last updated 24 April 2014
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Set Dancing News

Old news and reviews—Volume 78

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).

The season to be jolly

December is a month-long festival of ceilis. If distance is no object, you can go dancing nearly every night of the week. The same is true for the rest of the year too, but in December everyone is in high festive spirit and there’s a party atmosphere everywhere. Your editor found great dancing at many ceilis this month as you can see on the following pages.

Our snacking pleasure

At home, Friday November 30th seemed like an ideal night for a ceili, mild and clear, but once I passed the Clare border, I found mist through large parts of County Galway, and then an ever-thickening ‘pea soup’ style of fog within the confines of County Offaly. It was my first time visiting the seemingly remote village of Ballykilmurray, near Tullamore, but with the help of that modern miracle, the satnav app on my phone, I had no bother finding it in limited visibility.

The Ballykilmurray Ceili Club has been operating for a couple of years with good support from dancers, so I was pleased to finally get a chance to dance here myself. Some dancers were put off by the weather but we had a pleasant crowd of six sets, some of whom had travelled here just as far as I had, though from the opposite side of the country. Micheál Sexton and Liz Ryan played gorgeous music, and my two-hour journey was worth the trouble just for the first set, the Corofin Plain, which I found terribly exciting. Fortunately every set was exciting, and everyone else seemed to think so too.

The community centre was an ideal hall for set dancing. While the building was once the old school, the newly refurbished hall is smart, modern and clean. There are a dozen spotlights on the ceiling aimed around the hall, which made for pleasant lighting, neither too bright nor too dark, and there are four fans mounted overhead which dispensed welcome breezes to those beneath them. The floor is a dream—its new maple boards were said to have been mounted on rubber, perfect for gliding through the Sliabh Luachra or leaping around in the Lancers. During the break, tea was served in an upstairs room filled with small tables and chairs—it looked like a café!

We actually had two bands in attendance, Micheál and Liz on stage, and the remaining members of Liz’s other band, Rise the Dust, on the floor, plus all their partners. On stage and off, they were having a raucous good time along with the rest of us. For the last set I was part of a set which had a rather wacky way of dancing the Lancers. In the third figure, rather than spin around in the big Christmas, we went rambling all together around the hall, at one point accidentally crash landing one of our gents on a chair. Before we could even start worrying about whether he was okay, he had already picked up a banana (several baskets of fruit had been left around the hall for our snacking pleasure) on the chair beside him, peeled it and started eating. We were dumbfounded with laughter. I chuckled all the way home, which was an easier journey thanks to the vanished fog.

Deep purple on the Boyne

While it may be a long way from Kilfenora to Drogheda, I had no hesitation about taking my first ever trip there for a ceili on Saturday December 1st. As part of a festival, two bands, Triskell and Johnny Reidy, were playing for four and a half hours of dancing, starting at the convenient hour of 7pm. Travelling cross country is easier than ever thanks to the motorways, and I was no more than three hours travelling there with one rest stop. Drogheda town centre was busy with shoppers as I spent an hour wandering the streets in the deepening twilight—the mighty Boyne River and the steep hills on either side were most impressive.

The ceili was about a mile from the river in a GAA hall, and on paying my admission I had to tread carefully as I entered—it was the most incredible lighting I’ve ever experienced at a ceili. An intense violet gloom was punctuated by blinding pink and blue spotlights, and I needed a few moments of adjustment to recognise faces. The organisers had enquired if Johnny brought along his own lighting engineer (the band is great, but hasn’t advanced to that level yet) and so the local lighting team came up with something they thought would be appropriate for a ceili. It did have the advantage of making us forget we were in a gymnasium.

The local Triskell Ceili Band opened the ceili as support for Johnny, playing three sets and the Walls of Limerick in ninety minutes with great gusto. Two sets of dancers formed at the beginning, building up to about eight sets through the rest of the night. A temporary parquet dance floor was laid over the hall’s painted timber floor, just the right size for the dancers who came out.

Johnny then took over for his usual eight sets accompanied by a blazing inferno of music. Even though we were nearly as far from Kerry as you can get in Ireland, the band still played the Sliabh Luachra, Ballyvourney and gorgeous West Kerry sets. The dancing continued during the break when recorded country music was played. By the sensible hour of 11pm we were ready for the climax of the night, the final Lancers Set, and thanks to an earlier finish I was home by around 2.30am despite the distance.

Polka angels and potato cakes

One of the regular destinations for huge numbers of set dancers is the Half-Door Club Festival in Castletown, Co Laois, in May. The organisers have recently started running additional ceilis on other occasions, and I was pleased to join one on the afternoon of Sunday December 2nd, after a short night and wet drive. The hall looked cosier than I remembered it, with tables and chairs on the sides, bunting overhead and echo-absorbing wall hangings, but it was unexpectedly chilly—the hall’s heating oil had just been nicked from the tank outside for a third time. Of course we generate our own heat, especially when the Abbey Ceili Band are playing. While the musicians were getting ready I was fascinated to see them swap instruments for the sound check, happily playing that way for many minutes.

As soon as we had completed a couple of sets the cool temperature became an advantage. In one of the figures of the Sliabh Luachra I found my mind suddenly thinking of choirs of angels—the band had slipped in the Christmas carol Ding Dong Merrily on High as one of the polkas. The holidays may still have been three weeks away but there were already festive smiles on all the faces. The break featured a long queue stretching from the tea room into the middle of the hall—fresh hot potato cakes were on trial here for the first time among all the other goodies.

After the break I was pleased to meet a dancer I had first met at a Christmas ceili in Dublin some twelve years ago and hadn’t seen for nearly as many years, but it’s amazing how I’ve never forgotten that great Connemara Set so many years ago, and our Plain Set today was a delight. So too was the stunning music of the Abbey—the lads are clever enough to play any instrument but are unbeatable in their usual combination.

Investigation and verification

A love for good floors is shared by many set dancers, and when someone declares that a floor is the best in Ireland, I feel determined to make a personal investigation to verify the claim. So having read numerous times on Facebook that the floor claiming this honour is in the Parish Hall in Mooncoin, Co Kilkenny, I was pleased to travel there for a Christmas ceili on Friday December 7th and try it out.

The hall looks like it was built in the era of the classic Irish dance hall from fifty or more years ago, though it has seen refurbishment recently. The floor though is of well-seasoned maple and has a positive bounce which is said to come from springs installed below. Indeed when standing in the set while the other couples are dancing, the floor is alive with movement so I felt nearly like I was dancing.

