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—2012, (Index).
Happy New Year!
After nine years teaching at St Jude's Social Club, west London, I have sadly had to say farewell to my class due to the impending closure of the club. On the 13th December I held my last class and it was attended by both current and past members. I would like to thank all those dancers who have supported me over the years, both at the class and the numerous ceilis I have held. I hope that the many friends I have made at St Judes will continue to support me into 2007 as I take on the teaching of an existing class at St Albans.
Tracey Mullen, Hertfordshire, England
The Prime Minister's ReelHello Bill,
We spoke with Celia Gaffney about a dance for nine people, which we know as the Prime Minsters Reel [mentioned in last issue's letters page as the House of Parliament].
We have a short description for this dance as follows:
Formation: nine people in a square facing the music
1 2 3
4 5 6
7 8 9
Music: jigs or reels
If you like, you can make it a little more difficult: Repeat the dance four times, each time turning the set to a new direction.
- Each middle person promenades with person on the right side (hands crossed in front) around the line of dancers to the left (1 4 7) back to place. 8 bars
- Same with person on the left side around line on right side (3 6 9). 8 bars
- Left hand star of top left four dancers (1 2 4 5). 4 bars
- Right hand star of top right four dancers (2 3 5 6). 4 bars
- Left hand star of bottom right four dancers (5 6 8 9). 4 bars
- Right hand star of bottom left four dancers (4 5 7 8). 4 bars
- Corners circle left and right around middle person, middle person dancing in the center. 8 bars
- Sides circle left and right around middle person, middle person dancing in the center. 8 bars
- Each line (123, 456, 789) does a figure of eight; middle person starts to the right. 8 bars
- First line take hands, dance to the right between second and third line to the bottom of the set. 8 bars
Unfortunately we don't know anything about the roots of the dance, where it comes from, etc.
Hope you have a lot of fun with this.
Sabine Menzel, Erlangen, Germany
Thousands of friendsDear Bill,
I spent twelve fantastic years playing banjo with the Glenside Ceili Band and made many thousands of friends in that time. I was always delighted to meet the happy, jolly set dancers who made every ceili a pleasure. Now that I have left the Glenside I would like to give my heartfelt thanks to my family for understanding the huge commitment it takes to play with a ceili band. And I'd like to express my deep gratitude to each and every set dancer for the pleasure you brought to me.
While you'll no longer see me on stage with the band, I couldn't give up all my friends, so I hope to take up dancing and meet you all on the dance floor!
Sincere best wishes,
Tom Skelly, Brannigan,Ballymahon, Co Longford
Many came to all threeHello Bill,
Would you please print a big thanks to all the people who supported the ceilis in Heston, Kilburn and Tooting over the weekend of the Copperplate tour. It was the band's first tour of London and we had a fantastic weekend of music and dancing.
We had thirteen sets on the floor Friday, fourteen on Saturday and ten on the Sunday afternoon. Most people travelled long distances to two ceilis and many came to all three.
Thanks to Margaret and John Morrin for hosting the ceili on Saturday and helping with the weekend. Last but not least I would also like to say thanks to the band who travelled through horrendous weather, arrived early and gave a wonderful performance.
No doubt they have been booked to return again next year.
Moira and Joe Dempsey, New Malden, Surrey
Happy dancing daysDear Bill,
The Kilwee Set Dancers, Belfast, this year held their annual Christmas dinner and ceili in the Ballymac Hotel, Stonyford, Co Antrim. The management did us proud and provided the ideal room with the essential good sized dance floor well able to cope with the four to five sets anxious to test it out. After a superb meal, not too rushed to leave plenty of time for dancing, we danced as many sets as we could and reluctantly finished before 1am to let the staff clear up. A memorable night was had by all.
We met the following week in our local hall, Our Lady Queen of Peace, Stewartstown Road, where our weekly class is held, to party again. A lot more set dancing was enjoyed. Pizzas were ordered to add to our already large spread.
Each person brought a wrapped present. These were put into a bag allowing everyone to choose a gift. This we called the "Secret Santa". Unfortunately this finished our Christmas festivities and our class for the year Our best wishes to yourself and all your readers and many, many happy dancing days in 2007.
Maeve Gilmore, Kilwee Set Dancers, Belfast
Donations still being receivedBill,
The Alzheimer Society of Ireland Granby Centre would like to thank the Brian Ború Ceili Band, bean an tí Máire Ní Mhurchú, the dancers, teachers and all who attended the ceili in Na Fianna GAA Club, Glasnevin, Dublin 9, on 16 November 2006, as well as those who donated raffle prizes and supplied refreshments. Donations are still being received.
A total of €2,609.65 was raised on the night. It was a very enjoyable ceili.
Mary O'Connor, Service Manager, Granby Day Care Centre, Granby Row, Dublin 1
Red hot in CroatiaHi Bill,
One year in the making and Croatia is gently pushing to the fifty set dancer point. Quite amazing but the vibe in Zagreb for the sets is red hot at the moment and new dancers just keep coming. Beginners are presently on the Ballyvourney Reel Set with the intermediate group on the Corofin Plain Set. There is great excitement about the upcoming summer and how many may visit Ireland for the Willie Clancy festival. We hope it will be many.
A handful of dancers will also be over in February to meet the dancers of Bray and those dancing at Talbot Street. All in Croatia wish all in Ireland the best, and look forward to getting a feel for a few different tricks and turns that can only be learnt giving it a go in Ireland. We'll take all the advice we can get!
Paul O'Grady, Zagreb, Croatia
Everyone was a winnerHi Bill,
On Sunday 26th November 2006 in O'Dwyers GAA Clubhouse, Balbriggan, Co Dublin, there was a brillant afternoon of juvenile set dancing enjoyed by teachers, parents and families.
There were two teams each representing schools in Balbriggan, Skerries and Kilbarrack, and one team representing O'Dwyers Club. The nine teams took part in two categories, under 10 beginners and under 13.
Everyone was a winner and all the participants received a medal. The Eithne O'Donnell Memorial Cup was awarded in under 10 beginners to St Teresa's National School team. The Tony McNulty Memorial Cup was awarded in under 13 to Inis Rua team.
Congratulations to all the particicpants and special thanks to all teachers for preparing the teams. The idea of the afternoon was to promote and encourage set dancing from an early age and Sunday afternoon was a tremendous success in that sense.
Freda Smith, O'Dwyers Culture Group
Most anyone who danced with Connie Ryan and Betty McCoy over the many years they taught in Dublin will have known Brendan Phelan. For much of the '90s, dancers from their classes in the Ierne Ballroom used to go down Gardiner Street afterwards for a pint and a few sets at Moran's Pub [now O'Shea's]. Often as not Connie would call whatever set he'd taught that night. Well, that big guy on guitar with the songs and the jokes, that was Brendan. Those one liners that came outta nowhere just when you thought you were safe, settled in, skating by unnoticed - the ones that caught the Clare hurlers, the Kerry footballers and anything that even sniffed of royalty, the ones that caught everyone, all of us sooner or later, except somehow for Kilkenny hurlers - well, those were Brendan's.
Anyone could be the target of his wit, and of course the better he knew you, the worse your odds. One time, not so many months back now, one of the regulars was away for a couple weeks, and made a slight tactical error on returning - he tried to slip in unnoticed. Brendan of course let it ride for 'bout a set and a half, basically till the pub was packed. Then booming over the mike, with that twinkle in his eye, "Well, would you look who's here. Ah sure, it's good to have the Yank back - we missed the challenge of playing off beat!"
As many of you will know by now, Brendan died unexpectedly just a few days after Christmas. What many of you won't know - I for one sure didn't, and God knows what he would've done with that info - Brendan was one serious trad musician. Over the years at Moran's and the Merchant he played regularly with the likes of Michael Tubridy, Páidí O'Connor, Liam Purcell, Martin Niland, P J Hernon, Colm Keane, John Regan, Kieran Hanrahan, Jimmy McCreevey and others. Before that he and Tom Dermody had a group out in the Airport Hotel whose name sounds just 'bout right, the Floating Crowbar. Of course Brendan played for years with Ned O'Shea and various members of the Brian Ború Ceili Band. Most of the dancers at Moran's these days will have heard him playing there with Johnny Morrissey and Joe Hughes in recent years. When I asked Joe about playing with him, he put it simply - "Brendan was the best rhythm guitar player for sets that I've ever played with."
For the past couple years Brendan's been joined by Mick O'Connor on Thursday nights, and I'm told by those who would know, Mick's no slouch either. Well, he sure wasn't the first night we were back after Brendan's funeral:
"What can you say? I think we'd best just carry on. I wouldn't want to hear what he'd be saying if we didn't!"
So we opened, quiet and slowly, with a few tears and many memories.
And as always with the Plain.
Bill Dorris, Dublin
The Castlecourt Hotel with its sister hotel the Plaza now occupies a large area of Westport, offering visitors everything you could ever want and within a couple hundred yards of the thriving town. The ballroom in the Castlecourt has been the venue for ceilis for a very long time, and the ceili on the 7th of January was the last on the floor and ballroom as we know it, as it is going to be totally refurbished. Despite the inclement weather, dancers arrived for the afternoon ceili from near and far.
Pat Friel and Heather Breeze came out of their retirement to provide the music that we had got to love and most certainly missed from this very popular Westport-based band. I suppose it's like anything else in life - when they were playing regularly in the area, we took them for granted and never cast a thought as to what it would be like without them. Now that they have retired (allegedly) we greatly miss their particular style of music and the friendly atmosphere created when playing. In the past two years Pat Friel has found his singing voice - what a fine singer he is - and complemented the band on many occasion with some fine renditions of favourite songs. I think I speak on behalf of all dancers who had the pleasure of dancing or just listening to Heather Breeze: thank you for all the years you gave us such enjoyment and pleasure.
