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).
A bus full of musicians and dancers left Kilfenora, Co Clare, last October for a weekend away in Co Waterford. On board was Maura Lydon who wrote and sent photos afterward to let us know how it went.
Our weekend away in Tramore was absolutely brilliant. We left Kilfenora at 4pm, picked up in Ennistymon and Ennis and continued on to Bansha, Co Tipperary, where we stopped for a meal and a session, which lasted 3½ hours. Then we travelled on to Tramore and all 56 of us stayed in the Majestic Hotel where we partied on till the early hours.
After breakfast we assembled again and Willie, our bus driver, took those who wanted to go into Waterford City shopping and the rest went to the Thatch Bar for a session. Shoppers were picked up again at 5.30pm and taken back to the hotel to get ready for 7.30 Mass. We were picked up again after Mass and taken back to our hotel. We then got ready for dinner, after which we had another session of music and dancing which went on to the small hours.
Next morning we all assembled after breakfast for a group photograph. We left Tramore at 12 noon and continued on our merry way back to Bansha where we had a beautiful meal and another session of music and dancing. We left there and needless to say the craic on the bus back to Kilfenora was mighty. We arrived at Vaughan's at 9pm where we were greeted with tea and sandwiches and a lovely fire. The partying continued with another session of music and dancing until 11.30pm. The whole weekend was organised to a "T" by Joe Rynne and he deserves great credit.
Looking forward to the next one.
Maura Lydon, Rosscahill, Co Galway
There was a man from Blessington
His name was Johnny Mac
A very fine box player
I'm certain sure of that.
He also taught set dancing
And many years ago
Travelled over to Kilcullen
To teach a set or two.
Says he, "I can't come every week
Since I haven't got the time".
There and then we all agreed
Sure, now it's up to Brian.
Brian Keyes lived on Hillside
Dolores Duffy in Logstown
Nancy Fitz lived in Moanbane Park
Carmel Redmond Nicholastown.
Mary Foley, Bishop Rogan Park
Billy Horan, Brannockstown
Margaret Talbot from Yellow Bog
Anne Corrigan, Abbeyaun.
Marie Kelly, Betty Horan
Maureen Dennis, Ballysax
Betty Corrigan from the Curragh
All came along in order to relax.
Paddy Hanlon came from Newbridge
Syl Bell from Narraghmore
All of them supported us
As we learned more and more.
Michael McCarthy came from Kerry
And Therese was often late
Evelyn came from Ballymore
And Pat Hayde hailed from Naas.
The starting was quite easy
Just nice and slow
And all of us progressed
With some help from Siobhán and Joe.
Our teachers, only the best
Though we put them to the test.
After Johnny Mac and Joe
We carried on to Connie
The one and only supremo.
Billy Redmond was some dancer
Tho some would say a chancer
His reel steps only spectacular
And his high gates only awesome.
Mickey Kelly came from Newport
Pat Murphy from County Tipp
Not forgetting Pádraig and Róisín
Or the famous Mick Melett.
First it was the polkas
Then it was the slides
Next it was the hornpipes
We took all in our stride.
The Connemara, Corofin
Ballyvourney, Jennie Ling
The Cashel only wonderful
And the Plain just the thing.
Workshops down in Achill
Kilmore Quay and Malahide
Then it was Ibiza
Sure we travelled far and wide.
Eamonn Bolger with his music
Sometimes we used CDs
The Carousel only brilliant
As also Heather Breeze.
Esker Riada were a treasure
The Davies not too bad
The Glenside only fabulous
And the Fodhla only fab.
Johnny Reidy played very fast
Sure he thought he was in Kerry
Sean Norman played great stuff
And lived in Edenderry.
Now Copperplate were also great
As also was the Abbey
Maureen Keogh lived down the road
In a place they called New Abbey.
The Annaly arrived of late
They came from Longford Town
Micheál Sexton came from Munster
Matt Cunningham, Galway Town.
Brian Ború were very good
When MCd by Anne O'Donnell
Or indeed our own MC
Maureen from Dunlavin.
Anne Allen came from Killenard
And passed through Monasterevin
Her steps were only exquisite
And her doubling only heaven.
Not forgetting Carmel Gleeson
From the county of Mayo
Each time she danced the Claddagh
Her cheeks were all aglow.
Johnny Cox lived in Pairc MhuireIn
the town of Droichead Nua
And anytime he turned out
The West Kerry was definitely out.
Now Kay's a smashing dancer
I'm sure you'll all agree
If only she'd stop talking
We could all enjoy our tea.
Billy Redmond, Kilcullen, Co Kildare
Sean nós dancer Emma O'Sullivan triumphed over four other acts to win a place as a finalist in RTÉ's All Ireland Talent Show competition. On a programme which was broadcast in January, Emma partnered with box player Johnny O'Halloran from Inishbofin to dance a jig and reel in her flowing, relaxed and spirited style, perfectly matched by Johnny's vigorous playing on a mini-melodeon. In common with other TV talent competitions, Emma was rated after the performance by celebrity judges. Viewers of the show then had to opportunity to vote for their choice and Emma was the favourite with the public, and won the first round in the competition.
From Renvyle, Connemara, Co Galway, Emma started set dancing as a child and has been dancing sean nós for four years. Last November she won the All-Ireland sean nós dancing title at the Oireachtas in Letterkenny, Co Donegal, the annual Irish-language festival and competition. She teaches regular classes in Galway and Mayo, and also organises an annual weekend of music and dance at Renvyle House Hotel, where her father works as an award-winning chef. The next weekend there is from April 16th to 18th, with an opening workshop by Emma on Friday evening.
Entrants in the All Ireland Talent Show compete on behalf of their region. Emma represented Connaught on the show, beating non-traditional acts from the other three provinces and from Dublin. The winners of last year's talent show were the young Mulkerrin brothers from the Aran Islands, who were also sean nós dancers, so this type of act is clearly popular with the public. Emma will perform again for the finals of the programme in February or March in hope of winning the competition and a prize of €50,000. She relies on votes from the public to win, so don't miss it the final shows and be sure to give her your vote.
On the entry form for the drawing, participants were asked to provide the names of their three favourite sets. Readers clearly have an interest in a wide range of sets—24 in total were mentioned. The top favourite was, as could be expected, the Plain Set, but there's a surprise in second place, the Moycullen Set, a recent arrival but clearly very popular. Coming third was the Ballyvourney Jig Set, and in joint fourth place were the Antrim Square, Cashel and Connemara sets. Overall, the results reveal a healthy balance between reel sets, polka sets and new sets!
Excelling as a fiddler and as a dancer, Kathleen Collins has had a strong influence in both areas. Born and raised in New York City in 1940, she was exposed to traditional music and dance from an early age thanks to the dedication of her parents, both from Co Cork. At Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann in 1966 she achieved fame as the first American to win the senior fiddle championship. She also won several other notable competitions.
In 1973 she made an influential recording called Traditional Music of Ireland, where her mastery of the instrument was plain for all to hear. On that disk she delights in marvellously intricate tunes played in natural, warm, rich tones, backed by beautifully minimal piano accompaniment.
Those awaiting a second recording by Kathleen needed great patience, for it's only late last year that My Book of Songs made its appearance. The title might suggest that she sings on the CD, but indeed the only singing comes from her fiddle, the mastery unchanged after 36 years. However, she does recite W B Yeats' poem, The Fiddler of Dooney—in 1967 she won the fiddle competition at the festival of the same name. One track even features the sound of Kathleen's step dancing. She is an accomplished step and ceili dancer who won numerous competitions in the late 1950s and is a fully accredited teacher. Today in the New York area she is best known for her set dancing classes and ceilis.
Both of Kathleen's recordings are available in shops and on the Internet from Amazon, iTunes and other websites.
While no one misses cassette tapes with the more convenient forms of recorded music available today, some very good music gets lost when it doesn't get updated to the new formats. There are many cassettes of excellent set dancing music rarely heard now, such as the series of six tapes made by the Pipers' Club. However, one classic tape from the mid-nineties has recently made it onto CD, P J Hernon's Buail Cois Air. It has a five sets, Aran, Connemara, Mazurka, Plain and South Galway, all played with P J's vigorous box or heavenly melodeon and restrained piano accompaniment. The Connemara Set is a real prize treat, played at breakneck speed in the authentic Connemara melodeon style, complete with dancers stepping it out. Ask for it in your local trad music shop, search for it on Google or find it on the producer's website, www.tradireland.ie. Let's hope they get around to P J's second set dancing cassette soon!
