There's more to read in the collections of old news and reviews, volumes 1—1997-1998, 2, 3—1998-1999, 4—1999, 5—1999-2000, 6, 7—2000, 8, 9, 10—2001, 11—2001-2002, 12, 13, 14, 15—2002, 16—2002-2003, 17, 18, 19—2003, 20—2003-2004, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25—2004, 26—2004-2005, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31—2005, 32—2005-2006, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37—2006, 38, 39—2006-2007, 40, 41, 42, 43—2007, 44—2007-2008, 44—2007-2008, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49, 50—2008, 51—2008-2009, 52, 53, 54, 55, 56, 57—2009, 58—2009-2010, 59, 60, 61, 62, 63, 64, 65—2010, 66—2010–2011, 67, 68, 69, 70, 71—2011, 72—2011–2012, 73, 74, 75, 76, 77, 78—2012, 79—2012-2013, 80, 81, 82, 83—2013, 84—2013-2014 (Index).
The Friday night of the eighteenth Irish dancing weekend at Freiburg-im-Breisgau, Baden Württemberg, Germany, 5-7 April 2002, started promptly at 7pm with a few sets on the floor. Ian Hughes has been giving Irish dance courses here for eighteen years. He started the weekend with a warmup set, the Mazurka. People drifted in until 9pm by which time there were ten sets on the floor.
Some people thought the hall was too small but Ian said, "It's a grand hall, but a bit big," knowing that many venues in Ireland were much smaller and could hold many more sets.
The venue for this year's course was Collegium Sapientiae in Lorettostrasse. This was where the first course was held eighteen years ago. Then it moved around to other venues close to the city centre. The building had been refurbished recently. One wall was ceiling to floor windows which gave a nice bright room for day-time dancing.
People came from various parts of Germany including as far away as Berlin, Frankfurt, Stuttgart and Erlangen. There were some from Vienna, Austria and Biel, Switzerland. Luckily, Ian's German is pretty good so there were no difficulties in explaining the dances. Limerick was represented by the presence of Muiris Woulfe, an engineer working in Germany.
On Saturday we had an early start at 9am and did the Williamstown Set which was very popular. Then the class was split to do some step dancing. I took about sixty people for a beginners' slip jig. At the end of the forty minute session, the majority of them could do the lead around and four steps of a simple slip jig.
Ian took the more advanced dancers who had already done some step dancing, just over twenty people. They did a soft shoe reel which had been specifically requested.
The Kildownet Half Set brought us all back together before lunch, which was a leisurely two hours in an Italian restaurant close by.
We finished the Kildownet Half Set after lunch and followed this with the Corofin Plain Set. In the 'dance round your partner' chorus, which Ian calls "How's your mother?" there were some people dancing with their mother. Three generations of organiser Roswitha Seidelman's family were dancing - Roswitha and her husband Erich, their two daughters, their son, and his wife and their son.
The evening ceili started at 8pm and went on until after midnight. As well as doing the sets learnt in the workshop, others from previous years were done. Bernd Menzel from Erlangen did the honours as MC, calling several of the easy ceili dances and some two-hand dances. There were plenty of 'spots' including musicians, tap dancers and step dancing.
The Clare Orange and Green started Sunday morning at 10am and we finished up with ten sets of the Clare Lancers. The weekend finished off with another Italian long and relaxing lunch, before all departed for the various corners of Germany, Switzerland and Austria.
Roswitha has organised this course every year for the last eighteen years. It started as a ceili dance workshop and now sets and ceili alternate every year. Roswitha has decided that she will retire from organising when she is seventy in 2004. So there will be one more ceili dance weekend in 2003 and a final set dance weekend in 2004.
Ursula Byrne, Wales
After a very successful international folk dance weekend here in my home town of Erlangen, Bavaria, I was mad to dance a few sets since set dancing was not included in the program. So I took off by car to a small little village about 400 kilometres away in the north of Germany - the tenth Irish set dancing weekend in Blankenheim was going to take place there in a castle high above the village.
Arriving in the castle I got a warm welcome from Kasia Jankowska, who organizes dancing weekends there with great energy and success. A couple of years ago the castle was converted into a beautiful, tidy hostel. I got the key for my room and it was indeed a room with a view overlooking the beautiful village and valley.
The dancing timetable for the weekend was magic. Set dancing, ceili dancing, traditional Irish step dancing and music classes were held in the morning, after lunch dinner and of course a ceili with live music every night.
Our tutor for ceili dancing was Maureen Culleton. Under her patient, exact and most friendly guidance we did the High-Cauled Cap, the Sweets of May, the Saint Patrick's Day Reel and various two-hand dances.
Séamus Ó Méalóid was our teacher for the sets. He gave us an absolutely enjoyable time doing the Limerick Orange and Green Set, the Borlin Jenny Reel Set, the Sneem Set, the Clare Lancers and more. He told us as well about the old way sets were danced in past times. During the evening ceilis, he showed us the Johnny, the Stack of Barley and the Highland Fling, which were a pleasure to dance, especially with Séamus himself. For a break we could take some fresh air out on the balcony of the dance hall, which is another room with a magic view!
Spending a weekend in the castle is a wonderful experience for dancing, of course, but for feeling togetherness and a brilliant atmosphere as well! I am looking forward to going back there.
Andrea Forstner, Erlangen, Germany
A party to celebrate the launching of the book An Introduction to Irish Dancing (Ongaku-no-tomo-sha - the book is written in Japanese and contains lovely photos by Bill Lynch) was held in Honan Kaikan hall, Suginami Ward of Tokyo on June 23rd. The book was co-authored by Isao 'Paddy' Moriyasu and Rieko Yamashita.
About 140 attendees, mostly Japanese, enjoyed the lecture and dancing performances. Some of them have never seen Irish dancing before, others are learning dancing in various classes all over the country. Not only set dancing, which is of course quite popular in Japan, but also other styles such as Connemara sean-nos, modern style competition solo, ceili dancing, Riverdance-like arrangement (this is new in Japan too), etc were performed on the stage and the two authors explained how wide the variation of Irish dancing is. Isao also gave a valuable lecture on music, namely how Irish music and dancing have been interrelated. He and his wife Masako, also known as 'Brigit', are professional musicians in Japan.
After a buffet meal break, the attendees were given a chance to learn simple dances in a short ceili. Everyone enjoyed the craic.
Rieko Yamashita, Tokyo, Japan
This September we shall be celebrating the achievements of a fantastic musician, Simon Knight, who died after a brave battle with cancer last year.
Many people will remember Simon from visits to Priddy - a tiny village on top of the Mendip Hills in Somerset in the west of England - where set dance weekends were held twice a year. These events were the first of their kind in this area and were extremely popular due to the hard work put in by Simon and his first wife Val to make them very special occasions. (The hall was nicknamed 'the Ballroom of Love' and many people will know why!)
Simon's dedication to playing the appropriate music and style for each set arose from the many years he and Val spent collecting sets and tunes from around Ireland. This knowledge and attention to detail is quite rare today and has been a great inspiration to teachers and dancers in this area.
Simon's original association with the Mendips was as a pot-holer and caver for whom the Hunters Pub in Priddy was always a natural 'watering hole'. Many of you will remember wild Friday nights dancing there before a Priddy weekend, and the quieter Sunday lunch time sessions.
Simon was one of four brothers, all of whom play Irish music. It was with Andrew and Patrick Knight that Simon first played for set dance workshops at Sidmouth International Folk Festival, held every August in Devon. Andrew and Patrick had stepped in with their band to play for our workshops when the band who were booked didn't turn up. As a result the stage was full of fantastic Irish musicians, including Simon, and for the next ten years he played for the set dance workshops and ceilis at the festival. This year he will be hugely missed.
He played with many musicians both in England and Ireland over the years, not least Johnny O'Leary, for whom he had the greatest respect. Simon formed a band, Show the Lady, with Pete Nicholson, Vicky Mogridge and Biddy Blyth with Val Knight as caller. They produced two tapes for set dancing.
In 2000 we formed an Irish dancing group which performed at the Chippenham and Sidmouth festivals. Simon arranged and played all the music with Show the Lady. It was a life-long ambition for us to take a team of dancers to Sidmouth and with the energy of Simon's music and the enthusiasm and dedication of all the superb dancers from around the country we fulfilled that dream. We are so fortunate to have achieved this with Simon - without him it's doubtful it would ever have happened.
We are still dancing in pubs and halls where Simon would always have played for us and we hope he is there with us in spirit. His funeral last September was a very moving tribute to his life and music, and the large number of people who attended filled the Hunters pub for a wake that was full of music, singing and dancing. Simon would have loved it.
Our thoughts are with Carol, his widow, his children Maddy and Dominic, and Val.
Vicky Salway and Helen Stonehouse
I went to this wonderful pub in Dublin called O'Shea's Merchant on Lower Bridge Street. It's right on the Liffey River. They have traditional music and set dancing every night. They also have a bed and breakfast upstairs for only €50 and a cheap car park only half a block away. I parked from 5pm to 8am for only €6.20. The dinner was really good consisting of cod, potatoes, carrots and squash for only €10.
