Saturday 18 August 2018

Dawn chorus sings praises of heroes in Cúil Aodha

President Michael D. Higgins does a walkabout with Peader O Riada at the Féile na Laoch Festival in Coolea, just after sunrise on Wednesday morning. Pic: John Delea
President Michael D. Higgins does a walkabout with Peader O Riada at the Féile na Laoch Festival in Coolea, just after sunrise on Wednesday morning. Pic: John Delea
Liam Ní Ceilleachair with Amy & Aisling Ní Cheilleachair, Coolea
President Michael D. Higgins sits alongside Peadar O Riada during a discussion titled “Encouraging the Culture of the Gaelic Civilisation” during the festival of Féile na Laoch in Coolea. Picture: John Delea.
Glen Hansard & Christy Moore duet at the Féile na Laoch Festival just before sunrise on Wednesday morning while Phil Coulter accompanies on piano. Picture: John Delea

Maria Herlihy

Before sunrise on Wednesday morning, President Michael D Higgins was up like a lark and lapping up the Feile na Laoch Festival in Coolea.

The Festival of Heroes was inspired by the life and work of the country's true cultural giants, Seán Ó Riada, and this year marks 40 years since his death.  

Despite the unearthly hour, there were up to 800 people who were at Feile na Laoch throughout the night as the stage faced the setting sun on Tuesday night and as the music, song, dance and poetry took hold, the stage rotated by degrees which meant by early morning it faced the rising sun.  

As the sun rose, one of the major highlights was the singer Glen Hansard who was joined on stage by the great Christy Moore and on piano was Phil Coulter. They  invited the well known and local musician Ger Wolf to join them. 

As the mammoth session came to an end there was a rendition of Mise Eire by Sean O'Riada by a voluntary orchestra with many who had travelled from Dublin, Cork and Kerry. 

Wednesday morning marked the 87th birthday of Sean O'Riada and to mark the occasion President Higgins recited poetry.

He also mingled with the crowd with many who were in situ all night.  One act to remember was the visually striking Natasha Bourke who performed an aerial dance while suspended by a cherry picker as she hurled through the air in fabric. 

Throughout the night, there was a listing of poets, actors, dancers and musicians who certainly gave the night a magical feel. Musicians from the Scottish Isles also went to Coolea and took part in the poetry and there was also a piper who entertained. 

The night remained dry but by early morning the drizzle and rain took hold.  And this is a festival not where not just musicians, poets and artists are honoured but equally so horses. On Wednesday morning, President Higgins presented a wreath to 'Butler Cabin' a horse belonging to the billionaire JP McManus at Coolea. 

One of the organisers, Concubhar O'Liathain told The Corkman that it was a “magical event.”

"There were turf fires burning in barrels and it was a very homely atmosphere. As the performers finished, it meant that the audience had to move as well as the stage was moving throughout the night in anticipation of the sunrise," he said. 

Actress Mary McEvoy also took part as did the great Micheal O'Muircheartaigh. 

"This was a huge community event. It meant that local people built the stage and materials were donated by businesses." 

The Festival of Heroes is an international, multifaceted festival of arts held every seven years across Ireland and internationally.