last updated 24 April 2014
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Set Dancing News

Old news and reviews—Volume 77

Copyright © 2011 Bill Lynch
Contents: There's more to read in the collections of old news and reviews, volumes 11997-1998, 2, 31998-1999, 41999, 51999-2000, 6, 72000, 8, 9, 102001, 112001-2002, 12, 13, 14, 152002, 162002-2003, 17, 18, 192003, 202003-2004, 21, 22, 23, 24, 252004, 262004-2005, 27, 28, 29, 30, 312005, 322005-2006, 33, 34, 35, 36, 372006, 38, 392006-2007, 40, 41, 42, 432007, 442007-2008, 442007-2008, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49, 502008, 512008-2009, 52, 53, 54, 55, 56, 572009, 582009-2010, 59, 60, 61, 62, 63, 64, 652010, 662010–2011, 67, 68, 69, 70, 712011, 722011–2012, 73, 74, 75, 76, 77, 782012, 792012-2013, 80, 81, 82, 832013, 842013-2014 (Index).

Basingstoke madness, episode VI

After mumping and moaning verbally and in print about the lack of variety in céilithe, we had to go to Basingstoke in Hampshire to try Kevin and Carol Monaghan’s SetsMad series of weekends where the promise is “No set repeated.”

As my Mum stays in nearby Dorset we decided to make a duty call there and attend Theresa Seabright’s class in Bournemouth on Thursday evening. We picked a good night to attend with three members having birthdays, so three cakes and three bottles of wine—and some dancing!

Friday took us to Basingstoke where we met old friends at the hotel and had a chat about the events to come. Offers of lifts to the hall were made and accepted and soon Dermot from Manchester and Ane Luise from Denmark were heading with us to Cliddesden Village hall for the first ceili with Ceili Time. We danced nine sets with PowerPoint slides projected onto the end wall with a summary of the upcoming figures. A great idea.

At the hall it was lovely to put faces to some of the names I have read in Set Dancing News. A count was made and there were dancers from England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland (of course), Czech Republic, France, Germany, Belgium, Switzerland and Denmark.

Saturday morning arrived and Pádraig and Róisín McEneany, in their usual bright form, ran us through some steps to warm up, followed by the Borlin Jenny, Cavan Reel, Ballyduff and Kenmare Polka sets, with a delicious organic buffet lunch eaten in bright sunshine on the lawn of the hall.

Saturday’s ceili was a sell-out with a full floor for every one of the eleven—yes, eleven—sets danced. Ceili Time sounded as fresh during the eleventh as they had at the beginning and were a joy to dance to.

Sunday morning opened to dull skies and warnings of seriously bad weather which arrived as we were working the figures of the Tubbercurry Lancers with Pádraig and Róisín. It is a lovely wee set with interesting movements. After the workshop, and during lunch, an informal session started and we were entertained with French dancing, two Czech girls dancing Irish step, some sean nós, clog dancing, singing and playing of harmonicas, fiddle and bodhrán. A great idea as the heavens had opened and no one could go outside.

The afternoon’s final ceili was brought forward due to the weather to give participants more time to catch flights and seven sets were danced. As the final Plain Set was finishing, a team of Morris dancers entered the room and performed as final goodbyes were said and a slow trickle of dancers left the hall to head home.

So, to summarise, 32 sets were danced and only one was repeated, the Ballyduff. This was due to it having been selected by Kevin months ago and Pádraig and Róisín selecting it as a workshop set. It wasn’t a hardship to do it twice.

My thanks go to Kevin and Carol for hosting such a great event, Padraig and Roisin for their workshops, done in their usual firm but humorous manner and to Ceili Time for the best tunes.

Ian McLaren, Paisley, Scotland

For info, the sets done were: Ballyduff, Ballykeale, Ballyvourney Jig, Borlin Jenny, Borlin Polka, Boyne, Cashel, Caragh Lake Jig, Cavan Reel, Claddagh, Clare Lancers, Connemara, Corofin Plain, Fermanagh, Glencree, Kenmare Polka, Kilfenora, Labasheeda, Moycullen, Newmarket Meserts, Newport, Plain, Rosscahill, Skibbereen, Sliabh Luachra, Slip and Slide, South Kerry, Tournafulla, Tubbercurry Lancers, West Kerry and Williamstown.

And a final footnote. My wife Audrey attended this weekend with a little trepidation as she is not a confident dancer. She found absolutely no problem with the unusual sets using our usual technique of going sides and watching. Try it, you’ll love it.

Inishbofin enthusiasm

This year’s second Inishbofin Set Dancing and Traditional Weekend took place from the 28th to the 30th September with an estimated 200 participating visitors and every bed on the island filled. Dancers and musicians travelled from as far away as Moscow to enjoy all that was on the action-packed programme. Indeed it was the man from Moscow that won the adult sean nós dancing competition. Patsy Dan Rodgers, the King of Tory Island, and his wife Kathleen travelled from Tory Island, Donegal.

This weekend aimed to revive and nurture set dancing on the island which it did and more. There were four sets at the workshop taught by Mick Mulkerrin on the Saturday afternoon that ranged in age from ten to seventy. A trail of dance and music sessions took place in five venues around the island throughout the day on both Saturday and Sunday, providing entertainment for all, including day trippers. This year there was a ceili on both Friday and Saturday nights, both well attended by visitors and locals.

The festival helps keep the tradition and enthusiasm for set dancing alive in the community and both visitors and islanders alike are already looking forward to doing it all again next year.

Bernie McNulty, Belleek, Co Fermanagh

Miramas Irish Festival

On Friday evening, this long-awaited Irish festival in Miramas, France, near Marseille and the Mediterranean, 6 and 7 October, started for a privileged few. Jim Monaghan made us work on our reel steps and a little battering, and we were happy because we don’t often have an opportunity to practice.

The Saturday workshop began at 10am. Forty participants (beginners and improvers) worked on the basic reel step, then studied the six figures of the Plain Set, which kept us busy until lunch hour.

At 2.30pm, new participants arrived and Jim took charge of four full sets discovering the Corofin Plain and Cúchullain sets, and the Killyon Set after the snack break.

Meanwhile, a separate class introduced beginners to polka steps, the sevens and some ceili dances—the Walls of Limerick, the Siege of Ennis and the Rakes of Mallow.

Tables were arranged around the dance floor for the evening meal at 7.30pm. We enjoyed a succulent Guinness beef stew with boiled potatoes and a great dessert made by Marie-Claude.

The ceili began with the band Bonaparte’s Retreat, then continued with music by Ceili Day, assisted by Sylviane Pinter as caller. We also had a display of step dancing. Our youngest dancer, age nine, was delighted to participate in several dances, watch the display, and especially dance with adults. She loved the festivities and thanked all the organizers because she had so much fun.

On Sunday, the workshop resumed with the reel step and work on the Cashel and Clare Lancers sets.

The farewell ceili allowed dancers to review the most of the sets seen over the weekend.

Jim was able to share his passion for Irish dancing. With patience and humor, he managed to captivate us for two days. He even performed for us during the dance workshop when we were too tired—equipped with a hat and sunglasses he danced the brush dance.

Jean-Louis Evain, Miramas, France

It happened in Kesh

This year we moved the Eamon McKeaney Set Dancing Weekend, 12–14 October, to the Lough Erne Hotel, Kesh, Co Fermanagh, a homely comfortable hotel in picturesque surroundings on the banks of the Glendarragh River, just a mile downstream from Lough Erne. The hotel has a history to tell as it was a former RIC barracks and the jail windows are still intact from the 1800s. We challenged ourselves to see how well set dancing would go in a location where it is more common to hear the lambeg or a fife and drum band accompanied by marching feet than the uplifting rhythm of a ceili band as they play for dancers who perform intricate sean nós steps or batter it out in the Connemara Set!