The dancers bouncing on the floor were inspired by the gorgeous music of Pat Walsh (piano) and Tony Dunne (box), otherwise known as Foot Tappers. The sets selected by our MC and caller Bronagh Murphy were a mix of the usual and rare. The West Kerry was very welcome, the Cúchulainn was the rarity, but the highlight for me was when Bronagh announced both the Clare Lancers and the High-Cauled Cap. We formed into sets dancing one or the other and I was mightily impressed to see that the Cap was in the majority, five sets versus three! It seemed like it had been many years since I danced it last so I savoured every bit, particularly that second figure, surely the best movement in ceili dancing. The Cap ended while the fourth figure of the Lancers was in progress, and nearly everyone continued dancing with that figure and the last. In my set, however, the other three couples sat down so my partner and I were left dancing the final figure pretending we were still a full set.

In the Caledonian Set I was pleased by chance to have a partner who, like myself, started dancing in London and we had much fond reminiscing about the old days in Tooting. And there was a big celebration for Mamy Kouyate, who was presented with a cake and kisses from 21 gents to celebrate her 21st birthday. She rewarded us all with a display her unique style of sean nós dancing—she moves so much more than just her feet!

Backyard in motion

After spending three All-Ireland Fleadhs in Cavan, I’ve developed a fondness for the town, so was pleased to travel up to the local set dancers’ Christmas party on Sunday afternoon, December 9th. It was in the Backyard Arts Centre, where one of the fleadh ceilis was held last August, and it made just as nice a place to dance this time. The Backyard’s hall was once the stables for Moynehall House, which has a history stretching back to the fourteenth century. Owners Terry and Brendan Crowe installed a comfortable floor while preserving some of the old stonework and windows, making it a bright and friendly venue for an afternoon ceili.

Families brought their kids along today, dressing them up in their best Halloween outfits, and a few adults in holiday spirit did the same. The Glenside Ceili Band added to the jolliness of the day with their ever joyful music. Every set packed the floor and the only time there was space was when a dozen sean nós dancers of all ages were called up to strut their stuff. Prizes were awarded for the best outfits, with just one of the adults winning, and all four of the children, one of whom was Maeve Flood, daughter of Sandra and Aidan, the band’s drummer.

Elves, punch, drumsticks

Toomevara is one of those places I often passed through over the years, but since the new M7 motorway opened, the Tipperary village has surely become a much quieter place, with only an exit sign to remind me of its existence as I speed past. So my visit here on Friday December 14th for a ceili mixed a bit of nostalgia with my usual excitement for dancing. The Parochial Hall is easy to find right in the centre of Toomevara, and inside it looks like another charming old school house converted to a hall. On arrival there was a full team of elves available to welcome everyone and dispense glasses of holiday punch. It was a great convenience to find coat hooks on every wall, and all the hanging coats surely played a part in softening any echoes from the sound system. Music was by the Five Counties Ceili Band, or rather the Two-and-a-Half Counties, as there were five musicians rather than the full ten-piece ensemble, but they were perfect for the small hall and eight sets dancing.

They are a fearless bunch in Toomevara with the floor full for every set, even the rarities such as the Ballyduff, Sliabh Fraoch and Birr sets. Polka sets shared equal time with reels, including the Sliabh Luachra and West Kerry, and we danced a couple of two-hand dances as well. Fear an tí Michael Loughnane made every set easy with his calling.

In a break there was a display of Riverdance-style step dancing by a skilled couple, the first few minutes of which were danced without music, letting us hear the steps acapella before the band joined in. The final Connemara Set was special because the band allowed Michael to put down the microphone and take up the drumsticks. He once played with the Ard Eric Ceili Band and he was delighted to drum along with the rest of the band for the first figure, cheered on by his many friends on the floor.

When the dancing was over I was already looking forward to returning here again soon. It was only when I was home that I realised I left my coat hanging on one of those hooks I had admired, and so I’d be returning here sooner than planned!

Beware the flying hair

Tonight’s ceili in Freemount, Co Cork, (Saturday 15 December) was the first in a newly improved venue, the Heritage Centre. Last year I attended the same ceili in the Community Centre, a vast sports hall, but tonight’s venue was just a fraction of that size with a much bigger crowd. The Heritage Centre was once the local school, and remarkably, Con Herbert, on stage tonight as box player with Mountain Road Ceili Band, told me he spent the first three years of his teaching career in this room. Many of the old features and details of the classrooms have been retained in the conversion to a dance venue, including much of the original timber panelling and three curious ventilation ducts intended to provide pupils with fresh air. What a pity they were no longer in working order!

Con and his band would have been more appropriately named the Motorway Ceili Band for all the blazing reels and polkas they played. The floor was already full for the first Corofin Set, and there were even more sets afterward. I had to take great care when doubling around inside the set to avoid contact with sides, but the one thing I couldn’t control was my partner’s hair, which brushed their faces. There was raucous good fun for every set despite (or perhaps because of) the cramped conditions. The hall emptied for the tea break when everyone went to another classroom for refreshments, and the only quiet moment of the ceili came when everyone sang Silent Night before the final Ballyvourney Jig Set.

Simply and elegantly satisfied

For me, this afternoon’s ceili (Sunday 16 December) was an adventure in alien territory—it was in the nightclub of the Riverisland Hotel in Castleisland, Co Kerry. The few times I have danced in a disco it was always for a ceili, and this one was quite nice, with pleasant lighting, a timber floor and good comfort. Despite cautions about the use of talcum powder as mentioned in the last issue of Set Dancing News, some dancers found it helpful, and dipped their shoes into a powder puddle at the edge of the floor for a few moments of improved sliding.

The well-chosen sets included the Sliabh Fraoch and the all-too-rare Newport, both of which were described before each figure by Timmy Woulfe. The duo of Tim Joe and Anne O’Riordan combines box and piano so simply and elegantly that they satisfy my urge to dance as well as any bigger band many times their size. Timmy also paid tribute to Tim Joe as being the only ceili band musician to call the sets while playing, which he did with timely accuracy.

We were nine sets which filled the square floor neatly for every dance. Except that we were one lady short in the Ballyvourney Jig Set. No problem—the two top ladies took turns filling in for the missing lady until a real one arrived. I had to raise my hand for a few sets but luckily was always rewarded with a great partner.

Local lad T J Nelligan runs this ceili annually to raise funds for needy causes, and today he raised €850 for the Downs Syndrome Association.