The afternoon started with the popular Clare Lancers much enjoyed by all, followed by the local Derrada Set, waltzes, quicksteps and two-hand dances, then an exhilarating Ballyvourney Jig Set. Great credit must go to the organisers for such a wonderful spread at the tea interval during which a raffle was drawn for a wealth of prizes. We were also entertained during the break by some fine singing from local man Mick Lavelle. John Grant from the Western Alzheimers Foundation for whom the event was organised thanked us all for coming and supporting this ceili and spoke of the work of the foundation. During the second half we danced the Cashel, Newport and Plain sets finishing up very satisfied with the Connemara Reel.
Thank you everybody for a great afternoon and Happy New Year.
John Handel, Ballinrobe, Co Mayo
I have been set dancing for almost seven years. It's a big part of my life and I am proud to be part of it. There are always going to be some things that can be improved. I wrote those things down in the following list. This is not meant as an exhaustive word-of-God manifesto of etiquette in set dancing. True etiquette, as I will later elaborate on, needs to be observed to understand, not declared in a written litany. These are merely my observations and recommendations of things that go on at set dance ceilis that, if only people would listen, I'm sure will improve everyone's enjoyment of Irish set dancing. This will draw more people to set dancing, which means less people will watch TV, which will destroy the whole global consumerist culture infrastructure, which will lead to saner governance and policy making, which means people will be able to lead the simple epicurean lives that we were meant to. These are my humble goals. Onto the list . . .
- Listen to the music as you dance. Irish traditional music is just that. Irish. Traditional. Music. It is part of a great cultural legacy that by listening to it, you are part of. But if you aren't actually listening to it, if you are thinking about steps or battering or moves, what people think of you, who your next partner will be or any other numerous inner demons, you are not enjoying the very reason for your presence. You are not dancing well either.
- Learn the basic steps and style. While a lot of experienced dancers will be battering and even injecting nonstandard moves, those are secondary and for experienced dancers. The most important part of the dance is the very basic elements that make it dance, and the very basic steps that make it Irish dance. The basic steps (1 2 3 and) are not difficult. In fact, it may be their simplicity that makes beginner dancers do other stuff. That other stuff puts you out of rhythm with your partner. It is your connection to your partner, along with following Rule #1, that makes this activity so much fun. Quit flailing around.
- Speaking of nonstandard moves, especially turning a lady under when the dance doesn't call for it, I think they are totally okay, but it needs to be remembered that this isn't actually part of set dancing. So the lady you are turning under is not physiologically ready for you to move that way and you can really hurt someone if you force it. If you want to initiate such a move, do just that, initiate it, do not force it. If while gently initiating a turn - under she pushes back against you, just let it go.
- Another point that has to do with Newtonian physics: Being light on your feet isn't just some exotic special skill some certain dancers have; it is a necessary trait for everyone, ladies and gentlemen, to have. I weigh a lot, but I don't bring that entire load down on each step. As much as I hate to admit it, I have stepped on my partner's feet, as well as other people in the set, as well as people not even in my set. But I did not cause any damage (and at my weight I certainly could) because I'm dancing, not marching or stomping. Dancing means having full control of your body and movement with your weight forward. You are able to react and change course, and especially if you feel a foot underneath yours that isn't your own. This applies to your upper body and what you are doing in waltz hold as well. If you are not in control of your own body and your movement, you're wrong.
- Gentlemen: Act like gentlemen! This rule was originally going to be, "Don't just go out to a forming set, take up a position, and put your hand up. Ask ladies to dance." But a more general point needed to be made before a more specific one. Women almost always outnumber men, and even though at ceilis we are kind of re-creating a simpler, less socially confusing time, we don't actually live in one. Women are always going to be asking men to dance, which is as it should be, but lots of men take advantage of their new found supply - side status and just go out on the floor, take up a position in a forming set, and put their hand up. Women do this because they need to; you're doing this because you're a wimp.
- Ladies: Quit complaining that men don't ask you to dance. A lot of it has to do with the previously mentioned point, and I just talked to them about it, so that won't be a problem anymore. If you feel you are disproportionately not asked, it's probably a false perception due to beginner's insecurity (or if you're not a beginner, make up your own excuse) and if the perception isn't false, it probably has nothing to do with you personally. If it does have to do with you personally, how seductive do you think complaining and insecurity are?
- Experienced dancers: Verbal enforcement of unwritten etiquette is just as much of a breach of etiquette as whatever it is you are trying to enforce. No one hired you as a strongman so that no one looks in their partner's eyes as they swing. Those things just evolve over time and were there long before you overly invested yourself in them and will be there long after you scared everyone away because of your pedantictry. (Ironically, I looked this up to see if it was a word. Unironically, it is not.)
- Fooling around once in a while is fine and is in the spirit of the event. But if you do it all the time, and if everyone does it, it's not fooling around anymore, it's just slam dancing. Your brilliant improvisation needs some regularity to set it up, no?
- The same principle applies to battering. Think of yourself as the drummer in a jazz or rock band. You're laying down a beat and a rhythm, with an occasional fill-in, never over-powering the band. You're not Keith Moon doing a constant solo.
- Be nice or be witty. This also applies to life in general.
Tim McAndrew, Minneapolis, Minnesota
At a ceili in Rahan, Co Offaly, on February 9th Colin McGill and James Hogan will launch themselves as the newest ceili band in the set dancing circuit. They're a young pair, each with a long background in music and dance. Colin is a virtuoso on the piano accordion and multi-instrumentalist James backs him on piano. Both players began learning music and dance at an early age. Colin has ten All-Ireland awards to his credit, has travelled on many performing tours abroad and adjudicates at piano accordion competitions. James is an accomplished dancer with many All-Ireland titles and other awards. He now runs his own Irish dancing school, and also teaches music.
Tribal Alaskans enjoying sets in Cork
Recently arrived in Schull, Co Cork, from the USA is the O'Carroll family, who have landed themselves in a hotbed of set dancing thanks to enthusiastic local teachers Annie and Bertie Moran. Three of the newcomers, Anecia and her daughters Kathleen and Fiona, have been attending classes and ceilis regularly since October.
Anecia and her daughters share a unique background - they are members of the Alutiiq Tribe of Egregik, Alaska. Their remote home village faces the Bering Sea on the Alaskan peninsula, approximately 9,000 miles from their new home. They also lived in Seattle, Washington, a mere 6,000 miles from Schull.
Welcome to Ireland and we hope to see you all at many ceilis!
London's only weekly ceili
London dance master Anton Coyle sent a recent reminder to remind all dancers that his weekly ceili is still going strong. At one time London was full of weekly live music ceilis, but Anton says that his is the last and only one of its kind in the city. The dancing takes place every Sunday night from 8pm in the London Irish Centre, Camden Square, NW1. Anton begins with an hour of tuition, then ceili dances and waltzes are played by Corkman Tony Kearney. There's usually a few figures of a set as well. It's the only game in town so don't miss it!
Reports from Los Angeles have revealed the engagement of set dancer Theresa Savage from Alhambra, California, to Dublin set dancer Pádraig Timmons. After meeting in Miltown Malbay, Co Clare, during the Willie Clancy Summer School, it wasn't long before Theresa left LA for Dublin where she has lived for two years. A wedding is probably taking place this summer. Many congratulations to both!
Best Wishes Martin
Friends of veteran ceili band accordionist Martin Mulhaire send him their wishes for a full recovery after he underwent heart bypass surgery after Christmas. Martin is originally from Eyrecourt, Co Galway, left for the States in 1958, and lives in Pearl River, New York. He's a member of the Pete Kelly Ceili Band below second right and we all look forward to seeing him back on stage with them again soon!
Harwich port in the southeast of England came alive on Sunday, September 17, as the staff on the cruiser MV Discovery prepared for the arrival of almost 700 holidaymakers from all corners of Ireland and England. The Craic on the Cruise, an Irish music and dance cruise of the Mediterranean, was the brainchild of Gerry Flynn and his Enjoy Travel team.
It was evident from the moment we booked our places for this holiday that we were in expert hands. Once we arrived at our coaches with our luggage we were treated like royalty. No more worries about bags or cases - they were delivered to our cabins awaiting our arrival. Arriving at Harwich Port we were greeted by a welcome aboard party, with cocktails flowing and tea and coffee for the abstainers.
Dermot Hegarty was in fine voice then the Glenside Ceili band set up for a few tunes. Everyone registered, was allocated their cabin and received a pocket sized map of the ship. We made our way on to the luxurious MV Discovery and set sail at 4pm. A buffet meal was available in the restaurant with mouth-watering hot and cold delights, pastries and fresh fruit to die for. The bar was full to capacity with the many Mayo and Kerry supporters who were enjoying the big All-Ireland final match on several screens. Alas Mayo was defeated but there were many very happy Kerry holidaymakers on board ship.
We were advised of our muster drill and given instructions of our relevant stations by the cruise director. We gathered at our appointed areas at 5.30pm for a drill on ship safety. We were requested to put on our lifejackets; anyone who needed assistance had a member of the crew at hand to advise and help. Health and safety was paramount all through the cruise.
Feeling that we were in safe hands we retired to our cabins to shower and change for dinner. Each evening dinner was served in two sittings in two of the ship's restaurant. Everyone was given a reservation and table number for the duration of the cruise.
With heightened spirits sailing across the seas we danced to the music of the Glenside Ceili Band. I counted ten sets on the floor with no delay filling them - everyone was eager to dance. Tony Stevens' Band came on stage and we danced quicksteps, waltzes and foxtrots to the small hours.