Our weekend got off to a flying start with the opening sets ceili on Friday night with the inimitable Innisfree Ceili Band (2008 All-Ireland champions) in top form providing lively, motivating music for a huge crowd of enthusiastic dancers who were kept on their toes and barely given time to regain their breath between sets by the resident weekend caller, Teresa McKeaney.

With such high energy dancing, there was great demand for jugs of water and juice which needed replenishing frequently by the staff. Tea, coffee and biscuits were provided during the break.

Before the last set, the chairman of Shannean Set Dancing Club, Sean Flanagan, outlined the background to holding a set dancing weekend in memory of Eamon McKeaney. Eamon was a founder member of the set dancing club and a talented and versatile set and sean nós dancer and singer. His loss is still felt by his friends in the club where he shared and passed on his talents from 1995 until his untimely demise in 2007. The set dancing class which he commenced in 1995 still continues every Tuesday night with his wife Teresa at the helm.

All too soon the ceili was over but for those who wanted to sing or play a tune the night was only beginning. We made ourselves at home in the resident’s lounge for the first post-ceili session of the weekend. We had lively reels and jigs from Frankie Fox, Finnolla Gallinagh and Joe McGurn, interspersed with amusing stories and recitations from Joe. Anna McManus had us in stitches with her singing and antics of The Fiddler and Why Paddy’s Not at Work Today. Anna really puts her heart and soul into her performances. We decided to call it a night at 5am.

From 11am to 1pm Mairead Casey put us through our paces in the Rinkinstown Set, a new set from County Louth which was getting its first airing at a workshop in Ireland in Kesh! John and Sheila McEvoy along with Mairead Devane composed this set, which has been taught previously in Germany and recently some of us have had the opportunity to dance it at the Carryduff weekend. Mairéad invited some seasoned dancers to form a demonstration set and they made it look so easy. It was a different story when we took the floor—we had ducks going everywhere! By lunchtime some of us were like dead ducks, especially those of us who had decided to keep a Friday night vigil.

After lunch Mairéad conducted a well attended sean nós dance workshop, teaching a range of steps to accommodate people from raw beginners to those who were more advanced. Around 4.15pm Father Seamus Quinn arrived to say Mass—another first in Kesh! We had people of the ‘doubting Thomas’ persuasion who came especially to the Mass because they did not believe it would happen. The Mass was offered for Eamon and Father Seamus made it very personal and meaningful. In our prayer space in the hotel he gave us plenty of time to come down from our frivolity and into the presence of the Lord. The McKeaney sisters led the singing and Teresa did the readings. After the Mass we all agreed that the celebration was very uplifting and we were all spiritually enriched by it.

After a delicious dinner served by pleasant and efficient staff we had another highly enjoyable impromptu singing session—just where we sat in the dining room. As people began to arrive for the night’s ceili they joined us in the dining room while the members of Swallow’s Tail Ceili Band set up in the ballroom in readiness for the ceili. John McHugh gave his usual meticulous attention to sound. The Swallow’s Tail are well known to set dancers the length and breadth of Ireland (and further afield) for their bouncy rhythm, tight playing and sweet sound and the music at Saturday night’s ceili was no exception. It is not possible to sit and listen to this band—you feel you must dance. To say that Maria Lynn and the lads played their hearts out is an understatement! The music for the Connemara Set was out of this world!

A weekend of mighty dancing and craic concluded with a final ceili on Sunday afternoon. This time the dynamic Brian Ború Ceili Band were on stage playing lively music for the surprisingly energetic dancers—after all, some had been dancing since Friday night with very little rest.

Before the final set of the weekend, club chairman Sean thanked all who helped in making the weekend such a success. In return we thank Sean, Teresa and their team for their care, generosity, good humour and friendship—key ingredients for a successful weekend.

Mary Elliott, Enniskillen, Co Fermanagh

Heidelberg 2012

There’s always something new to learn at a workshop, no matter how long you’ve been dancing and I love going to them. There are little tips and wrinkles to assist us in the sets we might be familiar with and then, out of the blue, a brand new set to learn, practise, laugh at, puzzle with and take away to teach others. I’ll never understand why more people in the UK and Ireland don’t attend workshops. The Europeans love to attend, and by so doing, they seem to have a far wider repertoire of dances under their belts, and they are not afraid to step up onto the dance floor to what in other places might be deemed an unfamiliar set. The sets are formed before anyone knows what’s coming next, and if it’s an unfamiliar one, then that adds to the fun. No one minds an odd mistake and we all learn as we go along.

During the fantastic weekend of dancing in Schriesheim, near Heidelberg, 5–7 October, the enthusiastic dancers were introduced to a newly composed set, the Rinkinstown from County Louth, the result of two years’ work by John and Sheila McEvoy and Mairéad Devane. The set had been demonstrated before in Denmark, and originally released during August in Drogheda, so we weren’t the first to experience it, but to everyone present at the weekend, it was a brand new and well-received set. There’s enough in it to ensure we don’t learn it all at once, and it’s complex enough to keep us interested.

John says the set was at least two years in the making, but if anyone has ever attempted to create a new set, they will understand that this is actually quite a short time scale! Imagine working hard on something which was ill-received or which hadn’t been practised enough by real dancers so was unworkable. The instant popularity of this set is testament to the time and effort put in by a great bunch of people who seemed quite modest about their achievements. I for one hope the set catches on and is danced throughout the world!

The set consists of four figures, three reels and a hornpipe, with some moves such as the ducks and the roundabout representing the area in which it was composed, and others reflecting the knowledge and love of set dancing of the composers, which make for a beautifully flowing and gentle set.

After a fantastic Friday night ceili with well paced music from Triskell, Mairéad Casey and the Termonfeckin set dancers demonstrated the new set to a keen audience during the Saturday morning workshop. The entire morning was spent on practising the figures, holds and moves with the verdict that it is a beautiful set which would be taken away and introduced to classes as soon as possible after the weekend. We were all pleased with our progress and thanks to Mairead’s light touch with calling we had to depend on ourselves and others in the set rather than being led, literally, through every move. Working things out for ourselves gives us a great sense of satisfaction, as well as being less tiring for the teacher who has a tough job in guiding a room full of excited dancers through a brand new set.

Such was the popularity of the Rinkinstown it was officially danced three more times over the weekend in the ceilis, as well as a spontaneous outing in the session on Saturday night. Of course, we didn’t always get it right, but we had all learned enough to happily correct our mistakes within our sets and enjoy the learning experience.

So Saturday passed in a warm glow of personal and collective achievement and continued with a session in which musical instruments were swapped between musicians, dancers whirled through waltzes, the Connemara and yes, the Rinkinstown, and songs were sung into the early hours of Sunday morning. Thank goodness that this time there was no morning workshop! Some dancers had breakfast before retiring for a well-earned sleep and waking revived for the Sunday afternoon ceili with blistering music from the Abbey. Robert Foster was absent due to injury and we all wish him well and a speedy recovery to full operating mode!

We had extended our weekend into Monday and we took the opportunity to take a guided stroll in beautiful autumn sunshine through the vineyards close to the hotel and then into the ancient small town of Schriesheim where we purchased wine which had been made from the vines we had seen growing just yards away. This was a fittingly relaxed end to a weekend of new experiences which will stay in our memory for a long time to come.

So, we raise our glasses to the dancers in Germany who organised another wonderful weekend, to those who taught, played and kept us amused, to our fellow dancers who try new things, travel long distances and who are such good company. Here’s to next year.

Carol Gannon

8th Canberra weekend

Canberra awoke to an unexpected fall of spring snow in the region on Friday morning, 12 October, but any chill was quickly melted by the enthusiasm of those set dancers who were able to get to the eighth annual set dancing weekend which began that evening.

A hundred dancers from New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia and the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) enjoyed a weekend of great craic. There was something for everyone, whether a beginner or a more experienced dancer.