Over the years Heather Breeze Ceili Band have released three recordings of music for set and two-hand dancing. Now the band's leader and box player, Pat Friel, has come up with a solo CD called Lios A Phuca, a follow-up to his 1985 cassette (released on CD in 2003) The Humours of Westport. In addition to the bouncy jigs, luscious reels and delightful hornpipes, Pat reveals another side of his music by singing five songs. Keyboard accompaniment on all tracks is by his daughter Sandra. Get your copy from Pat—contact Heather Breeze.
Box player Timmy O'Connor is one of the true gems of Sliabh Luachra music, playing gorgeous slides and polkas in the relaxed, old-fashioned style heard nowhere else in Ireland. Timmy is a regular at the Willie Clancy Summer School, where he provided music for Larry Lynch's classes. The rest of the year plays in sessions near his home in Newmarket, Co Cork. He has played with a group on cassettes and a CD produced by Larry Lynch, but it was only last December that Timmy released his own recording, As It Was in Toureendarby. This is a solo CD in the truest sense of the word—no other musician joins him leaving listeners to concentrate on the pure beauty of the playing. Timmy recorded the tunes in his own home, and when listening to it, you'll think Timmy was there with you! Polka lovers take note—out of sixteen tracks, only two are reels. Residents of Sliabh Luachra can find the CD in local shops; it is also available from Jack Roche.
Many moons ago Manchester loomed large on my horizon, on several fronts, but two in particular. As teacher in Athea National School, Co Limerick, I witnessed the annual spring exodus of pupils who were a year or two out of primary school and heading off to Manchester or wherever their siblings were based. It was spring because job prospects were much better with the improvement in the weather and the vast majority wound up in outdoor manual labour.
These teenagers were invariably well looked after by the Irish diaspora, with many using their skills to develop the opportunities they wouldn't have had at home, with the result that many thrived over the years, carving out a quite affluent lifestyle for themselves.
Wearing another hat, being immersed in the local GAA club, I bewailed the loss of these budding footballing stars, in the full knowledge that the club would languish in the lower regions of the county scene. And so it was; the fifties were famine years as far as participation, never mind winning championships, was concerned.
Much of that has sprung to mind since I started attending the Sean Dempsey festival a few years back. Sean was one of those icons whose vision and commitment galvanised his community, with others no doubt, to perpetuate its identity in all its facets. Irishness survived a sometimes global bias, its resilience culminating in the esteem it has nowadays.
This year the organising committee of the festival broke new ground. Rather than spread the dancing competitions over two days, as heretofore, it was decided to compress all twenty into the Saturday, October 24. This is due to fewer entries in 2008 than previous years, understandable enough in the economic circumstance prevailing. But then there was an upsurge of entries again this year, which created its own problems, but which was handled easily by organiser Colman Murtagh and his team.
The events take place in two well-separated venues, the Irish World Heritage Centre, Cheetham Hill, and the Longfield Suite, Prestwich. Friday night's ceili was unavoidably late starting. The band's flight was delayed, but when the Copperplate took the stage they more than compensated, their rousing music keeping the full house on their toes, as they did all weekend.
Competitions started at ten on Saturday morning, an ideal time for those whose feet groaned a little from the usual first night's enthusiasm. Watching a full day's competition normally mightn't be everybody's cup of tea, but not so this time! Clockwork organisation—for which thanks to competitors and organisers alike—ensured that dull moments were few and far between.
The first competition (under 8s) consisted of two sets from Cappamore (Limerick), whose performances evoked a storm of applause all round. Incredibly, one of them was just three years old, and others didn't look much older! Full credit to their teacher, Pauline Hynan—her dancers won the first three underage competitions. She has been one of the staunchest supporters for many years now.
Progress continued apace up through the age groups, with skill levels constantly on the rise and intense battles among the Elphin (Roscommon), North Kerry and Cappamore contingents, with each in turn taking the honours as they were merited. Particularly pleasing was the wide variety of sets on offer, including the Cavan Reel, Roscommon Lancers, Caledonian, Plain, Sliabh gCua and Dublin sets.
Among all the sets, probably the outstanding performances were those of Holly's Angels (Kerry) and a diminutive Elphin dancer whose name escaped me. As for the Manchester quartet who played for all the dancers, they would rank side by side with some of the major ceili bands on the circuit.
In terms of context, our Irish expatriates have a more holistic appreciation of their culture than us at home. Language, folklore, etc, figure strongly in their environment. Obviously, the Sean Dempsey weekend is restricted by the time factor in the amount of exposure that can be given. In dancing, there is strong emphasis on sean nós and brush dancing; obviously, these are included in the programme of events and they aroused the greatest enthusiasm of the day among performers and spectators alike.
With often half a dozen on stage together and the skills and athleticism required, it is clear that there is a firm foundation for the future, indeed a spreading desire from all sides to get involved, especially among the youth! It seems invidious to pinpoint anyone in particular, but Wayne Owen and Cillian O'Flynn would grace any stage, at any level.
It would be remiss of me not to comment, in an armchair fashion, on the ceili dancing competitions. They are, undoubtedly, for the fittest; indeed my armchair appreciation couldn't identify one that wasn't out of the top drawer. A special reference to the four-hand dances on view; we saw some wonderful ones that I had never seen, or even heard of—not even in Ar Rincidhe Foirne! Somebody out there should arrange to have them published for general participation!
The senior set competitions, the blue riband of the day, produced some stirring contests, with formidable teams from defending champions Atha Caoire (Cork), Carrickruppin (Armagh), Kilcoo (Down) and Murty Browne's (Clare). The latter All-Ireland Fleadh Cheoil champions carried off another crown with their performance of the Plain Set to bring the day's competition to a successful close.
It was back to the same venue, the Longfield Suite, for Saturday's ceili. The Copperplate were in full flight, and with a lovely dancing floor you'd have to enjoy the night. Full credit to the organising committee for their efforts to vary the dancing programme of each ceili. There is always a generous sprinking of ceili dance, such as the High-Cauled Cap or the Sixteen-Hand Reel and they are wont to call up some from the audience to call sets of their choice.
Along with Colman himself and Barbara Aherne, we also had Peter Davis and Charlie Kiely, among others, who called such as the Paris, Ballyvourney Reel, the Auban Jenny Ling and others, such as the Moycullen, Antrim Square and Claddagh which are more common. A pleasant departure from the "five Cs" which had bedevilled most ceilis for more adventurous dancers—who are fast becoming an endangered species.
Each night we had a brief demonstration of Donegal two-handed dances by the irrepressible Connie McKelvey (featured in the last Set Dancing News), which we all then danced enthusiastically—another pleasant touch! I have to say that the Copperplate have the most rollicking slides and polkas in their repertoire—some acknowledgement from one reared on a diet of same.
Another neat touch: the committee decided on a Sunday workshop with Pat Murphy. Ten o'clock was getting earlier and earlier, despite the clock going back an hour—for some anyhow! As usual, on Sunday morning dancers found it hard to reach the venue on time, but all seven or eight sets eventually settled in. Pat had the uncanny knack of keeping your attention, sometimes by varying the speed or music, always by promoting a relaxed atmosphere, and by getting through a great volume of work.
The Inis Oírr Set went smoothly, to be followed by the very pleasant Aherlow Set, from Tipperary. We even got in the first figure of the Boyne Set, which seemed to be the topical one of the day, before lunch. In mid-afternoon there was a strong counter-attraction in the next door lounge—Manchester United and Liverpool were on TV!—and it blackened the mood with some when Liverpool scored the winner. Mind you, it was like a wake next door! The workshop moved effortlessly through the Tory Island Lancers and, finally the Down Lancers, a prodigious day's work by any standard.
There were a few concerns about the night's ceili. People must be leg-weary, and after all, hundreds had gone home by now. Ten minutes before the time it looked as if concerns were about to be realised. But it was like Mass time in Ireland—the last minute rush filled up the floor and we had the biggest crowd of the weekend! Maybe it was the sense of relief but, in my book anyhow, it was the best ceili of the weekend with everybody seemingly revitalised, maybe helped by a couple of hours rest.
Connie McKelvey again guided us through some two-hands and Sheila Gormley partnered by Pat Quinn performed a clap dance which required much synchronisation. Kelly-Ann Maguire, granddaughter of Sean Dempsey, multi-talented and not yet eighteen, excelled in an exhibition of sean nós. I met an ex-pupil Tom after a half century, thankfully one of those who had made the grade materially and otherwise. Doubtful if affluence would have come to the many like him for whom emigration was the only option in the impoverished fifties.
Monday morning came too quickly as the bus took us to the airport and home to reality. Genuine satisfaction that the Sean Dempsey weekend, despite its myriad tribulations, is alive and well and well up for its 23rd festival. Sean would be pleased that the torch had been picked up by a determined committee who are prepared to do whatever it takes to perpetuate its unique heritage.
Long may they succeed!