Flowers, candles and kisses

Sundays often reward me with two ceilis—after dancing in the afternoon somewhere, I can usually make it back to Kilfenora in time for the regular weekly ceili with the Four Courts Ceili Band in Vaughan’s Barn. Not only was tonight (16 December) their Christmas ceili, it was the surprise birthday party for Anna Casey from Clarecastle near Ennis. Anna loves dancing to the Four Courts and has long been a regular here and at other ceilis in the area. She was presented with a giant bouquet of flowers, a cake with candles and kisses from her admirers. The ceili is always good here and Anna’s celebration made it extra special for everyone.

Hot new blood

Ennis, Co Clare, is a major hotbed of set dancing where two classes each regularly draw at least a dozen sets every week. Mike Mahony’s Wednesday class in Cois na hAbhna, the local Comhaltas venue, usually has as many as fifteen to eighteen sets. Mike’s Christmas ceili on Wednesday December 19th brought even more dancers out tonight with a floor as full as you’d ever see at any ceili here. What was remarkable to me as I trawled the floor looking for partners is that this was a very different crowd to those I usually see here. There’s a whole lot of new people to bring new blood to ceilis once they graduate from Mike’s capable hands and venture out to ceilis elsewhere.

The sets were all the Clare favourites, which now include the Moycullen and Ballyvourney, and the floor was thick with dancers generating plenty of warmth and moisture. One desirable spot was by the open exit doors near the stage where even the mid-December breezes could hardly cool us down. The Star of Munster Ceili Band was responsible for the elevated temperatures, thanks to their thrilling music which also had the power to produce spontaneous cheers of joy. Most exciting of all was their classic rendition of the Tamlin Reel in the final figure of the final Lancers Set, which was followed by an unexpected special bonus—three figures of the Plain Set—before the national anthem brought us back down to earth.

Heaven arrives on Earth

My last weekend before Christmas took me to Dublin where I followed the hordes for a bit of shopping, but a pair of ceilis were the real highlights of the visit. A ceili on Friday December 21st was in Portmarnock at the Naomh Mearnóg GAA Club, which I had visited on a couple of occasions many years ago. As I recall, back then the hall was in an isolated backwater in the middle of nowhere, but today it’s right in the middle of the suburbs, thanks to the housing estates that seem to have sprung up all around it in the meantime. The hall itself was nearly the same as I remembered it, spacious and a nicely timbered floor, but they lowered the ceiling just enough to make it a bit more intimate and sound better.

In fact, tonight’s band, Brian Ború Ceili Band, sounded absolutely superb, but the ceiling had nothing to do with that—they’re just powerful musicians. Their music was refreshingly bright and breezy, every set a delight. In the second half there were two dances, one after the other, each with many long minutes of nonstop music. The first was the Ballyvourney Jig Set, a major pleasure on its own, but then it was outdone by the High-Cauled Cap immediately afterward. This was my idea of heaven and I felt especially lucky to have danced the Cap just a fortnight earlier, following a gap of an uncounted number of years. Ceilis in Portmarnock were once led by Donncha Ó Muinneachain before his death in 2005, and he always included both ceili dances and sets at his ceilis, and I was glad to see Joe Condron, our fear an tí, continue this tradition tonight.

The great pretender

For my second ceili in Dublin I attended a Christmas party at another GAA clubhouse on Saturday, December 22nd, this time in St Anne’s in Bohernabreena on the south side of the city, and there was an immediately obvious difference as soon as I entered the hall—people! There were at least double the number of sets in a smaller hall, so the dancing was tight and the atmosphere highly charged. The band was once again Brian Ború—I doubt I could get enough of them—with a couple of changes in personnel including a banjo in place of last night’s fiddle. Anne O’Donnell was tonight’s caller, and it was no bother to her or most of the dancers when we did the Ballykeale Set. It’s still new enough to have made absolutely no impression on my long term memory, but with Anne’s clear calling I could easily pretend I knew what I was doing. A step dancer came along tonight and performed for our pleasure during a break, and like the steps I watched in Toomevara last week, she danced first without music, then accompanied by the band. While the crowd lessened somewhat by the end of the ceili, the excitement never stopped till the national anthem.

Presents for all

Christmas is usually not a day for dancing, though there were once Christmas night ceilis in the long gone Rambling House outside Boherbue, Co Cork, which was far away from anyone who might overhear and object. But in the north of Ireland, there is a tradition of going out dancing on Christmas night, as Sharleen McCaffrey explained to me, which she misses now that she lives in Athlone. So as the organiser of ceilis in Dun na Sí Heritage Centre in Moate, Co Westmeath, she arranged a ceili on Christmas night to see how it would go.

The lightest traffic ever made for easy travelling, and I arrived even before the venue had been opened. Dun na Sí is a great little venue built in the style of a cottage, and the focal point of it is not the stage or dance floor, but a huge open fireplace big enough to sit inside and warm yourself by the turf fire. Except that there was no fire, so I sat in my warm car a bit longer, and when I next went in, some dancers had taken it upon themselves to get the turf blazing.

Of course, all that was forgotten as soon as we started dancing to Rise the Dust Ceili Band, who are full of musical surprises and tunes which are uniquely their own. In the spirit of Christmas there was a raffle of about thirty door prizes, which tonight meant that everyone got something. We never made more than three sets so we had plenty of space and the fun was worth the journey, even for those travelling from as far as counties Down and Carlow—and Clare, of course. I asked Sharleen whether we might meet again here next year, and she said probably not, as she was hoping to be dancing up north.

Déjà vu all over again

Returning to the earlier theme about my local hotbed of set dancing, I was lucky enough to attend three post-Christmas ceilis in Ennis, one every second day in a different venue. First up on St Stephen’s night was a near repeat of last week’s ceili in Cois na hAbhna with the Star of Munster. We were missing the thick crowd of students, but there were still plenty of locals, visitors from adjacent counties and some from as far as Mayo and Cork. Toward the end of the ceili there was a visit by wrenboys who collected donations, danced a figure of the Caledonian and then helped fill a few sets afterward. Star of Munster sounds better every time I hear them so I’m looking forward to their next ceili!

Mazurka majority

The next ceili in Ennis was a party for Maggie Hutton’s class, which meets on Monday nights in the hall of the Holy Family primary school, and it made a perfect venue for this big ceili on Friday December 28th. Last August Maggie fell in love with the Five Counties Ceili Band when they played in Kilrush and immediately booked them for this ceili. They then went on to win the all-Ireland senior ceili band competition later that month at the fleadh in Cavan. At tonight’s ceili they were still in prize-winning form as we danced nearly ten sets with as many as 27 sets on the floor.