Breakfast and lunch were served in three restaurants and we were spoiled for choice. A programme of events was delivered to our cabins each evening detailing the events for the following day. This gave everyone the opportunity to plan activities on board and at the exciting ports we were docking in. Some energetic travellers gathered each day for the mile walk on the deck while others began the day with Mass celebrated each day by Father Fred. Afternoon tea was served every day, with a buffet of sandwiches, scones and confectionary. Also coffee, tea and hot chocolate was available free of charge the round the clock.
Our first set dance workshop was at 11am. A special wooden floor had been constructed for the comfort of the dancers. Mickey Kelly taught the lovely Derrada Set followed by the Country Waltz. We all enjoyed ourselves and easily forgot that we were sailing except for a little roll now and then. Some set dancers took the opportunity to brush up on their ballroom dancing at a workshop with Mick Behan.
Our afternoon ceili got off to a great start at 2pm with the Four Courts Ceili Band. Jim Barry and Mickey Kelly shared the job of MC. We were all invited to the welcome reception where we were greeted, photographed with Captain Derrick Kemp and introduced to the many officers on board the ship. Then we made our way to our dinner. Later we danced the night away to Catherine Darcy and her band, followed by Breege Kelly with Michael Cleary. In a concert, Johnny McEvoy's singing and songs were real tear droppers at times, then Conal Gallen gave some fine laughs with his witty stories. Forty Shillings Ceili Band gave us a mighty seisiún of music until the small hours.
I spoke with some of the holidaymakers who said this was the trip of a lifetime. One couple said they had done a few cruises before but even at this early stage they were convinced that this was the best ever. With music, dancing and shows to suit all ages, they called it a floating festival.
Tuesday morning as we neared Spain we had our second set dancing workshop on the deck with the roof rolled back. Under Spanish skies Jim Barry taught the Williamstown Set and I was delighted to see it getting an airing. Eight sets took the floor for a lovely time dancing in the warm sunshine.
By the time the workshop concluded we had docked in La Coruña, our first port of call. Some people took one of three excursions. One group went on a trip to see the highlights of the city. According to local belief, this was an ancient city founded by Hercules. Today the modern city, which is capital of the Spanish province bearing the same name, combines its traditional agriculture and fishing industries with new successful industries such as fashion and textile.
The second group sailed the estuary southwards to the mouth of the river Mero on a leisurely panoramic tour of the scenic area and followed the river inland to Santa Cruz. They stopped and explored the characteristic Galician fishing villages.
The third trip from La Coruña visited Santiago de Compostela. Next to Rome and Jerusalem this was the third most important place of pilgrimage in the Middle Ages.
Briar Folk Group followed by Sharon Turley entertained those who remained on board and we had a few dances as Ronan Kelly kept the ladies stepping it out with quicksteps and waltzes. Everyone was back on board for sailing at 7pm.
With dinner over, dancers gathered and warmed up to Pádraig Farrell and Pat Gavigan, then the Glenside Ceili Band took the stage at 9pm. Set dancers stayed and danced the night away to Johnny Carroll followed by the Galway Bay Jazz Band.
Wednesday was another day spent at sea. At our workshop this morning, with Mickey Kelly in his usual fine form, ten sets danced the Fermanagh Set on the sun deck - the sunshine was a blessing. We had a special treat after lunch when the Forty Shillings Ceili Band took the stage for their first ceili. Gerry Flynn introduced the band and described them as a real find. We had a brilliant hour and a half. Then Pat Jordan sang and we continued with waltzes and quicksteps until Danny Webster came on stage and it was back to set dancing again.
During dinner we had a special honeymoon celebration for Brendan and Louise Vaughan, the drummer and pianist of the Four Courts Ceili Band, who married the Friday before the cruise began. The very shy couple accepted our congratulations and the singing of the waiters.
Wednesday night's dancing began with Irene McEwan and Tom Ford. Set dancers seem to have unlimited energy as most were stepping it out to every music or artist. The Clare reels of the Four Courts energised us even more at the ceili. Art Supple followed by the Galway Bay Jazz Band kept us dancing until 12.30am, then there were sessions all over the ship with music, singing and storytelling.
Thursday morning awoke to the sounds of the ship docking in Tangier at 8am. The trips ashore started early and dancers were scarce, so Mickey Kelly agreed to repeat the Fermanagh Set and gave everyone plenty of encouragement and individual attention.
A half-day trip explored the highlights of Tangier, a very diverse and ancient city standing on the north African coast where the Mediterranean Sea meets the Atlantic Ocean. Greeks, Romans, Spanish, Arabs and Portuguese have occupied it over time. Today it is a fascinating blend of traditions and cultures.
After lunch we danced on the deck to Pádraig Farrell followed by Forty Shillings Ceili Band. This young band plays wonderful exuberant music. I spoke briefly with Alan Finn, the accordion player, and he told me that they were in fact two bands. The six musicians on the cruise were known as Forty Shillings, while at home in Ireland they have ten players well established as the Five Counties Ceili Band, with members from Cork, Waterford, Clare, Tipperary and Antrim. I would recommend their ceilis to all set dancers.
After the day-trippers had returned to the ship we set sail at 7pm. Tonight Breege Kelly and Michael Cleary played, followed by a ceili with the brilliant Glenside. After their trip to Tangier many ladies and gents were wearing kaftans. The boys in the Glenside wore their usual suits but sported fez hats on their heads. After the ceili we continued dancing to Curtis Magee followed by Tony Stevens. Seamus Shannon and P J Murrihy played in concert followed by the singing sensation Michael Muldoon.
I visited Mick Mackey and friends for a late seisiún. The lads from the Four Courts and the Glenside also joined in. For the first time I heard Nathan Carter from Liverpool. This young man won the competition for traditional singing in English in the 15 to 18 age category at Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann in Donegal. This is the first time that this prize has left Ireland. He is also an accomplished musician and plays piano accordion.
Friday was another day at sea. At 11am we started our set dancing workshop on the deck with Jim Barry, who taught the Borlin Jenny Set. We had eight sets on the floor to start and numbers increased and decreased as the morning passed.
We had a lovely afternoon in the sunshine entertaining each other with music, singing, storytelling and dancing at the talent competition, which was judged by members of the ship's crew. The prize of £100 sterling went to Tipperary man Cyril Humphries who comes from Clonmel. He is a fabulous tin whistle player and lives every note. We finished the evening dancing sets and two-hand dances with Danny Webster.
At dinner tonight we had another celebration with a special cake for the fortieth wedding anniversary of Margaret and John Morrin from London.
Friday night started with social dancing to Tom and Irene, then at 9pm we had the music of the fab Four Courts. Dermot Hegarty followed by Johnny Carroll with his golden trumpet kept us all dancing until the small hours.
We docked in Barcelona, Spain, at 7am Saturday morning. The three excursions all set off early and left the ship bereft of dancers. Our set dancing workshop was cancelled and those remaining went shopping in the town or relaxed on deck.
Barcelona is considered Spain's most cosmopolitan and vibrant city and the second largest city in the country with a population of 1.6 million people. It boasts magnificent architecture and has the 1992 Olympic Stadium. The travellers on the half-day tour came back on board with their feet itchy for some dancing. Danny Webster set up on deck and we danced a few sets, waltzes, quicksteps and foxtrots.
Saturday night after dinner at the social dancing with Tom and Irene one could easily spot the pupils from Mike Behan's ballroom class by their panache and polish. These dancers were a joy to watch. When the Glenside Ceili Band came on stage it was the turn of the social dancers to watch in awe of the pupils of Mickey Kelly's and Jim Barry's classes. I had the pleasure of dancing the Cashel Set with Joe Rynne from the Four Courts. Not only is he a fine musician but he is a brilliant dancer - these Clare people are multi-talented. Catherine Darcy sang songs from the sixties to finish the night. The concert was packed to capacity to hear Nathan Carter, Sharon Turley and Breege Kelly and Michael Cleary.
Sunday morning after breakfast all 700 people on board congregated for a special Mass with contributions from the artists and musicians. The one that touched my heart was P J Murrihy singing I'll Never Fill My Father's Shoes. Towards the conclusion of the Mass, we were privileged to share a special occasion as Father Fred gave Margaret and John Morrin a special blessing for their fortieth wedding anniversary. The service concluded as Dermot Hegarty and Padraig Farrell sang Amazing Grace in duet. With brilliant sunshine on the deck at the top of the cruise liner we all felt halfway to heaven.
We docked in Ajaccio, Corsica, an hour earlier than expected, just before Mass finished. Today there were five trips to select from and I was determined to go ashore on this beautiful island. The port looked welcoming and I felt at home. I found it impossible to drag myself away from the ship until now, the craic and music was that good. Only hills and mountains could tear me from music and dancing.
Ajaccio is on the west coast of the island and is the capital of Corsica. The town's most famous son and probably France's most illustrious leader, Napoleon Bonaparte, was born here in 1769.
My trip today took me to the Prunelli Gorges. I learned from our tour guide that Corsica is an adaptation of a Phoenician word meaning 'covered in forest.' This trip was a delight with its rugged beauty and varied landscape. The view changed at every bend in the road, from gardens and orchards to chestnut and pine trees and golden beaches lapped by blue waters to mountains of more than 2,000 metres. The road twisted and turned until we entered the gorges of the Prunelli River. Deep red granite cliffs plunge down into the river. The guide pointed out the artificial lake and dam down below us which was built to generate electricity. It also provides much of the population with drinking water. We stopped for refreshments in the little village of Bastelicaccia which has high houses built with the island's granite. I believe I left a little bit of my heart there.
Sunday night Curtis Magee got us dancing and then Danny Webster encouraged us to change to set dancing with his magic music. P J Murrihy and Seamus Shannon then kept going until Art Supple sang us through to the small hours.
