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Martin Carthy in Ballybunion sat 24 nov

The Sandman 22 Nov 12 - 02:08 PM
GUEST,Peter Laban 23 Nov 12 - 09:04 AM
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Subject: Martin Carthy in Ballybunion sat 24 nov
From: The Sandman
Date: 22 Nov 12 - 02:08 PM

as part of the Ballybunion[kerry] chanters festival 2012, my old friend Martin Carthy will be appearing in concert, venue, cliff house hotel, 9 00 pm, admission 15 euros, Martin is relative of TOM McCARTHY,respected piper from Ballybunion, CONTACT, the concert features other singers and pipers as well as Martin. regards Dick Miles

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Subject: RE: Martin Carthy in Ballybunion sat 24 nov
From: GUEST,Peter Laban
Date: 23 Nov 12 - 09:04 AM

A more complete take on events taking place:

Ballybunion Chanters Festival

A weekend of piping and singing in commemoration of Tom McCarthy.

Ballybunion, County Kerry, 23-25 November 2012.

Chanter [ME. and AF. Chauntour:— L. Cantatorem]
One who chants or sings.
The finger-pipe of a bagpipe, on which the melody is played.


Ballybunion Chanters Festival is a festival of uilleann piping and traditional singing commemorating the piper Tom McCarthy, who played for many years on the Castle Green in Ballybunion, County Kerry, until his death in 1904. It will be held on the weekend of 23-25 November 2012, and will feature both local and visiting performers. There will also be an outreach programme for schools in the Ballybunion area in the days leading up to the festival proper.

The festival is unique in exploring the considerable common ground between pipers and singers: many pipers are either singers themselves or have an interest in singing, and the converse is also true; and many of the airs (non-dance music) in the piping repertoire are derived from classic traditional songs in Irish and in English.

The idea of the festival was suggested by Arts Minister and North Kerry TD Jimmy Deenihan in conversation with members of the North Kerry Traditional Music Archive (NKTMA). It was recognised as a highly desirable project, though somewhat outside the remit of the NKTMA; it was also felt that some expertise in the area of piping was needed. Accordingly, a festival committee was set up, the members being drawn from both NKTMA and Na Píobairí Uilleann (NPU), the international organisation of uilleann pipers, acting in a private capacity.

Early in the discussions concerning the festival, we decided on the innovative idea of incorporating singing into the core of the festival. To this end, we have been in contact with various singers' clubs and individual singers, who have been very supportive of the idea. We are working closely with these groups and individuals, as well as with NKTMA and NPU, to select the ideal mix of performers. We recognise the importance of striking the right balance between pipers and singers, locals and visitors: the festival must have a solid local base, as well as showcasing some of the finest exponents of traditional music and song nationally.

Festival objectives

As well as commemorating an individual piper, Tom McCarthy, in his native place, the festival aims to foster local interest in piping and in traditional singing, in order to encourage local singers and pipers (and those who aspire to become such), and also to develop a listening audience to nourish the tradition into the future.

Kerry once had a strong piping tradition: we see this festival as the first stage in a process of restoring and cherishing it.

Kerry still has a strong singing tradition: we see this festival as part of an ongoing celebration of that.

Traditional singing and instrumental music have become somewhat separated in recent times: the festival is a step towards re-integrating these essential Irish art forms.

Piping in Kerry

In the 19th century, Tom McCarthy was just one of the more famous pipers in a county renowned for such musicians. The piper and traditional music scholar Breandán Breathnach wrote that in those days, "scarcely another county in Ireland could equal Kerry in the number of its pipers or the general level of their performance" (Irish Folk Music Studies/Éigse Cheol Tíre 4, 1985).

In still earlier times, North Kerry had been famed for its harpers, such as Nicholas "Dall" Pierse (c.1561-1653); Pierse was from Rattoo, which was the site of a harping school. In Kerry, as in Ireland generally, the pipers gradually inherited the mantle of the harpers after the collapse of the old Gaelic order, and enjoyed fairly high social status even among the new Anglo-Irish gentry; they also managed to retain the regard of "the plain people of Ireland", and were the means of preservation of much old music.

