Inaugural Wexford Trad & Folk Weekend a Success

Ceoltoiri Munna at Flavour of Wexford
The first Wexford Trad & Folk Weekend has been hailed as a phenomenal success with large attendances at concerts, talks and workshops throughout the three day event. Organised by Craobh Loch Garman, the weekend featured some of the biggest names in Irish music, including Liam Ó Maonlaí, Zoë Conway, Máirtín O’Connor, Rónán Ó Snodaigh and Ciaran Tourish.
Kevin Doherty and Ciaran Tourish

Ó Maonlaí opened the festival on Friday evening on the stage of the Jerome Hynes Theatre with some stirring sean nós songs, including An Raibh Tú ar a gCarraig, Eleanór a Rún and Sadhbh Ní Bhruinnealadh. That same concert also featured singer/guitarist Kevin Doherty (Four Men and a Dog), fiddler Ciaran Tourish (Altan) and keyboardist James Delaney. Tourish’s mastery was very much to the fore as the trio ripped through sets of reels, jigs and slip-jigs. Doherty sang a couple of songs including one about well known Buncrana character, Charlie Hawker. Ó Maonlaí returned to the stage for the finale and the quartet closed out the show in fine style.

Louise Mulcahy slideshow

This was a festival with something for everybody. Louise Mulcahy’s presentation on female uilleann pipers was fascinating and she delighted her audience at Wexford Library by finishing with some tunes on her own pipes. Kíla singer and bodhrán player, Rónán Ó Snodaigh, left a packed room upstairs at Macken’s in no doubt that he is also a great storyteller and a fine poet. There were old favourites from the Kíla songbook such as Bí Ann and Tóg É Go Bog É alongside solo work including the elegiac The Beautiful Road. Mary’s Bar was full to the gunnells on opening night for the Wexford Traditional Singers’ Session. At the same time The Wild Turkeys were holding court at The Sky & The Ground. The Festival Hootenanny at the same venue on Saturday witnessed a showcase of some of Wexford's finest talent, including Corner Boy’s Mick D’Arcy, Bladderack, The Man Whom (Ian Doyle) and Basciville. When the Kíla frontman joined the party later on the energy levels went through the roof with the session continuing into the small hours.

Éabha Keane on stage

Among the highlights of a busy programme on Saturday was the Flavour of Wexford concert at St. Iberius Church. This opened with the Wexford Folk Orchestra under the musical direction of Ann McClean and concluded with a rousing rendition of The Boys of Wexford. Among those who took to the stage from throughout the county were fear an tí Mattie Murphy, Alice Wickham, James McIntyre, Seamie Tompkins, John Roche, Joe Curran, Mick Lawlor, Paddy Berry, Kieran Joy, Catherine Roche, Barbara Walsh and the young musicians of Craobh Loch Garman.

Wexford Folk Orchestra

Is é maidin den scoth a bhí ann Dé Sathairn, mar go raibh an chéad "Pop-up Gaeltacht" ar siúl sa Mhargadh Fháinne na dTarbh, Loch Garman. Bhí an aimsir fuair agus fluaich ach níor chuir sé aon stop chun na cúpla Gaeilgoirí ag bualadh chun an cupán tae nó caife agus an cúpla fhocail a mhalairt. D'eagraithe Bernie Ní Bhriain ó Craobh Loch Garman an ócáid agus bhí Oifigí na hÓige, Aisling Ní Fhinnéigh agus Sarah Ní Bhuilghéire, i láthair in aontaigh leis an cúpla bhaill ón gCraobh. Bhain gach uile duine taitneamh de mhaidin a bhí lán le comhrá agus craic.

Zoe and Mairtin

The Jerome Hynes Theatre on Saturday night was once again the scene for another unforgettable performance as fiddle player and singer Zoë Conway was joined by accordion maestro Máirtín O’Connor and guitarist/singer Seamie O’Dowd. The latter was a late replacement for John Mc Intyre. The trio delivered a lively programme of jigs, waltzes, reels and polkas along with some well chosen songs. O’Connor’s ‘The Big Smoke’, with its Caribbean lilt, and his samba-infused ‘Road to Gort’ introduced a Carnival atmosphere to proceedings. Zoë impressed with ‘The Shetland Fiddler’ and ‘The Hangman’s Reel’, the latter inspired by a gallows-escaping story from the Appalachians. Both herself and O’Dowd shared vocal duties. The latter’s singing of Thom Moore’s ‘The Cedars of Lebanon’, was a highlight.

Mark Redmond and Pat Fitzpatrick

Closing the Trad & Folk Weekend on Sunday afternoon were two of the finest musicians in the land, both from Gorey. Mark Redmond (uilleann pipes) and Patrick Fitzpatrick (clarinet, flute, Scottish pipes) raised the roof of St. Iberius Church with a programme of predominantly Wexford music, including the opening set of jigs, Courtown Harbour / Cook in the Kitchen, and the reels Wexford Lassies / Redmond’s Frolics / Trip the Hills. Mark played the hauntingly beautiful ‘Caoineadh’, while Pat, on bass clarinet, brought a hush to an already hushed room with the first notes of The Eagle’s Whistle.

“The weekend was a huge success,” said Paddy Berry, President of Craobh Loch Garman. “We are very appreciative of the support we received from Na Macallaí, Wexford County Council and Creative Ireland. We are also delighted with the general reaction to the weekend and the buzz generated around town. Our plan is to make it an annual fixture.”

Liam O Maonlai and Sarah Bolger

Photos on Wexford Trad & Folk Weekend FB page