The weekend got off to a lively start with a welcome ceili on Friday night at the Cook Neighbourhood Hall, about 12km from Canberra. A local popular band, the Corner House Ceili Band, got people up on the floor with their inspiring music. The Corner House returned on Saturday night for a second ceili that was just as lively and well-attended. The dance program was designed to appeal widely and included a mix of the now firm favourite sets such as the Ballyvourney Jig and the Clare Plain sets, and some not so familiar sets.

The weekend was an opportunity for dancers to share their experience in a variety of ways. The willing and experienced callers for the ceilis came from Melbourne, Newcastle, Sydney, Queanbeyan and Canberra. At the Saturday ceili, dancers had the chance to practice the sets taught at the day’s workshops. And as in past years, dancers were invited to practice their skills at dancing to at least one set uncalled. This year they were the Kilfenora Plain and the Ballyvourney Jig sets.

Workshop participants were fortunate to have the expertise and experience of teachers well-known and respected in the set dancing community: Nora Stewart and Martin Largey of Set Dancing Australia; Margaret and Bill Winnett of the Sydney Irish Ceili Dancers; and Trish McGrath and Alarna Stephenson of the Harp Irish Set Dancers.

Nora and Martin led sessions on steps for sets, teaching reel, jig, polka and hornpipe stepping, and demonstrating options for adding emphasis to steps. They also taught the five figures of the Monaghan Set, giving dancers an opportunity to practice each of the steps covered in class.

Margaret and Bill demonstrated and then taught the Ballykeale and Birr sets. They acknowledged they had learned the Ballykeale Set this summer in Ireland from Pádraig and Róisín McEneany. In fact Nora and Martin had also been to Ireland earlier in the year where all four teachers are well-known in the Irish set dancing scene.

Alarna and Trish taught the Dublin Set, a modern set composed to celebrate the Dublin millennium in 1988. They also led a session on step variations, dividing the class into two to cater to the skill level and interests of dancers. Trish finished up her session by giving dancers a small taste of sean nós to practice at home.

Following the Sunday afternoon farewell ceili, those dancers not having to head for home immediately met at King O’Malley’s pub in Canberra to wind down the weekend with a meal and a chat while taking in a session.

Thanks to all who participated and contributed in so many different capacities, creating the great feel and spirit to the weekend. It was a wonderful opportunity to dance and socialise with friends in the wider Irish set dancing community. It left us wanting more!

Christine Briton

Taking flight in Castleblayney

The third annual Éigse Oriel Weekend took place in the Glencarn Hotel, Castleblayney, Co Monaghan, 19–21 of October, and we are delighted to report that like a good wine it improves with age. Friday night’s opening ceili with music provided by Ceili Time set the mood for the weekend and the duo of Enda and Seamus McGlone pulled out all the stops transporting everyone to set dancing heaven. The atmosphere was magic as we danced a mixture of well known and lesser known sets and two-hand dances including the Cúchulainn Set which we dedicated to Michael and Kathleen McGlynn for their totally unselfish service to set and sean nós dancing and dancers over many decades. Following the ceili many of the dancers continued dancing into the small hours at the country and western dance next door to the music of Declan Nerney. In the time old tradition of set dancing weekends, no night would be complete without the sing song around the piano and this weekend was no exception. Led by Denis Curtin and Bridget from Striolán Ceili Band, we partook in song and recitation until late—or should I say early!

Saturday morning, eager sean nós dancers assembled for Gerard Butler’s class and in his usual fine form he did not disappoint with his huge repertoire of steps and wonderful teaching techniques. Unfortunately Marie Garrity was unable to be with us on Saturday morning as planned, so I brought the two-hand dancers through a variety of dances. By Saturday afternoon Marie had arrived and the two classes came together when Gerard taught the Williamstown Set and Marie taught us a variety of two-hand dances which looked complicated but when broken down by Marie with her very clear instructions were mastered by all.

Following a short rest and first class dinner it was back to the dance floor for some social and two-hand dancing. Music supplied by Martina (a keen set dancer) and her husband Thomas who call themselves Family Affair kept everyone on the floor and in high spirits. In no time at all it was ceili time with Striolán Ceili Band taking to the stage on their first visit to Monaghan. For many it was their first time to hear and dance to the music of Striolán and I can assure you it won’t be their last. They were fantastic from the first note to the last and we danced a wonderful variety of dances without duplicating what we did on Friday.

Sunday afternoon, it was the turn of the amazing Abbey Ceili Band and as usual they did not disappoint. The saying “Red Bull gives you wings” pales into insignificance by comparison. In recognition of Donegal’s fantastic achievement in taking “Sam” home after winning the All-Ireland football championship, Madge O’Grady kindly agreed to call the Donegal Set, and the dancers exhibited skill akin to that of the mighty men from Donegal.

It was indeed a pleasure to welcome back many loyal supporters who come year after year, and to have the company of many friends who travelled long distances for their first taste of Éigse Oriel, not forgetting all the local dancers who support everything we organise.

Marie Curley, Moyles, Monaghan

Belfast gala

After 21 years, the Belfast Set Dancing and Traditional Music Society, now officially called BelfastTrad, is so well established in the city that they held their anniversary celebration in the grandeur of Belfast City Hall in the presence of the Deputy Lord Mayor on October 20th, hosted without charge by Belfast City Council. The tickets for the event offered by the club sold out quickly in anticipation of a special night of music, dancing, singing and dining. The most special thing about it, at least to me, was the venue itself.

Belfast City Hall is a striking symbol of the prosperity of Belfast in the early years of the twentieth century. The imposing classical facade was built of white Portland stone and the interior is lined with gleaming marble from Italian quarries. I was lucky enough to get a parking space in the City Hall courtyard, so on arriving a security guard checked my car registration number against his list, then opened the gate and allowed me to enter. The club checked tickets on the ground floor and then we ascended the splendid red-carpeted marble staircase accom­panied by a harpist on the landing. Beneath the soaring dome, the most prominent feature on the building’s exterior, we gathered for a wine reception until we were called to our seats in the Great Hall. Soaring columns along the walls support the barrel-vaulted ceiling—all this was destroyed in a bombing raid during World War II and restored to its original appearance in the following years. The city had the foresight to put the stained and leaded glass windows into storage before the war, though it was not possible to appreciate their beauty at night. Most of the room was filled with tables, and a temporary floor had been installed by the stage for dancing. However, peeking out from the edge of the carpet I spotted the lovely original timber ballroom floor, which surely has seen much dancing over the decades.

Events began around 7.30pm with welcomes from club chair Peter Woods, Belfast’s Deputy Lord Mayor Tierna Cunningham and MC Martin McGinley—and then we went straight into the dancing with three figures of the Clare Lancers Set! Dancers were well catered for with eight sets, and in between there were many performances by club members. There were musicians playing in duets, trios and a group of a dozen in the student band. Solo singers included Niamh Parsons who once taught set dancing for the club. The dancing displays included Cape Breton steps by a group of five ladies, sean nós dancing by Mick Mulkerrin, and traditional step dancing by Patrick O’Dea. Mick and Patrick also joined up to dance a few steps together with Deirdre Tobin.

The floor was packed for most of the sets, with a mix of regular, beginning and lapsed dancers. Even the Deputy Lord Mayor joined the Antrim Square Set for loads of laughs, but when they called a waltz I wasn’t able to persuade her to dance it with me—a set was enough! A buffet supper was served after that with queues rather like boarding a plane—those seated at tables 1 to 10 were the first invited to fill their plates, followed later by the next ten and then the final ten. The highlight of the set dancing was the Williamstown Set, rather rare these days, but loads of fun and easily danced with calling by Ronan Eastwood, who alternated with Tim Flaherty as caller for the night. Music was played for all the sets by Ciarán Kelly, Maurice Bradley and Ryan Molloy, and they were augmented by numerous others for the final few sets. During the final Corofin Plain, all the lights were turned up full in the third figure. While I thought this was a great bonus for taking pictures, I soon learned it was just a sign that the night was over. The dancing ended with that figure, so after thanking my partner, I packed up, said many goodbyes and headed away.