In more recent decades, piping has not been a prominent feature of the traditional music scene in Kerry (although there are some notable pipers living in the county, including NPU chairman and NKTMA member David Hegarty). It is an objective of the festival to re-kindle interest in the pipes in Kerry, and this is being addressed in two ways: obviously, we hope that the weekend of the festival itself will attract attention and allow the public to appreciate the music of the pipes as played by some master pipers. In addition to that, there will be an outreach programme in local schools in the run-up to the festival. If, as we hope and believe, there is sufficient interest, the festival will be followed up with an instrument loan scheme and classes for aspiring pipers.

Traditional singing in Kerry

The tradition of singing is still strong in North Kerry, mainly in English but also in Irish; and—a sure sign of a healthy tradition—new songs are still being composed in the traditional idiom, typically to celebrate local "characters", GAA matches, nostalgia for the past, and so on.

There are no big "stars" in North Kerry singing: it is still a social pastime rather than a branch of show business. However, there are some outstanding locally known singers such as Donie Lyons and Sonny Egan whom we intend to feature in the festival. And there are others: in September 2011, as part of an NKTMA festival in Ardfert, a singing session was held which was not only much enjoyed and appreciated but also revealed some singers who were previously unknown except to their nearest and dearest. These too will be celebrated in the festival.

Piping and singing

As mentioned above, pipers and singers have much in common in their respective repertoires, and more than a few are proficient in both disciplines; in general there is a high mutual regard between pipers and singers.

In former times, according to Breandán Breathnach, it was very common for pipers to accompany themselves singing. Moreover, serious pipers would often learn the words of—and sing—the big traditional songs, so that their phrasing when playing those airs on the pipes would closely match the sung version.

The famous uilleann piper Séamus Ennis, who was also noted as a fine singer, advised pipers to learn and sing at least one verse of any song air that they proposed to play on the pipes. Serious devotees of piping (and indeed of singing) often find it uncomfortable to listen to an instrumental rendition of a song air if the phrasing does not fit the words.

Another, purely logistical factor affecting both pipers and singers is that, for them, the typical modern pub session of traditional music is an uncongenial setting, based as it is on group playing (many other traditional music practitioners would be of similar mind, of course). Traditional singing is a solo art, not always at home in the hurly-burly of the session; pipers too tend to prefer solo playing, to allow the full expression of individual creativity within the traditional idiom.

For all these reasons, it is perhaps surprising that no previous festival has combined piping and singing as is proposed in the Ballybunion Chanters Festival. From our discussions with pipers and singers, we believe that it will prove a highly successful match, and may provide a template for other events.

Tom McCarthy

Despite his fame in his lifetime, little information has come down to us regarding Tom McCarthy. Most of what we know comes from the book "Irish Minstrels and Musicians", published in Chicago in 1913 by the great Cork-born musician and music collector Francis O'Neill. His information, in turn, seems to have come from two main sources: the Chicago-based dancer Richard Sullivan (also from North Kerry), who had often danced to McCarthy's music; and Professor P. D. Reidy, a dancing master originally from Castleisland, County Kerry, later based in London, who in 1868 gave an exhibition of dancing for which Tom McCarthy supplied the music.

Here is O'Neill's account of Tom McCarthy:

This celebrated centenarian, who lived in three centuries, was born in the year 1799 and died in 1904 at the remarkable age of one hundred and five years. A native of north Kerry, within a mile of Ballybunnion, he lived all his life in that part of the county. Unlike the majority of his class he was neither lame nor blind, yet he learned to play the Irish or Union pipes and maintained himself as a professional piper up to the time of his death.

On account of his great age and picturesque appearance he was a favourite subject for the photographers for many years, and post cards adorned with his likeness were in general circulation.