Maggie herself had asked me for the Sliabh Luachra, knowing full well how I like to dance it, so we double-whirled as much as humanly possible. The last full set we danced was the Claddagh, but the handy list of sets posted around the hall advertised a Mazurka Set after that. However, the band called a blast of reels, so some danced that set, and others chose their own. The second tops couple in my set wanted to dance anything but the Mazurka, but they were outvoted by the rest of us and had no bother at all with it, apart from the confounding high gates figure.

The tea break was so generously supplied with food that even after the huge crowd had stuffed themselves, including myself, thanks to the abundance of veggie samosas, there was so much food left over that helpers made up plates of sandwiches to hand out to any takers as people left.

Two miraculous floors

Ennis ceili number three was at a new venue—the Woodstock Hotel on the western edge of town. Classes have been held here for many years, but as far as I am aware, the ceili on Sunday December 30th was the first, organised by Imelda Reynolds and Michael McMahon. The lovely function room doesn’t actually have a dance floor, so they borrowed the boards for one and Michael and friends spent the morning installing it on the carpet. My first thought on seeing it was, wow, it looks small for a Johnny Reidy ceili!

Yes, Johnny and his band proved to be a major attraction, such that the floor was full from the first Corofin Plain Set. During the second set, Imelda welcomed everyone and said they were going to install more flooring for us. I had expected them to wait till the break, but work started while we were dancing and the new flooring was quickly ready to displace up to four sets from the main floor.

It was an afternoon of bliss from start to finish. Johnny’s music not only moves the feet, but also has some kind of psychic effect on the mind, bringing a smile to every face and sending troubles far far away. Consequently, the dancing is as easy as you’ll ever experience.

Dancers came here from around the country, some of them even arriving the previous day for an overnight stay in the hotel. Michael and Imelda took a chance at holding a ceili in a new venue, but it worked out so well we’ll surely see more here this year—fingers crossed!

First in Ireland to begin 2013

The calendar brought ceilis to Vaughan’s Barn in Kilfenora for two days in a row—the regular Sunday on December 30th followed by the annual New Year’s Eve party on Monday, both featuring the Four Courts Ceili Band. I only arrived on Sunday in time for the last two sets, but even after all the dancing that afternoon in Woodstock, I had a brilliant time.

On New Year’s Eve, some arrived at 9pm, I thought I was right on time coming in at 9.30pm, but it was closer to 10 when the music began. The evening moved quickly, with a huge break for tea, sandwiches and cake after three sets. Before we resumed dancing, the band’s spokesperson and fiddler, Joe Rynne thanked the Vaughans for the tea and commented that there was enough food left over for the next New Year’s Eve party!

The final set of 2012 was the Ballyvourney Jig Set, but there was enough time before midnight to fit in the taxi dance—gents and ladies queue up in separate lines down the hall, pick up a partner at the top, waltz to the bottom and rejoin the queue. The countdown to midnight was probably a few minutes early, but at a time like this, why wait any more to start the new year! Everyone then shook hands or kissed everyone else, and then it was time for the year’s first set—the Caledonian of course, the best way to begin a year in Kilfenora.

Bill Lynch

Karlsruhe Advent ceili

On 2nd December, 2012, a Sunday afternoon ceili was held in Karlsruhe, Germany, with the relatively new Rhine Valley Ceili Band. Despite wintry conditions, more than fifty dancers from southern Germany and the Alsace region of France descended on the Nikolaus Kapelle Hall in Karlsruhe-Durlach and danced nine sets and a set of waltzes, with tea and cake in the break. A highlight was the dancing of the new Rinkinstown Set, which went down well with an Irish visitor from the area of Rinkinstown itself.

The Rhine Valley Ceili Band lineup was Ulrich Doersch on keyboard, Janna Kirchhoff on fiddle, Frank Weber on uilleann pipes, Anne Seeger on whistle and Paul Cox on Irish flute.

Martina Cox, Karlsruhe, Germany

To the fullest

Chris Eichbaum spent some of her post-Christmas holiday in Enniscrone, Co Sligo, at Enjoy Travel’s holiday dance festival in the Diamond Coast Hotel, where she keenly observed the dancers, especially one of them.

She sat at the big round table in the main ballroom and talked about her careers. A confident, alive woman, the description ‘elderly’ doesn’t wrap around her comfortably, although in years alone, the title for this age bracket does. She has been on a few of these trips now, and takes from them what she wants. Music classes. Set dancing. Newness. This time round, she tries social dance on for size, and although she doesn’t know it, she is being watched admiringly. First time on the floor, and she glides along, a swan on a pond of clear water. Sometimes, men took her out to dance, and sometimes they didn’t. She sat at the round table, watching. It wasn’t clear what mattered to her at that moment. Maybe the one thing, the only thing, that mattered was being there, being present and awake.

Any questions? She is the one who asked them. A free woman. Whatever frees us, or keeps us in bondage, it shows in our dance. The way we hold ourselves, whether movements flow or become restricted, the interaction with partners. If it matters what others think, or whether we get lost and found in the dance. It all shines through, and, watching her, there is a refreshing nothing. Nothing beyond or before the dance, no hidden agenda, no second thoughts. She dances in the morning, and at night. A woman that has taken life into her own hands, becoming elevated to the goal loads of people aspire to, becoming like aristocrats in living it to the fullest.

She stuck with learning dances for the duration of the Enjoy Travel event over Christmas and New Year. A twinkle in a place (Diamond Coast Hotel) that twinkled with many stars, both brazen and delicate. Made of many materials, musical, paper, tinsel, with colours dreamily cheerful and inviting to tap into childhood Christmas magic. And what do you think she herself is made of? Salt of the earth.

Chris Eichbaum

Swiss bundle of fun

The English dictionary definition of the word ‘bundle’ may have to be rewritten. It states that it is “a quantity . . . gathered or loosely bound together.” However, after attending a well-organised, friendly and relaxed weekend of dancing in Switzerland over the New Year, I can state that the group of dancers who call themselves ‘Bundle of Fun’ are anything but loosely bound together. The team, led by Manuela Morel, Eva Biedermann and André Lichtsteiner, organised a weekend that ran like legendary Swiss clockwork, with everything timetabled and organised to ensure dancers were fed, watered, rested, entertained, educated and exhausted in equal measure. We were bound together by a common love of good company, wonderful music, great teaching and fabulous dancing.