Monday morning we docked at 9am in Civitavecchia, Italy. Unfortunately the weather had broken and rain greeted us. Most people on board went on the coach tour to Rome and visited the Vatican Museum where over one thousand rooms and galleries contain amazing treasures collected by popes throughout the centuries. The tour also included a short visit to the Sistine Chapel, a walk to the Titus Arch overlooking the Roman Forum and finished at the Colosseum.
Those who remained on board had a workshop with Jim Barry. We only had three sets, but still had a good time dancing the Fermanagh Quadrilles. We whiled the afternoon away in an impromptu seisiún with numerous artists including Dermot Hegarty, Sharon Turley, Pádraig Farrell and Breege Kelly. Michael Barry, brother of Jim, sang a few songs. He is as good at singing as his brother is at dancing - a very gifted pair of Kerrymen. Nathan Carter gave us The Lovely Rose of Clare and Danny Webster, who had his accordion put away for the homeward trip, sang for us. Tony Corbett on piano accordion was joined by Tipperary man Jim Fahy on guitar for a selection of reels. Geraldine Cantillon from Limerick and I pulled a few would-be dancers onto the floor for the Connemara Set.
We concluded our holiday's dancing with Catherine Darcy followed by the Four Courts, then Pat Jordan and Michael Muldoon. I was retiring very late while a big seisiún was in full swing with the Forty Shillings Ceili Band and other artists.
Tuesday morning arrived all too soon and everyone was packed from the night before. Our luggage was taken care of until we boarded coaches for the airport. We were now docked at our final destination, the port of Livorno. This modern city in the province of Tuscany is an important industrial centre and one of the largest ports on the west coast of Italy. Many holidaymakers took taxis to see Florence and Pisa, two Tuscan gems.
Those of us who stayed on board were well looked after with lunch and afternoon tea. We even managed to dance a Plain Set to reels by the Four Courts and Alan and a few of the lads from Forty Shillings. We had the last set of the festival with just pure unamplified music - what a joy!
As we all left the ship everyone was loud in their praise of the crew, waiters, cabin boys, bar staff and sound engineers. Their manners, attention and courtesy at all times were second to none. I spoke briefly with the cruise director who said that the staff was amazed at the energy of our group and that the next cruise would seem very quiet.
Gerry Flynn and your Enjoy Travel team, take a bow. Once more you have surpassed all our expectations with your first Irish music and dance cruise. I can't wait until next year for another Craic on the Cruise. With the cream of Irish entertainers and musicians joining us in dancing, singing and the best of craic it will be another trip of a lifetime.
Joan Pollard Carew
Awesome, to say the leastMany dream of taking a cruise, but for 800 of us that dream became a reality on September 17th last when we embarked on our first Irish music and dance cruise on board MV Discovery, or the "Loveboat" as it was known on the American TV series of that title a few years back. Setting off from Harwich, we lost no time in bonding and straight away, the scene was set for the trip of a lifetime. We even got to watch the All-Ireland final, surrounded by a plethora of Mayo supporters, who gallantly took their defeat in their stride.
Entertainment was awesome to say the least. For us set dancers we stepped it out to the rousing resonance of Ireland's top ceili bands - the Glenside, Four Courts and Danny Webster. How we kept our footing was a miracle as we sailed the choppy Atlantic into the Bay of Biscay but we enjoyed the lunacy! Up the corridor in the theatre the variety of shows was overwhelming, what with inimitable Donegal comedian Conal Gallen, P J Murrihy and Seamus Shannon, trumpeter Johnny Carroll, Johnny McEvoy and the Bachelors to mention just a few. Combined with Discovery's own orchestra and shows, we enjoyed unsurpassed entertainment for the ten day duration. With fantastic amenities and non-stop activities on board, one wonders how we came ashore at La Coruña, Barcelona, Morocco, Corsica, Rome, Florence and Pisa. We saw the opulence of the Vatican, Gaudi's architectural legacy in Barcelona, spectacular Corsican scenery, the crossroads of civilisation in Morocco, unique Tuscan countryside and another world-wonder: the leaning tower of Pisa. These well-organised tours further enhanced our cruise.
Menus were exotic, varied and fresh as a sea breeze, cooked with utter expertise and served with professionalism and smiling efficiency by humorous Filipino waiters. Formal attire was the order for Captain Derrick's cocktail party and dinners but we gracefully rose to the occasion!
What a phenomenal experience: a piece of heaven experienced. A truly unforgettable trip with exquisite, breathtaking sights of an azure Mediterranean, unique ambience, exotic excursions, scrumptious food and cocktails, first class entertainment, indelible memories, new friendships, old acquaintances. A flawless, exhaustive, fulfilling and stimulating cruise savoured by my husband John and I.
Beir bua agus beannacht.
Noreen Neville O'Connell, Coolaclarig, Listowel, Co Kerry
The beautiful south coast of Ireland is sometimes referred to as the Irish Riviera - with all its sandy beaches, resort towns, spectacular scenery and sunnier weather, that name is entirely appropriate. Just east of Dungarvan, Co Waterford, the shore is so precious that it has been christened the Gold Coast, where there's a golf course, guesthouses and a couple of hotels. In one of these hotels, the Clonea Strand, adjacent to a wide sandy beach, the local Comhaltas branch holds a weekend of dancing every year, and I was there from October 9 to 11 to join in the fun.
Between Clonmel and Dungarvan, my journey on Friday became ever more scenic as I climbed through the mountains and descended toward the sea and my accommodation in the peaceful Gaeltacht village of Ring. By the time I arrived for the opening ceili I had lost sight of the sea in the darkness, but I could hear it was beside me. I was the first to arrive in the hall and had the pleasure of watching the four members of the Waterford Comhaltas Ceili Band set up their equipment. Once they got going with a few sets on the floor, they made beautiful music at what seemed like a gentle pace. Even so, we had great fun dancing seven sets, waltzes and two-hands, took time for a break and still managed an early finish around midnight!
Bright sun and blue sky filled the air on Saturday morning, and the strand at Clonea was even bigger than I remembered from my previous visit here, thanks to the low tide. In the hotel ballroom, we gathered for the day's workshop with Jim Barry from Wicklow. We spent about three hours in the morning session on the Televara Set, one of the longest sets in the set dancing repertoire, with seven rather long figures. Jim pointed out that the music for the longest figure lasted over five minutes and forty seconds. He took a thorough, leisured approach, demonstrating each figure in its entirety and having us dance them twice, so we knew it well after that.
In the afternoon, Jim's choice of the Melleray Lancers Set, another one with seven figures and one of the best sets in all of set dancing, livened everyone up and eliminated any chance of falling into a mid-afternoon slump. The set starts off lively in the first two figures and climaxes early in the third figure where everyone kisses the person across the set. The fun of doing this carried us through the rest of the set and the afternoon.
The energising music of Tim Joe and Anne O'Riordan made for a joyful Saturday night ceili. Tim Joe's deft hand on the accordion played tunes full of creative, playful touches which brought cheers from the dancers; Anne's piano kept everyone moving at the perfect pace. The programme of sets saw very little overlap with the previous night, and included the workshop sets, plus the Williamstown and West Kerry. When a selection of two-hand dances was played, I was asked to dance by a lady who happened upon the ceili by chance. She didn't know the Stack of Barley or Shoe the Donkey, but managed to keep up with me. She was disappointed I wasn't able to dance the final Plain Set with her, but I couldn't stand up the partner I'd already booked for it.
Sunday was a stormy wet day, but it mattered not to me as I never give the weather a thought while dancing. In this morning's workshop, Jim taught a few two-hand dances, including the Circle Waltz, Sweetheart Waltz, Waltz of the Bells, Pride of Erin Waltz and St Bernard's Waltz. At the end of the workshop, organiser Mary Rossiter gave her thanks to Jim for his excellent worskhops. After teaching here several years he's thinking of letting another teacher take over, but Mary is hopeful he'll be back again next year.
Mort Kelleher and his family love playing in Clonea as much as we love dancing to them. Mort played with his wife Noreen, daughters Kirsten and Karena, and sons Colin and Ken. Karena celebrated her birthday today with a cake and candles provided by Mary Rossiter and the good wishes of everyone present. There was plenty of good natured hilarity in the afternoon's dancing, though there was a serious moment when we remembered some recently deceased friends. In memory of Cork set dancer Val Deane and local committee member Michael Hogan, Noreen, Kirsten and Karena played a lament on their fiddles which was beautiful and moving, and then the three lads joined in on their instruments for the conclusion. High spirits returned for the final set of the weekend, which left us feeling great for the journey home.
The Clonea Strand Hotel benefits from a spectacular seaside location, and as well as that it's a good venue for a small workshop weekend like this. The ballroom floor is compact and takes around a dozen sets with slight squeezing, which is about what I saw on Saturday night. The staff kept us supplied with ice water throughout the weekend; tea and stronger drinks were available during the ceilis. Meals were only a few steps away in the restaurant and lounge bar. Parking was freely available between the beach and hotel, though the cars weren't too far from the sea at high tide! An ideal spot for a lovely weekend.
There she was, and still as pretty (or perhaps no more ugly) - waiting for a dance!
This year, she was better prepared, with her dance card already pencilled in by such notables as Pat Murphy, Hugh McGauran, Ashley Ray and Alain Viet - each anxious lest he miss his chance to dance with this awesome lady. Competition to fill her dance card came from as far away as Paris. Alain was quite insistent that he had booked the first dance. Alas, he lost out to Eamon Walls, who gently took her hand and glided across the floor. Words cannot express the sight we beheld. Suffice to say that Eamon was blessed.
I was told that your editor Bill sent her an apology, with a request to be top of her list in 2007.
