Session Sounds

Traditional Irish Music, Dingle Sessions, Poetry

01 June 2011

Maurice O'Keeffe, fiddle player

Recently, Christine and I were on our way back to Dingle from Cork when we decided to veer off the main road and drove through the lovely soft Sliabh Luachra country. Sliabh Luachra means rushy mountain. We went through Newmarket where Scully's Pub is located and where they have a great session every Monday night. We then headed for Killarney, but we came to a block in the road and a detour directing us through Kishkeam. We had not planned to go there and I thought it was odd that we were being directed to the very place where my paternal grandfather was born, where the old family farm still stands and where the Murphy family grave is. It was my birthday and thinking that this was some kind of sign, we decided to make a pause.
I enquired at the post office about an elderly musician, well known, and was pointed up the road. Stopping at the crest of the hill by a house marked by a metal fiddle on the wall, we knocked at the door and went inside. There was Maurice O’Keefe who is 92 years old and still playing fiddle and in the Sliabh Luachra style that I love. Christine was given a chair, I was to sit next to the master and we commenced playing while the ban an tí brought tea and biscuits. Christine joined in with her whistle. Maurice was delighted and said it was as though we had been playing together for years. The tunes were very rhythmical and melodious, mostly polkas and hornpipes. He maintained it was a new band. When I told how we came to be there because of the detour, Maurice pointed up and said, the man above had brought us. He also said he would keep playing until his last day, and anyone playing music could not but be happy.
I hope that I have been able to convey, to some extent at least, how special an occasion this was for us. Maurice has a music festival named after him and here is a link to a report in The Corkman newspaper about it.

05 December 2010

Winter Sessions in Dingle

After a busy summer, the traditional Irish music scene has wound down to just a few places offering regular sessions. An Droichead Beag (The Small Bridge) offers music all year round and so does John Benny Moriarty and O'Flaherty. Marina Inn continues too with its early Sunday session starting at 6pm and a Thursday evening sessions starting at 9:30 pm.

Very lively session today at Marina Inn lead by Con Durham on uilleann pipes and Tim O'Shea on guitar, and there were 16 musicians in all. In addition to the two mentioned, there were 5 fiddles, 2 flutes, 2 banjos, 2 penny whistles, 2 concertinas including myself and 1 mandolin.

02 March 2010

Great Session!

Great session at Marina Inn on Sunday. It was lead by Con Durham on pipes and Tommy O'Sullivan on guitar. We had 14 musicians which is very unusual at this time of year(4 fiddles, 3 flutes, uillean pipes, guitar, banjo, mandolin, bodhran, accordion and harmonica.) The music was first rate and the momentum was amazing.

11 August 2009

Maura Begley Musical Evening

On the other side of the mountain, over Conor Pass, there is a very special musical event every Monday night starting at 8pm. The hostess is Maura Begley who opens her 200 year old thatched cottage for a musical happening. Maura creates an atmosphere that is warm and friendly and encouraging for even the shyest person to participate and everyone is asked to play something, sing a song, tell a story or recite a poem.

Maura is a member of one of the leading traditional Irish music families in Ireland. A couple of her brothers are famous box players but Maura herself is up there with the best of them. She plays mostly piano accordion and harp but I have seen her play numerous other instruments. She also sings, mostly in Irish, with a lovely voice.

We have a young woman visiting us from Germany and we took her to Maura's last night so that she could get a glimpse of the kind of social event that once was common all over Ireland but now is very rare. Being the height of the tourist season, the place was packed. There were several families with children and the talent was amazing.

A couple of old timers from nearby Tralee kept us laughing all evening with stories about the old days and the exploits of some extraordinary local characters.

If you are visiting Dingle, it is well worth the half hour trip over the mountain for some great Irish hospitality and entertainment.
As an extra bonus, the scenery on the way is spectacular.

29 July 2009

CD Launch at O'Flaherty's Pub

On Monday night we had a great turn-out at O'Flaherty's Pub for the launch of Mazz O'Flaherty's new CD The Borrowed Angels. Many of Dingle's musicians were there to show their support and the event was hosted by Adi Roche with elegance and humour.