We had seen earlier reports in Set Dancing News of events being run in Switzerland over the New Year, and we decided early in 2011 that we would attend the next one to be organised. What we hadn’t realised at first was that these events are biennial, so we had to wait a little longer than we had originally anticipated to experience the fun! We are not people who usually do anything for New Year’s Eve, but dancing the old year out and the new in seemed to us too great an opportunity to miss! We booked everything well in advance, as is our way, and we looked forward to meeting up with dancing friends from across Europe. We were not disappointed. Before we even left Basel airport we met up with a couple of dancers who recognised us from Set Dancing News and introduced themselves—they had been on our flight and would accompany us on our onward journey to Herzberg. New friends already! We also met up with our friend Ane-Luise Madsen from Denmark, and the five of us were escorted to Herzberg by a local dancer, Geoff Nicholas. Geoff is English but has lived in Switzerland for many years, so he was invaluable. He made enquiries, bought tickets and generally shepherded us. Many thanks, Geoff.

It is a little stereotypical to talk of the efficiency of the Swiss travel system, but it really was amazingly easy and cheap to travel from the airport to the venue nestling in the hills above the town of Aarau. The two-hour journey by bus, train and bus cost about a tenner each, and we had no more than half an hour to wait for any connection. Absolutely brilliant. We really felt relaxed and worry-free as we travelled, and as though we were truly on holiday. After a hectic family Christmas, this was the perfect antidote, and we arrived at the venue rested and full of anticipation for the jollities which lay ahead. We are relative newcomers to dancing in Europe, and there are ‘old hands,’ such as Pat Crotty from Birmingham, who have previously blazed this trail, but to us there is still a sense of discovery and wonder at meeting dancers from far and wide at an event in the Swiss countryside. Some dancers had driven from Germany and Belgium, whilst others had, like us, flown in from England and Ireland. There are always big hugs from those we haven’t seen in a while and lots of greetings from those we just met, despite my terrible mangling of both the French and German languages. We all felt to be a part of the Bundle of Fun from the moment we arrived.

The teaching in the workshops was expertly led by Pat Murphy and Esther Campagnoli and a fair few sets were taught over the weekend, with the Rinkinstown really taking off and being danced most ably at the ceili on the Saturday night. Pat asked for requests for the final workshop, and despite it being New Year’s Day and most people having had just a few hours’ sleep, we all managed to get through the Melleray Lancers, albeit with much hilarity. It was taught, but I’m not so sure we actually could say we learned it!

The music for the weekend was provided by the Swallow’s Tail. Real birds were noticeably absent from the Swiss countryside, having migrated to warmer climes, and making for a surreal quiet in the nearby woodlands, but our birds were flying high and singing sweetly well into the first few hours of 2013 and beyond. Tommy had been a little under the weather during the day, but his performance would never have betrayed he was not feeling 100%.

Those of us from England and Ireland managed to celebrate the coming-in of the New Year twice. Some of us hadn’t altered our watches to European time, and so after the champagne and fireworks at Swiss midnight, we all then phoned or texted home one hour later, just as the dancing started up again and a haphazard rendition of Auld Lang Syne was robustly performed on the dance floor by the assembled company.

We had a great time, and already we are wondering whether we can fit this lovely event into our dancing calendar for New Year’s Eve 2014. I reckon there’s a strong possibility. When something as rare as this comes along, I think it’s just as well to grasp it with both hands and keep a hold. So, if anyone fancies celebrating the coming-in of the New Year in a slightly different way, keep your eyes on Set Dancing News for the arrangements for this gem. You will be made most welcome, be entertained by the singing of Swiss laments, treated to cakes and coffee and sweets, and arrive in the New Year with a light heart. You’ll ‘go a bundle’ on this one, just as we did.

Carol Gannon

Alive and well in Nenagh

Over the weekend of 4th to 6th January the annual Connie Ryan Set Dancing Weekend took place in the Abbey Court Hotel in the old market town of Nenagh, Co Tipperary. This weekend each year is a reunion of set dancers from across all spectrums of age and nationality. It is dedicated to the memory of the late dancing master Connie Ryan from the nearby village of Clonoulty. Thanks to Connie, set dancing is very much alive and well today and is the most popular form of traditional dancing in Ireland. Connie dedicated himself to teaching sets and almost single-handedly brought them back to life across Ireland and even introduced them to America. He died at the age of 57 in 1997 but many of today’s set dancing teachers began their dancing with him so his influence is still strong.

The Friday night ceili got off to a brilliant start with local musicians Tom McCarthy and Michael Egan providing the music and Thurles dancing master Michael Loughnane as our master of ceremonies. Included in our list of sets was the Boyne, Moycullen, Antrim Square and a host of the usual Co Clare sets.

Saturday morning our set dancing workshops got underway with another Co Tipperary native, world-renowned set dancing master Pat Murphy, at the helm. Pat taught the Ballyfin Set which he got from Co Laois dancing teacher Maureen Culleton. The set is danced to three polkas, a jig and finishes with a polka. Maureen’s mother remembered this set and danced it in her young days. The second set of the morning was the Foilmore Set, a lovely Co Kerry set, danced to five jigs. It has some similarities to the South Kerry Set. Pat got it from Athea, Co Limerick, dancing teacher Timmy Woulfe.

After lunch we danced the Rinkenstown Set. All four figures offer something different to the norm, but nothing too challenging. The third figure posed a bit of a hiccup for some dancers with line out and ducks movements. Our Saturday workshop concluded with Pat teaching the Aran Set. Just three figures, two reels and a polka, it seldom gets an airing at ceilis. One of the features of it is the waves movement.

Our Saturday night ceili saw the dynamic duo of Ger Murphy and Ken Cotter on stage. We danced the soles off our shoes to their superb music. The sets included the Rinkenstown from our earlier workshop, and despite excellent calling by Pat, some dancers who had not attended the workshop got lost in the third figure.

For our workshop Sunday morning Pat taught the Blackhill Set, an old set from Dungarvan, Co Waterford, danced to five polkas. There are similarities to the Sliabh gCua and the Ballyduff sets. The final set of the workshop was the Ballingeary Jig Set from west Cork. Danced to five slides it is similar to the Ballyvourney Jig. Pat concluded his workshop with two beautiful two-hand dances, the Spanish Waltz and Bluebell Polka.

Sunday afternoon we had our final ceili of the weekend. The mighty Glenside Ceili Band from Co Longford gave us music to charm even tired feet to dance all afternoon. We danced the Blackhill Set from the workshop. All weekend we had a superb selection of sets, including some of my great favourites, the Labasheeda, Ballykeale, West Kerry, Sliabh Fraoch, Boyne, Moycullen and Clare Orange and Green. No set was repeated, even though we danced 29 sets altogether. Michael Loughnane did a brilliant job calling the sets and keeping all dancers comfortable on the floor.