Yes - she was just as beautiful as last year. Perhaps there were a few more wrinkles - or were they cobwebs? Well, what do you expect? She was abandoned for a year with only the spiders for company, and no set dancing.
Those of you who were not present at this wondrous event may now be scratching your heads and asking the question, "What have I missed?"
Everyone present would agree that you missed a wonderful magical Halloween weekend in Carryduff, where dancers from America, France, England, Scotland and many counties in Ireland gathered for a weekend of set dancing. You missed the ceilis with a great variety of sets and music by the Davey Ceili Band on Friday night and Tim Joe and Anne on Saturday night and Sunday afternoon. You missed the carnival atmosphere on Saturday night when ghosts, ghouls, devils, witches (even two-faced witches), vampires, ice-maidens and pirates mingled with the great throng of dancers, who were totally enchanted with the music of Tim Joe and Anne.
You missed Isobel Woods' delicious scones on Saturday, prior to excellent morning and afternoon workshops, which were conducted by Pat Murphy. We were taught the Claddagh, Cúchulainn, Sliabh Fraoch and Donegal sets. As usual, Pat's tutoring was meticulous.
On Sunday morning, you missed a two-hand dance workshop, where Pat introduced us to several new two-hand dances, including the Mississippi Dip. Someone was heard to remark, "That Mrs Zippy is some dancer!" A great sense of fun and enjoyment was evident at all the workshops.
What else did you miss? You missed an excellent informal session in the Errigal Inn in Belfast on Sunday night.
Everyone agreed it was a weekend of sheer delight. Now that you know what you missed, make sure you don't miss Carryduff 2007. We look forward to seeing you there.
Rosaleen Murphy, Belfast
Taugheen, Co Mayo, is the kind of place that you'd normally only encounter if you got badly lost on your way to someplace else. Even if you managed to pass through the place you wouldn't be terribly likely to even notice, so small and scattered is the village, without any signs alerting you to its presence. However, local set dancers know the place well, thanks to the fine community centre converted from an old schoolhouse where ceilis are regularly held. I came here from October 13 to 15 for the annual set dancing weekend which has been running for the past twelve years.
About three miles from Taugheen is the town of Claremorris where I and most of the other visitors stayed. A few of us who arrived on Friday plus a few locals collected in a pub called the Country Club near Taugheen for a dancing session. Shay White from Co Meath, our workshop teacher for the weekend, took charge of the proceedings, playing CDs for sets and encouraging folks to stand up and do their party pieces. In addition to all the sets, we had a performance of the Priest and His Boots, a birthday cake and candles, a raffle and stories by Mayo man Gerry O'Meara and Shay himself, all enjoyed by an intimate gathering of around twenty folks in the cosy lounge.
On Saturday morning we convened in Taugheen's community hall for Shay's workshop. We spent most of the morning on the South Kerry Set, beginning with step practice for the unique "house and square to home" movement in the set. This was new to many of the participants but after all the good practice this morning they could dance it without problem.
During the morning the kitchen beside the hall was busy with volunteers who prepared a lovely lunch for the dancers. At the break we paid just €5, climbed the stairs to a makeshift dining room overhead and had a most welcome meal of soup, brown bread, sandwiches, cake, trifle and tea. These lunches are a unique feature of the Taugheen weekend. They're a great convenience to the dancers and give us a chance to relax and chat together.
Shay returned to the dance floor fifteen minutes early to offer some extra tuition for the Priest and His Boots, and then resumed set dancing with the Paris Set once everyone was back in place. Next we danced the Clashmore Set. Then urging us on with undiminished energy, Shay gave more practice for the Priest and His Boots and finished up with the High-Cauled Cap. As a further convenience to the visiting dancers, organiser Chris Oates arranged an inexpensive dinner later in a Claremorris hotel for anyone interested, and about a dozen of us had a pleasant meal together.
Local dancers came out in force to support the Saturday night ceili with nearly twenty sets filling the hall. They were attracted by the music of Carousel, with Davy Joe Fallon on accordion, Johnny Corrigan on drums and Kathleen Cahill on piano. Davy Joe plays fast lively music and wastes no time between figures and sets. Blink your eyes after a figure ends and the next one is already underway. And there's not time to get back to your seat before the next dance is called. Tonight there was a request for the Claddagh, which brought most of the sets onto the floor, and it was danced entirely without calling, so well do they know it in Mayo. The final count for the night was eight sets, three waltzes, a quickstep, a selection of two-hands, a High-Cauled Cap plus a tea break - a very full night of dancing!
Only in my wildest dreams would I ever dance the Borlin Polka Set first thing on a Sunday morning - my dreams came true in Taugheen. Shay White is a dynamo with boundless, contagious energy, and he had us all jump-kicking and doubling around the house that morning. Chris Oates took a moment to express her thanks to Shay and his wife Mae with a gift and everyone applauded them. Then it was straight back to more dancing, perfecting the five steps in the Priest and His Boots.
We lunched together upstairs just as we did yesterday. The modest lunch fee included a raffle ticket for prizes donated by local businesses. In fact there were free raffles all weekend - at the Friday session, lunches and ceilis. At today's workshop there was even a special raffle for those attending the full weekend - an English couple who travelled from France to be with us were given the weekend for free!
Matt Cunningham and his band played for the last ceili of the weekend. A few youngsters and new dancers joined us today, some of whom were only able to dance certain sets. A set of eight got up for the last dance expecting the Connemara Set; they sat down when Matt called the Caledonian Set. However, Chris Oates had a quick word with the band - the Connemara it was and all were happy! We danced for over three hours but that didn't seem like enough for me; I could have done with another three for all the fun I was having.
Because it's a small rural weekend, Taugheen offers dancers a lovely personal touch. In addition to great ceilis and workshops, there are convenient meals at the venue, generous raffles at every event and a friendly welcome for all.
Do you remember my review last year of an extravagant time in a magic village somewhere in the middle of Europe? Well, the number of little wonders got even greater this year at the set dancing Extravaganza in Riehen, near Basel, Switzerland, on November 4th and 5th.
Along with workshop teacher Maureen Culleton came more than two sets of very charming and fantastic dancers from Ireland. A friend joined them from London and with Eddie Whelan we got a great singing entertainer. Not even the guitar-hunting security guards at Frankfurt airport could stop him, at least not for more than an hour, but long enough to miss his connecting flight! After a tasty Italian dinner in a restaurant near the river Rhine everybody was glad to go to bed and end the long day's journey.
Next morning we had a look at the market and the centre of Riehen village followed by a visit to the St Chrischona radio tower which gave us a marvellous view from its 46th floor over all of Basel - and due to good weather we could almost see the Alps. The temperature was cold but we had sunshine during the whole weekend. Walking back over the hills to Riehen, I gave my guests a taste of Swiss hiking as I usually do on these occasions and I was lucky to be just about able to send my assistants some last minute instructions before my mobile phone went out of order. Despite this, timing was perfect - picking up the piano, the band (Micheál Sexton and Pat Walsh) and their groupies (six dancers from Kerry) went like clockwork. Since Micheál and Pat's career has progressed well since last year, I decided to stay abreast of their success and crammed them into a stretched limousine at the airport. They had to walk to the gig later anyway - life can be unfair!
We all got together at a TexMex restaurant in the middle of the fair that evening. The food put us into such good humour that we decided to break all Swiss rules and start a session when we came home at midnight and to have tea and biscuits and sing songs for the next few hours. Surprisingly, the other guests of the B&B joined us - who could miss an Irish night?
On Saturday morning the workshop attendees thoroughly enjoyed Maureen's teaching of the Seit Durlas Eile (Thurles Set). Her teaching was as amazing as this new set. Most dancers in Switzerland didn't know Maureen before but embraced her at once as a very charming, patient and good humoured teacher. We then launched enthusiastically into the Cúchulainn Set and Durrow Threshing Set in the afternoon.
"The best for the best" was the motto of the céilí. Micheál Sexton and Pat Walsh played four hours of nifty music that put the dancing into our feet or "youpiiii" as it was called by our friends from France.
Maureen woke us up on Sunday morning with some sean nós fun. She had us rocking and swinging our hips and arms to some jolly reels. To calm down, we got close with some two-hand dances including the White Feather Foxtrot, Fiona's Polka, the Flirtation Two-Step and the Dinky One-Step!
Another three hour céilí with Micheál and Pat in the afternoon gave us a lift to set dance heaven again and it seemed difficult to put an end to such pleasure!
Well, for Maureen's group, the band and my helping crew there were some special final fireworks awaiting. We had a very nice Indian dinner where we met some of Werner Graf's group of Swiss folk dancers for an exchange of dance culture between Ireland and Switzerland which was met with much applause and laughter.
Could there have been a better ending than having an oriental dessert singing Irish songs in a little restaurant with the magic of Scheherazade's 1001 nights? I can't think so, and by all the happy faces everybody seemed to agree that Irish nights in Basel are brilliant.
On Monday afternoon we had to say good bye and it wasn't easy for me to let all this warm-hearted group of people go back to Ireland. I just hope to see them soon again!
The Extravaganza was just two days ago. I write this review on my way to a Tango festival in Istanbul. There are extravagant dance adventures all over the world - just follow the magic of your dance dreams.
Yves Hotan, Basel, Switzerland
Eighteen hundred festivalgoers revelled in another wonderful Fleadh Portugal at the Hotel Montechoro in Albufeira in the Algarve. The festival began on 5th October and continued right through to the 19th. Participants had an option of a holiday package of one or two weeks and numbers were more or less the same for both weeks. Dancers were adequately catered for on both weeks with set and ballroom dancing classes, ceili and social dancing. Musicians could strut their stuff at the many venues throughout the complex and would-be musicians were in the capable hands of expert tutors Geraldine McLoughlin and Jimmy McGlynn.
