The west was alive with the sound of music this past week, calling tourists and traditional Irish music lovers, young and old, to Miltown Malbay for the annual Willie Clancy Summer School.
Along with the people, instrument cases of various shapes and sizes arrived into the town and the sense of anticipation was mighty, with everyone eager to play, meet new people, see the greats in action and learn a few new tunes along the way.
Pubs, streets and concert venues were thronged with traditional music lovers and musicians. Sessions took place in every nook and cranny, with engrossed musicians stopping only for sustenance and to introduce themselves to the person next to them.
Musicians played under stairs, in doorways, around kitchen tables, by stoves, television sets and family photographs. Visitors sat, stood or squatted in any available space, be it on counter tops, leaning around doors, craning their necks to see or sitting on kegs or crates.
The ever-present feature throughout the festival was the tapping of feet and the bobbing of heads as the sense of enjoyment could not be contained.
With the benefit of the week’s heatwave, sessions continued on long into the night under the warmth of the West Clare skies. As one day’s session finished, a fresh tune began at daybreak as musicians participating in the multitude of workshops got their chance to shine.
Harry Hughes, festival administrative director, said this year’s event drew a “tremendous crowd”.
“Obviously, the fine weather might have affected the recitals and céilís in the sense that people would have stayed out on the beach and that is very understandable, given it is the first summer we have got in a long time. As distinct from that, there was a tremendous crowd about and the classes were as good as other years, so we were very happy,” he said.