Mazz O'Flaherty

Mazz sang some songs from the new CD. In addition to composing, performing and painting, Mazz runs The Dingle Record Shop and the new CD will be available shortly from the shop website.

Ide Maire

Needless-to-say we did not miss the opportunity for a few tunes and there was lots of talent in the house. Éilís Kennedy sang The Factory Girl from her CD, Time to Sail. Mary Greene and Noel Shine sang a few songs of their own composition. Fergus O'Flaherty was on hand with his banjo and accordion to lead a session with lively jigs, reels and polkas.

Mazz, Adi & Éilís

I often feel that it is a great privilege for me to to be able to play in the sessions with the wonderful musicians in Dingle. I definitely had that experience on Monday night.

19 May 2009

An Chonair Bar Session

An Chonair Bar in Dingle has long been a venue for traditional Irish music. A new session has been added every Monday at 9 pm. The location is Spa Road on the way out of town towards Conor Pass.

The leading musician is piper Con Durham and he is usually joined by various musician friends. I attended the session last Monday and I must say it was fabulous. The atmosphere was warm and cosy with an open fire and the music was great.

We had Con on the pipes, two fiddles, guitar, banjo, penny whistle, harmonica and mandolin.

The customers were very engaged and there were several bursts of spontaneous dancing to the lively music.

Myself with Con

23 February 2009

Scoil Cheoil an Earraigh

Scoil Cheoil an Earraigh 2009 took place from February 18 to 22 in the village of Ballyferriter which is a few miles west of Dingle.

Musical offering on opening night

Scoil Cheoil an Earraigh is a Traditional Music School which concentrates on the style of music and song from the Dingle Peninsula gaeltacht of Corca Dhuibhne. 2009 was the fifth year for the school. The participants were all ages and many of them were young.

The following classes were offered:
Harp Deirdre Grainbhéal
Accordion Breanndán Ó Beaglaoich & Eoin Ó Beaglaoich
Bodhrán Colm Murphy
Banjo & Mandolin Des Kelliher
Uileann Pipes Cillian Ó Briain
Fiddle Úna Ní Chíosáin & Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh
Tin Whistle Bríd Donnelly
Flute Aoife Grainbhéal
Concertina Cormac Ó Beaglaoich & Mary McNamara
Bag Pipes Allan MacDonald
Mouth Organ Rick Epping
Sean-nós Dancing Róisín Ní Mhainín
Singing in the sean nós style Aine Uí Laoithe, Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh

In addition master classes were given by Mary McNamara on concertina, Mary Bergin on tin whistle and Mick Mulcahy on box.

Rick Epping & his merry men
The Harmonica, Mouth Organ was a new addition this year and I was very happy to participate in the lessons. The teacher, Rick Epping is an American who has spent many years Ireland. He worked for Hohner for a number of years and it was he who designed the Hohner XB40 harmonica. The participants were all older men like myself. There is altogether very little interest in the harmonica in traditional Irish circles now-a-days. Rick Epping may well change that; everyone at the event was very impressed with his playing.

I was delighted that we did not spend all of our time learning tunes as is often done. Rather, Rick spent time explaining the instrument, demonstrating techniques and teaching us how to play in a better way. We learned how to bend notes and how to play an octave by blocking two holes with the tongue.

My daughter, Deirdre took part in the sean nós singing and she was delighted with it. It was all in Irish and it was in the old style(sean nós.)

There were concerts on Friday and Saturday evenings and there were lots of informal sessions that went on into the night. I joined the one at Hotel Óstán Cheann Sibéalhotel. It was lead by John FitzGerald on box with his wife Mary on keyboard and children Sean on fiddle, Kieran on concertina and Aine also on concertina. This is a very talented family from Kildare and I was delighted to spend the night with them. A number of other musicians also joined in as the night went on. This session as well as some of the others went on until the small hours of the morning.

Outdoor session on final day

Home Session with daughter Deirdre

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