While a 21st anniversary gala dinner ceili is a one-time only event, BelfastTrad continue their year-round programme of dozens of music and dance classes at the newly refurbished Crescent Arts Centre and other venues in the city. Set and solo dancers are welcome to classes on Monday nights in the Crescent, and to the end of season concert and ceili in Rosemary Hall on December 8th.

Bill Lynch

Markéta magic

„Aller Anfang ist schwer“ is a German saying meaning that starting something new is difficult. Not so when you have good friends supporting you with their heart and soul who are very willing to try something new.

Since 2008 I have been lucky enough to have a regular set dance class at the VHS in Bamberg. The German term VolksHochSchule might be most appropriately described as an ‘adult education centre’. Adults can take different classes of almost any kind and the range is huge—the printed programme of the VHS in Bamberg is 356 pages thick! Included are countless languages, computer skills, crafts, cooking (even making truffles), yoga and many kinds of sports. The dancing program includes dances from many different countries.

So I consider myself very lucky to have three set dance classes there. Over the past four years, a strong base of regular dancers has grown, who regularly attend the classes and mix brilliantly with all the newcomers! And with Bamberg being a university town, I have lots of young people curious to try some Irish set dancing for the first time. Our set dance family is very often joined by dancers from Erlangen, Würzburg and Kulmbach, making the family even bigger!

For the set dance classes, the VHS provides us with their big hall. The headquarters of the VHS is in a most luxurious former electrical power station in the historic centre of Bamberg, right on the waterfront of the River Regnitz. In a nutshell—a dream place for dancers. Three years ago I accepted an offer from the VHS inviting us to use the big hall for a day of set dancing with Tony Ryan.

Half a year ago I was offered the use of the hall for another day sometime in October. Since some of us got into sean nós dancing over the past years, the idea came up to make this a day for sean nós, with a set dance ceili in the evening.

A convenient motorway called Via Carolina connects Prague with Bamberg, so there has been an exchange of dancers between the Czech Republic and Germany recently. That’s how I got to know Markéta Utišilová, a beautiful young lady and wonderful sean nós dancer and teacher! Why not try and invite her to Bamberg for a day of sean nós? Markéta agreed to travel to Bamberg, accompanied by her husband and her mom, all three of them being Bamberg-lovers for many years.

On Saturday, October 20th, 42 younger and older dancers from all over the region of Franconia met for two morning and afternoon sean nós workshops. For half of the gang it was their first contact with this old Irish dance tradition.

With the friendliest smile and extraordinarily gentle tuition, Markéta started the morning workshop with the basic Connemara step. There was a kind of happiness and harmony in our beautiful hall that embraced us all, it was the big ‘we’ that made this day so very special. Of course, there were serious faces, concentrating on the steps, but there was a lot of laughter as well on this easy-going, enjoyable day!

For the tea break, my Bamberg girls had the most beautiful surprise in store and prepared a separate room next to the hall in a breathtaking way. One of my dancers, a gardener, had decorated the tables with little empty pumpkins filled with fresh flowers, in between them at least ten different homemade cakes of all kinds. Of course there was tea and coffee, just everything you need for a relaxing luxurious break you wish would never end.

Before we went out for lunch, Markéta had given us six different steps which she had learned over the years from her favorite teachers Mick Mulkerrin and Mairéad Casey in Ireland. For lunch break I had chosen an Italian restaurant, offering pasta or pizza and side salad for €5, just two minutes’ walk from the hall. Lovely decorated tables, caring staff awaiting us, perfect!

We continued in the afternoon, trying to get five more steps into our feet and heads. Under Markéta’s care we all managed to wrap our heads around the steps by the end of the afternoon, supported by our delicious Bamberg cakes. And of course we didn’t allow our lovely teacher to leave for her own well-deserved break without ‘stepping it out’ for us. Many had never seen a sean nós performance in person—what a blast!

Most of us stayed in the hall and around it, preparing mind and body for the upcoming two and a half hour CD ceili. Due to the shape of the hall the sound is brilliant inside. I had the pleasure of being both MC and DJ. On duty were the Davey Ceil Band, Matt Cunningham and of course the Abbey for most of the sets. Once one set had been danced I couldn’t believe how quickly dancers gathered on the floor again. We danced eight sets and the big ‘we’ kept gently floating all evening long. Then Markéta surprised us with a brush dance using some cool music—it was just so good!

During the last two figures of the Lancers something flashed through my mind—we couldn’t finish the ceili without the Irish anthem. Accompanied by a symphonic version of Amhrán na bhFiann‚ ‘we’ finished this magical day in Bamberg!

It took us all a long time to say goodbye to each other, just as family members do, difficult to part but with the promise to meet again for the Erlangen weekend in February!

Andrea Forstner

Great sets in Carryduff

Belfast is a great destination for dancing, as I realised when I reacquainted myself with the city on two separate visits in October. It’s also a first class city for shopping, restaurants and all the other amenities of a great metropolis, and easily accessible by car, thanks to the motorways and dual carriageways that extend from there all the way to the south and west. When I travelled up on Friday, October 26th, to attend the Carryduff Set Dancing Club’s annual Halloween Set Dancing Weekend, I made sure to arrive early enough for a quick trip to the city centre. Blue sky and bright sun made the city glow in the late afternoon. Streets seemed busy, shops were full, and I wandered into a precinct of covered streets forming a posh new shopping centre. It had an amazing feature which should prove popular with tourists—a high observation platform. I had a choice of ascending by several storeys of winding stairs, or by a lift made of glass. I took the latter which ascended nonstop from basement sub-level 2 all the way to the platform, far more entertaining than panting up steps, plus gentler to fragile knees. The city was all around me in a 360 degree panorama, looking stunning in the setting sun. Heading back to my car I encountered a lovely Japanese restaurant with a full page of vegetarian dishes in the menu—it would take a long time to eat my way through all of those so I stepped in, sat down and got started!

There was only one way to improve on my re-introduction to Belfast—dance! The weekend’s dancing was held in St Joseph’s Hall, a well-built hall beside a church, school and most conveniently of all, a hotel! So I had only to step outside to my car, drive two minutes and I was there, the shortest drive to a ceili ever! Of course, most residents didn’t carry as much excess baggage as myself and walked the distance in five minutes. The hall was decorated with cobwebs, skeletons, pumpkins and as many other symbols of Halloween as would fit into the enormous room. The dancers, though, were normally attired on Friday, reserving their special Halloween identities for another night. Our musicians were Enda and Seamus McGlone, otherwise known as Ceili Time, who carried us through eight sets with great tunes, changed often and the right speed throughout! Joe Farrell called all the sets, dancing most of them himself, and I commend him for his selection which included two rare Clare favourites—the Paris Set and the Clare Orange and Green Set. Every partner was a delight, strangers and friends alike!

St Joseph’s Hall has a security system for the main door—you have to press a button to request entry and wait to be buzzed in. For free access during the weekend a bright yellow trainer was strategically placed to keep the door from closing, unless someone kicked it out of the way, like when I arrived early for the workshop on Saturday morning and waited for someone to let me in. Breakfasting at the hall before the Saturday workshop at the Carryduff weekend is highly recommended for Isobel Woods’ scrumptious fresh scones served with real butter and her homemade apple and clove jam. But the real treats of the day were the three sets Pat Murphy taught us, all of which were new to me. The Dungarvan Polka Set is danced in the Waterford style, with lively stepping and high hands in the chains, and rather like the Sliabh gCua Joe Farrell called for us last night in the ceili. Next up was the Ballyfin, a polka set from Co Laois which I had danced last August with Maureen Culleton, but it hadn’t yet found a permanent spot in my memory so I am grateful to Pat for another go at it. Maureen revived it based on memories of her mother dancing it at home and it feels authentic, not composed. But more people are composing excellent sets all the time, and one of the best is the Rinkinstown Set, created by John and Sheila McEvoy and Mairéad Devane from Co Louth, which Pat taught for the first time this afternoon. The first figure is immediately seductive, with a succession of quick four-bar movements. The ladies chains are clever—the ladies get to bring home the opposite man—and if you love dancing the ducks, as I do, you’ll find immense satisfaction here. When the workshop finished up everyone was looking forward to dancing it again tonight!

