The Irish Cultural Centre opened with the prestigious Comhaltas event, Echoes of Erin. The organisation celebrates its 60th anniversary this year.
By Anne Geaghan
Irish Cultural Centre Hammersmith hosted its first traditional music event last weekend when the cast of Echoes of Erin played the final night of their Comhaltas annual tour.
The troupe, many of whom have family and friends in London, toured the UK for a series of concerts and were full of praise for the new Hammersmith venue. Fear an Tí Dick Beamish from Skibbereen, Co.Cork led the cast through their programme and joined in the singing. He explained the story behind his songs accompanied by the musicians.
The living tradition travels well; Finbar English, on fiddle, was born in London, a good example of the ‘flowing tides’ of Irish music and song. And on another rendition, Colm Slattery played ‘Bingo’s Reel’ on accordion which was composed by Orlaith McAuliffe, a well known flute player in the capital.
Echoes of Erin is a well-established collaboration which consists of solo performances, duets and the whole ensemble playing as a band, providing plentiful tunes for the two female step dancers Aoife McEntee and Aine Mc- Dermott from Cavan. Breandan Joyce, from Connemara, provided ‘magical footwork’ in the sean nós steps, while Omagh’s Ciara Fox sang some lovely traditional ballads.
Ciara, as with every other member of the group, has won numerous Comhaltas competitions. When Comhaltas was established in 1951, its mission was to revive Irish music and expand its reach in Ireland and worldwide. The annual All-Ireland Fleadh Cheoil competitions has raised the standard of musicianship and encouraged talented performers to play a variety of instruments leading to the high standard we enjoy today.
Traditional music is now preserved for future generations. The array of musical instruments on stage included uilleann pipes and a harp, by Jack McPartlin and Muireann O’Dwyer, which were a welcome addition as both instruments are not always featured at trad sessions.
Echoes of Erin also included music on banjo, mandolin, tin whistle, piano and melodeon. Irish traditional music classes are flourishing Hammersmith, and many other Irish cultural centres throughout the country, a reflection of the Comhaltas na Breataine region which celebrates its 60th Anniversary this year.
The Echoes of Erin tour is a feast of trad for young musicians or adults who wish to learn more about their Irish heritage, and is great fun.