Timmy Woulfe, Athea, Co Limerick
Another "Setsmad" Revival Weekend gone in a flurry of sets, 25-27 September in Basingstoke, Hampshire, England. This time round 28 different ones were danced, with an emphasis on, but not confined to, Galway dances. We were well-supported by dancers from the four corners of Britain, with Breffni O'Brien driving his dancers from Manchester in a minibus for the weekend. There were dancers from Devon, East Anglia and the south coast, as well as London, and they all thoroughly enjoyed the beautiful Hampshire countryside and glorious September weather, a feature of last year's weekend as well. I wonder if we can do the same next year?
The weekend started on the Friday night in the Carnival Hall in Basingstoke, with music by the London-based McNamara Ceili Band, who played fantastically well for an enthusiastic audience. Band leader Karen Ryan and friends were surprised with the number of dancers who turned out to experience them playing their first ceili outside of London. Karen is musical director of the Return to Camden Festival, and must no doubt be very busy at this time of year, so we were thrilled that the band was able to find time to play for us.
The Saturday and Sunday workshops were led by Tony Ryan, who also attended the ceilis and danced his socks off for the entire weekend! Saturday and Sunday events were in the picturesque village of Old Basing, and dancers enjoyed breaks outside under the trees in the warmth of the autumn sun. Tony was partnered throughout the workshops by Maureen Henry from Reading, Berkshire, one of the regular dancers in the Basingstoke class, and her graceful demeanour and beautiful footwork was a highlight of the classes, much admired by all. Live music from Geoff Robinson on accordion at the workshops on Saturday added to the atmosphere of being among true friends and enthusiasts of music and dance, with plenty of banter.
On Saturday evening and Sunday afternoon, we had the pleasure of dancing to the Davey Ceili Band. The music was precise, at a tempo most suitable for dancing, and full of lift and verve. What more could dancers ask for? George Hook from Birmingham was on hand as ever to attend to any technical concerns, but due to his diligence and almost imperceptible presence, we were treated to perfect sound throughout the weekend. Guest callers were Margaret Morrin from London, and Maggie Daniel from Devon, each calling in a precise and clear manner the sets that were less well-known.
All too soon, the weekend was over, and people departed, tired but smiling with plenty to talk about, and the promise from us of another weekend of dancing the more unusual sets in September next year. Their interest in dancing has been reignited, the sets less-danced have been reconsidered, and technicalities discussed and pondered over. There's always plenty of food for thought at these weekends.
Carol Gannon and Kevin Monaghan
The Montechoro Hotel in Albufiera once more housed Enjoy Travel's Fleadh Portugal from October 8th to 22nd. All 1500 guests had an unforgettable festival. The list of entertainers and dancing tutors ensured that all musical and dancing needs were met. We had the crème de la crème of set dancing, sean nós, music and ballroom dancing teachers.
The festival was in full swing from Thursday night, October 8th, with ceili and social dancing. I arrived on Saturday night and could hardly wait to unpack and get in to the swing of things. As I arrived on the hotel's tenth floor, the ceili was full steam ahead. Mickey Kelly was MC and the Annaly Ceili Band was keeping the dancers' feet tapping to their superb music. I hopped onto the floor for my first set of the festival—the Connemara Set never excited me like this before.
All too soon the ceili finished and I ran down the ten flights of stairs to catch some of Mick Mackey's session. I felt tired from all the travelling but I was hesitant to go to bed—after all I had missed the first two days already. I chatted with friends until 2am. It was wonderful to reunite with dancers and musicians sipping drinks and coffee and sharing happenings in our lives since we last met.
Sunday morning got off to a lazy start with Mass at noon, held in the air conditioned main ballroom as the weather was 30 degrees. At one o'clock Bronagh and Leeann Murphy conducted our workshop by the pool. These two energetic and beautiful young teachers are an inspiration to all dancers. They cater for beginners and those with advanced dancing skills. The set they selected was the Borlin Jenny Reel. Ten sets danced in the shade of the canopy. At the same time Mick Mackey and the session musicians had a wild session in the bushes in front of the hotel, setting a precedent for the whole festival.
After some social dancing music our afternoon ceili got underway at 3.30pm. Shaded by a canopy, Brian Ború Ceili Band gave us delightful music and MC Bronagh Murphy kept us all organised. I was delighted to see Mairéad Hughes playing the drums, and boy can she drum! With Joseph on accordion and Teresa on the banjo, the Hughes family are truly gifted.
The tenth floor was buzzing at 9pm for the ceili with Michéal Sexton and Pat Walsh. We had another night of terrific dancing. The ballroom tonight hosted the Whiskey River Band and Johnny Carroll, the poolside bar was thronged for the session and the Blue Room was stuffed with patrons when P J Murrihy took the stage with Michéal Sexton. I was told that the revelling spilled out to the foyer until dawn. Small wonder when the two popular Co Clare artists have unending talent and energy.
Monday got off to a good start at 11am with our set dancing workshop conducted by Frank and Bobbie Keenan. We danced the Tory Island Lancers. It was years since I had danced it and I was thrilled to see it getting an airing. I love the hug swings.
At 3.30pm Michéal Sexton and Pat Walsh took the stage and Frank Keenan was MC for our afternoon ceili. We danced in the sweltering heat—nothing deters set dancers and we are a tough lot. It was great to dance the Tory Island Lancers and most dancers had fun with it—especially the ones who had not attended the morning workshop.
Back on the specially constructed wooden floor on the tenth story we had another magic ceili with the Annaly. Bronagh Murphy did a superb job as MC. Her calling was clear and precise and her variety of sets a treat.
Back by the pool on Tuesday morning Mickey Kelly gave a workshop on the East Mayo Set, and a selection of two-hand dances including the Back-to-Back Hornpipe and Waltz Country Dance. The Slosh was the final dance of the workshop.
Our outdoor social dancing was a nice change of tempo. Today we had the guest appearance of two artists from Co Armagh who had been coming as customers to the Fleadh Portugal for a few years. Hughie Turner played keyboard and Pat McKenna guitar and vocals. It was obvious that these two lads had stage experience. They had almost everyone up dancing.
Michéal Sexton and Pat Walsh took the stage by the pool for the afternoon ceili. I counted fifteen sets all happily dancing under the canopy. Included in our selection of sets was the East Mayo from the morning workshop. Mickey Kelly kept all the dancers foot-perfect as MC.
Brian Ború was back on stage on the tenth floor for our ceili; Frank Keenan was MC. We danced a super selection of sets including the West Kerry and Williamstown.
Wednesday morning had come all too soon—it was the final day for those on one week's holiday. The pool area filled quickly today for the workshop with Frank Keenan; we danced the South Galway Set. Then Bronagh and Leeann Murphy took over and gave a sean nós workshop—dancers were enthralled by the girls' enthusiasm and energy. They gave instruction in clear, precise language and then demonstrated each step.
The talent show took place by the pool at 4pm, hosted by Pat Jordan and Chris Dallat. As usual the standard was very high and most entertaining, with dancing, music and storytelling. The fancy dress and T-shirt parade followed. The turnout was phenomenal; effort and colour gladdened the eye and soul. The talent show was won by Catherine Tully and Sean Duggan from Co Longford. They danced as a pair, Catherine step dancing and Sean did his sean nós. Sean is well known all over Ireland for his sean nós demonstrations. The Golden Goose was the theme of the fancy dress winner and after helping to unwrap him I discovered that it was none other than Tony Kearney from Sussex, England.
The Annaly Ceili Band gave set dancers a delightful night's dancing on the tenth floor. We also had a demonstration from talent show winners Sean and Catherine. Bronagh and Leeann Murphy also gave us an exuberant display followed by John Joe Geraghty.
The ballroom tonight was exciting with the final of the waltzing competition. Heats had been running since Monday. I arrived as the final got underway. It was a delight to watch the style of dancing and the glamorous clothing of the participants. The winners were popular couple Ronan Kelly and Elizabeth Fallon from Co Roscommon. Ronan is no stranger to this competition as he has scooped second and third prizes over the years.
The Brose Walsh band from Co Mayo, P J Murrihy and Micheál Sexton, and Mary O'Brien kept the atmosphere alight until Johnny Carroll brought the evening to a golden crescendo.
I sought a small space in the pool bar to enjoy Mick Mackey's session. As I arrived Dermot Hegarty was singing You'll Never Walk Alone, and what a wonderful rendition it was. This song tears at my heart and I always have to hide a tear.
Today was changeover day as 300 holidaymakers returned home and 320 arrived at various times during the day. After Mass, our workshop by the pool today saw Bronagh and Leeann Murphy back at the helm. We danced one of my favourite sets, the lovely Co Waterford Ballyduff Set. The girls did a super job and concluded with sean nós steps.
