Friday 23 February 2018

Fiddlers hit right notes at music school

Musicians take part in an impromptu session beside the beach at Spanish Point
Musicians take part in an impromptu session beside the beach at Spanish Point
James Landale (7), from Dublin, attends a class at the Willie Clancy summer school

Gordon Deegan

"IT replenishes the spirit to be here and my heart always soars coming over the hill when you can see Miltown Malbay and the ocean in the distance."

On the second day of the 41st annual Willie Clancy summer school in the sun-drenched west Clare village, Orla Ni Eili is buzzing with enthusiasm after stepping out of a set dancing workshop.

The Dublin native said: "I'm loving it here and it is extraordinary to have this amazing weather. Students are taking breaks between fiddle playing to go down to Spanish Point beach for a swim to cool off. It is just wonderful."


She adds: "It lifts your heart to be here for the week, where you hear new songs and old songs and meet old friends and new friends. The week is a chance for me to bring me back to myself."

Around Ms Ni Eili at St Joseph's Secondary School overlooking the beach are around 400 fiddlers – a number of whom have travelled from Japan.

They are here to be taught by noted luminaries including Martin Hayes (right), Siobhan Peoples and Caoimhin O Raghallaigh.

Carrie Mitchell has travelled from Clinton, Washington state, USA, to be at the traditional music school.

She said: "I am in Ireland specially for the summer school. My tutor at home told me that if I wanted to go to the next level, this was the place to come to, so here I am. I am very excited."

Chicago-based flute player, Kathleen Bremer, said that her week in Miltown Malbay "is the highlight of my year".

Ms Bremer is one of thousands of musicians to descend on the area for the celebrated week, where other musicians will be able to participate in concertina, banjo, whistle and flute and harp classes, before they all play later together at sessions across Miltown.

Martin Hayes is teaching a small group of enthusiastic fiddlers three reels first played by his late father P Joe, and his friends Paddy Canny and Peter O'Loughlin from the 1950s.

More accustomed to playing to vast auditoriums around the world, the celebrated fiddler confesses to his 15 students sitting around in a circle: "I have a habit of teaching tunes that no one can play with, but these tunes are ones that you can socialise with".

Speaking after the class, the east Clare man added: "I just tell the students everything I know. There is nothing held back – that's my approach, I'll show you what I know."

Irish Independent

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