Comhaltas has been active here in the UK for sixty years and the Fleadh has always been a living bridge between Irish people and their families who have grown up here and their wider families and friends in Ireland.
We have a look at Flowing Tides – History and Memory in an Irish Soundscape which explores the history of trad music and a couple of CDs by people who exemplify that identity of growing up Irish in Britain musicians Sinéad Egan and Joe Killoughery.
Bringing it all back home to its origins
Flowing Tides: History and Memory in an Irish Soundscape by Gearóid Ó hAllmhuráin Launched at Willie Clancy summer school in July 2016, this book is well researched and a must for the serious student of Irish traditional music.
Author Gearóid Ó hAllmhuráin is an internationally recognized authority on Irish traditional music and a former member of The Kilfenora Céilí Band and All Ireland Champion musician – uilleann pipes and concertina.
Gearóid is The Johnson Chair in Québec and Canadian Irish Studies at Concordia University of Irish Studies in Montréal.
Flowing Tides covers the ebbs and flows of Irish music, song and dance during the period covering the Napoleonic Wars, the Great Famine, birth of the Irish nation to the rise-and fall-of the Celtic Tiger.
Ireland’s contribution to music of all genres spans the centuries and the exiles have carried the tradition to the Irish and wider community worldwide.
The book reminds us that Lent and Christmas were the backdrops to the dances, harvest festivals and folk traditions – Hunting the Wren in winter. The 1935 Dance Hall Act is mentioned, the arrival of the motor car which enabled Irish people to travel further than their own parish and expand and develop their musical abilities and repertoires.
Since the great famine and continuing during the lean ‘40s, and ‘50s, people bade farewell to their families and friends and embraced better opportunities in post war British and Americans cities. A large number of them were musicians who preserved many of the tunes previously unrecorded.
The 1956 All-Ireland Fleadh in Ennis was a turning point in that musicians returned from overseas – even as far away as USA – to take part in the competitions. TV arrived in the early 1960s in Ireland and in the winter of 1963 more structured Irish music classes were started by Frank Custy in County Clare, part of the revival of traditional music.
Flowing Tides is essential reading for all interested in Irish/Celtic music and culture. Published by Oxford University Press, there is a password protected website to accompany the book which readers can visit which will greatly enhance the enjoyment of this historic work.
You can pick up Flowing Tides on Amazon
A tribute to his Clare dad
London Irish businessman Joe Killoughery has dedicated a CD of music to his late father.
George Killoughery and his wife Mary came here from Ballyea. George who died in June 1992 aged just 51 succeeded in what he set out to do, to set up a life for himself and his family in London Town, as he called it and which is the title of the album dedicated to him.
“My mother and father gave me a fantastic appetite for life. While traveling to work one morning I decided to record my thoughts about him and my London Irish childhood. I mentioned this song to my cousin in Ireland who is a musician also called Joe Killoughery.
“He picked it up from there adding some special lyrics, a fantastic melody and with his emotive voice, the song was born. My father was a gentleman, he was my inspiration and he still is,” says Joe.
The cousins plan to attend Crawley Irish festival on August Bank holiday weekend this year. The Clare cousin is based in Kildysart and his band Homeland and a number of well-known musicians including Stephen Flaherty added some tunes at the end of the recording which took place at Martin O’Malley studios in Miltown Malbay.
Growing up Irish in Willesden
Sinéad Egan grew up in Willesden, with her sisters Claire and Colette. The three sisters were steeped in traditional music but Sinéad also studied classical guitar, and plays piano, banjo, mandolin and accordion. She also plays jazz, blues and soul.
Like many kids who grew up Irish in this country, the Egan sisters spent their school holidays in Ireland – in Clare, (also in Tipperary and Mayo) Claire went on to become an accomplished fiddle player, now based in the spiritual home of trad fiddling in County Clare, and Collette is an artist.
Sinéad went on to work with many prominent musicians across different disciplines including Declan Sinnott, Kate Nash, Eleanor McEvoy, and Frances Black. Now she has released her own solo album, For You, under just her first name.
The tracks, dedicated to her parents, grandmother Kathleen and late aunts Connie and Katie reflect love, loss and the ups and downs of relationships. There is an ease and understated composure to her lovely singing voice and a depth and beauty to her songs.
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Ireland’s biggest traditional music, song and dance celebration, the Fleadh Cheoil ends its two-year residency in Co Clare this month.