It may not have been the 31st of October, but for set dancers in Carryduff, Halloween always takes place at the Saturday night ceili. Nearly half the dancers had taken the trouble to come as someone other than themselves, with plenty of great costumes and ideas. While some of my partners may have looked odd, it was something I hardly noticed once we started to dance—you can’t disguise the set dancer hidden inside the costume! We danced another varied and enjoyable selection of sets called by Joe and played by Long Note Ceili Band. The great music raised the atmosphere to a high level of excitement, with everyone joyously dancing and shouting. The floor was packed for all nine sets, even the Ballykeale and especially for the Rinkinstown, which was even more of a treat danced to live music. Those in fancy dress had a few moments in the spotlight just following the generous and tasty tea break. They gathered by the stage for photos and one was awarded a special prize—a basket of fruit. In previous years, the selection was made by judges evaluating the quality of the costumes, but tonight they did it the less contentious way by drawing a number out of the hat. In fact, I was asked to draw that number, and after tossing and turning the numbers to make a truly random choice, I was pleased that it turned out to be Esther Campagnoli, visiting from Italy, who was dressed as a salad of fresh ivy. Distant visitors were also present from France, New York and Chicago. An exciting Plain Set with the first few figures danced nonstop finished a brilliant night.

The change from summer to winter time gave us an extra hour overnight—I slept right through it and so was well-rested for Pat’s two-hand dance workshop on Sunday morning. We danced through a selection of easy traditional dances and harder ballroom waltzes and foxtrots. One supposedly easy dance, the Imperial Two-Step, gave a bit of bother with a chain. We were dancing it in one large circle around the hall, and one of the moves was to chain past our partner and the next four dancers to end up with the fifth. The mathematics of this proved challenging, with at least two dancers ending up partnerless every time. After close to a dozen practices we managed to turn it into clockwork. The others were all couple dances, so if someone made mincemeat of it, no one else was affected! My partner and I did well, though it took every ounce of concentration I was capable of, tiring out my brain more than my feet!

Lunch was handily available on both Saturday and Sunday without leaving the hall. Complimentary tea, scones and sandwiches were on offer, and some folks had sensibly brought their own picnics. The rest and recovery during that hour did me well for the final ceili of the weekend, where we danced more fantastic sets—the Borlin Polka (a personal favourite), Claddagh and the Labasheeda being especially memorable. By popular demand the Rinkinstown Set was danced again. With refreshing music by the Copperplate Ceili Band and the liveliest of partners, it was clear this set is destined to become widespread. This set and three final Plain Sets were the only repeats of the weekend, giving a grand total of 22 different sets danced at the three ceilis. Joe’s calling made every set easy to dance, with Pat taking over the microphone for the newest sets.

Once the last set was over I was in no hurry to leave Belfast. The organisers had planned a farewell session in a downtown pub, conveniently close to that Japanese restaurant, where I ate for the third time, but with a long journey ahead of me, I headed off before the session began. But I’d gladly come back again, sooner, I hope, rather than later.

Bill Lynch

Who invited her?

On the weekend of October 26th, 2012, set dancers from all parts of North America gathered to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Cape May Dance Weekend, sponsored by the Greater Washington Ceili Club. The weekend originated in 1987 at Congress Hall, Cape May, New Jersey, with dance masters Joe and Siobhán O’Donovan teaching. In the years that followed, the event bounced around like a beach ball to various locations in Cape May. Instructors changed too—Mick Mulkerrin taught one year, and many fondly reflect on when the king of set dancing himself, Connie Ryan, was the teacher for several years. As the weekend grew in popularity, it settled into the more spacious Convention Hall (the old skating rink) on a pier perched over the Atlantic Ocean. By then, dance masters Pádraig and Róisín McEneany had taken over the reins and have come faithfully every year since to teach the workshops and call at the ceilis. Most recently, the weekend was relocated to the Atlantic Sands Hotel in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, as the condemned Convention Hall in Cape May underwent reconstruction. All that battering over the years must have done some serious damage to the pilings!

That’s just a brief history of the dance weekend. Fortunately, club member Paul O’Donnell had enough in the archives to compile a splendid video of clips from previous years and it debuted at the Friday night welcome reception and registration. Crowds gathered shoulder-to-shoulder around the screen, pointing out various dancers—

“That’s Connie in the suspenders . . .”

“He’s dancing with Betty McCoy . . .”

“Oh, what was her name? She lived in New York and used to dance at . . .”

“Oh my god, is that Frank?”

“Wow, that hall was so cool with the ocean underneath us . . .”

“Was that when Bill Lynch was here?”

“We’re still learning that set!”

“Do you remember them? They moved back to Ireland a few years ago.”

“How about the night the smoke alarms went off from all the dust we kicked up from dancing!”

Plus, we all anxiously looked to see if we made it onto the video, ready to laugh and cringe at the same time! Another part of the history of this event is the vast selection of memorabilia we take home—t-shirts, fleece blankets, tote bags, sweatshirts and other fun items have been stuffed in our registration bag over the years. This year featured a brilliant turquoise shirt embroidered with the traditional Cape May Weekend logo, a smart stainless steel water bottle to help quench the thirsty ‘sweat’ dancers, and delicious cookies, artfully iced with the same familiar logo!

Just a few hours later we were making history again on the beautiful, spacious dance floor (painstakingly installed by the floor crew volunteers), bordered with large glass windows facing the mighty Atlantic Ocean. If we squinted hard we could almost see Dingle! Brilliant music was provided by the talented Cape May Ceili Band, including Felix Dolan, John Nolan, Linda Hickman, Jimmy Kelly and Bernadette Fee. First set up was the Ballyvourney, followed by the Mazurka, Paris, North Kerry, Boyne, Newport, High-Cauled Cap, Connemara, Clare Orange and Green, and we finished with the Clare Plain.

The partying carried on, as it always does, into the wee hours of the night. Yet, somehow, the dancers managed to drag themselves to breakfast the next morning, the smell of coffee and the lure of tea beckoning them. However, on this morning it became very apparent someone new had come to the dance weekend, someone uninvited, a true eye-opener—Sandy. ‘Superstorm’ Sandy to be exact. As mentioned earlier, it was heartwarming to see dancers from as far north as Canada and New Hampshire, from Seattle, Washington and New Mexico in the west, and the many more local dancers from New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Virginia, DC, Delaware and Maryland, but no one was pleased to see Sandy from the Caribbean, a category 1 hurricane who mixed her forces with a nor’easter and a full moon, when the tides were highest. Outside the windows of the dining room was television station NBC reporting live to America on the track of the storm and filming the wild seas, and families on the boardwalk with their kids dressed for Halloween. One reporter said, “Inside this hotel are hundreds of Irish dancers here for a convention, and none of them are preparing to leave.” Well, I thought to myself, it is set dancing, after all!

Being wise and prudent, Linda Fitzpatrick and the other organizers of the weekend rearranged the schedule of events on Saturday, by compressing the workshops, skipping the traditional concert and starting the ceili earlier. Pádraig and Róisín, with help from Mary Conboy, taught the Rinkinstown, Cavan Reel, Borlin Jenny Reel, Newmarket Meserts and Ballyduff sets. We purposely skipped the Aran Set, not wanting to encourage the waves any more than necessary! The ceili was true to form with many dancers decked-out in Halloween finery! Snow White and five dwarfs were in attendance (evidently the missing two didn’t make it through customs at the Canadian border), several funny-scary-goblin-types, a ghoulish skeleton (Mary), a lovely 1950s polka-dot bedecked dancer (Róisín), and most fitting, the ringmaster (Pádraig), complete with a whip! How tempted he must have been to use that whip as we danced the Corofin Plain, Clare Plain, Cashel, Williamstown, Caledonian, West Kerry, Claddagh, Connemara, Clare Lancers and workshop sets!

