Monday 10 December 2018

Enduring appeal of traditional singers' weekend

Performers Senan Lillis and Matt Murphy with Cooraclare singer Kitty O’Donoghue
Performers Senan Lillis and Matt Murphy with Cooraclare singer Kitty O’Donoghue

David Tucker

When John O'Byrne and Phil Berry decided, over a pint and a song, to bring together singers from across the land for a low-key singing weekend little did they suspect that their venture would endure as it has.

This weekend, and 27 years later, the annual Wexford Traditional Singers Weekend will bring together some of the genre's best-loved singers.

The main action takes place in two venues: Cushen's Pub, Tagoat (9 p.m., Friday and 2.30 p.m. Saturday) and Hotel Rosslare (9 p.m. Saturday and 12 noon, Sunday). There is no charge and anyone with even half a grá for traditional or folk singing is encouraged to attend.

They sing songs in English and Irish, songs from the old days and songs written last week. You will hear about everything from the Spanish Armada to Napoleon, songs bemoaning the taking of the King's shilling, songs about love won and lost, songs of exile and murder ballads. And, of course, we never tire of hearing of perfidious Albion. This year one may expect to hear songs about Brexit and a megalomaniac President!

The centre-piece of the weekend is the Saturday night gathering at Hotel Rosslare when, having gorged themselves on the traditional festival feast of bacon, spuds and cabbage, the singers sit back and wait their turn. What follows is about as far away from the often sanitised fare which is championed by certain reality shows.

With no electronic amplification and no accompaniment each singer will use the medium of song to tell a story, one worth hearing. And those assembled will pay heed, will hang on every word. And that is how it will go, story after story.

Gorey Guardian