The festival got underway on Thursday night with a ceili on the tenth floor, with the magic Glenside Ceili Band on stage. I was among the late evening arrivals but soon found myself dancing the Plain Set. In all we had 20 sets on the floor, full of energy and enthusiasm. The special wooden floor put down for the comfort of the set dancers had a lively bounce and added to the enjoyment. When the ceili concluded at 11.30pm everyone went down to Mick Mackey's seisiún or to the ballroom for a few social dances.
Friday morning began with mass on the tenth floor celebrated by Father Fred. Mickey Kelly was eager to start his set dancing workshop for beginners which got underway at 1pm. I counted twelve sets dancing the Derrada Set under the canopy shading us from the beautiful sunshine. Following this Sharon Turley treated us to a fabulous selection of waltzes and quicksteps. Timmy Woulfe then held an advanced set dance workshop teaching the Loughgraney Set. Ally Harron and Marion Currey then gave us more songs and music for more social dancing. We danced and sunbathed the evening away.
At 9pm on the tenth floor, Danny Webster began the first half of the ceili with Mickey Kelly as MC. Forty Shillings Ceili Band and MC Timmy Woulfe then took over at 11pm for the second half. Michael and Philomena O'Brien and Tony Stevens Band played in the ballroom on the ground floor. That superb duo, Seamus Shannon and P J Murrihy, entertained late night dancers.
After Mass on Saturday everyone gathered by the pool to enjoy the sunshine or to dance in Timmy Wolfe's workshop. As this was for beginners Timmy dedicated time to steps, then danced the South Kerry Set and the first two figures of the Williamstown Set. Eddie Lee and Catriona O'Sullivan gave us breathtaking music and songs as we danced and chatted and enjoyed the sunshine. Then in the two-hand dance workshop with Mickey Kelly we danced the lovely Back-to-Back Hornpipe, Waltz of the Bells and Country Waltz. The remainder of the evening by the pool was spent listening and dancing to Breege Kelly and Michael Cleary.
The ceili tonight started with Micheál Sexton and Pat Walsh with 25 sets on the floor, then Swallow's Tail made their first appearance in this fleadh. Mick Mackey's seisiún was packed and the downstairs ballroom hosted Pat Jordan, T R Dallas, Seamus Shannon and P J Murrihy.
Sunday morning brought more sunshine for the Mass held in the open air by the pool. The choir were in fine voice and gave an uplifting rendition of the hymns. Micheál Sexton played My Fathers Tune, his own tune especially composed in memory of his father, Michael Sexton.
At 12pm Mickey Kelly danced The Kilfenora Set at his beginners workshop, offering them his usual courtesy and expertise. Alley Harron and Marion Curry provided lively music for some social dancing, then it was time for Timmy Woulfe's advanced workshop. Twelve sets danced the first three figures of the Williamstown Set, enjoying the sunshine. The evening concluded with Sharon Turley as we waltzed, quickstepped and jived until the sun began to rest.
The ceili tonight saw the Glenside back on stage with Johnny Duff playing banjo and Trish Clark from Forty Shillings on keyboard. The music was of its usual high standard. Danny Webster played for the second half of the ceili. Pat Jordan and James Peake entertained the social dancers in the ground floor ballroom.
At the Monday morning beginners workshop, we danced the Connemara Set. Timmy Woulfe took great care to teach the proper step and the proper way to dance the figures. He stressed that there are no turns or twists in the figures but said that people have added these over the years. Timmy then taught the Veleta Waltz and Barn Dance as danced in West Limerick and North Kerry.
Ballroom classes were taught each day from 2pm to 4pm by Piret Awnus, who is originally from Estonia, and Bill Gourley from Co Down with an attendance of fifty to sixty dancers.
T R Dallas entertained us by the pool until 4.15pm, then Mickey Kelly did a workshop on the first three figures of the Claddagh Set. Still enjoying the evening sunshine we danced to Seamus Shanon and P J Murrihy. We had a fine Siege of Ennis and numerous social dances to while away the evening.
The ceili began with Forty Shillings. It was a joy to dance to these brilliant young musicians and to both watch and listen to them. We were treated to a display of dancing as Kay and Mick Doyle, dance teachers from Co Kilkenny, danced the two-hand Fermanagh Highland and John Joe Geraghty from Mayo gave us his sean nós demonstration. For the second half of the ceili Micheál Sexton and Pat Walsh took the dancers by storm with their energising music.
Tuesday arrived but the sunshine forgot to smile on us. Nothing can deter dancers from their workshops or ceilis. Mickey Kelly took us under the canopy and his wing as he taught the Claddagh Set, then he taught his lovely two-hand dances. He thanked Edie Bradley for giving him these dances to pass on and also gave special mention to his dancing partner, Maureen Halpin. There was dancing by the pool in the early afternoon with Michael and Philomena O'Brien. Even though the sun failed to shine, Philomena's voice is like a little ray of sunshine so we all enjoyed ourselves.
At 4pm we had our first indoor afternoon ceili on the tenth floor with Danny Webster. Mickey Kelly had a little novelty dance called the brush dance. Mickey began dancing with the sweeping brush then he would tap the floor, drop the brush and everyone would have to change partners. The person without a partner would have to dance with the brush and the sequence continued with enormous fun.
After dinner I was one of the first dancers on the tenth floor for the ceili. Swallows Tail Ceili Band were eager to begin the ceili. Midway through the ceili we had a local Albufeira dance group give us a demonstration of their traditional dances. It was a colourful and exciting display. One young girl was only five years old and sang a traditional song as the dancers stepped and pranced. To finish, the group invited set dancers to join them in their final dance. Some hopped out on the floor willingly, others were more hesitant, but everyone had a ball. A set danced the Ballyvourney Jig Set for the Albufeira group as a token of thanks.
Danny Webster was the second band at the ceili and downstairs were Catherine Darcy and Images followed by Barry Doyle.
In the Wednesday morning workshop we danced the Clare Lancers the proper way. Timmy Woulfe paid special attention to beginners and gave them one-on-one step tuition. Then he concluded with the last two figures of the Williamstown Set.
From 2 to 3pm Eddie Lee and Catriona O'Sullivan played and sang. We had a Connemara Set to the fabulous reels of these two talented musicians.
The highlight of the week was the talent competition, which began at 3pm. The standard of the participants was very high. The winner was Daisy Kearney for her storytelling. She got a scroll and holiday voucher for her endeavours.
Sharon Turley entertained us by the pool and Glenside Ceili Band played for the afternoon ceili. That night the final ceili of the first week brought Forty Shillings Ceili Band back to the tenth floor. Halfway through, the fancy dress parade took place in the downstairs ballroom while new singing sensation Michael Muldoon was on stage. The participants rose to the occasion with many and varied themes and attire. The winner was Mary Quinn of the Abbeyknockmoy Set Dancers from Co Galway, who was dressed up as Dolly Parton and what a dolly she was!
Thursday was upon us - some of our dancers were returning home today and others arriving. The transition was so smooth that you would hardly notice except for the paler skins of the new arrivals. We still had a set dance workshop in the morning with Mickey Kelly, who taught the Kilfenora by popular demand.
Seamus Shanon and P J Murrihy gave some uplifting tunes and songs and even a fine Siege of Ennis. Then Irene McEwan and Tom Ford, who had just arrived for the second week, sang us through the evening. The first ceili of the second week got underway at 9pm with Danny Webster. Clement Gallagher called some ceili dances including the Sweets of May and Fairy Reel.
The second week of workshops got underway under the expert tuition of Frank and Bobby Keenan who taught the Ballycommon Set. With quite a few beginners included in the twelve sets, this took a bit of time and patience. Frank and Bobby were meticulous in their instruction.
Some dancers then attended the ballroom tuition on the tenth floor by Bill and Piret. Those remaining to soak up the sunshine enjoyed Michael Cleary and Breege Kelly. We danced a Siege of Ennis, Stack of Barley and Military Two-Step. Michael Muldoon and Pat Jordan rounded out the poolside music for the day.
At 9pm fifteen sets were eager to dance to the Kelleher Ceili Band on the tenth floor. We danced sets called by Frank Keenan interspersed with ceili dances called by Clement Gallagher. Dermot Hegarty came up to visit the ceili and I requested that he dance a few steps as he had said last week that he would like to take up set dancing. Dermot, you're not half bad - a few more lessons and you will make a fine set dancer.
The ceili concluded at 12am and dancers rushed downstairs to enjoy the remainder of the social dancing to the magic of James Quinn followed by Tony Stevens Band.
Saturday morning nine sets danced the Roscahill Set in Mickey Kelly's workshop. Clement Gallagher then took over and taught the Morris Reel. Curtis Magee and Irene McEwan and Tom Ford played for social dancing outdoors.
At 9pm the hotel complex came alive to three enjoyable events. Mick Mackey held a seisiún, the ceili mór was on the tenth floor with Forty Shillings and James Peake followed by Michael Muldoon were in the lower ballroom.
With clouds overhead on Sunday morning Father Fred celebrated Mass in the open air. Prayers were offered for all dancers, musicians, performers and friends both dead and alive. Dermot Hegarty sang Flower of Scotland in memory of Jim Kane, the drummer with Johnny Carroll's band, who died suddenly during this festival in Portugal last year. When Mass concluded a group of set dancers danced the Ballyvourney Jig Set.
Shortly after that we danced the South Galway Set in Frank and Bobby Keenan's class. Clement Gallagher then taught a lovely little ceili dance called the Cross of Arboe, called after a crossroads in Co Tyrone.
