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  • Mai Hernon

What about the festivals in Ireland.


It is well known that Ireland is the land of music, singing and dance. There are many people all around the world who are learning and playing Irish traditional music, song and dance. Indeed there are many people who are learning how to speak Irish. At some point in their lives, some of these people make their way to Ireland to see the natives do their thing.

I have been going to Traditional music festivals most of my life at home in Ireland, and I used to be amazed at the amount of people who would attend and play traditional music who do not come from Ireland.

A lot of music lovers from different countries around the world, hear Irish music in their own countries at festivals or concerts and become interested in it. They usually end up buying CD's from the artists that they hear, and use these recording to learn from. A lot of the music that these bands record is geared towards commercial sales, so in other words, it is packaged. The recording bands and musicians who have mastered their art in Ireland, do present traditional music to their audiences differently to the way they learned it at home.

There are many opinions about playing Irish Traditional Music. If it should be played the way it was 200 hundred years ago or should it be empellished to entertain the masses. I would have tended to be a traditional minded person, but a few things that I have seen while going to festivals and summer schools has made me think again.

I will tell you a story about something that I experienced once at a summer school in Ireland. I cannot name names here.

I was playing in a session one night in a pub with a lot of local musicians, some were very well known musicians, who would be well known for their local style and ability. The session was going well and musicians who would come into the pub would join in.

Now in this session there was some very traditionl minded musicians and some of them were teaching at this summer school. These people would not believe in playing the tunes way to fast or doing something with the tunes that would make the tune something that nobody could recognise. Anyway, this night, one of the musicians, a fiddle player from Germany, joined the session. He had come to Ireland, and this summer school, to learn tunes and a little about regional style.

He was a very capable player but he would play to fast, and of course, some of the other musicians were getting annoyed. At one stage, one of the older musicians stopped the music, turned to our German friend, and proceeded to ask him who he was and where did he come from. Then he asked him what did he think he was doing, coming into a session and playing at 100 miles an hour, destroying the session. He then asked him where did he learn his music, and the answer was.... "From Four men and a Dog" CD. This lad had gone to see the band at a concert in Germany, and decided that he loved the music, and was going to learn how to play it. Which he did, an did very well, speed and all, but he knew that there had to be more to the music than what he had heard, so he was on his journey to find out about the true roots of the music.

Now our older, local, traditional minded musician, who just went on and on about young musicians coming into a session and not listening to the older musicians and not learning the style and not showing respect, might have had a point, but on the other hand, if that young lad had never heard a progressive traditional band, taking the old and putting frills on it, to make it sellable to the wider world out there, then that young lad would have probably gone to another country to learn a different kind of music. No, Four Men and a Dog, did something with the music that captured this young musicians heart and indeed, many like him, and he was there to learn from the older musician. Respect should have been shown to him.

But in saying all of this, I also know that the standard of musicianship with Irelands kids is so very, very high, that the older musician also has the problem that you have families of musicians, with parents who are so pushy that they insist that their kids join a session, tell everybody to be quiet and then proceed to tell the kids what to play, without considering session etiquette. They would decide every selection without giving a taught to anyone around them, and they would also play in keys that would not normally be used by older musicians. This would all be to show how expert they were. It would have nothing to do with the pure enjoyment of the session. They would never be told to just listen to the style of the older man or woman and learn from them. With the result that regional style is not as strong as it once was. There might be Germans out there that have more of a regional style that some of the young kids in Ireland.

However, Ireland has festivals almost all year round, between the local fleadh's to the All-Ireland Fleadh, which is held once again in Sligo town, to Sligo Live, Galway Arts Festival to the Belfast Arts festival, and I could go on and on. The quality of the music at these festivals is outstanding and the craic is mighty. Along with music festivals, there are also great singing festivals, like The Frank Finn Traditional Singing Festival in Sligo at the beginning of Oct every year.

Secret Ireland Experience (tours) intend to take in some of these festivals next year. We will pick some of the best and bring you there for your holiday. There are great summer schools that we could bring you to, where you can learn to play, sing or dance. Or just one of those festivals where you want to relax and listen to great music. When there is a quiet time during the festival we can take a trip to some of the stunning sites and experience the countryside and the people. So, visit out website and facebook page, then add your e-mail to our mailing list and you can always send us an e-mail telling us what kind of trip you would like. If we can make it happen, then we will.

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We have organized music in the  local pubs for our tour groups. These sessions are very welcoming to anyone who would like to sing a song, or dance, or indeed, join with an instrument. 

You will hear, for free, some of the finest musicians in the country.  These musicians have travelled the world with their music, but there's nothing like playing in the local pub with their friends.

We will bring you to all the stunning areas only the locals know.

You will see lakes, mountains, sea shores, forests, holy places, and much more. You will meet the locals who might just tell you some stories about where you are.

Relax and take in the fresh air. Go for a walk, take pictures and soak it all up.

On our travels we will see 11th and 12th century ruins of Castles, Abbeys, underground passage tombs, outdoor altars and famine grave sites.

You will go back in time listening to the history of these places. 

We will also be bringing you to restored castles and modern gravesites. "Oh but why are they bringing me to a gravesite" I can hear you say. Just wait and come with us, you will be amazed at what you see.

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www.facebook.com/SecretIrelandTours

Write to Mai Hernon McEvilley at

mai@secretirelandtoursllc.com