"Tom Carthy", as he was familiarly called, made Ballybunnion his headquarters, since it became famous as a summer resort. The rocky spur of land called Castle Green, always regarded as a common, was his favourite haunt until it was claimed as belonging to one of the local estates. The parish priest took issue with the claimant, and finally won the suit after spirited litigation. The old piper was restored to his accustomed stand by the victorious pastor, and assured of undisputed possession thereafter, a tenure which lasted for full sixty-five years. [...]

As a citizen, and as a piper, this remarkable man bore an enviable reputation. His longevity no doubt was attributable in some measure to his outdoor life, and the salubrity of the climate on the Atlantic coast.
(O'Neill, "Irish Minstrels and Musicians", p246.)

Elsewhere, O'Neill mentions that Tom McCarthy often played for Sunday "patrons"—festivities associated with the day of a local saint—with the North Kerry fiddle master Jeremiah Breen; Breen was 74 years old at the time of the 1901 Census (incidentally, the same Census lists a Thomas McCarthy, "musician piper", in Doon East, just outside Ballybunion, a mere 88 years old... but we won't spoil a good story!).

Elements of the Festival

1. Schools outreach programme

All the committee members have previously been involved in presenting traditional music to schoolchildren, via NPU's educational programme or NKTMA's education pack project for national schools (under the 2011 Percent for Art scheme) or both. We are preparing an outreach programme for schools in the Ballybunion area which we intend to be informative and entertaining; this will take place in the days leading up to the festival proper. Children are also welcome to attend the piping and tin whistle classes over the festival weekend. We are familiar with and will apply the Arts Council's child protection policy and procedures.

2. Lectures, classes and workshops

Two lectures are scheduled: one on the history of piping in Kerry, by David Hegarty; and one on the traditional songs of Munster, with special reference to those songs which are also played as slow airs on the pipes (speaker to be confirmed). Both of these lectures will include illustrative musical performances. A mixed-media exhibition on piping and singing will be available throughout the weekend.

Classes will be held for tuition on the uilleann pipes and tin whistle, suitable for beginners and intermediate players.

Workshops will also be held, dealing with the finer points of piping and singing technique, for more advanced practitioners.

In addition, there will be an open-access workshop to allow interested people to try the uilleann pipes.

3. Performances

On the Friday night, to launch the festival, there will be a concert featuring local musicians and singers and their visiting counterparts: this will be a chance to get acquainted with each other. There will also be a short talk about Tom McCarthy and the events of the weekend.

On the Saturday night there will be a showcase concert, primarily of piping and singing, featuring some visiting performers who are amongst the finest exponents of both art forms, and also some outstanding local practitioners who deserve to be better known.

On Sunday (weather permitting) there will be a short outdoor piping concert at the spot on Castle Green where Tom McCarthy played for much of his life.

Performances will be recorded on audio and video, and copies will be supplied to the Irish Traditional Music Archive, NKTMA and NPU.

4. Informal events

It is important to provide an opportunity for those singers and musicians not on the concert programmes to participate in the festival, to express themselves musically, and simply to enjoy themselves: informal sessions are a natural way to do this, and they will be an essential element of the festival.

We are in the process of assessing various pubs and hotels as potential session venues, the requirements being simple and flexible, but nonetheless essential: a welcoming atmosphere, a willingness on the part of the management to turn off TVs and video machines, no discos or other functions happening at the same time, etc.

5. And afterwards?

The audio and video recordings will provide an "afterlife" for the festival, in that interested individuals will be able to access these recordings to enjoy selected performances again and to learn songs or tunes of their liking.

We will also be conducting follow-up research, to assess local interest in the music. NPU has an instrument loan scheme for learner pipers, which will be applied in Ballybunion if required. Also, there may be a desire to organise regular sessions of singing and/or instrumental music, and we would assist with that.

Programme of Events

(Venues to be confirmed)

Friday 23 November

10am – 3:30pm Performances by Pipers and Singers in local Primary and Post Primary Schools.

8.00pm Reception and official opening.

9.00-10.00pm Concert featuring local and visiting musicians and singers.

