Grainne McCool in Derry
“When the Irish emigrated years ago, they opened more than their suitcases. They opened their hearts, their traditions, and their culture to the four corners of the world. They left a legacy which continues worldwide today. Fleadh Cheoil celebrates that legacy’. So said Micheál Ó hUiginn last week, as Flead Cheoil na hEireann
opened in Derry on Sunday August 11, making history as it came across the border for the first time in over 60 years. Derry welcomed the occasion in style, as thousands flocked to Guildhall Square.
There has been great emphasis on Fleadh Cheoil reflecting the digital age and the groundbreaking FleadhLive, an online music show was been broadcast across the world in real time. Those unable to get home or travel to Derry were able to watch performances on Irish TV station TG4 and online via FleadhLive.
The Poet & The Piper was Seamus Heaney and Liam O’Flynn’s exclusive show last Wednesday night. Audiences around the world have enjoyed this intimate presentation and last week it was Derry’s turn. Heaney said: “This is not a performance; it’s just the two of us’, and it truly felt like the meeting of two friends. The duo weaved Heaney’s iconic poetry with traditional and contemporary music performed by O’Flynn on the uileann pipes. Hearing school curriculum poems Digging and Mid-term Break brought to life by Seamus Heaney was magical.
Thursday night saw Cara Dillon and her band perform with The Orchestra of Ireland, to a full house and standing ovation. A native of Dungiven, Dillon told the public how her mother drove her all over Ireland as a child to perform at the Fleadh: “Now it’s come full circle. It’s like a dream come true – Derry is buzzing”.
Derry has certainly been buzzing for the past week. The streets were alive with music, song and dance from young an old, with the four corners of Ireland represented at every turn and the four corners of the world visiting Derry to enjoy it all.
A core theme this year was a Gathering of Traditions. In the year of the Gathering, a series of concerts over the week explored the diversity and connections in Irish traditional music across Ireland, Scotland and North America. These included Songs of the Emigrant, Across the Atlantic, Hidden Fermanagh, the Meitheal Orchestra,the Clare Set and the Singer & the Song. The performances drew links between nations with connections to Ireland, as well as honouring stylistic nuances in Irish traditional music itself.
Dervish, one of Ireland’s most sought-after folk bands, played to theDerrycrowd on Friday night. The Sligo outfit headed by Cathy Jordan engaged the crowds to rapturous applause. The spectacular Transatlantic Fleadh had The Venue audience clapping for two hours on Saturday night. Under the musical direction of Jerry Douglas, it boasted an incredible calibre of musicians including amongst others Arty McGlynn, Tim O’Brien and Declan O’Rourke.
The party ended in spectacular style on Sunday with Fidget Feet’s Fire Birds. The flying musicians, dancers and Fire Birds took to the skies of Derry. Those that were there will never view Irish dancing or music in the same light again. It was an amazing spectacle.
Fleadh Cheoil na hEireann has left its mark on Derry. Eight days of immersion in all that is Irish culture, music, song, language and dance filled the air, and visitors cannot believe the hospitality that they experienced. The city and Ireland has surpassed itself in every way.