P J Murrihy and Micheál Sexton gave us social dancing by the pool until 3.30pm. P J sang Coming Back To Miltown and dedicated it to the late Michael Sexton (father of Micheál). P J commented that the only time he remembers Michael singing was to join in with him in the chorus of this song when he played in the Bannerman band some years ago. Brian Ború was back by the pool for our afternoon ceili. Bronagh was our MC and, yes, we danced the Ballyduff.
The tenth floor tonight hosted Ceili Time for their first appearance in Fleadh Portugal. Of course Enda McGlone has featured as the accordion player with Copperplate over the years, but his brother Seamus was making his debut. This twosome is superb. Their music and tunes have a wonderful lift and one could dance all night and not get tired. We had a superb night, as we got to dance the Ballyduff Set once more and the lovely Mazurka.
By Friday morning the second week was well underway. Mickey Kelly gave the workshop and did the Antrim Square Set by popular demand. His intention was to give the set a quick run-through, but he discovered that there were a large number of beginners amongst the ten sets who had gathered. Mickey patiently went through the set and gave one-to-one tuition where needed. He concluded with the Sweetheart Waltz and the Waltz Country Dance.
Bronagh and Leeann Murphy then took over and gave yet another wonderful sean nós workshop. The two girls took the trouble to write the notes for the steps by hand and get them photocopied for their pupils. Well done girls, you are real gems and ambassadors of dancing. This was their final sean nós class and new arrivals were disappointed that the Murphy girls were going home.
Our ceili tonight was full of expectation as we were having the music of Triouge. This young band is a recent discovery of Enjoy Travel, and their tunes, pace and timing are tremendous. The three young accomplished musicians are Martin O'Connell on accordion from Brosna, Co Kerry, M J McMahon on guitar from Newmarket, Co Clare, and Niamh Furlong on flute from Monasterevin, Co Kildare. I met Martin in Blackpool when he accompanied Pat Walsh during the weekend festival there in September. We will be seeing and hearing more of this young band around the country at ceilis.
Saturday morning dawned; we had our workshop by the pool with Frank and Bobbie Keenan and danced the Tory Island Lancers Set. Numbers at the classes remained strong as we had ten to twelve sets at every class. It was marvellous to see some new set dancers, including Geraldine Allison who is the resident nurse with Enjoy Travel. She is a natural dancer and fast learner, always smiling and has time for everyone. She dotes on her elegant mother Nora and brings her on all the events.
Ceili Time was back on the tenth floor for our ceili at 9pm and a good night's dancing to the sweet tunes of Enda and Seamus. They have been playing together for many years and decided to include set dancing music in their repertoire. Watch out for their appearances all over Ireland.
Sunday morning Mass was once more held indoors; the sun and heat were too much for some to sit outside. At 1.30pm Mickey Kelly gave a lovely two-hand dance class, then at 2.30 Ceili Time played for ceili, country and old-time. It was a delight to dance the Fairy Reel, Sixteen-Hand Reel and Eight-Hand Reel. We danced the High-Cauled Cap, barn dances, a few waltzes and a quickstep. Enda and Seamus showed us their unending talent.
Triouge were in full flight for the night ceili. Tonight the music and dancing brought us half way to heaven. Brose Walsh and Michael and Philomena stole some of our set dancers for a while for social dancing. Then they arrived up to the tenth floor and regretted being missing when they heard the superb music. We had a full house for the remainder of the ceili.
Monday dawned bright and clear with the sun nice and hot. We had our workshop by the pool with Frank and Bobbie Keenan and danced the first three figures of the Williamstown Set. They spent time giving one-to-one tuition with beginners and everyone was comfortable with the class.
At 2.30 Ceili Time was back by the pool for more ceili, country and old-time. Our ceili tonight saw Danny Webster on stage. Another night of hectic dancing and wonderful music kept us bobbing until 12am.
Tuesday morning arrived with clouds in the sky and a forecast of rain. We danced the first half of our workshop by the pool. Mickey Kelly taught the Moycullen Set. Halfway through the rain spilled on us. We retreated to the tenth floor to conclude the class. Mickey finished with a few two-hand dances including the Charleston and Boston Two-Step.
We had an added bonus of an afternoon ceili on the tenth floor with Danny Webster in his usual fine form. We had a superb afternoon dancing sets, two-hand dances and a special brush dance. The foyer hosted the session musicians as the inclement weather prohibited them playing in the bushes today. The main ballroom had Michael and Philomena on stage. All dancers were catered for despite the rain proving that nothing can dampen your spirit unless you let it. Ceili Time was back on stage for our night ceili.
Wednesday morning we had a good break in the weather and our workshop again by the pool. Frank Keenan danced the Caledonian Set to the joy of the many beginners who had joined us. We had a good class and broke for lunch just as the clouds gathered and rain threatened. Indoors in the ballroom Ceili Time took the stage for another mixed ceili.
The second half of the afternoon was set aside for this week's talent show and fancy dress and T-shirt display, hosted by Mick Mackey and the session musicians. I was glad not to be a judge of the talent as standard was great and variety brilliant, especially the juggling by Myles Russ. The winner was John Aspel singing the song Auctioneer. The fancy dress was won by Paddy Meeney and Sheila Devoy as Bishop Casey and Anna Murphy.
Our ceili tonight saw Danny Webster on stage. This was my final ceili of this festival—my plane ticket told me I had to depart early on Thursday morning.
I went down to the ballroom for the final of the waltzing competition. Like last week the standard and style were a dream to watch. The winning couple was John Meehan, Co Leitrim, and Mary Brady, Co Fermanagh.
I just stuck my head into the pool bar to wave goodbye to the session musicians. I stole up the stairs to pack for my early flight. Another fleadh had come to an end for me and I had a superb time. On this trip the only difficulty I had was trying to be everywhere and making choices between ceili, social dancing and the wild sessions every night.
Next year's dates are already set, 7th to 21st October—get booking if you feel like enjoying two weeks of all the traditional Irish culture of music and dancing in wonderful sunshine and luxurious surroundings.
Joan Pollard Carew
From Sunday 15th to Tuesday 17th November Paul Claffey held his first Ceili, Set Dancing and Country Break. Hundreds revelled to some of the best known and loved bands in Ireland. The venue was the Hodson Bay Hotel in the centre of Ireland, conveniently located just ninety minutes from Dublin, Galway and Shannon and just ten minutes up the road from Athlone town. It has a well-earned reputation as one of Ireland's leading conference centres.
Paul is a director of Mid West Radio (MWR) who presents his own light entertainment programme every day and has been involved in entertainment all his life. He has been organising holidays for over seventeen years, bringing thousands of holidaymakers to destinations such as Spain, Portugal, the Caribbean, South Africa, Cyprus, Thailand, Nashville and numerous trips in Ireland.
The festival began at 4.30pm on Sunday evening. The hotel's Clonmacnoise Suite began to fill as the fabulous music of the Sean Norman Ceili Band got our feet tapping. We danced on for a solid two hours. Sean was in fine form and gave us his lovely nyah and diddly-i-di, or gob music as my late father referred to it. Not too many musicians can play the accordion and dole out gob music as well! Mildred Beirne was our MC and caller for the event, no stranger to set dancers as she runs ceilis and teaches classes in Roscommon and Mayo and broadcasts a ceili diary every Sunday night on MWR.
Our second ceili of the day began at 8pm. The mighty Matt Cunningham Ceili Band from Galway played music to die for until 9.30pm. Then we had one of the newest ceili bands to hit the set dancing scene, the Innisfree Ceili Band. Ten young men and one young lady filled the stage. Even before the music started we had a visual treat. It was wonderful to see all these young musicians presented so well. Without much delay the dancing resumed. Their music is unbelievable—I thought I had died and gone to heaven! This band had a drummer, three fiddle players, four flutes, a button accordion, a piano accordion and a piano. There was tremendous interaction, almost an electric current that sparked between them and the dancers on the floor. I spoke with band leader Oisín MacDiarmada who told me that the musicians were from counties Sligo, Leitrim, Roscommon and Laois. This is a band to watch out for in the future. Small wonder that they won the All-Ireland senior ceili band competition in 2009 at Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann. They are justifiability proud to be the first ceili band from north Connaught to scoop this prestigious award.
At 11.30pm our country and western dancing got underway. We had father and son duo Martin and Michael Roughneen, better known as the Irish Knights, from Balla near Claremorris, Co Mayo. Michael is the vocalist and also plays the keyboard, while his father Martin plays piano accordion. The selection and variety were marvellous. Waltzes, quicksteps and jiving wiled away the night, with some slow waltzes and foxtrots to allow us to cool down. This band plays gigs up and down the country, has travelled on numerous European tours with Paul Claffey, and has shared stages with Daniel O'Donnell and Brendan Grace.