10.00pm Informal sessions.

Saturday 24 November

10am Classes for uilleann pipes and tin whistle (beginners and intermediate level).
10am – 12pm Open access to try uilleann pipes – Workshop on Munster songs and playing slow airs.

2.00pm -3.15pm Illustrated lecture on piping in Kerry.

4.00pm -6.00pm Emcee'd singing & piping session.

8.00-10.00pm Concert.

10.00pm Informal sessions.

Sunday 25 November

11.30am-12.00pm Outdoor piping concert on Tom McCarthy's "stand", the Castle Green.

2.00-4.00pm Emcee'd singing & piping session.


The list of artists to be invited is in preparation; included will be well-known singers and pipers, as well as lesser-known but valuable local performers.

Festival Committee members

Chair: Paul de Grae. The Spa, Tralee; board member of North Kerry Traditional Music Archive (NKTMA); musician and traditional music researcher; author of "Traditional Irish Guitar" and a work-in-progress study on Ardfert fiddler Paddy O'Sullivan; authority on the traditional music collections of Francis O'Neill.

Secretary: Ciarán Dalton. Lissodigue, Tralee; board member of NKTMA; musician and local historian; author of "Ardfert by the Sea: A Century of Music, 1900-2000".

Treasurer: Mick Dooley. Tralee; board member of NKTMA; uilleann piper, pipe maker and music collector.

Kerry Barrett. Ballyheigue; board member of NKTMA; fiddler; inheritor of a vast musical legacy from his late father Tom Barrett, from Bedford, Listowel, a fiddler and music teacher, many of whose tunes were published by Breandán Breathnach in his internationally renowned five-volume collection, Ceol Rince na hÉireann.

Gay McKeon. Dublin. Gay McKeon took an interest in uilleann piping in the 1960s under the tutelage of the renowned uilleann piper and pipe-maker Leo Rowsome at the Piper's Club on Thomas Street in Dublin's city centre.

Gay has recorded and toured with artists including Christy Moore, Maddy Prior and June Tabor and has recorded on numerous compilation albums including The Ace and Deuce of Piping Vol. 2 and The Piper's Rock, as well as a solo album, Irish Piping Tradition, and a trio CD with his two sons Conor and Seán entitled The Dusty Miller.

Since the mid 1970s Gay has toured and broadcast extensively as a soloist. He also teaches uilleann piping regularly at summer schools and music festivals. Gay has performed on three volumes of the acclaimed tutor series The Art of Uilleann Piping.

He has also produced and directed publications including four volumes in the The Pipers Choice DVD series and numerous CD recordings published by Na Píobairí Uilleann. He has produced traditional music concerts including Piperlink which has toured in Ireland and North America.

In his role as CEO of Na Píobairí Uilleann Gay has secured support and funding for the restoration of a Georgian building and the establishment of a dedicated uilleann pipe-making training facility and successfully managed both projects to completion on time and within budget. Gay is also currently a member of the Board of the Irish Traditional Music Archive.

Seán Óg Potts. Dublin. PRO of the Gaelic Players Association and Na Píobairí Uilleann. Born in Dublin in 1967, Seán Óg Potts continues a piping tradition stretching back to the turn of the last century when his great grandfather, John Potts, a renowned piper from Bannow in South Wexford, came to live in Dublin in the early 1900s. Seán's father, Seán Snr, was a founder member of The Chieftains and a former chairman of Na Píobairí Uilleann. His granduncle Tommy Potts was one of Ireland's most unique fiddle players while Eddie Potts, another granduncle, was also a piper and fiddle player of note.

Seán has toured and performed extensively over the years. He has recorded with his father, the group Bakerswell, the Donal Lunny Band, Na Connerys, Tommy Peoples and produced a solo recording of piping under his own name. A regular teacher in Na Píobairí Uilleann and Scoil Samhraidh Willie Clancy for many years, Seán is also a long-time board member of NPU.

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Mudcat time: 15 October 11:49 AM EDT

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