They have two big rooms - the traditional music started around 9.30pm and ended at 12 in one of them. The musicians were Joe Hughes from Dublin on the accordion, Johnny Morrissey from Tipperary on the concertina and Bernard O'Shea from Co Laois on the guitar. They were excellent, playing fast reels and jigs. Bernard sang beautifully. I did some solo reels and jigs, and so did a girl from Germany who learned to dance there.
Then the set dancers came. They did the Lancers and the Connemara sets. Joe joined them. Then I joined to do the Cashel and Ballyvourney sets. Johnny joined too. I noticed one woman added a flourish of jumping straight up and down during the Cashel. I next saw a man doing a sideways step in place during the Ballyvourney Jig. The craic was mighty. I even got invited to stay at a lady's house next time I come to Dublin.
Then right after midnight people went into the other room where a good country band was playing. They had a lot of people on the dance floor until 2am. The dance floor was perfect with old wood so it wasn't slippery or dusty. The owner was really friendly just like everyone else. I'd definitely recommend this pub to everyone.
Kathleen Lanahan King of Prussia, Pennsylvania
Two years ago I went to East Durham, New York, for Irish Arts Week and came back flushed with excitement about all the fun and learning. Last year eight of my fellow dancers from our Claddagh Set Dancers group in south Florida went and came back with the same attitude. This year there were six with me - Peggy Campbell, Katie Rooney, Eileen Cannon, Anthony Belotto, Louise Newbery and her sister Mim McMaster from Maryland.
We all stayed in the wonderful Ferncliff Hotel and were registered to take set lessons from the famed Patrick O'Dea, Brendan Brown and Frank Holt. We were relying on our youngest participant Anthony, eighteen, with the steel trap memory to soak it all up and re-teach us when we get home, and teach the rest of our dancers as well. On Monday we learned the Tory Island Set from Patrick and later the West Kerry Set from Brendan. Whew, that's a fast one! On Tuesday Patrick taught us the Donegal Set and later that day we learned the Baile Bhuirne Reel Set from Brendan.
On Wednesday Brendan taught the Portmagee Meserts and on Thursday Anthony slipped away to be taught the Aran Set by Frank Holt. He'll teach the rest of us back in Florida. Meanwhile we were taught the Labasheeda (we already knew this) and Armagh Lancers from Patrick and later that day Anthony, Louise and Mim learned the Ardgroom Set from Brendan while the rest of us took the afternoon off to explore the region.
Friday, our last day of lessons was review day in Patrick O'Dea's class and Brendan taught the Borlin Set in his afternoon class. Anthony was thrilled to learn nine sets to bring back and he also perfected the steps in the Aran Set which he will attempt to teach us back home.
We thoroughly enjoyed the company of Mim McMaster, an absolute beginner who was thrust into the advanced group so she could be with us and she did just fine. It was fun seeing Karen Cieminski from St Paul, Minnesota, who was back for the third year along with Lynn with the great laugh from Anchorage, Alaska. We also saw many of the "snowbirds", folks from New York and New Jersey who join us in south Florida in the winter time.
All evenings were spent at the pavilion attending concerts by the wonderful teachers and guest artists from all over the US and Ireland which were followed by ceilis in the various hotels, O'Neills, the Shamrock, Ferncliff and Weldon House, and by music sessions in the various bars in town. It was once again a wonderful week of Irish culture - music, dance, storytelling and history.
Anthony slept on the plane all the way back to Fort Lauderdale but arrived raring to go to share the nine sets we were taught with the rest of our south Florida group and bringing our repertoire up to 41 sets!
Carol Hieronymus, Pompano Beach, Florida
The popular Abbey Ceili Band from Co Cork launched a new album, Béal a' Ghleanna, at a gathering in the Farran Pub, Farran, Co Cork, in June. Sean Ó Sé, the Cork singer, once again had the honour of officially performing the launch. The CD is their second recording of sets, and like the first one, was recorded live at a ceili to capture the unique atmosphere generated by set dancers.
The recording took place in Farran Hall last May and four sets from the night are included on the album - the Sliabh Luachra, Connemara, West Kerry and Plain, a healthy mix of reel and polka sets.
The four members of the band are Ger Murphy, accordion, Andrew O'Connell, Fiddle, Liam Forde, banjo, and John Coakley, keyboards. The album title means "Mouth of the Glen", a place in Cork which is depicted in the cover which was painted by Liam. He's included two dancers frolicking on the road. The tunes include local polka and well-known older tunes, and the cover booklet includes notes on all the tunes, researched and compiled by John. Introductions in the booklet were written by Cork fiddler Seamus Creagh and set dancing teacher Pat Murphy.
Béal a' Ghleanna is available from the band at their ceilis or contact Ger Murphy.
I always knew she wanted a guy with chickens. I used to pretend I had them myself till one night she became suspicious. I opened the car door for a few seconds and closed it.
"What did you do that for?" she asked.
"To let out the clutch!"
Now that the cat was out of the bag I was in the bad books. I hadn't rang her either because I'd lost her number. It must have blown out the car window on the N17, N5, or M25 enroute to ceili. I had a funny feeling I'd meet her on the pilgrimage in Miltown Malbaya.
As usual I went to Clare with Dugo. Neither of us had booked accommodation and were hoping to find it after the ceili. There was a slight breeze in the hot summer's night and we could hear the music in the distance. Once we reached the dance floor he turned to me and gave me strict instructions in one word.
"That won't be difficult for you," I said.
"How do you mean?" he asked.
"Well, you are a 'gigantic bumblebee'!"
I saw my old friend and asked her to dance. We went tops in the Cashel. The couple opposite were wearing their 'Break the Floor' tee-shirts. They specialised in making a lot of noise banging the floor. I knew I was in for a cool reception having not rung her.
"I've forgotten your name," she said.
"Aha! I can remember yours. Do I get bonus points for that?"
"You better not get too close to me, I've got dandruff," I said.
"It's not the dandruff I'm concerned about."
"The creepy eight legged fellas!"
I could barely hear her with the noisy attention seekers opposite. There are always types like this in Miltown Malbaya for Willie Clancy week. It seemed she had enough of them too and finally roared, "We are aware of your presence, take it easy now or I'll kill you!" They were quiet for the remainder of the set.
"That put a stop to their gallop!" she exclaimed.
"You can hardly keep up with me, can you?"
"I know. I can hardly keep up with you on the dance floor," I said.
"Never mind anywhere else!"
"Were you into something else, I mean?" I asked.
"Bit of a fling?"
"Is that what you call it down your way?"
"Maybe! It depends on what happens later," she said.
She danced all night. Afterwards I was quickly over to find out she was going home in my direction. Fortunately before we got to the car she got delayed talking to a friend. This gave me time to set up my trap. The passenger car door handle had been broken off. I took out my tube of superglue and had it back on within seconds. I made sure it wasn't fixed that well. She was a girl who liked to pay her bills on time.
"Hop in," I said.
"Oh be the God! The car door handle is after coming off in my hand!" she exclaimed.
"Don't worry about it. You've got a credit card haven't you?"
"Well you're hardly going to make me pay for it, are you?" she asked.
"Maybe you might make up for it in other ways?"
"Excuse me! What exactly have you in mind?" she asked.
"Not a lot, maybe just a little . . . ?"
"A little what! There was nothing spectacular about that handle."
"There was! You know what that was? I said.
"That was my 'groovy' car door handle," I said.
She laughed and we embraced each other. It was cold but I didn't need to turn on the heat. We had a few smackers. The cheerful crowd going home with its funny comments and laughter made us a nice background. Suddenly another car door banged shut behind us.
"Oops, there goes another?"
"Oh yea, I hope a few more car door handles come off," she whispered.
"And wipers?" she said.
"Oh yea! You mean for intermittent kissing," I said.
"In that case we'd better not wipe the mist off the windows."
The time flew. I dropped her at her B&B as Frank Sinatra sang in the wee small hours of the morning. It was too late to ask her to put on the kettle. I drove back to L'Armbamba Hotel where Dugo had told me that if he was upstairs he would put his grizzly bear towel out the window. As I turned the corner to Spanish Pointlessa I spotted it blowing in the gentle breeze. I parked fifteen storeys down. I rolled back the seat and fixing up my sleeping quarters I couldn't help noticing the lovely smell of perfume. I knew I would sleep well. I wouldn't need an alarm clock either. Dugo would stick his head out above in the morning and make a speech, probably shouting something like "Beware! The end of the world is nigh." Passers-by would shout up to him to "Stick a cork in it!" It could well be nigh so we'd might as well pack in a few more ceilis. There will always be people to stir it up during Willie Clancy week.