We had Swallow's Tail Ceili Band for our first ceili on Monday at 2pm. The boys played out of their skin and gave us a brilliant selection of tunes as we danced a line-up of the usual sets. At 4pm we had a change of band. The mighty Annaly from Co Longford gave us magical music and we danced right up to 6pm.
Our gala dinner was served in the Clonmacnoise Suite. We had a delightful five course meal. The food and service were superb; the atmosphere and craic were mighty. It was like a big family wedding. Stuffed to the gills, we resumed dancing at 9pm. This time we had another Co Longford band on stage, the wonderful Glenside Ceili Band. Brothers Tom and Aidan Flood were joined by Anne Adlum on keyboard. The floor was packed with dancers from the minute the music started and we danced set after set. The Connemara Set was usually the last set of each ceili and Mildred got everyone to make a big circle for the last figure, Maggie in the Woods. It really brought extra fun to every ceili. Set dancing finished at 11.20pm.
The Irish Knights then took the stage to play for social dancing. The event took on a party atmosphere as Paul Claffey went on stage and sang Pretty Brown Eyes, one of the late Joe Dolan's classics. Later in the night Elsie McTighe from Castlebar, Co Mayo, sang Lay the Trousers on the Ground, a skit on Lay the Blanket on the Ground. We danced on until 1am and the boys played a mighty Siege of Ennis to finish their performance and close the festival.
Everyone who attended was loud in their praise of the festival, the location and the beautiful hotel. Country and western dancers and ceili dancers mingled and shared the ballroom, which brings a homely feeling and inclusiveness to events like this. Paul Claffey thanked everyone for their support, all the ceili bands and the Irish Knights, the hotel and staff, and also his own staff and said a special thanks to Mildred Beirne for her input to the festival and her handling of the ceilis. It was run with meticulous attention to detail.
Joan Pollard Carew
Located in Crowcombe, Somerset, in the Quantock Hills, Halsway Manor's first impression takes you back in time. The drive up the long narrow high-hedged lane hardly prepared us for the building and the wonderful Irish set dance weekend Eoin (my husband) and I would encounter. Halsway Manor is England's National Centre for Traditional Music, Dance and Song. It is the only residential folk centre in the UK. Halsway provides an extensive range of residential folk music courses including dance, music tuition and singing.
Arriving a bit early on the Friday, October 30th, we were greeted by Anthea Deane, the chief executive officer of the Halsway Manor Society, who invited us into the lounge bar area where she disappeared momentarily only to reappear with a pot of tea and basket of biscuits (or cookies, as I like to call them). Registration was easy and we headed to our room to unpack.
Venturing downstairs to have a look around the Manor, our hosts, Ken Lamport and Sarah Loweth, were there welcoming all the arrivals. We were very pleased to see them again. They had come to the Easter set dance weekend in Halifax, Nova Scotia, this year and it was their invitation and brochure that prompted our trip to Halsway. The conversation was lively in the barrel-vaulted hall and adjoining bar lounge and you could tell that everyone was there for the same reason—the love of the dance! The first open floor dancing began in the Long Hall at 5pm with Ken teaching the Kildownet Half-Set. After a break, we were served dinner in the Long Hall and then the clean-up happened quickly for the ceili beginning at 8pm.
The band Pendragon provided music that would not keep your feet still. Maggie Daniel, the main caller, was assisted throughout the evening by Ken, Val Knight and Lucy Taylor, who all took turns calling the dances. The evening started with the Antrim Square Set followed by the Sliabh Luachra, Claddagh, Derradda, Ardgroom, Corofin Plain and finishing the night with the Ballyvourney Jig. On the floor for most of the evening were seven sets and with always a set or two on the sidelines. During the halftime break, Paddy Haydon on box played waltzes.
People headed for the bar for some refreshment and to find a good seat for the after-ceili session. The impromptu session for both Friday and Saturday nights (with a portable dance floor provided by Ken) included performances by Val Knight (singing) and Jonathan Pearman (banjo), Jim (singing, box, guitar, bodhrán) and Sue Crick (clogging), Jill Elliot (fiddle and clogging) and Gaynot Targett (clogging), Russell Gellman and David Goodwin (French tunes for the dancers), Dick Gurney (singing and box), Paddy Haydon (singing and box), Bruce Johnston Lowe (whistle, tea chest bass, bodhrán), Ken Lamport (tea chest and Appalachian step)—my apologies to anyone's name I may have missed. You were all totally awesome!
Saturday morning came early but the substantial breakfast made it all worthwhile getting up. The workshops on Saturday included the Moycullen, Melleray Lancers, Boyne and Ballyduff taught by Maggie Daniel. There was a break for lunch after the first two sets. The set dance workshops resumed at 3.15pm, and you could do some sightseeing or take bodhrán or dance steps workshops. Pacing ourselves, we decided to take a drive to Minehead since it was such a lovely day. That was followed by a side-trip through Crowcombe to Nether Stowey to see the views from the Quantock Hills. It has made us decide we need to plan a trip back to Somerset to allow us more time for sightseeing.
Returning to Halsway, we discovered Ken providing instruction during the "Up-Beat" workshop on a dance he referred to as Timewarp. Now that was a fun mixture of dance moves that he'll have to explain!
Supper was another delicious meal that began early to allow everyone time to change into fancy dress for the ceili. Eoin and I did not participate using the excuse that since we were travelling from Canada it just didn't seem practical to bring extra luggage.
As the dancers began to arrive for the Saturday night ceili, I was amazed at the costumes and effort that everyone had put into the fancy dress. And the most delightful part was that everyone could dance in them without hindrance. Pendragon even participated. The room was well-decorated with lights for the Halloween theme with at least one animated cat. Now the tough part came when Ken asked Eoin and me to name four winners—we wanted to give everyone a prize but unfortunately there were only four bottles of wine! The best in show was the Phantom of the Opera and his wife. And to add a small note, I did not see participation by any of the ghosts that are said to inhabit Halsway Manor.
Dances for the evening were the Moycullen, Labasheeda, Cashel, Melleray Lancers, Timewarp, Plain Set, finishing with the West Kerry, seven sets dancing on the floor for most of it. Again the music was fabulous and made it impossible to sit still—you wanted to be up and dancing.
Moving into the bar for the session, we were treated to a larger dance surface (Ken's full portable floor) and an odd dark curtained area at the back of the room. As everyone gathered and found places to sit, we were told that puppets often played a part of the entertainment at Halsway Manor. From the doorway leading to the Kennedy-Grant Library, Val Knight and Jonathan Pearman each appeared with a skeleton puppet and they performed to Shaking All Over which got a rousing response from the audience. The stage was cleared away and the session began with lots of music, singing and dancing. Again, the mixture of various styles was delightful. Eoin was blown away by Val's rendition of A Song for Ireland. He is still talking about it!
Sadly Sunday morning came and after another hardy breakfast, we ventured to Halsway Manor's Kennedy-Grant Library of Folklore, Customs, Traditional Music, Dance and Song. The reference material and ambience made you want to stay there and be completely immersed in the material, but that too will have to wait for another visit and more time! In the meantime, we will watch the website (www.halswaymanor.co.uk) for all the interesting events that are held there and hope to be back again to another Irish set dance weekend.
As our itinerary included a number of other commitments, we had to leave Halsway prior to lunch so missed the dancing on Sunday afternoon but I hear from quite a few sources that the ceili was excellent and included the following sets: Newport, Kilfenora, Connemara, Naas, Borlin and Clare Lancers (which I am sorry to have missed as it is one of my favourites).
We were so warmly welcomed by everyone. This weekend will be one that we will always remember for the venue and hospitality. Thanks again to our hosts Ken and Sarah and all the wonderful people we met and got re-acquainted with!
Anne Duffy, Halifax, Nova Scotia
The next set dancing weekend at Halsway Manor is 22-24 October, subject to confirmation.
It wouldn't be much of an exaggeration, if any, to say that Ireland probably has more festivals per capita than anywhere else. Only the ones featuring set dancing which I happen to hear about are included in Set Dancing News, but that's just the tip of the iceberg. There are hundreds more, perhaps thousands, over the course of a year. Every village has at least one, and this is multiplied many times over in the towns and cities.
This came to mind when I visited the village of Doonbeg, Co Clare, on the weekend of October 23-25 for their annual traditional music and dance festival, the Willie Keane Memorial Weekend. Its organiser Margaret Dillon explained to me that Doonbeg is a village of festivals, with ones devoted to jazz, families, boating and golf, and even two well-known amateur drama festivals.