While Seamus Shannon and P J Murrihy entertained by the pool in the early afternoon we had a visit from Jimmy Magee, the famous GAA sports commentator. He made glowing remarks on both Seamus and P J as artists of the highest standard. That night the Kelleher family band were back for the tenth floor ceili. Catherine Darcy entertained social dancers followed by Barry Doyle. Irene and Tom kept us all dancing until the small hours.
Monday morning brought some rain so the workshop was indoors on the tenth floor with Mickey Kelly. We had an excellent morning dancing a variety of two-hand dances. Clement Gallagher took over and taught the High Cauled Cap and Haymakers Jig. The weather cleared in the afternoon when Breege Kelly and Michael Cleary played by the pool. At Danny Webster's afternoon ceili we had sets, ceili dances and Mickey Kelly's brush and statue dances, and the afternoon was great craic.
On Monday night nine sets were eager to dance to the music of Forty Shillings. The downstairs dancers enjoyed Johnny Carroll followed by James Quinn Band. Our ballroom and Latin dance tutors Piret and Bill gave a demonstration of salsa dancing in the lower ballroom and I was fortunate to be down there on time to see this amazing couple move with grace and precision.
Rain was threatening again on Tuesday morning so the workshop was transferred indoors to the lower ballroom. With Frank Keenan we danced the South Kerry Set and then Clement Gallagher taught the Morris Reel. The poolside entertainment was by T R Dallas followed by Pat Jordan. Even though the weather was cloudy it was pleasant to sit and listen or to enjoy dancing the many waltzes and quicksteps they supplied.
The Mort Kelleher Ceili Band was back on the tenth floor for the Tuesday night ceili, then we took the lifts or walked down the stairs to the lower ballroom to enjoy Irene and Tom, Dermot Hegarty and Seamus and P J.
At Mickey Kelly's last set dance workshop of the festival we danced the lovely Fermanagh Set. The sun shone down on us for the talent competition as hundreds gathered for the afternoon of fun. The winner was a popular choice - Joe Kelly from Co Sligo for his superb singing.
The tenth floor was abuzz with set dancers for the final ceili of the festival with Forty Shillings Ceili Band. There was ceili dancing first with Clement Gallagher then Frank Keenan took over as MC for the sets. The night concluded with a party atmosphere when Una and Brian Moore, my Dublin friends, sang a song each and I told a few yarns.
While we danced upstairs the fancy dress parade took place in the lower ballroom. The effort and joy of the participants was admirable. No effort was spared to make this a fun event. The winner was Evelyn Graham from Co Antrim. She was dressed as Bertie Bassett, the Liquorice Allsorts mascot - what a fun idea!
We all gathered ourselves to the lower ballroom for the grand finale with Pat Jordan and the Enjoy Travel Band, T R Dallas and Tony Stevens Band. As I bade goodbye to friends who were leaving on early flights I was delighted that everyone was loud in his and her praise of the festival.
It is always a sad and lonely time to bid farewell to friends, performers, dancers and musicians, but it's heartening to know that, God willing, we will be back again next year in Albufiera for another brilliant festival.
Joan Pollard Carew
Pure peace of mindFor all sorts of ailments there are potions and cures,
Advertised in the papers and sometimes the news.
But for pure peace of mind and tranquillity of soul,
Irish music and set dancing can achieve that goal.
At Fleadh Portugal that tranquillity was once again back,
Down in the Algarve we had mighty crack.
Hotel Montechora was our base -
Luxury and entertainment in the one place.
The food was delicious, tasty and nice,
Plenty to eat and lots of choice.
On arrival the first night the Glenside Band treated us to the first show.
Their music was superb and made the dancers go.
They played for the Connemara Set, the Newport, the Plain and Corofin,
The Stack of Barley, Shoe the Donkey and a few waltzes thrown in.
Friday was the official opening day.
Gerry Flynn welcomed us and wished us an enjoyable stay.
Now to list all the events would fill many a page.
There was entertainment and something for every age.
Set dancing, country and western and ceili too,Classes and workshops for those not too sure what to do.
Mickey Kelly and Timmy Woulfe would teach and call.
The tuition was professional and enjoyed by all.
There were musicians and singers and bands of the best.
To single out one would be unfair to the rest.
There were sessions in the lounge, sessions among the trees.
The music was rousing and addictive to the ears.
Mass on the dance floor was celebrated every day,
Father Fred making sure that from our religion we did not stray.
On Sunday it was offered up in the open air.It was a wonderful experience, and there were hundreds there.
There were also excursions and cruises,
A pilgrimage to Fatima too.
That was a four-hour journey either way.
It was very spiritual and we had an uplifting day.
As regards the weather we could not complain,
Brilliant sunshine, little rain.
I don't think I have much more to say,
Only finish this poem and get out of the way.
We had a mighty week of craic and fun.
Thanks to Gerry Flynn for our fleadh in the sun.
When I arrived in Manchester Airport at 2.30pm on Friday 27th October for the Sean Dempsey Set Dance Festival, I was greeted by Barbara Aherne, the festival secretary. From the moment she met me it was evident that this weekend was going to be a fantastic experience. With two other guests, Mary Murphy and Julie Corrigan from Dublin, we set out for our hotel. All three of us were invited to dinner at the Irish Centre in Cheetham Hill at 6.30pm. A group who travelled from Clonoulty and Thurles, Co Tipperary, by coach and ferry had their dinner in the adjoining dining hall.
After dinner as Johnny Reidy set up to play, Barbara Aherne played a tape recording of music for the Monaghan Set with the voice of Sean Dempsey calling the set. Many dancers who knew Sean had a few nostalgic moments. We continued with Johnny Reidy playing for the Connemara and the Cashel. Coleman Murtagh then welcomed everyone to the festival and thanked all the sponsors, especially the main sponsor, Enjoy Travel.
It was my honour to be invited to open the festival. I was privileged to have known Sean Dempsey. The last time I met him was over nine years ago when a group of town councillors, set dancers and community members from Thurles visited Bollington, the twin town of Thurles, for an exchange. At that time Sean and a group of his dancers joined us in the Irish Centre for a mega ceili. As I was then chairperson of the Thurles Set Dancing Club, Sean spoke to me and made plans to bring a group of Tipperary and Manchester dancers together. Alas he fell ill and his dream was not realised. It was with pride and sadness that I looked down the hall and saw so many Tipperary dancers present. I could almost hear Sean saying, "Good on you, girl, and thanks."
The ceili continued with the exuberant music of Johnny Reidy matched only by the brilliant dancers who had gathered to honour Sean Dempsey and his festival.
Saturday was a day of competitions at the Longfield Suite, Prestwick, beginning at 10.30am. Five Counties Ceili Band and local Manchester musicians provided the music. The first contest was the ladies intermediate set dancing competition, for teams of eight ladies dancing at a level between novices and advanced. Standards were very high and the three adjudicators, Julie Corrigan, Shane Hallahan and Monnie Hallahan, had a difficult task. The winner was the St Patrick's team. The mixed intermediate competition followed for teams of four gents and four ladies with the dancers from Patrickswell, Co Limerick, winning first place.
For the eight-hand ceili competition we watched a brilliant High-Cauled Cap danced by Carrickcruppen, Co Armagh, who won the competition. The four-hand ceili competition, Cuchuallain from Co Down won first place, and another of their teams also won second. The energy of the dancers and organisers amazed me. No one thought to break for lunch; the proceedings continued right through. The over-forties competition was next, won by Carrickdown, Co Armagh. It was a joy to watch these dancers with beautiful costumes and all foot perfect. The next competition was a treat as we watched sean nós dancers strutting their stuff. The winner was Mark Brown from Co Cork.
The ladies open, the top set dancing competition for eight ladies, was next on the agenda - the Atha Caoire team from Dunmanway, Co Cork, won first prize. The most exciting competition of the festival was the mixed open, which is for expert dancers in sets of four gents and four ladies. The standard of dancing seemed to have gone up a notch or two if that was possible. The young Co Clare dancers, Diabhlaíocht na Hóige, were the winners, dancing the Plain Set like I never saw it danced before. The young dancers are Ronan Frawley, Emma Healy, Patrick Dillon, Mairéad Considine, Gerard Lineen, Mary B McMahon, Adrian McCarthy and Niamh Bourke. Their trainer Catriona Burke was both proud and delighted. All eight of them won the top prize of a week's holiday to Fleadh Ibiza 2007.
After the competitions and dinner we were driven back to the Longfield Suite for the ceili. Five Counties went on stage first and we danced the Connemara, the Plain and the High Cauled Cap. Then Johnny Reidy took over and we danced the Clare Orange and Green, Cashel, Corofin and Plain to finish the night.
Sunday morning saw us back in the Longfield Suite for the junior competitions at 11.30am, with several wins each for teams from Abbeyknockmoy, Co Galway, and Drimoleague, Co Cork.
Sunday night we were back in the Irish World Heritage Centre in Cheetham Hill. With the Five Counties followed by Johnny Reidy on stage we had a fitting close to the weekend and the festival. We even danced a West Kerry Set. The variety of sets danced was very satisfying and we had numerous ceili dances interspersed between them. Barbara Aherne has a lovely voice for calling, and Jim Doyle, Mick McAllister and Michael Loughnane also helped us through the dances. With all these experts guiding us we were comfortable even with the less familiar sets.
Most dancers including myself headed home on Monday but I spoke to Barbara on Tuesday and she told me that they had a brilliant party night on Monday night. Enjoy Travel sponsored supper in the Irish Centre for everyone. The music, song, dance and lilting went on until the small hours. Sean Dempsey's son Brendan played a few tunes on the banjo. Next year I will remain and be part of this finale. The warmth, welcome and camaraderie of these wonderful people is a well deserved and true tribute to Sean Dempsey.
Joan Pollard Carew
November saw the return of Johnny Cronin to New York. He was a regular on the ceili scene here in the eighties and nineties before returning home to Kerry with his family a few years ago. Johnny visits regularly since then.