Copyright © 2002 by O F Hughes
Thanks to your web site and help, we had a wonderful time in the Kilkenny area [during the Pan-Celtic Festival, April 1st to 7th]. Mary Murphy was just great - she arranged to take her group of dancers to the Bridge Hotel, Waterford, to meet us on the Monday evening. Martin Forristal welcomed us to his set dancing evening. We gave a very short performance of our dances, as we had gone to join in with their set dancing. Everyone was so friendly - Doreen McGrath and other dancers whom we had met in Enniscorthy and Wexford were also there so it made us feel very much at home amongst friends.
On Tuesday I had contacted Mick Doyle at Galmoy and some of us "gate-crashed" his set - dancing evening in this very small community - again we had already met some of them previously at other events, so we felt amongst old friends. We had originally met Mick and his wife when we competed against the Durrow Dancers in Galway a few years back now.
On Wednesday, Mary Murphy very kindly organised an evening for us in Rathgormack - this was a very special evening and much laughter was heard. Sean Murphy, who compered the evening, had a wonderful sense of humour and amidst music, dance, and Guinness we all left feeling very elated, with the offer of accommodation in the village should we wish to return any time, and an invitation to take part next May in Dungarvan at the Feile na Deise. What a wonderful, friendly and helpful person Mary is. The local councillor was present in Rathgormack and presented our group with Waterford goblets - this was a really lovely gesture and so unexpected.
Thursday - once again we met with nothing but kindness from the Durrow Dancers, whom we have met over the years at the Pan-Celtic Festival, and whom we regularly compete against - their special style of dance nearly always gains them some placing in the final three winning places. Mick Fitzpatrick and his dancers organised a ceilidh in Durrow for us and even sent a coach down to Kilkenny to transport us there and back - this was a wonderful gesture, especially as we all had our own cars in Kilkenny. I had told him we could all drive there, but Mick insisted on the coach, saying it was the very least they could do for us. Again we could not have wished for a friendlier atmosphere, each of us portraying our own particular traditional style of dance and them mixing together in dance, music, friendship and laughter.
Friday was the Welsh night of the Pan-Celtic Festival, so we spent the evening there dancing for the Welsh - not many other Celtic nations were there, just a handful of supportive Irish and Scots. Saturday was the competition day. Later on part of the group spent the rest of the evening in a small local pub where traditional music was being played - a few Welsh tunes were also included! Sunday, I failed to find any complete evening of set dancing, but some of us did take part in an evening of mixed dancing down in a village - again we were met with friendship.
Our input to the festival was quite small this year, although we were street - dancing every day in the morning and afternoon in Kilkenny. We took part in the parade - a very cold affair with much waiting around. We visited a nursing home where we entertained the residents and hopefully brightened their day a little. We were obliged to dance at the Welsh night, and take part in the Inter-Celtic dance competition and two of our youngsters took part in the fiddle competition. My husband and I attended the Celtic Mass on Sunday morning which ends the festival. Usually more of us take part in this, but some of the group had already left for the ferry back to Wales.
Had it not been for the kindness shown by all the local people in including our group in their own community activities our week would not have been so enjoyable. I hope we can meet up with them again in the not too distant future.
Thank you once again for all your help, without it we would not have met such wonderful people - your web site is very much appreciated also.
Bobbie Evans, Wales
Laughter and apologiesDear Bill,
Just a note to say how much we appreciated the friendliness and helpfulness of Maggie Hutton and her friends at the Royal Spa, Lisdoonvarna on Tuesday. I am here on a botanical course and found the listing from your Set Dancing News and thought I'd pop along. We had great fun dancing the Connemara, Galway and Labasheeda with people who catered for experienced through novice dancing ability. Maggie was excellent - organising the beginners into sets with people who knew what they were doing. We were made very welcome and even when we went wrong it was accepted with laughter and apologies. Please send our thanks to her if you can and keep up all your hard work with Set Dancing News, without which I wouldn't have enjoyed a great evening of dance.
Meg Griffin, Alcester, Warwickshire
The very essence of patienceA chara,
I have recently attended my first set dancing workshop in Clonoulty, County Tipperary. It was held in memory of Connie Ryan, who I believe was in no small way responsible for the revival of set dancing throughout the country, and the legacy of his love of and dedication to set dancing was evident throughout the weekend.
As a complete novice I could not have hoped to meet a friendlier group of people. Everyone was very courteous and helpful and the dancing teacher himself [Pat Murphy] was the very essence of patience. He was also a very clear and articulate instructor, which was invaluable for a beginner such as myself.
I would recommend anyone who loves dancing and meeting people to go on a set dancing workshop. I spent a very pleasant weekend and it will certainly not be the last.
Is mise lé meas
Rosemarie Murphy, Mervue, Galway
The Fourth Annual Connie Ryan GatheringOn behalf of the Connie Ryan Gathering committee, I would like to thank everyone for making the Fourth Annual Gathering another success.
To the musicians, the Ard Erin Ceili Band, Matt Cunningham Ceili Band, Glenside Ceili Band and Danny Webster, who again this year played beautiful music and kept the dancers on their toes, a special thanks. Thanks to Pat Murphy, Betty McCoy, and Michael and Celine Tubridy for most enjoyable workshops on Saturday and Sunday. Michael Loughnane did a great job as MC over the weekend. Thanks to Jim Doyle for being Fear An Tí on Sunday night for the evening of ceili and old time. Thanks to our local choir and the young musicians, who with Michael Tubridy played some airs at Connie's anniversary Mass. We are deeply indebted to all our sponsors, patrons and people who bought advertising in the weekend brochure and to all the local organisations and individuals who helped us run the weekend.
Lastly, to all the set dancers from near and far, who for the fourth year in succession have filled our marquee and who have created a beautiful atmosphere, we say thanks.
We look forward to seeing you all again in Clonoulty on the 6th, 7th and 8th June 2003.
Billy Maher, Clonoulty, Co Tipperary
Dancers travelled from four different centres, Dublin, Manchester, Gatwick and Birmingham, to the beautiful island of Ibiza on 21st April for the week-long Fleadh España. The charming four-star Seaview Country Club hotel complex in San Antonio was once more our home for the week. This fantastic complex in the western Mediterranean was a huge success last year.
Arriving at the airport was like coming home as I began to recognise people everywhere I looked. However the scorching sunshine and Spanish accents left me in no doubt of where I was. We experienced some delay boarding our coaches but soon we were on our short journey to our hotel. Everyone was in a good mood even the slight confusion of issuing yellow cards for accommodation and registration posed little worries to the holidaymakers. One of my friends enquired if I had received a yellow card but I soon put him in his place with the reply, "There's not a man alive that would have the courage to give me a yellow card!"
We did have some delays in checking into our rooms but when you take into consideration that there were over one thousand people to be checked in, things went smoothly enough. The organisers and the staff of the hotel are to be commended for their courtesy and professionalism.
After quickly unpacking I hastily showered and changed to bikini and sarong. I was then ready to greet the Spanish sunshine and begin dancing to any music I could find. I was not to be disappointed. While on my way from my room for some coffee I heard a fabulous quickstep being played in the lounge by Pat Jordan and Finnian's Rainbow. Hurrying my step I discovered a few people sitting around sipping cool drinks. Spotting my friend Anthony from Waterford, I threw him an eye and sure enough he understood my sign language and soon we were quickstepping in style. After that sequence the music slowed down to a set of waltzes and soon Ronan had me swanning the floor once more. I was so privileged to start my dancing holiday and this fantastic festival with two such accomplished dancers.
As I walked outside to greet the thirty degrees sunshine I was delighted to see a wonderfully constructed wooden floor at the pool area specially put in place for the set dancers. I couldn't help myself as I lilted a reel step and tapped it out to my hearts content - well someone had to try it out. I smiled at the enquiring glances of some of the staff. I believe Gerry Flynn and John Davey brought the timber over in a van and had it put together - well done to this team who spared no expense in ensuring that this floor would fulfil all set dancers dreams.
At Dublin airport and travelling over by plane I had already met most of the members of the Glenside Ceili Band, John Davey Ceili Band, Heather Breeze and had a quick word with Seamus Shannon and P J Murrihy. I am very familiar with all these bands and the wonderful music of these very talented musicians as I travel the four corners of our island dancing. I must admit however I had never heard Pat Jordan and Finnian's Rainbow before. The short preview I had on arrival left me in no doubt that all the music for this week was going to be sheer magic.
Sunday night saw the dining halls packed with hungry holidaymakers. I was delighted to see the same style as last year of hot and cold buffet displayed so appetisingly by the welcoming dining room staff.
Fully nourished on the beautiful food and relaxed from the afternoon sunshine all the dancers had itchy feet and converged on the main function room for the first ceili of Fleadh España 2002. John Davey's band played, followed by the Glenside Ceili Band. At the same time Seamus Shannon and P J Murrihy played for old style and modern dancing in the lounge. Later Pat Jordan and Finnian's Rainbow played into the wee hours of the morning.
Monday morning at eleven as the sun warmed white bodies, Frank and Bobby Keenan started the beginners' workshop with the Connemara Set. Soon it became evident that there were very few beginners and those at the beginner stage were soon taken under the wing of more experienced dancers.
