concertina players in The Netherlands and Belgium. Four times a year they produce a great magazine with various articles ranging from interviews, repair tips, accounts of interesting events and much much more.

 

Jack Talty in Klank magazine

In the 3rd issue of 2017 they published an article I have written on Irish concertina legend Jack Talty. Jack Talty has been a tutor for irishtradmusic’s two concertina workshops in the past. In november I sat down with him to talk about his life and his take on concertina playing.

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Included with the article are the notes to one of his own compositions, the slip jig named ‘Wiley Willow’. An instructional video of him playing the tune slowly and then at speed can be found at this page.

Enjoy the article! The magazine can be ordered at www.klank.nl!

 

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Trip to World Fiddle Day celebration in Scartaglen, Co. Kerry

IMG_1813Saturday May 20th 2017 was World Fiddle Day – an annual world-wide celebration of fiddle music. This day is celebrated in many parts of the world, with various fiddle performances, sessions and other fiddle related festivities. And so is the case in the tiny village of Scartaglen, Co. Kerry, where a group of passionate people led by PJ Teahan work hard each year to make World Fiddle Day a day to be remembered! As part of my immersion in the Irish traditional fiddle culture, and the Sliabh Luachra fiddle culture in particular, I decided to visit Scartaglen once again for this great occasion, together with my two good friends and fiddlers Katja vander Poorten and Christoph Wiekart.

IMG_1793The three of us met at Amsterdam arport on the Friday before World Fiddle Day, all packed with fiddles and all! Even though the flight to Cork is only a short trip, it is good to know that taking a fiddle on board with Aer Lingus is never a problem. Our first destination after landing at Cork airport was to pick up our rental car and drive to our B&B: The Tailors Lodge in Castleisland – only 8 minutes drive from Scartaglen itself. We have been coming to this B&B for several years now and the owners of the B&B are so supportive of musicians that it is never a problem to share a few tunes in the living room. So within 10 minutes of arrival, fiddles were unpacked and tunes were played!

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Playing tunes in the B&B

Handed down

The next day, on World Fiddle Day itself, we arrived at Scartaglen at noon time. The festivities were located throughout the day in 4 separate venues: the Scartaglen Heritage Center and the three pubs next to it. It is the Heritage Center where PJ and his team organise the so-called ‘Handed Down’ sessions throughout the year. These sessions are combined lectures and performances on traditional Irish music from the locality with speakers such as Matt Cranitch, Liam O’Connor, Bryan O’Leary and many more. All these Handed Down sessions culminate into the World Fiddle Day celebration.

There were various different activities planned for the day, ranging from a photo exhibition with historic material related to music from the area, singing and poetry recitals, sessions in the various pubs, a concert in the evening and – as is special for the celebration in Scartaglen – a tribute recital.

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The classic album of Jackie Daly and Seamus Creagh

Recital
Central to the World Fiddle Day celebrations in Scartaglen is the fiddle recital where a particular influential album of fiddle music gets selected to be played by all the fiddlers as a tribute to the fiddle music and key figures in that history. Two years ago, the influential album ‘Star Above the Garter’  by Denis Murphy and Julia Clifford was chosen as the recital album and the year after that an album of Julia Clifford was selected . This year however, the great and influential album ‘Jackie Daly agus Seamus Creagh’ was chosen, celebrating its 40 year-old birthday.

This recital is always held in Lyon’s Bar which played an important part in history, with fiddle master Padraig O’Keeffe himself frequenting here often. In preparation for this recital, guitarist Paul de Grae took upon himself the task of transcribing all tunes from the album in the weeks before the event. This resulted in a great tune book which every fiddler could use to get the tunes prepared for the great occassion.

Jackie Daly himself was present to accompany the more than 25 fiddlers. Between the tunes he was interviewed by Joe Thoma which revealed some lovely – and often funny – anecdotes of his collaboration with his long time friend Seamus. The Slow Airs on the album were played by a single performer. One of them was played by the talented Caoimhe Flannery (16 years of age) of which I made a small clip:

Exhibition

Also on display for this day was a photo exhibition in the heritage center. In addition to photos of this years theme – Seamus Creagh and Jackie Daly – there were many photographs and newspaper cutouts of musicians and music events of the locality. To open this exhibition, a fine group of musicians from Newmarket gave a small performance with musicians both young and old. These musicians, led by Eoin Stan O’Sullivan, are a fixed figure in the Newmarket music scene as they help with organising the Scullys Fest festival each year.

Traditional photograph at the statue

Each year, a photograph is taken of all the fiddle players who have come to celebrate World Fiddle Day in Scartaglen outside at the square. As is usual in Ireland, it can be a bit challenging to get the moment just right in between showers that occur on a regular basis. As luck would have it, the sky cleared just as it was time to take a photo!

The photo is a tribute to all fiddle players who have passed away and kept the fiddle tradition in place in a time that it was “fashionable nor profitable”. In the middle of the photo is the statue of Padraig O’Keeffe, the fiddle master himself. Gerry Harrington led the fiddlers into the ‘Knockaboul polka’s’ that all fiddlers played to honor the fiddle heroes of the past.