On Sunday morning, the storm was bearing closer, too close for comfort. Some had left earlier on Saturday, others at the end of the ceili, and many first thing the next morning. The town of Rehoboth Beach ordered an evacuation due to high wind and flood warnings, so the top order of business was for everyone to get home safely and as quickly as possible. The governor of Delaware and national television crews set up forces in the hotel, issuing statements and warnings to residents of the state and to all those on the east coast. Camera crews even captured Pádraig packing the trunk of the car, getting ready to head north. The Washington Ceili Club tied up loose ends, disassembled the dance floor and sound system, and got the band and dancers safely on their way. Fortunately, all made it home safe and sound, some later than others due to flight cancellations, and some returned to homes with no power, no heat, no water. Sandy destroyed much of the seacoast in New Jersey and wrecked havoc in New York City and surrounding areas, which many of you have seen in the news. Our hearts go out to all those impacted by Superstorm Sandy. And, although we rushed like crazy to leave Rehoboth Beach, high water didn’t stop us from coming this year. Only hell can stop us from coming back again, to set dance along the ocean shores, adding to the long history of this great dance weekend, and fulfilling Connie’s wish to keep the Yanks (and Canadians!) dancing.

Sue Dunlavey, Dover, New Hampshire

The weekend that sparkled

A new set and social dancing weekend took place in the Radisson Blu Hotel near Rosses Point in scenic Co Sligo. As we approached the hotel we saw the first snow of winter on the mountains. The hotel nestles between Knocknarea with Queen Maeve’s cairn on top on one side, and majestic Benbulben on the other.

Oliver Fleming organised this weekend in aide of the Sligo Mayo Cancer Support. In the hotel, dancers were arriving from all over and food was being served in the bar and dining room, service fast and food lovely. Oliver started teaching jiving, quicksteps and foxtrot from 8pm. He had a big crowd, all eager to learn the steps. At 10pm, Swallow’s Tail Ceili Band took to the stage. A large crowd filled the floor and more people kept filing in all the time. The air conditioners worked well to keep us dancers cool. The music was brilliant—a great start to the weekend. After the ceili, all filtered out to the bar area for more music and dancing till the small hours.

On Saturday I awoke to a wild and wet morning, but who cares? All the entertainment we need is indoors! Kathleen McGlynn was teaching sean nós in the ballroom this morning and also in the afternoon. Oliver taught the Long Island Set, a new set from America. At 4pm, Mass was celebrated upstairs—we could have a lie in on Sunday morning!

Michael and Breege Cleary were playing in the ballroom for social dancing, which is very popular now and most organisers combine sets and social in their lineup. Brian Ború Ceili Band took the stage tonight and again the ballroom was packed. The music was exceptionally good, hence the air conditioners were unable to cope. Everyone was overheating and I was glad of the tea break to cool down a little. Just before the tea, Oliver called his new set, the Long Island. During the tea break it seems the hotel had not allowed for such a crowd, so Oliver, along with all his other duties, had to flee to the kitchen to wash cups as quick as he could so he could tray them out to the dancers waiting. He even found some more biscuits. Well done, Oliver, a man of many talents—hotel, take note for next year. Again there was more dancing and music in the bar after the ceili.

Sunday, Marie Garrity held her two-hand workshop, which was very popular with set dancers and a big crowd attended. Johnny Reidy Ceili Band was on stage for the farewell ceili in a packed ballroom again. Everyone was cheering and stamping after each set the music was so good—fast and furious. At the end of the ceili Oliver thanked everyone for supporting such a worthy cause and finished off the evening with the raffle. Some dancers headed for home, some stayed another night and went dancing to Patrick Feeney, a popular young man on the social dancing scene. The ballroom was packed again and afterward everyone went into the bar for more music and dancing.

This weekend is hailed as another Mecca for the diary for 2013. Well done to Oliver and his wife Marie (behind every good man is a good woman) and his band of helpers for a top class weekend.

Patsy Finn, Rathconrath, Co Westmeath

Frankfurt stormed!

The first storms of winter brought not only lashings of rain to Frankfurt in early November, but also the electric music of the Ilen Ceili Band, and Bert and Annie Moran to teach sets rarely danced in Germany. Chains of coloured lights like a host of fireflies brightened the cherrywood walls of the conference centre of the building, agricultural and forestry unions (IGBAU and Umwelt). Friends from all over Germany, Switzerland and Ireland joined us for a very lively weekend, 2–4 November.

Friday evening was accompanied by the Ruth Rau Ceili Band from Frankfurt with Ilen Ceili Band. The evening was unusual for a ceili as we had the Cashel Set, Antrim Square Set, Port Fairy Set, Hurry the Jug, Ballyvourney Jig Set, Moycullen Set, Sliabh Luachra Set and the West Kerry Set. The Port Fairy Set has become popular with the students of the Frankfurt group just because it is a challenge! Hurry the Jug, while almost never danced in Ireland, is quite popular in Germany, and pops up in many of the German workshops. When danced properly, the patterns are very attractive, and again a challenge. Our own ceili band featured Moritz Haas on flute, Ruth Rau on accordion, Roland Hess on guitar and Sven Schäfer on fiddle.

The break was livened up by Bert Moran and Sean Walsh playing waltzes. As the ceili drew to a close the hard-core dancers stayed on and we finished off the evening with the Rinkinstown Set.

Saturday saw the beginning of the workshops with Bert and Annie. More friends came up from Erlangen and the south of Germany to fill the sets. Some time was spent on the High-Cauled Cap. That sorted out those who could concentrate from those who had the occasional concentration lapse! Our teachers, with their endless patience saw us through the movements with relative ease. We all wondered why we hadn’t come across the Portmagee Set before. It is simple to teach, but the figures quite different from other sets. Bert and Annie were helped with the Beara Set by Juliette O’Brian from Casteltownbere. Juliette pointed out the differences to the Ardgroom Set and we danced it the way it was danced in its home town. After a walk in the lashing rain and swirling autumnal leaves for lunch, the afternoon continued without a break into the Durrow Thrashing Set. The battering steps provided quite a challenge for most of the group. To wind down for the afternoon, we went over the Skibbereen Set.

Saturday evening was accompanied by the brilliant playing of the Ilen Ceili Band (Sean Walsh, Martina Walsh and Lisa Collins) accompanied by Ekhart Topp (guitar) of Frankfurt. The music of the group combined tunes in new combinations and was played with a drive and energy that kept the dancers flying on the floor. Martina said that the ecstatic response of the dancers fed the fires of their talents. Many reel and jig sets were played that evening. Lisa, never missing a beat, picked up a broom and gave a lively broom dance. A little later Bert performed a harmonica solo to give everyone a chance to take a breather and listen to music without the distraction of dancing. Although only scheduled for eight sets, the band continued to play a further two sets at the end of a wonderfully exhausting evening. For those that stayed around, they could listen to the duo of Ekhart Topp and Claus Kessler on concertina from the Swaree Ceili Band.

Our Sunday was quieter, but most enjoyable. We went over the High Cauled Cap again, and continued on to the Rosscahill and Derradda Sets before everyone had to return home to normal life.

The weekend was a great success, made possible by our guests from all over, the Ilen Ceili Band with Ekhart Topp, Ruth Rau Ceili Band, Bert and Annie Moran, and all of the Frankfurt set dance group who helped in different ways over the weekend. Our next weekend on 2014 is hopefully in a castle on the Rhine!

Andrew C Podzorski, Frankfurt, Germany

The best yet

Letters and emails


Through the pages of Set Dancing News can I thank all those who helped to ensure SetsMad 6 weekend in Basingstoke, 21–23 September, was such a success.