Mickey Kelly was our next tutor with the Saint Bernard Waltz, followed by the Pride of Erin Waltz - two very gentle waltzes. Mickey has a lovely style with the Pride of Erin - instead of the leg swing he teaches a walk step before the slide. Mickey, you have style and of course you are a real smoothie.
In the afternoon we had our first outdoors ceili and for some the first steps on the marvellous wooden floor. The sun shone as the band played reels, jigs and hornpipes. The only breeze around was Mayo's own extremely talented Heather Breeze Ceili Band. Michael O'Rourke treated us to some sean nós dancing and finished his little party piece with The Lotto Song.
The night ceilis started at around 8.30 and modern dancing at 9.30. The format for the week had been set with workshops each morning and early afternoon, an evening ceili at 4pm with night ceilis until 1am. Modern and old time dancing went on until 3am and disco until dawn. Anyone with enough energy could have danced around the clock - some did but in the interest of confidentially I will refrain from mentioning any names.
On Tuesday night amplification was set up outside by John Davey for the set dancers who wanted to dance on the wooden platform in the cool of the evening and watch the beautiful Spanish sunset or dance the Sweetheart Waltz under a full moon. Every night dancers had the opportunity to dance outdoors until the starry hour of midnight.
Workshops for the remainder of the week included the Monaghan Set, the Killimer Set from Co Galway, the Killyon Set from Offaly, the Durrow Threshing Set from Co Laois and the Derrada Set from Co Mayo. Two-hand dances included the Boston Two Step, Sweetheart Waltz, Military Two Step, Drummond Waltz and Two-hand Hornpipe sometimes known as the Back-to-back. We were privileged to have Mickey Kelly, Frank and Bobby Keenan, Mick and Kay Doyle and Thurles man himself Michael Loughnane leading us. These very experienced and accomplished tutors had the shyest dancer stepping it out.
Wednesday evening following the afternoon ceili we saw a new venture in this festival. Groups of eight gathered in the swimming pool for the set dance competition. Ten sets organised themselves to dance two figures of the Connemarra and the Plain Set to the wonderful reels played by Heather Breeze and the Glenside. The adjudicators had a difficult task to select a winning set and asked the musicians to play another set of reels for the fourth figure of the Plain Set as the marking was so close. Finally the winners were announced - a truly deserving set of young, exuberant, energetic and stylish dancers from four counties - Sinéad Carragher, Martin Martey, Rosaleen Markey, Angela McCabe and Sean McCabe, all from Co Monaghan; Margaret Bannon from Tyrone; Fidelma Branigan from Leitrim; and Michael Rooney from Cavan. The coveted prize was a dancing weekend in Co Sligo.
Thursday afternoon P J Murrihy and Seamus Shannon played outdoors, waltzes, quicksteps, tangos and some jives. Ceili dancers and modern dancers converged on the wooden floor. It was wonderful to see seasoned set dancers enjoying this strict tempo style of dancing.
Some dancers took advantage of the many tours organised by the tour operators. These included a cruise along the stunning Ibiza coastline and a visit to Sa Cova in the valley, famous for its bodega. Some sampled the luscious wine as they strolled the valley and learned how the wine is produced and stored. Full day and half day coach tours were also enjoyed as holidaymakers saw the hidden Ibiza, meandered cobbled streets, visited the local church at San Juan, then walked to the top of the hill to see the breathtaking view into the valley of Malacosta - the heart of Ibiza.
This festival was more than just dancing as I discovered on Monday morning when I took a stroll down the beautiful hotel gardens. Nestling in the clearing of the tropical plants facing the sea front I was delighted to see a large group of musicians having a session. The most pleasing aspect of this experience was that there was young and not so young all playing together. This festival has so many layers it certainly is a true fleadh agus feasta under Spanish skies, old-fashioned Irish culture, music dance and story telling.
I decided in my capacity as a correspondent for the week for this magazine to interview at random some of the holidaymakers and young musicians. I was very privileged to speak to nine-year-old Darren Kenneally who played fantastic tunes on the accordion, and ten-year-old Kayleigh Walsh who enthralled us with tunes on the tin whistle. These two young musicians are both from Mullinvat in Co Kilkenny and students of Suzanne Roe and Tony Power. They will both be playing in competition for the first time in The Kilkenny Fleadh. I wish them every success and have no doubt that they will scoop a prize or two.
Sixteen-year-old Jane Murrihy from Co Clare was in big demand but I was lucky to secure a few minutes of her precious time. Jane is the second generation of the Murrihy family to be involved in this festival. Her dad P J is well known here over the five years, and in the music industry in Ireland and abroad. He is guitarist and main vocalist with Seamus Shannon. This accomplished twosome has many tapes and CDs to their credit.
Jane has been playing the concertina for the last four years and is an accomplished musician. I enquired how she thought of this instrument and she told me her cousin played a concertina, she liked the sound of it and decided this was the instrument for her. Jane is a transition year student and delighted to be at her first Fleadh España. She enjoys set dancing also. Her mother Mary teaches sets in Moyasta in west Clare, and taught Jane her favourite set, the Caledonian, in the hall in Mullagh. Like all teenagers Jane also enjoys modern music and disco dancing. All four children in the Murrihy family are award winning step dancers and her young brother Seamus is a singer - so P J, watch out! In a few years you could be just the dad of a famous singer!
During my interviews I met two ladies from my own birthplace in the Slieveardagh Hills, Co Tipperary. Eileen Bourke Farren was born and reared in Farrenroary and Marie Grant Purcell hails from Glengoole. Both ladies have been living in Manchester for over thirty years and are members of the Irish club there.
Leitrim born Anne McMorrow was very anxious to talk to me when she learned I would be writing this article for Set Dancing News. Anne lives in Milton Keynes a relatively new community halfway between London and Birmingham. Because of the mixed culture here Anne felt a need to express her own culture, but with no set dancing within a hundred miles things proved difficult. A true determined Leitrim lass Anne travelled to London, took classes in set dancing and for the past year is teaching a class in Milton Keynes. She brought twenty-five dancers over to Ibiza. These are all beginners she said - most have no Irish blood. Anne revels in the enjoyment her class gets in dancing. She told me that they were all delighted they came to Fleadh España and thought the venue was excellent. As we spoke in the small hours of the morning Pat Jordan sang The Sally Gardens and The Boys of Blue Hill. Anne sat quietly and said these songs reminded her of her mother, singing in the kitchen at home in Co Leitrim.
Enjoying the early morning sunshine as I strolled around the poolside I met Michael and Helen from Birkenhead near Liverpool. "We are not much into the dancing, but this is our second Fleadh. I hope its here again next year," Helen said. "It has to be one of the best organised holidays we have ever been on - music, dancing and endless entertainment."
Marie and Tom Kearns from St Helens, Merseyside, were relaxing by the pool when I asked if they would mind having a few words with me about the festival and the holiday. Tom told me his dad was Irish and was born and reared in Co Clare. Marie said, "We boarded our plane in Manchester and were told we had to go to Ireland to pick up some set dancers. We were delighted at the prospect as we thought these dancers must have been putting on a show one of the nights. My god, did we get a wonderful surprise. Riverdance morning, noon and night! What we wouldn't give to be fit enough to take part. We never expected so much entertainment." "It's marvellous to be amongst people who can still enjoy good old-fashioned fun," Tom said.
Classical singer Margaret Eustace was sipping a coffee in the shade when I spoke to her. Margaret spoke in a lovely Donegal accent but told me she is now living in Wicklow. I had enjoyed her singing on numerous occasions during the week. An accomplished singer, Margaret sings semi professionally in a ballad group, and also sings at weddings and the does the odd solo performance. Many holidaymakers gathered whenever Margaret even looked like she would treat our ears to her beautiful singing. James Shay was never far away with his ecstatic banjo playing and accompanied Margaret on numerous occasions. James is no stranger to this scene as he has his own radio show, Shay's Ballad Session, on Radio Dublin.
Three lovely ladies from Newcastle West in Co Limerick, Ita, Bernie and Margaret, were on the bottom of my list for interview. This was the first year that Bernie and Margaret had travelled to the festival. "We are having a ball," they said. "No problem getting men to dance with," they smiled. "The venue is just marvellous and everyone is so friendly. There's a marvellous rapport between the dancers and musicians. The blend of dancing works well, set dancing and modern. So much to do we could easily spend another week here. We will definitely be back if it's held here next year."
There were people from all walks of life and all age groups on this Mediterranean dance mania. I was delighted to meet old friends Brian and Una from Dublin, James and Nancy Shields from Galway, and Teresa and Matt Hogan from Co Clare, but the lady everyone was talking about was Teresa's mother Mary Hehir. At 82 plus years, Mary still dances the Caledonian Set with those lovely Clare steps, such energy and style. No wonder, Mary, men were queuing up to dance with you.
Friday afternoon was the real highlight of the festival. The talent show got underway in the glorious sunshine. John Davey acted as master of ceremonies. This was truly a show of shows. I was delighted to see that this was not a real competition. It was more like a great big hooley provided by the holidaymakers themselves. We Irish are indeed a noble race of people. I felt privileged to be in the company of all these talented people and to be able to both participate in and enjoy our wonderful culture.