Drama is a pastime with a strong tradition in Ireland. In many places it thrives during the forty days of Lent, when people deny themselves some of the pleasures of life, such as dancing, which leaves them time to devote to rehearsals and performances. There are an estimated 500 amateur drama companies in Ireland, some of which compete in the many festivals around the country.
The West Clare Drama Festival has taken place every March in Doonbeg since 1962, and in November there's also a festival of one-act plays. These are staged in Halla an Phobail, the fine community hall which was also where most of the dancing took place during the Willie Keane weekend. In the entrance hall are a collection of remarkable black and white portrait phot0s of Doonbeg actors who staged a performance of John B Keane's The Field in 1967 to much success. The actor who played Bull McCabe in that production was Willie Keane himself—his striking picture jumped out at me each time I passed it during the weekend.
Willie became famous for his Clare style battering as a member of the prize-winning Mullagh Set. He appeared on national television, gave demonstrations around the country and taught at the Willie Clancy Summer School. His steps have not been matched since then. He was a familiar figure when I first began dancing in Clare in the mid-nineties. One of the most memorable sets I ever danced was on an August Thursday night in Vaughan's Barn, Kilfenora, Co Clare, when I was dancing first tops with Willie Keane and Connie Ryan dancing sides opposite each other. The power and rhythm of their dancing lifted me around the house with them and penetrated deep into my heart. Willie died in December 1998 in a traffic accident at the door of his house after a seniors' party in the village; he was 71.
Willie's legacy has been remembered annually since 2000 at the festival on the October bank holiday weekend. This year, most of the activity was concentrated in four of the village's pubs, each of which held sessions on the opening Friday night, October 23rd. One of them specialised in trad singing while Igoe's Bar was popular with set dancers. People were enjoying themselves as late as 5am!
Mary Murrihy, wife of country singer P J and local dance teacher, ran a workshop on Saturday morning and afternoon to teach sets, jive and quickstep. I'm reasonably confident at one of those three, and Mary's help with the other two was most welcome. Her method of teaching jive was unique, effective and very physical—she latched onto my arms and moved them for me! I could feel exactly how I needed to move them myself, though once she left me on my own I reverted back to my usual awkwardness. For further practice at home on my own, Mary suggested I invest in a pair of stretchy tights to simulate the tension provided by a real pair of arms. She was equally effective at my other weak point, the quickstep, and for the first time I felt comfortable enough to experience the fun of it.
Mary taught the Connemara and Kilfenora sets for the benefit of the beginners in the workshop. We were a couple short of a set for the Connemara, which was no problem for Mary and her partner as they danced both tops and sides. This approach didn't work for the final Maggie figure so a couple of girls passing through were drafted in to fill the set. Fortunately we had exactly eight for the Kilfenora Set. Despite the small numbers it was an enjoyable workshop, and the morning and afternoon tea breaks were especially welcome.
Suzanne Leahy also taught an afternoon sean nós dancing workshop with twenty participants in the adjacent National School. By the time I arrived for a visit it had just ended, though everyone was smiling, sweaty and full of praise for Suzanne.
Kids had their own two-hour ceili on Saturday evening led by local teacher Geraldine Greene, who taught a rapid succession of ceili and two-hand dances. The children were eager to try them all out, and a few of the experienced youngsters demonstrated brush dances and a few figures of the Plain Set.
The Glenside Ceili Band made their first appearance in Doonbeg on Saturday night, and those dancing to them for the first time enjoyed it as much as veterans like myself who have heard them dozens of times. They knew the Clare passion for the Caledonian Set, so we danced it twice, though we ventured beyond the county borders for the Connemara, Cashel and Ballyvourney Jig sets. A large well-dressed group escaped from a wedding reception to join us. They liked what they saw but didn't know the sets well enough to get up to dance, so the band played waltzes, jives and a Siege of Ennis for them. Experienced dancers also partnered most of them for the Connemara Set. After the tea break Aidan Vaughan performed his rapid-fire sean nós dance routine; in my imagination I saw Willie Keane battering it out with him.
This was the tenth Willie Keane weekend, but only my first time attending, so I was grateful for an early afternoon presentation by Geraldine Greene on Willie and the festival's previous years illustrated with videos and many snapshots. On the walls of the hall were many colourful drawings by local schoolchildren celebrating the weekend, my favourite of which showed Willie lifting his leg high over an upright brush. I was fascinated to see him doing this for real in one of Geraldine's photos.
An afternoon of sets, waltzes and quicksteps with one-man-band Larry McEvoy attracted just a handful of dancers at the scheduled 3pm start, and we sat happily chatting while waiting for more dancers to arrive. After an hour's wait there was still no quorum and Larry started to dismantle his sound system, but I asked him first to pose for a photo. He sat down, took up the accordion, smiled for a picture and then started to play, and we dragged out eight volunteers for the Plain Set. It was a bright, sunny afternoon and Larry's music brightened it even further. He was just going to do one figure, but couldn't stop himself so we danced it all but the jig. It was one of the highlights of the weekend!
Later Sunday evening I ventured over to Igoe's Bar where Andrew McNamara and Jim Corry were playing to a capacity crowd. When Andrew called a Plain Set, two sets squeezed onto the floor and had a mighty time. I'm sure there were more sets during and even after tonight's ceili in the hall.
Brian Ború Ceili Band may be based in Dublin, but they think of themselves as Clare musicians. Joe Hughes on box and his sister Teresa on banjo are almost always accompanied at ceilis by their dad Paddy, who comes from Kilmihil, just ten miles away. They were joined for tonight's ceili by Brendan and Louise Vaughan who play for the Four Courts Ceili Band.
Whenever the sets were slow to fill, Mary Murrihy helped out by finding someone to partner that last person with his or her hand in the air. Tonight some were so reluctant to dance that Mary suspected they might have thought she was trying partner them for life, rather than just for the Caledonian Set. The festival finished up with another batch of Clare Sets, plus that popular Australian import, the Antrim Square Set.
A contingent of Dublin and Wicklow dancers, most with Clare connections, enjoyed the craic in Doonbeg and come here every year. Others came from Sligo, Waterford and even Bristol, England. Several of the visitors said that they prefer the smaller, local weekends of dancing, and found this to be one of the best for its mix of sessions, ceilis and workshops.
Just a few lines to inform you and your readers of our wonderful weekend trip to Killybegs, Co Donegal, 9th-11th October. Our transport was provided by Callinan Coaches from Claregalway and their attention to detail was second to none which made my work very easy. On arrival at the Bay View Hotel in Killybegs we were greeted by very friendly staff who assisted us in making our trip so enjoyable. After a lovely dinner we danced the night away to the Emerald Ceili Band, who were delightful. On Saturday we attended two workshops—sets by the master himself, Pat Murphy, and two-hands under the watchful eye of the elegant Edie Bradley.
After Mass and dinner that evening it was over to the Harbour Bar to the barn dance. Then at the ceili, Matt Cunningham and his band treated us to music of the highest quality. Matt again provided us with the music for Sunday afternoon's ceili before we boarded our bus for our return journey to Galway.
At this stage I would like to pay the highest compliment to the organisers, their committee, the hotel staff and tutors for making this a most enjoyable weekend. A special thanks to Kathleen McGuinness—this weekend would never have happened without her and the friends we made would still be strangers. Next year just cannot come soon enough!
On a personal note the mixing of the workshops in the one venue was a huge success and the unobtrusive calling of all the sets was a joy to behold. Thank you, Kathleen, Edie and Pat.
Gearóid Mulrooney, Oranmore, Co Galway
We just love him hereDear Bill,
Just to let you know we had a great weekend of set dancing here in Killybegs. This was our third and we are already planning our fourth in October 2010. This would not be possible if we hadn't the support of our dear friends from Galway and surrounding areas including Northern Ireland. I would like to thank Henry and Stephen from the Bayview Hotel for all their help and for supplying the great food.
We had the Emerald Ceili Band on Friday night and they played excellent music. Saturday and Sunday Matt Cunningham gave us two great ceilis. A barn dance in the Harbour Bar on Saturday and Sunday had music by the one and only Oliver Brogan, great music and craic. The weekend ended in the Milltown Bar in Inver on the Monday morning.
I can't forget the one and only Pat Murphy from Westport, we just love him here in Killybegs. I would also like to thank Edie Bradley and Marina Callaghan for the two-hand dancing, Clement Gallagher for the ceili dancing, Joe McGuigan from Derry for the Maggie Pickins, and of course we couldn't forget Pat Quinn and Sheila Gormley for the Clap Dance, who are now taking bookings.
I sincerely hope I have left nobody out and I hope to see you all in 2010.
Kathleen McGuinness, Killybegs, Co Donegal
Some simple precautions
I've had seven wonderful weeks in Ireland lately, with lots of great set dancing. My thanks to all the partners and others who gently helped me find my way through the dances.