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Photograph of all the fiddlers with the statue of Padraig O’Keeffe

Concert

The fiddle concert in the evening was a must-see-and-hear for anyone who loves fiddle music! The theme of this year was the fiddle tradition as approached by the older and the newer generation (where I use the term ‘older’ with the utmost respect ofcourse 😉 ). During the concert, several older generation fiddlers were coupled with the new generation of fiddlers, usually in duo format, where the two generations would perform three sets. Both players would play a solo set with the final set being played in a duet.

Two generations of fiddle players meet in the concert

Two generations of fiddle players meet in the concert

Two things really struck me during this concert. The first is that one can see that Irish traditional fiddle music is alive and well with the younger generation! It was a great experience to hear the young people play with such devotion and high level. Secondly, the enormous importance of being able to hear the older generation play live which is inspirational to all fiddle players or, indeed, any devotee of Irish music. I think it goes without saying that PJ and his team play an important part in these kinds of musical exchanges throughout the year.

Sessions
18620185_831285080352524_6249859457712694546_nA celebration of music like this would not be complete without the chance to be able to play the music with friends, so throughout the day there were many different sessions going on in the pubs. A host of well known musicians like Matt Cranitch, Jackie Daly, Aidan Coffey, Gerry Harrington, Charlie Piggot and many many more could be heard playing some lively tunes! Needless to say, these sessions were great to listen to and even take part in!

Ending

Unfortunately, we had to leave Scartaglen the following day. It is always a bit sad to leave Ireland and especially when being so immersed in the music as on World Fiddle Day. I would like to end this article with the following notes:

Many thanks to:

PJ Teahan and his team for making this celebration possible.

The staff of Scartaglen Heritage centre for their wonderful hospitality and food!

Liz Galwey for some of the photographs used in this article.

Links:

Facebook group of World Fiddle Day Scartaglen (where you can also download Paul de Graes tunebook): https://www.facebook.com/groups/283125488560326/

iTunes store link to ‘Jackie Daly agus Seamus Creagh’: https://itunes.apple.com/nl/album/jackie-daly-s%C3%A9amus-creagh/id1089991773?l=en

Scully’s Fest website: http://scullysfest.com

More information about Seamus Creagh: http://www.feileseamuscreagh.com/about/

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Masterclass Martin Hayes announced!

It is with great excitement that we can announce that the legendary fiddle player Martin Hayes will be teaching at an unique Masterclass on the 2nd of October! This has a special meaning for me as it was Martin Hayes who inspired me many years ago to take up the fiddle and started my journey into the beautiful world of Irish Traditional Music.

Martin Hayes will be teaching a 90-minute Masterclass for all levels, demonstrating bowing techniques, melody interpretations, variations and improvisations from Irish traditional music. This is a Masterclass not to be missed!

You will find all the details at the Martin Hayes Masterclass Page.

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Klank magazine publishes article on Richard Dwyer

Klank magazine (www.klank.nl) is a Dutch magazine catered to accordeon and concertina players in The Netherlands and Belgium. Four times a year they produce a great magazine with various articles ranging from interviews, repair tips, accounts of interesting events and much much more.

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In the third issue of 2016 they published an article I have written on Beara button-accordeonist, fiddle player, guitar player and singer Richard Dwyer. This article was made after I had the opportunity to interview him at the Michael Dwyer Festival in Allihies, Ireland. I hope you like the article and make sure to order your copy of Klank magazine – which includes much more of the latest information about accordeon and concertina-music in The Netherlands and Belgium – from www.klank.nl.

Don’t forget that on the 22nd and 23rd of September, Cormac Begley & Jack Talty will provide two intimate Irish traditional music concerts in The Netherlands and Belgium. Check out the concert page for more info!

 

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Concertina workshop class filling fast!

The registrationz for the concertina workshop in September 2016 are going well and the workshop is almost fully bookedAt this stage we have only one position left in the class, so please make your wish to join the workshop known to us as soon as possible!

Should the workshop be full, you can still apply, in which case you will be placed on the reserve list. In the event of any cancellations, you wil be notified automatically so you can take the place of the cancellation.

Click here to get details of the workshop and information on how to apply!

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Klank magazine publishes article on Irish box playing

vp0Klank magazine (www.klank.nl) is a Dutch magazine catered to accordeon and concertina players in The Netherlands and Belgium. Four times a year they produce a great magazine with various articles ranging from interviews, repair tips, accounts of interesting events and much much more.

In the second issue of 2016 they published an autobiographic article on my first ventures into taking up the Irish button-accordion. In it I write about how I became inspired to take up C#/D button-accordeon playing and how I went to Ireland to obtain my box. I hope it will inspire others who ever had the wish to play the box – but haven’t done so – to start your journey as well!

We hope to organise an Irish button-accordeon workshop in 2017 – if you are interested in this, please contact martin@irishtradmusic.nl!

The magazine ‘Klank’ is a must for any accordeon or concertina player, be sure to check Klank out at Klank’s website.

Stay tuned for more articles on Irish (button)-accordeon players in future editions of Klank!