I was especially delighted to see the young musicians taking part in the show. Darren Kenneally, Kayleigh Walsh and Jane Murrihy, you did your counties, country and families proud; you are wonderful ambassadors. I couldn't agree more with John Davey's sentiments when he said, "In a few years from now we will be paying big money and waiting in a long queue to attend a concert with these very talented musicians."
The adjudicators for this show could not reach a consensus on who should be declared a winner. The talent was exceptional. Singers, dancers, musicians and storytellers all excelled themselves. A decision was eventually taken to put all the names of the participants in a hat and Jack Goulding from Rathtangan in County Wicklow was drawn as the winner. All participants were winners - they had won a rapturous afternoon of entertainment but more importantly they had won each other's respect.
Friday night P J Murrihy and Seamus Shannon played for the waltzing competition. Crowds gathered round for this wonderful music as dancers graced the floor. Fifty couples entered the competition, which had to be run in three heats to allow everyone a fair chance. The atmosphere was ecstatic. I felt so privileged to have a front seat to view the elegant moves of the dancers. I felt almost at one with the musicians as I waltzed in my heart to their perfect timing.
Things started to get a little tense when the adjudicators asked the six finalists to take the floor. This was the most difficult part of the process for the adjudicators. I certainly would not like to have to be the one to make a final decision. I watched anxiously as I saw eyes scan every move. The chairperson of the adjudication team stopped the music. A decision had been reached - husband and wife team Michael and Dolores Murphy from Ballybrittas in Co Laois were announced the winners. They received their prize of a voucher towards next year's festival to rapturous applause. This is the second year this graceful and elegant couple have won this competition. I was proud to be Irish and to see so much camaraderie between the dancing couples.
On Saturday afternoon halfway through the outdoor ceili we were all treated to a very special demonstration set. Mick and Kay Doyle from Crosspatrick in Co Kilkenny and their fellow dancers danced the Slate Quarry Lancers Set. This is a traditional set from the Kilkenny-Laois border. Studying the figures and the posture of the dancers I noticed little idiosyncrasies - the stoop of the men, the low handhold of partners, the power of the fling. One could easily see the influence of the quarry worker in the dancing.
Saturday night was like official secrets night as holidaymakers prepared for the fancy dress competition. A couple of hundred people appeared in all kinds of regalia. Such an array of ideas, many highly original - people had put in so much effort! What a fitting conclusion to this wonderful festival and a tribute to all the holidaymakers and organisers alike. Four winners were announced after a lot of to-ing and fro-ing - Tony Kearney as the viking, Aine McDonald as the bride and groom, and Noel Ryan and Kevin Mulderry as two Ibiza ladies of the night.
Breffni O'Brien, a native of Co Cavan domiciled in Manchester for many years, thanked the organisers and the hotel on behalf of the dancers. "Sean Dempsey would be so proud. What a wonderful week, an old fashioned Irish festival. Such respect among the people. You are a credit to Ireland every county. A joy to behold, young and old together playing music and dancing together." A moment's silence was held in honour of Sean Dempsey (RIP), the inspiration behind Fleadh España.
We must thank our tutors and callers of sets; these are the people who kept us on the straight and narrow all week - Mickey Kelly from Mayo, Michael Loughnane from Tipperary, Frank and Bobby Keenan from Kildare, Mick Doyle from Co Kilkenny, Moira Dempsey from London and Sheila Gormley from Co Fermanagh. Where could you get people like these? Nowhere, only from Ireland. We had the dancers and this wonderful venue, but where would we be without our wonderful bands? The Glenside Ceili Band, Heather Breeze and the John Davey Ceili Band for the set dancers in the main function room and outside on the wooden platform. Our modern and old style dancers had the fantastic music of Pat Jordan and Finnian's Rainbow and Seamus Shannon and P J Murrihy in the lounge area. The wonderful thing about this venue is the ease with which dancers can move between the different dances. Finally I would like to compliment all five bands on the fantastic camaraderie between them. Each one had the height of respect and praise for each other and advertised each others CDs and tapes.
The official part of the festival concluded with the grand draw for the car. The lucky winner was Bridie Churchward from Shrule in Co Mayo. Presenting Bridie with the keys for her car, tour organiser Gerry Flynn said, "The hotel were very pleased with the Irish. The staff said they had no cleaning up at all, everyone was so tidy. You are all wonderful ambassadors for Ireland," he concluded.
Another wonderful and successful festival had come to an end. Some people headed for their beds in readiness for an early start on Sunday morning's flight, others partied away the last hours under Spanish skies. There is no doubt that we will have a Fleadh in 2003 and I am hedging my bets that we could be singing "Ibiza here we come" again.
Joan Pollard Carew
Thanks, Joan, for the dedicated reportage, beautiful article and atmospheric photos.
The Fleadh in EspañaWe headed off
In the dark of night
To the Fleadh in Espana
To catch our flight.
We stayed in a hotel
Called the Seaview Country Club
It was the place to be
With friendly staff and very fine grub
The wooden floor was laid outside
There was plenty of room
Right in front of the stage
Down near the swimming pool
We did the Sweetheart Waltz
The Boston Two-step
The Back-to-Back Hornpipe
The Monaghan Set
The sun shone down
On the dancers below
Who danced their hearts out
To the music fast and slow
There were morning sessions
Fiddles, bodhrans, accordions, spoons
Right there under the trees
On the seats playing their favourite tunes
A fancy dress
A talent show
Even a waltz competition
Added to the flow
Calling and demonstrating
The set dance teachers were great
Endless patience, wit and banter
I think they are all first rate
We saw a demo of
The Slate Quarry Lancers Set
I thought it unusual
And one of the nicest I've seen yet
But finally it was over
The week went so fast
We had to head for home
With fond memories to last
Mary Caldwell, Ennis, Co Clare
Warm May sunshine caressed the waters at Doolin Pier as we boarded our ferry, the Happy Hooker, to cross the short half hour journey to Inis Oirr island. As we walked to our guesthouses and hotels the air was filled with anticipation of yet another brilliant weekend on this idyllic island. The most easterly of the Aran Islands, Inis Oirr has for centuries been the jewel in the Aran crown. Here the everyday language of the locals is Irish and their songs and stories enshrine much of Ireland's folklore and culture.
As dancers gathered for dinner and refreshments word spread that Skaskeen would be playing at 10pm in Tigh Ruairi's. As the crowds gathered some were doubtful that we would have space for dancing, but set dancers being the breed that they are soon had tables and chairs moved about to accommodate the first set of the night, the Connemara. The exuberant music urged our feet to dance on until 2am.
Saturday morning at 10.30 Pat Murphy started his workshop with the Inis Oírr Set. This is a lovely easy going set, what a shame it is not danced more often. The next set of the morning was the Williamstown Set. Another easy going set, this set has been danced around the country for sometime. It's one of my favourites and Pat has the most wonderful way of explaining in detail each move.
Lunchtime loomed and most dancers headed for the tea shop, Mairéad Sharry's traditional Aran cottage. We sipped coffee and tea, ate scrumptious scones with island blackberry jam and thick yellow cream followed by rhubarb or apple tart. Well nourished, we sauntered back to the workshop.
Pat started the afternoon with the Ballycroy set. This set comes from Ballycroy, Westport, County Mayo. Pat introduced the set by thanking Martin Murray for giving him this set and spoke of the nights dancing in Michael and Mary Corcoran's house in Renmore, Galway, when Martin taught him this set. On that August night in 1999 Martin travelled from Logduff in Ballycroy. Martin is Mary Corcoran's father.
We were all honoured and privileged to learn that Martin, Mary and Michael were present to dance in the demonstration set. Surely this was a first on the island. This set has only three figures, jig, polka and reel. I would like to see this danced around the country. I spoke to Mary Corcoran and she said that her father was well pleased with the way Pat Murphy was teaching the set.
The next set of the afternoon was the Loughgraney Half Set. This set has six figures, a nice mix of reels, jig and hornpipe. This set has similarities with the Caledonian as each figure starts with a circle. An interesting set, it could be a good set for dancing classes with small numbers. Of course half sets are making a comeback at the moment.
Pat decided we were all good students and finished for the evening to allow us to enjoy the evening sunshine and to prepare ourselves for the big ceili.
Shaskeen started up in Ruairi's at 9.30 and most dancers began their warm up session with the Plain Set before they took to their heels for the Community Hall and the Four Courts Ceili Band. Most set dancers danced until 1am to the sweet music of this Clare band. Pat Murphy was on hand to call less familiar sets. We danced the Ballycroy Set and most dancers were surprised at how easy it was to dance even though most had never danced it before the workshop, surely a tribute to our tutor.