I especially enjoyed the coming of autumn in Ireland—the cooling temperatures and changing colors. However, along with this season comes the increasing incidence of colds and flu. This is a great time to be especially careful to protect ourselves and others through following some simple precautions. Taking the time to wash our hands after dancing, before going to the tea table, is one. Providing anti-bacterial gels on the table for instant use is another. I worked at a dance camp one summer that experienced an epidemic of a nasty virus. Careful hand-washing helped us to avoid this in subsequent years.
Thanks again for being such a warm and welcoming dance community.
Deborah Denenfeld, Louisville, Kentucky
Elaborate reportingDear Bill,
Thank you very much for the great report and the wonderful pictures of our Augsburg midsummer workshop in the Set Dancing News magazine! We were all very happy about the participation of you and Chris Eichbaum at the weekend and her elaborate reporting. It is a wonderful souvenir of our second workshop and hopefully a good start to our third one. We are going ahead with our planning for this and we hope to see you here again on 18-20 June 2010!
Many thanks again and best regards from Augsburg,
Sabine Surholt, Welden, Germany
Big thank-you to allHi Bill,
Hope you are well. If i am not too late again can I please give a big thank-you to all the dancers who supported the Birmingham Set Dancing weekend last August, to the Copperplate for some lovely music and to Pádraig and Róisín McEneany for the fine workshops. Special thanks as always to Kate Howes, Mary McParland and Linda Reavey for their constant help and support. Hopefully we can do it all again next year.
George Hook, Birmingham, England
Do not be afraid to comeDear Bill,
I am just writing to thank everyone who had any connection with Portugal (first week). It was a most brilliant week of dancing and the weather was superb. It is wonderful to make so many new friends and spend quality time with old friends from England and Ireland.
If there is anyone reading this letter who has never been on holiday with Enjoy Travel, change that immediately. If you are on your own for what ever reason do not be afraid to come along. I guarantee in the first day you will make friends and have the most wonderful time.
Eileen McGuire, Manchester, England
Anyone is welcomed
Hello Mr Bill Lynch,
I was surprised to find my e-mail in Set Dancing News! You wrote that I had arrived at Glenties successfully. However, my journey was not successful actually.
Before visiting Glenties, I was in Barcelona in Spain to see my friend. (We became friends in Ireland when we came to Dublin to attend a summer course in the Applied Language Centre in UCD eight years ago.) On 18 September I had expected to go to Dublin by airplane from Barcelona, but unfortunately I missed the flight which I had to get. One reason was that my friend was still half asleep when she saw me off at the station. Another was that I went to the wrong terminal. When I had arrived at the correct terminal, the staff at the check-in counter for Aer Lingus had already gone.
I was blank for a while, then ran to collect information to reconstruct my journey to Ireland. I decided to fly to Belfast and stayed in Derry that day because the last bus to Co Donegal had left. The next day I went to Letterkenny by bus. It was very impressive for me, living in Japan which consists of islands, that there was no border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. In Letterkenny I waited half a day for the bus to Glenties. Finally, I arrived in Glenties about 6pm on 19 September! It meant I missed the welcome ceili and set dance workshop, but I enjoyed the ceili, two-hand dance workshop and lovely tea time on the 19th and 20th.
On the 21st, I travelled to Galway and met my friends, members of our Irish dance club. We danced in the pub and had great fun. I also visited Co Clare where the name of our club comes from—the Cliffs of Moher, the Burren, Poulnabrone Dolmen. Ah, I passed Kilfenora where you live!
In this way, some parts of my journey were not successful, but in total I had a great experience and a lot of fun. "Dance connects people," I think. What made this journey for me was Irish set dancing. At ceilis and workshops, anyone is welcomed. If this was just sightseeing without set dancing, I wouldn't have talked so much with local people. I think set dance makes my life fantastic.
When our club, Irish Dance Circle Clare, has some news, I'll let you know.
Thank you very much.
Kyoko (Coco) Ichijo, Japan
Many thanks to ye
We would like to take this opportunity of thanking everyone that travelled to our weekend in Listowel and in doing so made it a huge success. To the teachers—especially Mark Bryan on his first ever line dancing workshop which was brilliant, and equally as brilliant were Ger Butler for his set and steps and jiving workshops and Edwina Guckian for her sean nós dancing workshop—many thanks to ye. Also the ceili bands over the weekend went down a treat, and this was made apparent by the resounding responses from the dancers at each ceili and country music evening—many thanks to ye all. To all the dancers who attended our workshops and ceilis, I hope you enjoyed it, experienced a warm welcome and made many friends. We look forward to another Listowel Weekend in 2010! Thanks to Bill Lynch and Chris Eichbaum for their continued support of our events, and it is with anticipation that all dancers await each magazine to catch up on different events around the world—congratulations to ye both on a job well done!
A huge thank-you to everyone again from the "Stepping It Out" Set Dancing Club,
Mary Philpott, Jerry O'Rourke and Michael O'Rourke
"Jazz me now"Bill,
I grew up in an era when house dances were very popular, especially in my own place. My mother was from the Gaeltacht area of Co Meath and was a very good musician. She brought some lovely tunes and stories with her from there. My father was a nice sean nós dancer. He used to dance a half-set. I don't know the name of it, but there was a piece in it that he called "jazz me now." The man would jazz the lady around the house, inside the set, reversing and sliding. This piece gave you a chance to strut your stuff, much to the delight of the man of the house. I asked a few dancers about this but nobody seems to know anything about it. Maybe some of your readers might know about it. He also used to dance while sitting on a chair—this was very common at house dances. The evening would always finish up with the woman of the house singing her favourite song and, of course, a cup of tae and currant cake.
Bill, you can't buy memories.
God bless and keep dancing,
John Ryan, Aughamuckey, Castlecomer, Co Kilkenny
We greatly value your loyaltyDear Bill,
On behalf of the Sean Dempsey Set Dance Club I would like to express our gratitude and appreciation to all the wonderful people who came from far and near to support our festival in Manchester and for making the festival a great success. We were delighted to meet so many of our friends who have been supporting us now for 22 years .We greatly value your loyalty and it was great to make so many new friends. Many beautiful friendships have been forged over the years. Congratulations to all the junior and senior dancers who entered competitions. The dancing was a joy to watch. A huge thanks to our local musicians who played tirelessly for the competitions. Thanks to the adjudicators who worked diligently all day and thanks to Pat Murphy who conducted the workshops in his own inimitable style.
Grateful thanks to the local business people who placed adverts in our programme and to Enjoy Travel who donated two holidays for the grand draw. Thanks a million to our volunteers whose outstanding commitment helps things to run smoothly. Not forgetting the sound men who did a great job. Set dancers have come to expect only the best of the Copperplate Ceili Band and they weren't disappointed. Eamonn, Brian and Ciarán went on stage three nights in a row and transported us all to a set dancing heaven. Thank you, you were sensational.
We sincerely hope you enjoyed the festival and we look forward to seeing you in October 2010.
Josephine Murtagh, Manchester, England
PS Thanks to Lawrence Conaghan for lending his shoes to a man he didn't even know so he could enter the competition. That's the true spirit of set dancing.
Anyone that helpedDear Bill,
I would like to thank everyone who supported the Diamond Set Dancing Weekend in Enniscrone, Co Sligo, all the ticket sellers and anyone that helped in any way see page 16. Also thanks to Enjoy Travel who sponsored two tickets for Fleadh Ibiza 2010. Roll on next year's weekend, November 5-7, 2010.
Thanking ye all,
Oliver Fleming, Cloontia, Bonniconlon, Co Mayo
His beautiful smile
Your presentation of events is brilliant, much easier to find in date order. Thank you for all the work you do for set dancing.
The best photo in the current magazine [October-November 2009] is on the centre spread of Copperplate's new band member. His beautiful smile while sitting beside Eamonn playing his heart out for the dancers says it all, especially when so much money raised goes to helping others in the community. It is amazing how music makes everyone happy.
Keep up the good work,
Margaret Morrin, Cheam, Surrey, England
All the enjoymentDear Bill and staff,
We would like to let you know how much we like the Set Dancing News and look forward to each issue dropping through the letterbox, to look through all the photos and pick the faces of people we recognise from the ceilis we have met them at.
Thanks for all the enjoyment we get from each magazine.
Noel and Josie Forde, Arklow, Co Wicklow
I avoided losing my wayOnly yesterday I saw the improved version of the event listings on the website and I am impressed! That's great! I was annoyed with scrolling through the page every time I wanted to see what was happening around next weekend and now everything is in one place. And the map—wow! I avoided losing my way once again yesterday on my way to Tallaght, owing to that map.
