National honour for Siamsa founder Fr Ahern

Stephen Fernane

Moyvane native Fr Pat Ahern has been chosen by Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann to be the Ard Ollamh at Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann at a special dinner to be held in his honour on August 14 in Drogheda.

The award is presented for Fr Ahern's outstanding contributions to the promotion and development of traditional music. The Kerry connection will be strengthened by some of Fr Ahern's lifelong friends: singer Seán Ahern, dancers Patricia Hanafin and Jimmy Smith, musicians Nicholas and Anne McAulliffe, Michelle O'Sullivan and Mike O'Shea - all of whom will perform at the event.

Other performers include former Ard Ollamh, fiddle player Antoin MacGabhann, who worked closely with Fr Ahern in the 1960s and 1970s, while Antoin's wife Bernie will also contribute. Fear an Tí for the evening is another north Kerry native, Dr Daithí Kearney - now a lecturer in music at Dundalk Institute of Technology.

Best known for founding Siamsa Tíre and The National Folk Theatre of Ireland, Fr Ahern is also an accomplished fiddle player and is a former pupil of renowned Kerry dancing master, Jeremiah Molyneaux.

In the late 1960s and early 1970s Fr Ahern was involved in Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann in Kerry and at a national level. He served as Chairperson of Kerry County Board and produced the first three Fleadh Nua (Dublin, 1970-1972) and also CCÉ's inaugural concert tours to North America in 1972.

Fr Ahern's contribution to the promotion of Irish culture has previously been recognised by a variety of organisations and he was awarded an honorary fellowship from IT Tralee and an honorary doctorate from University College Cork.

Fr Ahern has led a life steeped in traditional music. He attended St Patrick's College Maynooth and following his ordination in 1957 he founded St John's Gregorian Choir in Tralee. 

Also in Tralee he produced and directed a number of liturgical pageants and was involved in the Scoraíocht movement in Comhaltas that led, in part, to the establishment of Siamsóirí na Ríochta in 1968.

The Siamsóirí pioneered a form of folk theatre that presented Irish folk customs on stage through music, song and dance. 

Amongst the notable successes was the 1976 American tour that included performances on Broadway and the opening of the Siamsa Tíre Theatre and Arts Centre in the Town Park in Tralee in 1991.

During the week-long festival, Fr Ahern will also attend a number of other events and will contribute to a symposium on 'Culture and Community' on the Friday afternoon, while his mass, Aifreann Phádraig Naofa, will be sung at Aifreann na bhFleidhe on the Sunday. Tickets are still available for the dinner and can be purchased from the Fleadh website: fleadhcheoil.ie

Kerryman

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