Immediately the ceili finished we all headed back to Ruairi's for the rest of the night's dancing. The dancing concluded with the Plain Set followed by the South Galway Set, which is very popular in the Gort area of Galway. Some partied in to the small hours of the morning. Michelyn kept everyone entertained with her beautiful singing and her amusing songs, particularly her bra song. I certainly never knew a bra had so many different uses. Michelyn and her sister Niamh are two brilliant dancers. I had not met these ladies before - they are daughters of Michael and Dolores Murphy from Ballybrittas, our Ibiza waltz champions.
I was privileged to have fantastic dance partners all weekend. Sometimes I thought I was back in Ibiza, with the beautiful weather, but our native language being spoken at such ease left me in no doubt.
On Sunday morning as most ferry passengers gathered for the Doolin crossing Pat Murphy continued his workshop with the Ballycastle Set. This is a slightly demanding set for some people's concentration, another lovely Mayo set. I enjoyed learning this set in Pontoon earlier this year. I expect we will see most of these sets danced in or around County Mayo in the near future.
The Happy Hooker docked and we all piled on to return to Doolin Pier. The weather had changed and we could see rain coming across from the mainland as we crossed. Another wonderful weekend of set dancing music and craic had come to an end. We all bade each other goodbye as we headed for our cars and the drive home.
Joan Pollard Carew
It all happened out of the blue. Having previously decided to go to with Pádraig and Roisín McEneany's crowd last year and not being able to make it, the taste of Venice was in my mouth. Ryanair's winter cheapies finally did the trick and I made my reservation for mid-February.
Venice must be one of the most romantic cities in the world and it would have enhanced my visit had a beautiful partner been with me as well. But what was to come more than made up for this lacking. The city is made up of a system of islands and waterways with the main mode of transport via boats and ferries. The city centre island is devoid of any form of road traffic which also meant that after two days of negotiating the maze of narrow streets and the hundreds of humped back bridges, any idea of "going out on the town" at night was quickly extinguished.
On the third day I had arranged to attend a set dancing class in the nearby town of Mistre. This was one of the four set dancing classes conducted by Romano Baratella and Stefania Sossela, who are also prominent figures in the dancing circles in Ireland. I had previously met them at a workshop in Drumshanbo during the summer, where Romano had won a coveted prize in sean nós solo dancing.
I was immediately impressed by the high standard of dancing around me and unlike the classes in Ireland, they had their own resident concertina player, whom, I was informed, used the Clare style of playing. For most of the evening we danced the Durrow Threshing Set that Pádraig and Roisín had taught the previous November during their workshop. The footwork by many of the dancers was very impressive and I, not having experienced the set before, felt a little at a loss. But my lack of knowledge was tolerated and we ended the session with the good old Plain which was something through which we could all communicate.
My two hosts for the evening, and the only English speakers, informed me that they also taught an advanced class in Padova, about thirty kilometres away, the members of which took part in exhibitions at various festivals. As luck would have it, there was a festival celebrating the chicory plant taking place the next day and I was invited to attend. I immediately replied in the affirmative, as I had planned to have a look at this university town where it was said lots of bargains were to be had.
The festival took place is the small village of Morelle just outside Padova. A marquee had been erected beside the local church. We arrived early so that we could go through the dance routine for that night. I was delighted, though not a little apprehensive, to be included in a few figures of their production. Parts of the Corofin Plain, the Plain, the North Kerry, the Labasheeda and the Durrow were all included. They worked wonderfully together and when demonstrated to the audience received a tumultuous applause. What I didn't realise until we were about to go on stage was that the event was being televised by the local television station! The audience seemed to have an insatiable appreciation for the dancing, so Romano and myself were cajoled back into the limelight to give a rendition of some sean nós solo dancing. My new Italian leather shoes were thus broken in as I slipped my way through some cobbled together steps. However, this also seemed to go down a treat but I think that Romano and myself really enjoyed it the most. Towards the end of the evening everyone was invited to join in some ring dances that were expertly called by Stefania, with a few words in English thrown in for my benefit. The night ended in almost total exhaustion at about 12, when it was announced that we should all go on to an Italian 'ceili'.
This, as luck would have it, took place nearby and only occurred once a month. My two entertainment guides said that it was not to be missed and I was not one to argue about such matters. We landed at what was once a school at about 1am and found a lot of dancing and merry making going on. A buffet met us in the main hall and after consuming some of the fare we made our way into a large assembly hall which was pretty crowded. There was a threesome group playing Greek and Italian music to a floor full of dancers. This was indeed an experience to be relished. The dances, which I clumsily attempted, were mainly for twosomes, but some were for four and some where everyone joined in around a circle. I noticed that some of the dances had an uncanny resemblence to the Irish two-hand dances and the some of the steps identical. The Due passi for instance was another form of Shoe the Donkey. The 'Genova Jump' polka had a quick version of the Roscommon Lancers step (very difficult at their pace). There were also French mazurkas, barn dances and Mexican waltzes. There was a circle dance were every male eventually got to dance with every female on the floor. When things got a little low we did manage to slip in one set but I can't remember what it was.
The night ended at 5.00am when we returned to my hosts' country house, which is one hour from the ski slopes and one hour to the beach by the way, for a welcome nights rest. I got lost the next day but that's another story!
Thanks Romano and Stefania for your hospitality and for making my trip to Venice a truly memorable one.
Brendan Taggart, Dublin
'If music be the food of love,' then the dish served up by Pete Maw and Vicky Salway in Shakespeare's beautiful county, was a feast indeed.
There are no strangers in set dancing, only friends who are yet to meet and this was certainly the case on Friday night in Warwick. We arrived to a warm welcome in the Warwick Arms to find people already enjoying the wonderful music provided by Peter Parson and Andy Gregory. Despite most people having made long journeys, the dancing and the craic continued into the early hours.
They say you can't have too much of a good thing, but next morning we were faced with the difficult decision of choosing between Pat Murphy or Timmy McCarthy's workshop - either way we knew we were in for a treat. Most people managed to experience both at some point during the weekend and whoever you spoke to had a great time. Having the luxury of both teachers leading the workshop on Sunday morning was a treat indeed. The contrast between Timmy and Pat couldn't have been more perfect. Pat's elegant and relaxed style and Timmy's wild and energetic nature complimented each other beautifully.
The excellent Heather Breeze from County Mayo played for the ceili on Saturday and we were treated again to the wonderful music of Peter and Andy at the late ceili on Sunday. The atmosphere was electric and after the formal sessions ended the merriment continued into the early hours as people dispersed to various smaller parties.
The band Last Night's Fun provided an ideal ending to this wonderful weekend. This band of three tantalised our senses and tickled our humour when we could dance no more.
On Monday we took the opportunity to look around Warwick the beautiful setting for a excellent weekend. The venues had been superb and fascinating. Where else can you dance in a building that was erected as a hospital in the fourteenth century? The music had been magical, the craic mighty and the dancing divine.
Thank you Peter and Vicky we are already looking forward to next year. 'If music be the food of love' . . . play on!
Angela Hendley and Jill Newton (Yorkshire lasses) and Maggie Bray (a Dub in Spain)
I enjoyed the Set Dancing and Traditional Music Weekend in Portmagee, Co Kerry, on the first weekend in May. The atmosphere was friendly, with a relatively small group of dancers (less than eight sets) but many of whom knew each other from previous years and other workshops. There were dancers from all over Ireland, as you would expect. There were also dancers from France, and a small but enthusiastic group which many people thought came from Germany, but who in fact came from the Netherlands. If you gave them a lift, they would burst into song in a variety of languages.
There was dancing in the pub on Friday night, but I preferred to dance out the back where it was cooler and there was more room. On Saturday at the workshop in the Community Centre, Betty McCoy taught us three sets with good humour and patience. At her request, Paddy Neylon and Celine Tubridy kindly gave us demonstrations of sean nos and step dancing respectively. This indeed was worth driving along some narrow roads with hairpin bends to get to Portmagee.
After dinner, there was more dancing in the pub, followed by a ceili in the Community Centre. Now I am what is called a 'chancer dancer', not actually knowing any set well. Fortunately I got a few dances with the Dutch group, who knew many sets including the local ones. Music was by Slievenamon, who always have a selection of good tunes.
On Sunday afternoon there was a session with Michael Tubridy and friends in the bar. I only got to hear part of this because earlier that morning, after a light breakfast to avoid seasickness, I took a boat over to Sceilig Micheál (or Skellig Michael, the Great Skellig). I met dancers both in the boat and on the Skellig itself, one of whom was very knowledgeable about the many sea birds nesting on this unique island off the south Kerry coast.
There was more dancing in the pub on Sunday night. As you would expect, the South Kerry Set and the Valentia Left and Right were danced throughout the weekend, in the pub and at the ceili. It would be worth learning them before going. Also waltzes were rather more frequent than what I am accustomed to, but there was still plenty of set dancing.
Apart from Sunday morning when we had cloud and a few spots of rain, the weather was dry and sunny all weekend long; perfect weather for walking and sightseeing before and after the music and dancing. I saw some memorable sunsets on my way into the village for dancing. On Sunday evening, Harmonix provided some variety in the music. I was told that they are middle of the road pop, but I did not get to hear them myself. I had gone for a shower (and some badly needed sleep) before the last night of dancing. Hopefully I shall hear them next year.