The floor was immaculate, the music sublime, the company and welcome were heavenly. The organizing committees are to be commended on a fantastic weekend. This weekend of set dancing was a wonderful start to 2013 and a real tribute to the late Connie Ryan.

Joan Pollard Carew

Malahide 2013

I have lost count of the years that the Grand Hotel in Malahide, Co Dublin, 11–13 January, has hosted the Connie Ryan memorial weekend. After a slow start it has now become an obligatory annual pilgrimage for me and hundreds of dancers, many nearly, if not quite, as chronologically seasoned as myself. For many, it is paying homage to the memory of the great pioneering innovator that was Connie. For many others, it offers the additional incentive of seeing any new sets; therefore the many teachers present hope to enlarge their repertoire for the coming year.

Over the years tutor Pat Murphy has rolled out sets such as the Claddagh (along with Séamus Ó Méalóid), Antrim Square, Port Fairy, Lough Neagh, Flight of the Earls, etc. Most of them, unfortunately, have a short shelf life but, at least they got a decent premiere and failed, not because of structural weakness but a failure to break into a very constricted market. Only two of the above-mentioned made the grade. It would seem to me because only a limited number of teachers can afford the time because of the need to bring their classes up to speed with the regular dances.

This year’s premiere was rather different. The outstanding Rinkinstown Set was available on the internet for some time and, therefore, no longer a surprise to many. Nevertheless, a large number had come specifically to learn the set and Pat presented it with the considerable presence of John McEvoy and Mairéad Devane, its co-composers.

Will it establish itself on the regular set menu ? Only if it is widely taught—and it certainly deserves to be perpetuated on the social calendar. I have been quoted as being pro-newly-composed sets despite the difficulty of establishing them. Those who feel impelled to go down the road of set-composition deserve every encouragement. In my humble opinion, the phenomenon which all of us have enjoyed for close on thirty years will wither away eventually without such evolutionary developments.

Pardon the rant—which has little to do with Malahide! Remarkably, each event of the weekend drew a full house with some diplomatically suggesting those in the next set might forfeit a little of their already restricted space. But very politely for the most part, as you would expect with such a cosmopolitan attendance. I made the acquaintance of Italians, Danish, German, French, Hungarian, American and Japanese and maybe others, with friendliness being the order of the day.

A few with language difficulty soon learned the best method of communication was through one’s feet; others felt it better to stay with their fellow-nationals. I was intrigued to be told by a lovely Danish lady that I was the image of her father and hadn’t the courage to enquire in what way. It did transpire that her forebears and mine came from either side of the Danish-German border!

With such diversity it was pleasant to see that a complex undertaking ran so smoothly. Organiser Betty McCoy, with her customary sang froid, seemed totally at ease at all times, disguising her meticulous preparation beforehand and that of her excellent mini-committee. Connie Ryan, who himself was a remarkable organiser, would have approved.

I wonder, come 2014, will the Rinkinstown Set have made the grade! We live in hope!

Timmy Woulfe, Athea, Co Limerick

PS Came across the following lines penned by a friend, now deceased, who hadn’t, as we often heard, a step in his leg!

When you’re dancing keep erect,
Double tap: ’tis good effect.
Step and music link in marriage,
Keep the rhythm and the carriage.
Feet in tidy, hands in place,
A pleasant look upon your face.
Show there is enjoyment there,
But be sure to keep the square.
Practice hard, leave nought to chance,
Then reap perfection in your dance.

Connie Ryan would be so pleased!

The dancers who came from Japan, Italy, Holland, Denmark, Germany, Hungary, England, the United States and of course from all over Ireland were well satisfied on Sunday evening after the annual Connie Ryan memorial weekend in Malahide. Five tutors had coached them through step, sean nós and set dancing classes, while four ceili bands had played rousing steady rhythmic music. There were sessions and songs and all taking part in the comfort of the Grand Hotel.

The weekend is organised to raise funds for cancer research. Connie died in 1997 and since then his dancing partner, Betty McCoy, his friends, Anne and John Grant, and Michael Tubridy have raised over €100,000. It is a meticulously well-planned event and dancers and musicians are all well looked after. Happily they are already putting their ideas together for next year’s event.

Connie loved dancing and inspired everyone around with his enthusiasm. When he died there was a huge void but happily many of his pupils became teachers and so the tradition has become even stronger.

Aidan Vaughan opened the weekend with the first class—the basic Clare step. Described by Connie as “the best set dancer in Ireland,” he stays true to his tradition and methodically and patiently coaches dancers through the basic fundamental steps. Later he joined the Slievenamon Group as drummer, and as the weekend continued, he joined the Four Courts and Matt Cunningham bands too—a busy man!

The Slievenamon Group was formed by Connie in the mid-1980s and now the musicians come together once a year to play for the Friday night ceili. They played gentle steady music as up to 200 dancers took to the floor.

On Saturday Tony Ryan started the morning class with the Skibbereen Set. He told us how he had first learnt it from Joe and Siobhán O’Donovan, and it was with sadness that he dedicated the set to the memory of Siobhán who had died just a day earlier. Joe and Siobhán, who came from Cork, were stalwarts of the set dancing revival and good friends of Connie.

Pat Murphy took over at 11.30am and introduced the Rinkinstown Set. Created by Mairead Devane and Sheila and John McEvoy, this set was launched in Drogheda six months ago and has been danced at ceilis in the Louth area. The McEvoys are the parents of the Triskell band so there is a good marrying of the music and dance tradition.

The Four Courts Ceili Band filled the Saturday afternoon slot. It is an annual treat to hear this band in Dublin, particularly this year as their box player, Peter Griffin, travelled with them.

The committee are always conscious that this weekend is about old friends meeting up and remembering Connie, and Father Pat Littleton who said Mass emphasised this. He talked nostalgically about his dancing days in the Ierne Ballroom in Parnell Square, Dublin, where Connie taught. Friends added their memories and music was played. It was good to take a moment out to reminisce amid a weekend of so much activity.

There were sessions of music in the bar area and the Brian Ború Ceili Band played for the Saturday night ceili. They must have set a record by playing for over twelve sets and waltzes but the music never flagged! Although a Dublin-based band, the Brian Ború has a distinctive Clare style, well-suited to set dancing. Eileen O’Doherty was bean an tí for the night and kept everyone on their toes, while Pat and Tony called the sets they had taught earlier that day.

