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Lá Álainn, Ceol Álainn, Craic den Scoth

Padraig and Brigid Sinnott

On the first Sunday of September, the Irish National Heritage Park hosted its first music event since late August 2019. The event in both cases was Slí Cheoil Cois Sláine / Wexford Trad & Folk Trail. 

 

The original event in 2019 BC (Before Covid!) was run by Craobh Loch Garman Comhaltas but this time the group co-presented with Wexford Arts Centre, in partnership with Irish National Heritage Park and Music Generation Wexford. 

Slí Cheoil Cois Sláine is all about putting bringing together traditional musicians from the four corners of the county and providing a feast of song and dance in an historic setting. A no less important aim is to provide a platform for the next generation of emerging musicians.

The format is a simple one: musicians, singers and dancers are dotted at various points around the site. Music loving visitors then take to the trail to sample the riches on offer. The emphasis is very much on home-grown talent, especially young talent. Mol an óige agus tiocfaidh sí.  

Cuckoos Nest

With tickets for the day sold out in advance and the forecast giving fine weather, INHP personnel knew that they were in for a busy day. 

Many visitors were happy to grab a coffee and sit on the sunny restaurant terrace listening to the sounds of Wexford Folk Orchestra and the Sea Shanty Singers carrying over from the nearby Crannóg. 

Fergal O Hanlon and friends 2

Down by the river at the Viking Boatyard singer and guitarist/banjoist Fergal O’Hanlon, one of the best and fastest pickers in the land, showed his love of music from both sides of the Atlantic. Bring it all back home with him were fellow Green Road member Ned Wall (uilleann pipes) and Danescastle’s Jon Reville (banjo/mandolin). Once their instruments were packed away, Wexford Traditional Singers, using every available log, stump and boulder for seating, gathered in a circle and sang the past to life.

Ballygoman fiddler Alice Wickham McIntyre along with her guitarist other-half James were joined by popular singer Ann Marie Corcoran at the Stoneage Farmstead. They were followed by The Revilles, a family steeped in the tradition.

Round another bend and there was Boolavogue uilleann piper Padraig Sinnott along with wife Brigid (accordian), Paul O’Reilly (guitar) and young Darragh Doyle (banjo). If ever one wondered where the idea of putting a trad & folk trail in a heritage park came from, the answer was here: the music is part of that heritage.

Padraig Sinnott Band

The main gathering point with, of course, the requisite physical distancing, was the Monastery area. Here, fans of sean nós were treated to a performance by one of the best paractitioners of the form in Lorcán MacMathúna. Bhí sé ar fheabhas agus a chomh-cheoltóirí freisin. Martin Tourish (Altan) was on accordian, Daire Bracken (Jiggy) on fiddle and Éamonn Galldubh on pipes and flute. 

Lorcán MacMathúna Band

While Lorcán and the boys took a break, Ireland’s top cabaret madame, Helena Mulkerns, brought a touch of trad-flavoured vaudeville to proceedings with her Cáca Milis Cabaret. Hats off to singer/guitarist Marion McEvoy and the Carraig Rua outfit whose uber-flexible, high-kicking, well-shod broom-dancers fairly brought the house down. The reception given to Dublin poet Stephen James Smith, recently exiled to these parts from the Capital, suggests that savvy, incisive, no-holds-barred poetry delivered in the vernacular may be the new rock ‘n’ roll.

Helena and Marion

Jazz singer Melanie O’Reilly was accompanied by top jazz keyboardist Scott Flanagan and bass player Adrian Jackson for a delightful Celtic Jazz set. Just as well the Trad Police did not catch wind of this one!

The Wild Turkeys set up late afternoon on the shady side of the Crannóg to try stay out of the blazing hot sunshine. Although performing as a trio (guitar, fiddle, banjo) as opposed to the usual quartet (accordian missing) they sounded brilliant as ever.

The Wild Turkeys

There was a big emphasis on young musicians this year with large numbers performing with the Comhaltas groups from Wexford town, Danescastle and Kilmuckridge. Ellie Walsh and Orla Quirke of New Ross’s Trad House led a relaxed all-comers’ Trad Jam  in the gorgeous setting of the Medieval Ringfort. At the same venue, Cuckoo’s Nest, a family group of all ages led by the great Maureen Codd, enthralled listeners with a melodious and pitch perfect offering of dance tunes. Nothing less than a musical dynasty, four of the group won medals at this year’s Fleadhfest in Sligo. 

Comhaltas Kilmuckridge

The success of the day can partly be put down to the fact that local people, families especially, were delighted to have an opportunity to hear live music in a safe outdoor setting. INHP CEO, Karen Keogh, is to be credited for ensuring that all the necessary measures and protocols were in place. Mar a dúirt an Taoiseach le deanaí: Tá laethanta an dóchais tagtha.”

Overall, however, this was a celebration of Wexford’s proud living heritage and its wealth of great talent. With so many young musicians now drawn to traditional music, the county’s cultural heritage looks to be in safe hands. Níl amhras ná go bhfuil an cultúr dúchasach láidir acmhainneach.

Slí Cheoil Cois Sláine / Wexford Trad & Folk Trail was supported by Wexford County Council, Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann, Music Generation Wexford, Foras na Gaeilge and the Arts Council. Craobh Loch Garman Chairman, Matty Murphy, also expressed his gratitude to Irish National Heritage Park, An Garda Síochána, Wexford Civil Defence, Matt and Eileen Kent, John Fowler and Davy Martin for their support. 

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Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann is the largest group involved in the preservation and promotion of Irish traditional music. We’re a non-profit cultural movement with hundreds of local branches around the world, and as you can read in our history we’ve been working for the cause of Irish music since the middle of the last century (1951 to be precise). Our efforts continue with increasing zeal as the movement launches itself into the 21st century.

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