It takes a team of special people to evolve an idea and every year organise an event which now attracts dancers from Ireland, continental Europe, Scandinavia and the four regions of the UK.

Carol and Kevin Monaghan are the driving force. However, the unsung heroes include those who erected a marquee and installed a temporary floor, provided homemade cakes, transformed hundreds of dirty tea cups, ensured superb sound from Ceili Time filled the hall, and worked tirelessly to keep the weekend running smoothly.

There is no doubt that this, their sixth event, was the best yet and the formula of having each of the three ceilis include a mixture of familiar together with less frequently danced sets has proven to be a big success as the hall was full of happy dancers.

I know the pages of Set Dancing News have previously hosted a debate on the merits of including rarer sets at ceilis, however Kevin and Carol have changed the paradigm of not repeating a set over the weekend. When I attended the Basingstoke ceilis in the early years I would bring a stash of books (Toss the Feathers, etc) and rush to consult them when an unusual set was announced. Now modern technology, and advance preparation of course, enables instructions for each figure to be projected onto a wall above the dancers’ heads, thereby encouraging everyone to get on the floor and dance a forgotten set whilst ensuring the music can be enjoyed without constant calling.

This is an example of the Basingstoke team looking to make improvements year on year. The popularity of SetsMad 6 was testament to their dedication and hard work. Thank you, one and all.

Owen Williams, Ipswich, Suffolk

A small contribution

Dear Bill,

The dust has settled, and we’re home from a fabulous weekend of dancing in Heidelberg which is a real treat for us, coming so soon after our own weekend. We’ve paid all the bills, packed the marquee away till next year and started making plans for little improvements.

We would like, through the medium of Set Dancing News, to thank so many people for their generosity, their help, their cakes, their company, their many kind words afterwards, and the atmosphere they collectively created at our SetsMad weekend of dancing in Basingstoke, 21–23 September.

On the opening night, we let everyone know that in 2011, for the first time, we actually came out of the weekend with a profit, which enabled us to support a number of people who had done some extraordinary things. We were able to make a small contribution to Michael McGeeney’s school-building trip to Kenya, support John and Margaret Morrin with their fund-raising efforts for the Royal Marsden Hospital, support Winchester nurses in their marathon running efforts and make a small donation to the Basingstoke Irish Society. These contributions to charities totalled £750.

This year, the raffles raised £480 and we’ve been able to top that up a bit, from reserves in our kitty, so this year we’ve managed to donate £400 for Cancer Research UK, £200 for St Michael’s Hospice, Basingstoke, £70 for Phyllis Tuckwell Hospice, Farnham and £200 to the Basingstoke Irish Society monthly lunch club to pay for lunch for local pensioners. Thank you, both ticket purchasers and prize donors.

So once more, to Ceili Time, Pádraig and Róisín McEneany, all our helpers (you know who you are) and all the dancers, thank you for making this possible while we were all having fun!

We are well into the planning for next year, when the event will be on September 27th, 28th and 29th.

We welcome feedback and any suggestions you might have and though we can’t promise to realise them all, we will give them due consideration, within the constraints of the venue, budget, and the physical capabilities of our many helpers.

Kind regards and all best wishes,

Kevin and Carol Monaghan, Tadley, Hampshire

Both the north and south

Hello Bill,

Please include our heartfelt thanks to all who supported our Dundalk ceili on 7th September. A great night was had by all as we danced to the great Long Note Ceili Band. Sets were called by Thérèse McConnon in her usual helpful way. We had people who came from both the north and south of Ireland. Some travelled many miles to support us. A lovely supper was served by our class and thanks to all who baked, made sandwiches, etc, also to our doormen.

Looking forward to seeing you all at our next ceili on 1st February.

Kind regards,

Deirdre Moore and Briege Dixon, Dundalk, Co Louth

Hearty welcome in Nobber

Dear Bill,

On Sunday 7th October, several of us from Co Tyrone travelled to support the O’Carolan Harp, Cultural and Heritage Festival in Nobber, Co Meath. Needless to say, we all enjoyed a few hours on the floor. A hearty welcome was extended to us, and we found that some others had also travelled a far distance, which included Sligo, Dublin and even one from Cork. The festival committee worked hard to make it a success. They produced a beautiful brochure showing the various events over the weekend. The set dancing on Sunday was a part of the whole, which included workshops for the harp and several other instruments, lilting and historical tours, etc. After a nice tea we hit the road for Tyrone.

Vincent Lewis, Coalisland, Co Tyrone

Scrumptious offerings

Dear Bill,

The eighth Canberra Irish Set Dancing Weekend reached 100 participants—what growth since the first weekend when there were 35. The weekend is extremely well organised and runs smoothly. Four sets, Monaghan, Dublin, Ballykeale and Birr, were taught during the weekend, as well as time spent on basic steps for those in need. Of course, in between times the morning and afternoon tea and supper tables groaned under the weight of scrumptious offerings. Two of the three céilithe had live music provided by the local Corner House Ceili Band and just one set was repeated over the course of the weekend, the Kilfenora Plain Set, amongst the following—Sliabh Luachra, Labasheeda Reel, South Galway, Moycullen, Connemara Reel, Derradda, Ballyvourney Jig, Corofin Plain, Monaghan, Kenmare Polka, Ballykeale, Ballycommon, Dublin, Cashel, Meserks, West Kerry, Birr, Newport, Antrim Square, Clare Orange and Green and Clare Plain. Those who needed more met for drinks and dinner at King O’Malley’s Irish Pub and concluded with more dancing to the session music.

I took this photo right when nine sets were dancing the Birr Set which my husband Bill and I had been teaching. The dancers were requested to dance as close together as they would in Ireland!

Congratulations to the Canberrans and thanks for a wonderful weekend!

Margaret Winnett, Sydney, Australia

Mike’s visit to Philadelphia

Hi Bill,

On Wednesday, October 17, 2012, the Circle of Friends set dancing school had the pleasure and privilege of hosting a set dancing workshop led by Mike Tubridy of County Clare, Ireland. He visits the United States annually for his vacation, and we were delighted to learn that his schedule allowed a visit to the Commodore John Barry Club (the Irish Center) in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Our dance instructor, John Shields, made sure the Irish set dancing community was aware of this opportunity and was pleased that we had six sets in attendance. Mike seemed quite pleased with the turnout as well. He taught us the Keadue Lancers Set from County Roscommon. He shared with us that it has been quite a while since he led a workshop, and it has been twenty years since he taught this particular set—something we would have never guessed if he hadn’t told. The class was fantastic.

It was a wonderful evening—how could it not be! Friends coming together to share in something we all enjoy, we learned a new set dance, and wrapped up the evening with cups of tea, scones and great conversation.

Kathy Hopkins, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

To celebrate Joe’s life

Dear Bill,

It was with great sadness that I heard about the passing of Joe Monahan. The outpouring of grief and sadness surrounding his funeral prompted me to think that we will have to do something to celebrate his life rather than mourn his passing. Shortly after his funeral I had a conversation with his nephew Vinny Foran, who said we are going to have to do something and proceeded to tell me about Joe’s wish to purchase a renal dialysis machine for the intensive care unit in Tullamore Hospital. At this point I told Vinny of my idea, which planted a seed that started to grow right away. This idea was to celebrate Joe’s life with a huge ceili and to raise funds to buy the dialysis machine. At this point I consulted with the committee running regular ceilis in Ballykilmurray Community Centre who were in full support so now the wheels were in motion. We knew we were going to need a bigger venue so Tullamore GAA Centre seemed like the obvious choice. Thanks to Fergal McKeon for having us there and making things so easy. Then began the committee meetings in Foran’s house, which was more like a Christmas day feed with Bernie being an excellent hostess!

The ticket sales then began and I found that everyone who bought a ticket from me had such a heart-warming and humorous story to tell about Joe and was only too glad to support this worthy cause.