Michael Tubridy and Mairéad Casey opened the Sunday morning session with their own distinctive styles . Michael taught The Priest in His Boots, and Mairéad demonstrated both simple and intricate sean nós steps. Both these teachers have established their own following—notably dancers from overseas. It is a sense of pride that our tradition has been embraced by so many nationalities.

One of the many pleasures of this weekend is meeting up with old friends and dancing a set with those who come back every year. Five young women from Tokyo returned, as well as the dancers from France (they dance every Tuesday in Paris), Gaby Vadanyi from Budapest, and of course the strong Italian contingent also contributed to the international flavour. They are all excellent old-style set dancers. Connie Ryan would be so pleased!

Matt Cunningham rounded off the weekend on the Sunday afternoon. Weary but happy, everyone has pencilled in next year’s event.

Deirdre Morrissey, Bray, Co Wicklow

Darby O’Gills weekend

The third annual Darby O’Gill’s Set Dancing Festival, at the hotel of that name outside Killarney, Co Kerry, was enjoyed on the weekend of November 23rd to 25th, with huge numbers gathering for both workshops and ceilis. The hotel was fully booked out, and I was greeted with hugs and kisses by droves of set dancing friends as I arrived to run the weekend.

Our Friday night ceili got underway as dancers formed sets on the floor before the nine o’clock start—this was the format for all three ceilis. The buzz was mighty and Johnny Reidy was in his usual full flight, enthused by his fan club of dancers. Some of the Nenagh, Co Tipperary, dancers had blue and gold Johnny Reidy Fan Club t-shirts. We danced the Sliabh Luachra, Corofin, Ballykeake, Cashel, Plain, Ballyvourney Reel, Ballyvourney Jig and finished with the Connemara.

Saturday morning our workshop got underway with renowned set dancing master Timmy Woulfe at the helm. The first set he taught was the Rinkenstown Set, composed by John and Sheila McEvoy and Mairead Devane, from Termonfeckin, Co Louth. The set is danced to three reels and a hornpipe and has some lovely formations. The third figure is the only one needing a bit of thinking with the line ups. The set should become part of the mainstay of sets being danced at ceilis, if teachers take it on board in their classes and ceili organisers include it in their programmes.

The second set Timmy taught was the lovely Paris Set, one of the oldest Co Clare sets, danced to three reels and a jig, and the last figure is unique in being danced to alternating hornpipes and marches. After lunch Timmy taught the Ballingeary Jig Set, which is danced to slides. This little gem is being danced now instead of the Ballyvourney Jig at some ceilis. The workshop had six sets all enjoying Timmy’s instruction and the history of the sets for which he is famous.

Triona Mangan’s sean nós class was packed. Most of the set dancers from Timmy’s class remained and were joined by a group of young dancers. Their sound of tapping and shuffling feet that is sean nós was magic. The freedom of expression is definitely the attraction of this style of dancing. Triona is an accomplished dancer and tutor and has received numerous accolades.

Saturday night’s ceili got underway with the Abbey Ceili Band on stage. Before the first set got underway I called for a minute of silence for our set dancing friend Flor Deane, who had passed to his eternal reward a few days earlier. The floor was packed, the music and dancing were superb. We danced the Caledonian, West Kerry and Kilfenora. Timmy called the Ballingeary from the workshop. For the second half of our ceili we danced the Clare Orange and Green, Antrim Square, Ballyduff, and finished with the Connemara.

After the ceili we had a session in the bar. Local musicians Mick Kavanagh and Damian O’Meara were delighted that set dancers joined in the singing and craic. The Thurles and Nenagh dancers were in full flight. Complimentary baskets of hot finger food were served, during the session it was finger licking good. Partying went on until 3am, but I am reliably informed that some continued on much later.

All bright-eyed at 11am on Sunday morning our workshop got underway. Timmy Woulfe taught the Limerick Orange and Green Set, which has six figures, the first two danced to slides, then a polka, jig, polka and a final reel. Timmy told us he got the set from a very elderly lady who lived in the Cappagh area of Limerick.

To conclude the workshop Timmy taught the Televara Set, which is from Killarney. We got through all seven figures, testimony to Timmy’s brilliant instruction and the standard of dancing by the participants. The first five figures of the set are danced to jigs, followed by a slide and concluding with a reel.

Our final ceili of the weekend was packed to the rafters. An Striolán Ceili Band gave us magical music. We danced the Plain, Borlin and Connemara, then Timmy called the Limerick Orange and Green from the workshop. For the second half of the ceili we danced the Claddagh, Sliabh Fraoch, Moycullen and Clare Lancers.

The rafters in the roof of Darby O’Gills are still reverberating with music and dancing. Roll on 2013.

Joan Pollard Carew

Trip to Youghal

And so to the historic town of Youghal, where Sir Walter Raleigh held sway in the late sixteenth century and where he lived occasionally while surveying his 40,000 acres and dealing mercilessly with any dissent. It was in the hotel that now bears his name that the Dungarvan set dancers assembled on Friday 16th November for their weekend workshop.

The hotel is under new management and is undergoing serious renovation. There is a fine new ballroom which has, most importantly, a splendid dance floor. And on this particular weekend, that floor was seriously tested.

On the opening night, the music was provided by Tim Joe and Ann and those who are familiar with their music will not have to be told that this was no place for the fainthearted. The pace was lively, and I must say I would like to be present if Tim Joe ever accepts an invitation to join in a session with a jazz band. That would be an interesting evening—so go for it, Tim Joe! We danced a rake of sets, scarcely pausing for breath. Afterwards a group adjourned to the bar where we sat quietly and sang loudly.

The Dungarvan dancers are a wonder to behold as, led by Helen and Paddy Kealy, they bring great heart and enthusiasm and no small degree of skill to the floor. There was a heavy programme arranged for the Saturday and a range of options. Margaret Fitzgerald, a teacher of social dancing, provided lessons in quick step, jive and two-hand, and for those who are devoted to strictly routines, latin and salsa.

Saturday night afforded the newly trained and the old hands an opportunity to demonstrate their abilities and the fantastical array of the exotic and individual styles was a wonder to behold. Indeed in some cases, it was clear that the old refrain applied—if in doubt, do what you do best. The Dreamers, all two of them, are very talented and their repertoire was impressive as they went through the numbers—quick step, fox trot, waltz, boogie, ceili, rock ’n’ roll and whatever you’re havin’ yourself. Again a most enjoyable night.

If the energy supply was not diminished, there was more fun to be had on Sunday to the music of Danny Webster, once again the ever-readies and those with the Duracell batteries took to the floor.

We drove away from Youghal in a contented state of mind as is always the case when meeting the set dancing community—the men and women for whom the essence of life is the dance!