Members of the Kerrymen's Association in New York are part of the HOPe (Helping Other People) Project that runs a monthly ceili with profits going to the charity. HOPe has helped many villages in South America. The money raised goes towards installing running water and electricity and teaching the people basic skills.
HOPe always schedules Johnny when organizing their ceilis to ensure that he will play when visiting New York, just like he has done for the past few years. Many people came to hear the great Johnny Cronin and relive the eighties and nineties. His laid-back style of playing is very appealing and no wonder the Kerry Hall was full to capacity on the night of Friday November 3rd. Johnny was joined by Brendan Dolan on keyboard, John Reynolds on fiddle and his wife, Margie on flute. John and Margie are also the members of the Pride of Moyvane Ceili Band that is one of the newer bands in New York. The music was absolutely brilliant and thrilled every dancer in the hall. A night of reminiscence for many people, and just as important, HOPe made some money for those people that are a lot less fortunate than ourselves.
Before Johnny returned home there was another chance to hear him play at the Wednesday night session in Dunne's Pub, White Plains, New York, a more intimate setting than the ceili a few nights before. It was a night of music and song led by Brian Conway, with other local guests including Martin Mulhaire and Gabriel O'Donoughue.
Fergal O'Halloran, Bronx, New York
Jiving made for an unusual start to the fourth annual set dancing weekend in the Listowel Arms Hotel, Listowel, Co Kerry, 20-22 October 2006. Many ceili bands will follow a couple of rounds of waltzes with a few jives, so they've become traditional at many ceilis around Ireland. I've always admired the skill and vigour shown by good jivers, but never managed to grasp the technique myself - there were no workshops!
That changed when Seamus Melvin from Mayo, with the help of a few of his friends, conducted a jiving workshop on Friday evening in Listowel, the first one I've ever had the pleasure of attending. Many others were keen to learn and perhaps a hundred or more soon filled the hotel ballroom for lessons. My partner was also an inexperienced jiver, and I thought we were following Seamus's instruction well, but the highly experienced couple beside us clearly didn't think so. We swapped partners and my new lady gave me a very thorough workout. I was concentrating so much on the arm movements that I tended to forget about my feet, but this partner wouldn't let me forget anything. I was struggling to keep the arms and feet going at once and I ended up using muscle and brain cells that hadn't previously been reached by set dancing!
For a bit of a diversion, Seamus taught us a dance he called the Spanish Jive, which was like a two-hand dance and good simple fun. Toward the end of the session he demonstrated and explained his most impressive double jive performed with two ladies at once. Seamus spun the ladies under his arms, swapped them from one hand to the other and spun himself around as well for a delightful finish to an enjoyable workshop.
The Davey Ceili Band arrived to set up their equipment just as the jive workshop ended. Everyone was herded out of the hall until all was ready and then we queued to get back in. Right from the first set there appeared to be an enormous crowd on the spacious, gleaming floor, all radiating the joy of dancing and great music. Lorna Davey and Brian Fitzgerald were playing box and banjo tonight. For many years they played for all the band's ceilis, but since their marriage in July they haven't been playing regularly. Hearing them again was like meeting old friends again after a long absence. The music was completely familiar, but with an extra spark of excitement because we hadn't heard their versions of the tunes for such a long time. They played a selection of Clare Sets, but fortunately there was nearly equal time for Cork and Kerry polka sets, with a Sliabh Luachra, Ballyvourney Jig and my beloved Borlin Polka.
Toward the end of the ceili there was a chance to make good use of the experience gained in this evening's workshop. A jiving competition was announced, everyone was invited to dance, the band began playing and hundreds of dancers participated. Seamus Melvin and his colleagues wandered the floor and studied all the dancers. When the music was over, Seamus went over to the couple he chose as the top jivers, Marie Walsh from Castleisland, Co Kerry, and Senan O'Brien from Cooraclare, Co Clare, who received two trophies and an enormous round of applause.
Pat Murphy provided a couple of unusual sets at his workshop on Saturday morning. The Cúchulainn Set was first popularised in Ibiza by Frank Keenan and is getting more notice back at home in Ireland. Pat taught the special step for the third figure and mentioned that there was an optional jump at the end of it. "A nice crispy little jump," he advised, and warned us to "land on your own feet." In the last figure the men were told to think of Saint Brigid - the special hold used to lead around looked like St Brigid's Cross. We continued with the Sliabh Fraoch Set, from Rockchapel, Co Cork, which Frank Keenan introduced this year in Ibiza. It's a lovely, lively Sliabh Luachra-style of polka set, with only one complicated bit. There's a part when the tops and sides appear to go wandering their own ways, but they're actually lining up on one side and then the other. When Pat had tops and sides practice separately it was hard to see the logic in it, but it all started to make sense when everyone danced together. The workshop was scheduled for 10am, too early for many at last night's ceili to resume dancing, but after a couple of hours there were enough dancers to fill sixteen sets.
An extra ceili is squeezed into the weekend's programme every year and judging by the huge turnout on Saturday afternoon, it's a perfect time for it. Of course, folks will turn up at any time of day or night to dance to Johnny Reidy. His music has the power to cause spontaneous cheers of joy, leaps into the air and enormous smiles on every face. One lady told me she was laughing so much that she was making herself sick! The strongest reaction to the music came when the band played jigs for a figure of the Clare Lancers - almost the entire room erupted in a simultaneous shout! Johnny just smiled and resumed with reels. I danced a vigorous Connemara Set with a few overly excited people in the far corner of the ballroom. Between the figures we bent over in a tight circle and formed a huddle for a quick review. "We're doin' great!" was the verdict, which gave us new inspiration for more craziness in the next figure. By the end of the ceili around fifty sets had been going at high speed for three hours, with the result that the floor had lost some of its shine - the varnish had been neatly stripped away in spots, and there was a haze of dust everywhere.
So many dancers came to Listowel that the hotel was full, as was the rest of the accommodation in town. Even on the first year of the weekend I had to travel ten miles up the road to Tarbert for accommodation as I left it to the last minute, and now I enjoy staying there every year. A group of 26 travelled from Sligo to stay in the hotel, including one elderly fellow who had never before spent a night away from home! He was having a great time, I was pleased to see.
The pre-ceili session on Saturday night was held in the hotel dining room rather than the cosy lounge with an open fire as in previous years. This allowed a larger crowd to listen in and the patch of timber floor in the centre was put to good use with the few sets that were danced. More dancers were camped out in the bar and on the comfy chairs in the hotel foyer. Long before the ballroom doors were open there was a queue that stretched to the street. Some people were keen to get in early to grab seats, as there weren't enough for everyone.
There was more superb music that night from the Abbey Ceili Band, who caused us to further sand down the floor, make the ballroom as hot as a sauna and have one hell of a good time! I danced the first set, the Caledonian, with a lady who normally never danced the lady. She kept apologising to me about it but I enjoyed myself and encouraged her to dance with men more often. The floor was crowded enough that I occasionally had to curtail my doubles, or at least do them with a slight reduction in exuberance. Thankfully I had adequate space for the Ballyvourney at least. Just before the last set there was a pause and everyone was asked to clear a space for a demonstration. Out came a buck set of young fellows in outrageous fancy dress - Santa Claus, Stan Laurel and Michael Jackson among them - who did figures from the Connemara and Lancers to roars from the crowd. As a special treat in celebration of her birthday, Gráinne Walsh from Limerick was encouraged out to identify the mystery dancers; a couple of them were too well disguised for her but the rest she managed to name. By special request John O'Connell from Cork danced a solo jig in his own flamboyant style, and then we concluded the fantastic night with the Lancers.
There wasn't much time to rest between the end of the ceili just before 2am and the 10am Sunday morning two-hand dance workshop with Pat Murphy. I'd rather dance than sleep so I showed up on time, as did a few others, and more kept arriving as the morning wore on. Two-hand dances are good for late arrivals; they're shorter than sets so the new arrivals can join in anytime. Pat taught a few new dances - the Boston Two-Step, Ruby Waltz, Flirtation Two-Step and Killarney Waltz - which he learned from a Scottish dancing DVD. There were a few new twists and turns in them, and we also danced the more familiar Veleta Waltz, Military Two-Step, Mississippi Dip and Edie Bradley's Millennium Hornpipe.
After lunch in the hotel carvery there was time to relax a bit and chat in the foyer with others waiting for the ballroom doors to open for the afternoon ceili. Another magnificent queue developed out the door and I waited in my comfy seat for what seemed like an eternity until the line shortened. (The queue was for people paying to enter the ceili; those with weekend tickets could go straight in.) This ceili with Matt Cunningham was our last chance to share the beautiful Listowel experience together so everyone was in elevated spirits. Matt met our expectations and supplied unforgettable music and dancing to match. Halfway through the ceili, Mary Philpott, MC for the ceilis and one of the weekend's organisers, asked everyone to spread out and clear the floor for another dancing demonstration. This time the performer was her own son Alan, ten years of age, who did a brush dance together with his uncle (Mary's brother and co-organiser) Michael. The two finished in a swing which swept young Alan off his feet. Aidan Vaughan was seated in the drummer's seat behind Matt for the afternoon, but was tempted onto the floor to do his classic sean nós dance routine to huge acclaim by all. After a few more sets the dancing finished with the same set we started with on Friday, the Connemara.
This was the biggest Listowel weekend yet, with close to fifty sets at the ceilis. Dancers were attracted from nearly everywhere folks like to dance sets. I always find it makes a great weekend even better when large numbers of young people join in the fun, and there were plenty of them here. But the marvellous dancing in Listowel made us all feel like youngsters for three days.
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—2012, (Index).
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