There was great excitement in the lead-up to the big night. There was no panic but there was a huge amount of work taking place behind the scenes. Thanks to Gerry and Marie McGrath of Ballycommon house for supplying the bar facility on the night. The night kicked off with 21 musicians from Rahan Comhaltas led by John Gaffey. There was fantastic music to be heard and a beautiful display of dance, which set the scene for this wonderful night. The Glenside Ceili Band took over the helm and was joined by the 21 musicians to play the first set of the night. There was a huge raffle on the night and some items auctioned by Noel Cooney. All the prizes were donated by local people and companies alike. A huge thank you to all of the raffle sponsors and all those who made donations directly to the fund.

The money just kept pouring in for weeks after. We were amazed by people’s generosity in this time of recession. The final count on the presentation night which was held in Ballykilmurray was €16,820 which was presented by the committee to Joe’s wife Ita and his daughters Karen and Elaine who accepted the cheque on behalf of the Joe Monahan Dialysis Machine Fund. Joe’s family were overwhelmed by the generosity and kindness of all who supported this fund.

It is impossible to thank every one individually so on behalf of myself, Benny Carroll and Martina Dever, Joe’s wife Ita and family, Bernie and Vinny Foran, we would just like to say a huge thank you to everyone who helped in any way and supported this fund. What a fitting tribute to such a popular and much loved man, Joe Monahan.

Bernard Carroll, Tullamore, Co Offaly

Positive and glowing feedback

Dear Bill,

Could we please take the opportunity to thank all those who supported the Return to Camden Town Festival? We had two wonderful weekends, one of dancing (2–4 November) and the other of concerts. We would like to thank all those dancers from many countries who attended the workshops and the ceilis here in London.

The set dance workshop and the sean nós workshop were extremely well run and taught by the inimitable Mairéad Casey, who worked so very hard and made sure that everybody had a wonderful time as well as learning new sets and steps.

The ceilis were very successful and well attended. On Friday night we danced to our local London band, the MacNamara Ceili Band, with their lively enthusiastic style. This was followed on Saturday and Sunday by the legendary Tulla Ceili Band who played absolutely brilliant music with their usual beautiful rhythm and style. The floor was full, sixteen sets with dancers from around Europe and England to add to all the regular dancers from London. A variety of sets were danced including new sets taught at the workshop. The Tulla are not only a terrific, versatile band but accommodating too as they were only too willing to play for sets of our choice. All this from one of the premier, longest established ceili bands in the world. I am certain that all who attended, those who came to listen as well as the dancers, had a fabulous time. I know this because of all the positive and glowing feedback we had over the weekend. It is great to be part of it and to see all the happy, smiling faces. We are privileged to have had such great music and teaching.

We would also like to thank you, Bill, for including the festival in your diary section and the advertisement in Set Dancing News. Your magazine is a great way to reach our audience so thank you too for your cooperation.

Sincere thanks to musicians, dancers, sound engineers, caterers and all who helped to make the festival so successful. This obviously includes all those people who gave up their time to attend and support the event.

Geoff Walker on behalf of the Return to Camden Town Festival Organising Group

Each and every one

Dear Bill,

To all my friends and fellow dancers far and near who visited me in hospital, sent cards, flowers and numerous texts during my recent illness—a big thank you to each and every one.

Best wishes for Christmas and the New Year,

Jim Whitty, Kilmannon, Cleariestown, Co Wexford

Greatly enjoyed by all

Friday 26th October saw the launch of a new band on the set dancing scene, playing for the Manchester International Set Dance Festival at the Irish World Heritage Centre in Cheetham Hill. The name of the band is Ceoltóirí Mancúin Ceili Band. The members of the band all live in greater Manchester. The music was greatly enjoyed by all who attended. We had visitors from Cork as well as Birmingham, Wales, Yorkshire, London, and of course Manchester. Twenty-two sets were danced during the three céilithe and none were repeated.

The workshops were done by Margaret and John Morrin from London and were enjoyed immensely by those who attended. Twelve sets were taught, making a total of 34 sets in all. The amplification was provided by George Hook from Birmingham, helped by his wife Linda. We are very grateful for their support. I am also indebted to all those who helped during the weekend. I would also like to thank all those who attended for their support. I would especially like to thank the band for their hard work.

There was a great atmosphere and the whole event was very successful, although numbers were down on the Friday and Sunday. The Saturday was well supported and plenty of fun was had by all. Anyone who missed it, missed a great weekend of set dancing.

This was the last festival to be held in the old heritage centre, as a new one has been built just a few hundred yards from the present one. We had been hoping that it would open in time for this year’s festival but the new centre will not be ready to open until mid-December. The next festival will be the first one in the new centre.

I have already asked the band to play next year, and hope to book the new venue, as soon as possible.

Slán anois,

Barbara Aherne, Manchester

Truly was one of the best

Dear Bill,

On behalf of myself, my wife Carol and her family, we would like to say a huge thank-you to everyone we met in Portugal during the Enjoy Travel holiday in October. It truly was one of the best holidays we have ever been on, and the friendships that have been made since then are genuine lifetime friendships. From the moment we woke up each morning, albeit some mornings with a slight hangover, we looked forward to the craic and entertainment by the pool, the afternoon music and ceili, the night time ceili and session in the bar, and then rounding off the day with a drink and a dance in the Blue Room. The bands, workshop teachers, musicians, singers, and of course the organisers were simply top class. Everything about this holiday made our minds up there and then, “We’re going back next year!”

Thanks again to everyone there, and look forward to seeing you all next year.

Keith McGlynn, Tralee, Co Kerry

Ceilis for Africa

On Tuesday 18th September at one of our weekly workshops for set dancing in Dungannon and Coalisland areas of Co Tyrone, a presentation of £1,500 was made to one of our younger set dancers Niamh Heron, aged sixteen years.

This money was raised as a result of two set dancing ceilis in the Cornmill Heritage Centre, Coalisland, last December and June. Niamh accepted this very generous donation on behalf of the local college that she attends. The school is organising a trip for pupils and teachers to South Africa in February. Niamh will be travelling with this group who are planning to use the proceeds to help with school and home projects for children and families in South Africa.

Niamh is a popular and talented member of the set dancing workshops, and is a regular attendee at set dancing venues near and farther afield, accompanied by her mother Orla and her aunt Brenda.

I thank all those from various sets clubs who attended our ceilis here in Coalisland and contributed generously towards this cause. Quite a number of people came to support us, not only all our local members, but also from the nine counties of Ulster and some from the Republic. Thanks are also due to all those who gave their time and effort to ensure the events were successful.

Vincent Lewis, Coalisland, Co Tyrone

The fundraising ceili was in aid of the Pebbles Project. This project entails twelve students from my school travelling to South Africa in February 2013 to help disadvantaged children in schools. This money will go a long way in providing resources, equipment and various other essential needs. I would like to thank everyone who contributed to this worthy cause.

Niamh Heron

Articles continue in Old News Volume 76.

There's more to read in the collections of old news and reviews, volumes 11997-1998, 2, 31998-1999, 41999, 51999-2000, 6, 72000, 8, 9, 102001, 112001-2002, 12, 13, 14, 152002, 162002-2003, 17, 18, 192003, 202003-2004, 21, 22, 23, 24, 252004, 262004-2005, 27, 28, 29, 30, 312005, 322005-2006, 33, 34, 35, 36, 372006, 38, 392006-2007, 40, 41, 42, 432007, 442007-2008, 442007-2008, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49, 502008, 512008-2009, 52, 53, 54, 55, 56, 572009, 582009-2010, 59, 60, 61, 62, 63, 64, 652010, 662010–2011, 67, 68, 69, 70, 712011, 722011–2012, 73, 74, 75, 76, 77, 782012, 792012-2013, 80, 81, 82, 832013, 842013-2014 (Index).

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Bill Lynch   Set Dancing News, Kilfenora, Co Clare, Ireland
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