This was a weekend where visiting musicians of all levels played together. I found out over the weekend that some of them were also dancers and that some of the dancers were also musicians. All relished the opportunity for some good open sessions and for dancing to mighty music. The locals gave me a warm welcome and some useful advice for driving around the Ring of Kerry. If you are looking for a dance weekend with a difference, this might be worth a try.
Ambrose Magee, Dublin
A welcome spot to danceOn the weekend of the May Bank Holiday we arrived down just in time for the eleventh annual workshop in Portmagee. Ger and Pat Kennedy greeted all the visitors. As usual we were a cosmopolitan crowd - America, Belgium, Holland, France, a good gang from the UK, Dublin, Cork, Galway, Mayo, Carlow, Clare and even from Abbeyfeale, rather closer to home. The evening began with dancing in the Bridge Bar to the lively music of local musicians Paddy and Séamus. Locals were joining in with the visitors to dance the local Kerry sets, as well as reels form Clare, Connemara etc. The weather was warm but the floor outside the bar provided a welcome spot to dance and keep cool - a great idea.
On Saturday morning we all admired the view of sunlight on the fishing boats and Valentia Island. Then we sauntered along to the community centre to begin the workshop. Betty McCoy was our tutor and soon had us dancing the Fermanagh Quadrilles - a popular choice that we all enjoyed. After a pub lunch or tea and scones at Eileen's we were back to learn the Gortroe Set. The demo team gave us heart - Timmy didn't know his left from his right - but in the end we managed it. A welcome tea break was enlivened by some sean nós dancing from Paddy Neylon and we then persuaded Céline Tubridy to perform a step dance. The Ballinascarty Half Set - by this time some of us had only half a brain and two left feet, but eventually we got it!
Dinner at the Moorings Restaurant was excellent as usual and we all danced off the calories to the foot-tapping sound of Jerry McCarthy and Autumn Gold. The late night céilí followed in the community centre, where there was plenty of space for all and great music from the Slievenamon group. We danced all the local sets and much more. We even managed the Fermanagh Quadrilles and of course we all remembered it! But Betty called it - just in case. Back to the bar for a great impromptu session and eventually to bed.
Sunday began with mass in the local church traditional and there was music here too. Beryl sang and Michael played, which made it personal for the dancers. Then the traditional session led by Michael Tubridy, Liam Purcell and Johnny Morrisey, local musicians, young and old solo dancing by Chris Gleeson and Paddy Neylon, storytelling and recitations by Matt-Joe and Mike. The highlight of the evening for me was seeing the Newport Set - it was lovely to watch. (Memo to Betty - what about this one for next year?)
Our thanks must go to Ger and Patricia for hosting the weekend and to Beryl and Julian stracey for Organizing the workshop and keeping us supplied with tea, coffee, ice water and wrestling with the sound system. Put Portmagee on your list of "must do" for next year. It will be well worth it and we'll see you there.
Janesta Freeman, Coonanna Harbour, Co Kerry
It all started during the annual Irish week-end in Lussac les-Châteaux near Poitiers, France - over a meal, as I remember. Elvis, who usually travels under the pseudonym of Jim Monaghan, was wondering whether he could finance his next European tour by teaching set dancing. I knew people in southwest France who were developing a taste for Irish dance and agreed with him that there were worse ways of making a living, so several months and a dozen e-mails later, Sylvie and I met Jim off the Dublin flight to Tarbes and the French stage of his tour began.
For a description of the week's events, we hand over to Jean-Luc Deville who wrote the following article (originally in French) for Bigor'Noz, the magazine of the Amicale des Celtes en Bigorre, one of the groups which enjoyed Jim's teaching during the week:
A whole week of Irish dance workshops in TarbesJim Monaghan, our teacher from Ireland began the series of Irish dance workshops on the evening of Tuesday 30 April. The Easy Reel was followed by the Waves of Tory and two figures of the Clare Lancers. The following day, 1 May, we were able to perfect the steps learned the previous evening and go on to discover the Mayo Lancers.Jim's 'pupils' included a few experienced set dancers, others who had only a couple of sets in their repertoire as well as complete beginners in Irish dancing with ages ranging from eight upwards. Without exception everyone was delighted with the workshops and would like to know if Jim is prepared to do another "tour de France" next year. Book early to avoid disappointment is all I can say!
On Friday evening our friends from 'Baïlin Oc' - a Bigourdan dance class in Ibos - in their turn welcomed lovers of Irish dance and Jim. The following Sunday back in Tarbes the workshops continued with a spot of revision, the Connemara Set and the Killyon Set.
The excellent atmosphere delighted the many participants, some of whom had travelled a fair distance to be there. Similarly, a Saturday evening's dancing in Lembeye, where Jim was able to take part in Gascon, Breton and Irish dances, added to the excellence of this week of workshops.
Many thanks to Jim, our teacher, who came especially from Dublin, to Anne and Patrick who helped in the organisation and to all those who took part in the workshops.
The Cooley peninsula is a scenic, wild, mountainous part of County Louth, and was the only place in the south of Ireland directly affected by last year's outbreak of foot and mouth disease. All cattle were removed then but today they're back grazing on the hillsides. Set dancers in the area were forced to cancel their twentieth annual workshop last year, but this year it finally took place in April in the little community centre in Mullaghbuoy, halfway up a mountain.
I'd never been to this part of the world before and didn't know where to find the hall. I followed the main road of the peninsula without noticing any signs pointing where I wanted to go. I decided to just climb the mountain and with one stop for directions I soon found my way. I had advance warning that they would feed me very well here, and the tea trolley was on the floor when I arrived, dispensing unlimited quantities of tea, cakes and other goodies.
The planned workshop instructor was Gerard Butler, but he was unavoidably delayed in either France or Denmark, so brother Colin Butler capably took over in his place. He taught an interesting mix of sets, beginning with the Labasheeda. Most of the day was spent on the Aran Set, which proved to be a popular choice with the eight sets of keen dancers on the floor. Colin also fitted in the Gillen Set (my second time this year dancing this rarity - see page 12) and by popular request we danced through the Aran again to finish the workshop. The tea trolley came out three times during the day - for a mid-morning break, lunch and an afternoon break, all free of charge.
Colin was back on stage in the evening, this time as drummer with the Four Provinces Ceili Band. The four piece band made some mighty music which the crowd of fifteen or more sets loved. The sets were close together and I always kept an eye on the dancers behind me to avoid collisions, but no one minded as we were all having such a good time. All the dances were quietly called by Michael McGlynn, who teaches weekly in the hall and organises the workshop and monthly ceilis with the help of his wife Kathleen, club chairman Jim McEneaney and his wife Mary and sister Rose, plus many others as well who help with the tea.
At the tea break the tables started coming out of a side room, and they kept coming and coming. Tables were stationed around all four sides of the room and up the middle as well. Seats were brought out and placed on both sides of the tables so there was a place for everyone. Then out came the food, several plates of it dropped on each table, most of it home baked. Mugs of tea were distributed to everyone while they were seated. I had a look in the kitchen and it was filled with more food on the tables and shelves. It was a model of well organised efficiency and hospitality. When the feeding was done, the mugs, plates and tables disappeared as quickly as they appeared.
The dancing continued with renewed vigour - the band sounded fabulous and the dancers were flying. We all ended the night with a beautiful feeling of satisfaction after a day well spent in good company. After twenty years the dancers in Mullaghbuoy know how to put on a good workshop - may they have many more!
In Mullaghbuoy Community Centre from September to June there are dance classes on Monday nights, 9-10.30pm, and ceilis on the last Saturday of the month, 9.30pm-1am. The workshop is on the last Saturday in April. Contact Michael McGlynn.
Departing the beautiful Irish spring one Saturday last April, a few hours later I found myself landed in the sweltering heat of a New York City summer - how many time zones did I pass through to arrive in the middle of July? It was ninety degrees in the shade thanks to an early heat wave. But jet lag and unseasonable temperatures were unable to stop me dancing, and within a few hours I was climbing the stairs of a small pub in the Bronx. My friends had taken me to the monthly gathering of the Doonbeg Social Club, formed by Clare people in New York forty years ago and meeting continuously since then.
In fact I was visiting the club precisely on their fortieth anniversary so it was a special night. We arrived during Mass so the welcomes were performed in whispers. Everyone had already taken their fill of a buffet dinner, and still huge quantities of food were available to latecomers once Mass was over. The music began around nine o'clock with eight musicians neatly organised in pairs - two accordions, two fiddles, two flutes, plus a drum kit and a bodhran. They played lovely music without the need for amplification. The set dancing was relaxed and informal with a good mix of reel and polka sets. Only two sets got up to dance on the tiny linoleum floor while many more watched from their seats. People drifted away as the night wore on but the music was still going when we left around 2am.