The effort to make that improvement is worth the result. It is really brilliant!
Greetings from Kildare!
Anita Regucka-Kwas'nik, Sallins, Co Kildare
Much easier to checkHi Bill,
Hope you are well. I would just like to say what a great job you have done with your website, much easier to check what's on. Keep up the good work.
Pat O'Sullivan, South Harrow, England
For the love of the danceDearest Bill,
Congratulations on twelve years of your well-planned and informative magazine, Set Dancing News. I remember seeing the thin, original ones in black and white in Kilfenora! How far the magazine has come since those beginning issues! It is wonderful that you not only share "the good times had by all" and give us a social calendar of future events literally all over the world, but reading Set Dancing News is like a travelogue, taking us to distant places we may never be able to see, and all for the love of the dance!
God bless you with many more years of loving service to the set dancing community on this planet.
With a dancing heart,
Gemma Burke Wojciechowski, North Carolina and Florida, formerly of Co Mayo
Here are five more recommended videos to watch on YouTube, the video sharing website (www.youtube.com). Sean nós dancer and teacher Edwina Guckian suggests the first four, and your editor chimes in with one as well.
Rollicking reels by Frankie Gavin, Dermot Byrne, Steve Cooney and Carl Hession from a 2007 DVD called Live. Search for Foxhunter Hollands.
Why The Irish Dance That Way, a competition-winning short film featuring Edwina herself as a 'flirty girl.' Search for it by title, and be sure to read through all the comments to see Edwina's strong defence of the film and traditional dancing.
The Templehouse Ceili Band shows why they were the top ceili band for set dancing way back in the '90s—the music is still irresistible fifteen or so years later. This clip shows the last figure of the Plain Set at a ceili with calling by Tom Quinn from a DVD and VHS tape called Ceili Time in Ireland. Search for the band by name; you'll also find a track of jigs without dancing.
Spirited, elaborate and sensual jiving by the winning couple at a 2008 competition in England. Find it by searching for Hemsby 40 Jive.
Finally, the jiving reminded your editor of this classic video (viewed over a million and a half times) showing two boogie woogie champions at a 2006 Swiss festival. Their dancing is rather like a high-speed form of jive with amazing steps. Search for Dancing the Boogie.
News of the untimely death of P J was received with great sorrow throughout the set dancing community. He passed away to his eternal reward after a short illness on June 2nd. A native of Enniscrone, Co Sligo, P J came to Mullingar, Co Westmeath, as a member of the Garda Síochána. He was deeply involved in the Irish Wheelchair Association, Rehab and our own local Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann branch. He loved set dancing and travelled near and far to ceilis. He won many waltzing competitions.
It was at a ceili in Nenagh in January 2004 that P J met and fell in love with his wife Eilís. P J is survived by his wife Eilís, daughters Colette, Joanne, Catherine and Áine, sons Peter, Mark and Philip, son-in-law Keith and grandson Liam. Our condolences are extended to his wife and family.
Slán agus beannacht, P J, you will be missed.
Patsy Finn, Rathconrath, Co Westmeath
To keep the set dancing tradition alive
And to posterity bequeath,
Attending workshops and ceilis
These requirements meet.
The old and young blend together.
The tradition is passed on from one to the other.
One such event last week in Birmingham I can clearly recall.
Sharon Holian and John organised it all.
As we are based in Bristol it meant a weekend away.
In the Paragon Hotel we were booked to stay.
It was close to the venue,What more could you ask?
Only attend the class and get on with the task.
Sharon and John were on the ball.
They welcomed everybody as they entered the hall.
When the workshop started they made sure
Nobody was ignored and nobody left out.
That's what their workshops are all about.
Under Pat Murphy's tuition
We made good headway
And the Boyne set I had mastered by the end of the day.
Of course that only applies to me;
At this stage many other set dancers had mastered three.
That was not the only set, there were two more.
The Polka Plain and the Limerick Orange and Green were also part of Pat's repertoire.
As regards the revival and calling of old sets,
Pat seems to have an unlimited store.
When I first started set dancing
I thought it was only the Caledonian and no more.
The ceili that night was a lively affair.
Needless to say the first set I danced was the Caledonian, my favourite from Clare.
There were many more sets that night on the dancing menu,
Then the Cashel, the Baile Bhuirne, the Antrim Square, the Newport,
And also the Clare Lancers and some more sets to suit the dancers.
The Ivy Leaf was the band.
They gave it their best,
Putting the stamina of the dancers
To the test.
Their music was lifting, melodious and sweet,
And the floor echoed to the sound of dancing feet.
As regards next morning some of us were a bit tired
And missed the class,
But we compensated for this by attending Mass.
The ceili that afternoon was again in the very same hall
And some of the unusual sets
John Holian did call.
It was just as enjoyable as the night before.
By now some of us were getting tired and the feet getting sore.
Soon it was once again time for home.
And I have almost come to the end of this little poem.
Before I do so this I must say,
Sharon and John you did yourself proud.
Thanks for a brilliant weekend
And what a lively crowd!
Sheamus Garry, Bristol, England
Portugal áris (again) Cad a dearfaidh mé (what will I say) Bhí an craic mighty (the crack was) And the aimsear go breá (weather great) Sitting by the pool Listening to the ceól (music) Dancing the sets Ag ithe agus ag ól (eating and drinking) Meeting all the friends From last year and some new Ag caint agus ag gáire (talking and laughing) Learning lots of tunes too The talent, the fancy dress Amuigh faoin aér (out in the open) Singing and dancing Playing spoons, not a care. But too soon it was thart (over) A week of suaimhneas and peace (tranquillity) All good things must end Till next year Portugal arís
Mary Caldwell, Ennis, Co Clare
Fleadh Ibiza is well known to readers of Set Dancing News, which has covered the festival in these pages since it began in 1998 as Fleadh España. It was the first holiday package to offer set dancing in sun-drenched locations and has grown over the years to attract as many as 2,000 people to the Mediterranean resort island of Ibiza. The package offers ceilis featuring music by top Irish ceili bands; workshops for beginning and experienced set dancers, plus ballroom dancing and music lessons; social dancing to popular Irish country groups; plus talent shows, fancy dress, waltzing competitions and other activities so there's never a dull moment.
Next year's ten-day festival from 22 April to 1 May is a few days shorter than last April and May's fortnight, but this gives most participants an extra three days because the majority stayed only for a week. Better value is promised as well—ten days in 2010 cost the same as a week in 2009. Nearly three quarters of people at Fleadh Ibiza have been on the holiday before, a high rate of repeat business. At press time 1,000 places have already been booked for 2010.
Whenever there's a lot of people having a good time, you can be sure the media will eventually take notice. This year TG4, the Irish language TV channel, is bringing along a film crew to produce a documentary about the festival. The documentary producer, Loretta Gavin, did some research for this by attending Fleadh Portugal in October.
TG4 has been featuring set dancing and other traditional dance more strongly in its recent output, with the recently aired Jig Gigprogramme and forthcoming Glas Vegas to appear next year. If you have what the producer is looking for, you could achieve your fifteen minutes of fame in a starring role in the forthcoming Fleadh Ibiza documentary!
At ceilis with the Johnny Reidy Ceili Band, Eddie Lee from Kenmare, Co Kerry, sits on stage at Johnny's right hand side behind the keyboard. In addition to supplying piano accompaniment, Eddie serves as MC when required and sings for the waltzes and quicksteps. He also plays in his own country band in partnership with Catriona O'Sullivan, froom Scartaglen. They're known as Eddie Lee and Catriona and have recently released a new CD, In Harmony, their second recording full of easy listening country songs. Eddie's mellow voice blends well with Catriona's sweet singing, and all the eighteen songs are well-suited to dancing. Their first CD was called Perfect Match, and Catriona has released two CDs of her own. One of these, Set Music from the Glen, has music for four sets—she plays a mean box in the Kerry style! Contact Eddie or Catriona directly, or get their CDs directly from Eddie at Johnny Reidy's ceilis.
Dancers at the first Ceili, Set Dancing and Country Break in the Hodson Bay Hotel, Athlone, Co Roscommon, see page 24 were mightily impressed by the music of the Innisfree Ceili Band which headlined the event. The 2009 All-Ireland ceili band champions don't often play for set dancers and the occasion was one of the few chances to dance some sets to their music. If you haven't heard the Innisfree, their new CD, Music of North Connacht, will make it clear why they've become a favourite of dancers. Their impeccable timing, beautiful blend of instruments and tight coordination lets the music shine through to perfection. The recording has twelve tracks, each as good as the last. It's available in shops in Ireland, as a download from iTunes and Amazon, and from the band's website, www.innisfreeceiliband.ie.
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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