Celia Gaffney, Dungarvan, Co Waterford

Something good

Letters and emails

Hi Bill,

2012 has been as hard for people here in Italy as in Ireland, however we try to find something good in these grey moments. For example a ray of sun was brought by the Abbey Ceili Band visiting last April, and another beautiful day brought Pat Murphy to Bologna on Sunday December 9th. I think it will be an unforgettable Sunday for many of us. Pat led the morning workshop teaching the Rinkinstown Set and we were twelve sets, almost 100 people—unbelievable for Italy—and many of them who never had the chance to dance with Pat were fascinated by his style and kindness. In the afternoon we had a fantastic ceili with almost ninety people dancing ten different sets (Birr, Sliabh Fraoch, Port Fairy and others better known).

These are just a few words to thank Pat Murphy once again, and you, Bill, for giving us the ability to keep in contact with the set dance world.

We wish a beautiful 2013 to everyone in Ireland, as well as in Italy.


Christina Zanini and Claudio Cavallini, Bologna, Italy

From near and far

Hi Bill,

I would like to thank most sincerely all of those who came to the Galway Bay Set Dancing Weekend, 2–4 November in the Clybaun Hotel, Salthill, from near and far, and who made the weekend such a wonderful success. Thanks to the three bands, Glenside, Mountain Road and Matt Cunningham, for keeping the dancers happy with their great music. Thanks also to Pat Murphy and Mick Mulkerrin for a fantastic weekend of tuition. This year’s festival will be on November 1st, 2nd and 3rd with full details to follow in Set Dancing News. I would like to wish all set dancers everywhere a very Happy New Year.

Yours sincerely,

Tony Ryan, Galway

The quality of the sets

Dear Bill,

A reminder to any would-be entrants to Kerry Dancers’ competition for newly-composed sets:

Entries will be accepted up to and including March 31st and all will be treated with the dignity they deserve. The competition takes place on Friday, May 10th, the opening night of our Sweets of May workshop weekend in Tralee, and will be judged on the quality of the sets rather than on standards of dancing.


Timmy Woulfe, Athea, Co Limerick

Greatly appreciated

Dear Bill,

Thank you for all your good work advertising our ceilis in your Set Dancing News magazine and on the Internet. Without that service the ceilis would not be the success they are. It is greatly appreciated.

Many thanks,

Joan O’Sullivan, Tournafulla, Co Limerick

They were so delighted

Hi Bill,

We had a wonderful Christmas ceili in Ballykilmurray, Co Offaly, on Sunday, 16th December with fabulous music by Rise the Dust and raised €350 for Riada House Day Care, Tullamore. In the photo I am presenting a cheque to staff members Elaine Claffey and Kate Hiney. They were so delighted with the cheque and said they would put it to good use!

Thanks to everyone who supported this ceili and all our ceilis throughout the year.

Many thanks,

Benny Carroll, Tullamore, Co Offaly

Two-hands made easy and set dancing fixed!

Matt Cunningham’s incomparable collection of CDs and DVDs of traditional music and dancing has a new addition—a DVD called Irish Two-Hand Dancing Made Easy. The disk does exactly what it claims by showing fourteen two-hand dances, some with variations—Barn Dance, Corn Reeks, Gay Gordons, Military Two-Step, Peeler and the Goat, Pride of Erin Waltz, St Bernard Waltz, Shoe the Donkey, Stack of Barley, Sweetheart Waltz, Two-Hand Hornpipe, Two-Hand Jig, Two-Hand Reel and Valeta Waltz. Matt Cunningham himself introduces the dances with a brief explanation, then they are demonstrated without further comment by well-know teachers including Mildred Beirne, Maureen Culleton, Mickey Kelly and Tony Ryan, accompanied by the lively music of Matt’s ceili band. Each demonstration lasts from three to five minutes.

In addition, there are two displays of solo dancing by two west Clare masters. Tommy Browne performs an old-style jig with admirable energy and style, and Aidan Vaughan dances his intricate sean nós steps to lovely solo accordion by Matt.

The last section of the DVD is an illustrated glossary of the terms used in set dancing. Matt patiently explains all the basics, such as reels and jigs, tops and sides, house, home, Christmas, lady’s chain and many more, all with musical and visual examples.

As with all of Matt’s disks, Irish Two-Hand Dancing Made Easy is released by Ainm Music and is well distributed to shops in Ireland. It can also be purchased from Matt at his ceilis and from

Frank Stubbs of Ainm Music says the DVD was inspired by a request from a dancer in Japan, which testifies to Matt’s popularity around the world, as well as traditional Irish dancing in general.

Set dancers and music fans will be pleased to know that Triskell Ceili Band have issued their first CD, How are we fixed? The band are still thought of as a new band, though they are well established since they first came together in 2007. Not only do they play for ceilis around Ireland, their popularity extends to Europe where they have played in Heidelberg, Germany, and on Enjoy Travel’s Portugal holiday.

Four great sets are included on How are we fixed?—the Boyne, Clare Orange and Green, Corofin Plain and Cúchulainn, a total of twenty tracks. The well-chosen selection has something for everyone, beginner and connoisseur alike. The four musicians are based in County Louth, and they have included their own local Cúchulainn Set. Every set shares the same rousing though relaxed music which will give any dancer the urge to move, and even inspire any listener to joyful foot-tapping.

The new disks are available directly from the band members at their ceilis. Samples are available for listening on their website,

Set Dance Land

In Set Dance Land, in Set Dance Land,
The dancers flow by, to and fro,
Hip to hip and toe to toe,
With clasping hands and warm embrace,
Like northern lights, their patterns trace.
In Set Dance Land, in Set Dance Land.
In Set Dance Land, in Set Dance Land,
The wild, fierce beat of ceili band,
A push, then pull, back to Ireland,
Stirs Celtic hearts with Celtic airs,
And frees us all from worldly cares.
In Set Dance Land, in Set Dance Land.
In Set Dance Land, in Set Dance Land,
The dance instructor takes the fore,
And leads her dancers round and round the floor.
Dancing to faery waves on a faery strand,
We follow our Cathleen, our Daughter of Houlihan,
To Set Dance Land, to Set Dance Land.
In Set Dance Land, in Set Dance Land,
There’s a faery land of heart’s desire,
Where dancers never age and dancers never tire.
And it is there by the Irish Sea,
We would dance and dance . . . to eternity.
In Set Dance Land, in Set Dance Land.

Richard Devlin, Kingston, New Hampshire

Articles continue in Old News Volume 77.

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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