What I found remarkable here was the authentically Irish atmosphere. I could have been in a hall or lounge anywhere in rural Ireland, yet this was the Bronx. There were more Irish accents than New York ones, and the faces were all as friendly as the ones back home. Still, there were a few good clues that this wasn't Clare - an American flag stood by the band, an open window had a great view of the elevated subway station towering over the pub, and the dancers were content with polka sets and just one Caledonian.
The next afternoon we were stuck in traffic when we should have been dancing, but of course this was the city which invented gridlock and now it's available here 24 hours a day, including Sundays. Our destination was the Cork Lounge in Queens where the local Comhaltas branch holds a monthly ceili and we arrived an hour late in the midst of the Plain Set. The programme was posted around the hall and there were still five sets, two ceili dances and three waltzes to come. The final set was going to be the Caragh Lake Jig Set, a clear sign that I was far away from home.
I danced a waltz, the Cashel and the Caledonian before the lengthy tea break and had a lovely taste of the music of Ceol na gCroí. They're five musicians with a classic ceili band sound and the dancing was full of lift and fun. Several locals told me how proud they were of them. The venue was well kept with a beautiful floor and a cosy size for the six or eight sets dancing today. The walls were filled with paintings and photos of historical Cork men and leaders of the New York Cork Club which is based here. The club was concerned about damage to the hall by dancers, and I read a notice asking everyone to be on their best dancing behaviour. Elsewhere in the region ceilis have been moved or cancelled because of floor damage, and one leaflet advertising ceilis stated "No metal tips" in large letters. Luckily my metal tips (heels only) were resting at home in Ireland.
After the break the 16-hand Reel was called and I thought I might sit it out but was asked to dance by a friend. I was surprised and pleased when she brought me into a set which was dancing the Paris Set non-stop to the music and we had spectacular fun. The remaining sets were equally delightful, though there wasn't enough time to dance the Caragh Lake. The band finished the evening with the Irish and American national anthems - several people held their hand over their heart during The Star Spangled Banner.
While dancing in the Cork Lounge my ears perked up when I learned that there was a ceili later in Manhattan. A lift was kindly offered and I quickly accepted. The traffic had improved somewhat but the roads were as baffling as ever - my driver negotiated them with the greatest of skill. We landed at Pier 64 on the Hudson River where a day-long festival of Irish dance was organised by the Irish Arts Centre. It took place in a marquee on the pier and between the boards I could spot the river flowing a few feet below. There was a workshop underway as I arrived - Patrick O'Dea was teaching the Tory Island Set and four sets of dancers were having a good time at it. A lady dropped out and offered me her place (she was dancing the gent luckily) so I managed to dance the last figure a couple of times. Next there were a few performances of solo dancing, all accompanied by the powerful music of Bernadette Fee on fiddle. She even danced a step herself while playing.
The weather had been hot during all of my trip so far, but tonight on the Hudson River the winter was back again. A powerful heater near the stage was blasting out summer heat, and when the ceili began dancers generally stayed in the narrow temperate zone between the two intense weather systems. Three musicians produced electrifying dance music - Bernadette Fee again on fiddle, Kieth Sammut on piano and the superb Buddy Connolly on box. Four sets began the ceili and gradually dwindled to one by the end of the night, but it made no difference to the musicians who played their hearts out with the greatest pleasure, and kept going for dance after dance even when there weren't enough to fill the sets.
Those last few sets were danced with the help of ceili dancers, beginners and some non-dancers brought reluctantly onto the floor. I had thought of departing early myself after my long day, but was halted in my tracks when the heavens opened for a midnight downpour. It lasted for the duration of the Corofin Plain Set, and then there were a few more sets after that and plenty of chat after the end. A dancer on his way to the Bronx generously offered me a lift back to my home from home on the Upper East Side. I stopped in a shop for a midnight snack and arrived home highly content to have danced at three memorable ceilis within a day and a half of my arrival.
The Doonbeg Social Club meets upstairs in the Punch Bowl at 238th Street and Broadway in the Bronx on the second Saturday of each month. All dancers are welcome.
Ceilis are held in the Cork Lounge, 3301 Greenpoint Avenue, Queens, on the second Sunday of the month from 4 to 8pm. Contact John McGurrin.
The New York City Irish Dance Festival on Pier 63, Chelsea Piers, West 23rd Street, organised by the Irish Arts Centre, was the first of what is hoped will be an annual festival.
Thanks to Maureen, Martin and especially John and Joan for their kindness in looking after me on my visit to New York.
The Catskills had never looked so good - my two previous visits here were in winter so I'd overlooked the beauty of the forests covering the mountains surrounding the Nevele Grand Hotel in Ellenville, New York. This time there was a delicate golden green everywhere as the young spring leaves emerged. I was there from the 19th to the 21st of April for another in the continuing series of Irish weekends held twice a year. This time the organisers had imported no less than three Irish ceili bands for three days of nearly non-stop set dancing.
The local Pete Kelly Ceili Band opened the dancing on Friday afternoon with a superb selection of tunes. After dinner each of the Irish bands had about ninety minutes to play. Mort Kelleher and his family ceili band from Cork were first out. This was their first trip to the States and they were clearly delighted to have been invited. They made a good impression on the dancers who cheered them strongly. The Emerald Ceili Band from Tyrone, also on their first trip to the States, made an immediate impression when they started playing their vigorous, high energy music. Their youth was most impressive of all as they were probably the youngest people in the hotel that weekend. Four members of the Michael Sexton Ceili Band were here as well and their authentic Clare sound is a favourite of the regulars.
Spring may have been emerging outside on the mountains, but on the dance floor it was most definitely summer. The air conditioning had been switched on halfway through the first ceili, but it definitely hadn't achieved full strength when the music had finished around 2am. I'd already soaked four or five shirts with all the dancing, using up half my weekend allocation in the first evening. When I got back to the room I washed them all and set them out to dry in case I needed them later. Fortunately it was more comfortable the rest of the weekend and I never got quite as wet again.
Saturday's dancing began with Eileen O'Doherty's workshop after breakfast. She taught her version of the Ballycastle (Co Mayo) Set, which has some interesting variations from the version taught by other teachers. For instance, at the end of the second figure the side couples end up with the ladies and gents swapped around in each other's places. The timing doesn't allow them to rearrange themselves back into the usual positions, so the sides finish out the set like this, gents dancing the lady and vice versa. Eileen spent a full three hours on the set and her patient and thorough teaching combined with lots of practice gave everyone one of the twenty or so sets on the floor a firm knowledge of the dance. She also called the dance at least three times during the following ceilis and everyone seemed to love the set after all that. We danced several other interesting sets as well thanks to her calling. She impressed everyone and even attracted some of her followers to the Nevele for the first time.
The Emerald Ceili Band was back in the afternoon, and I thought I might have detected a slight reduction from their usual energy level, to better suit the local dancers. All the stops were pulled out for their last set of the afternoon, their famous non-stop Plain Set which ended to cheers.
During the cocktail hour after the ceili one could eat enough finger food for a full meal, immediately prior to a five-course sit-down dinner. Everyone was dressed to kill and even some set dancers were wearing jackets and ties or posh frocks and jewellery. However, once dinner was over the t-shirts and shorts were out again and we continued our dancing to Michael Sexton. It was a pleasure to see members of the Emerald and Kelleher ceili bands out on the floor having a whale of a time in the sets. Each band played no more than two hours a day, leaving the musicians free to enjoy the dancing the rest of the day. Mort Kelleher was on next and then Pete Kelly played till the wee hours of the morning.
On Sunday morning the hot weather had vanished and down in the hall there were welcome outdoor breezes coming from an open door. The morning ceili was quite rushed as each of the three Irish bands shared the two hour slot. Michael Sexton was first, followed by the Emerald, and by the time Mort Kelleher came on it was so close to lunch time that most of the crowd left to eat. Those few of us who'd rather dance than eat stayed on for a couple of sets and we experienced the Kelleher's best performance of the weekend. After lunch Pete Kelly played for the final ceili and it was a friendly, relaxed close to another great weekend at the Nevele.
Thanks very much to John and Bridie and to Gertie for their kind hospitality.
There's more to read in the collections of old news and reviews, volumes 1—1997-1998, 2, 3—1998-1999, 4—1999, 5—1999-2000, 6, 7—2000, 8, 9, 10—2001, 11—2001-2002, 12, 13, 14, 15—2002, 16—2002-2003, 17, 18, 19—2003, 20—2003-2004, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25—2004, 26—2004-2005, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31—2005, 32—2005-2006, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37—2006, 38, 39—2006-2007, 40, 41, 42, 43—2007, 44—2007-2008, 44—2007-2008, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49, 50—2008, 51—2008-2009, 52, 53, 54, 55, 56, 57—2009, 58—2009-2010, 59, 60, 61, 62, 63, 64, 65—2010, 66—2010–2011, 67, 68, 69, 70, 71—2011, 72—2011–2012, 73, 74, 75, 76, 77, 78—2012, 79—2012-2013, 80, 81, 82, 83—2013, 84—2013-2014 (Index).
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