MAIRÉAD Considine can’t help but admit to clear pride at the fact that Moyasta will host up to 70 traditional music musicians this weekend for the 13th Crotty Galvin Festival.
Her native townland, Shragh, is just a couple of miles away and it was while at primary school there that her love of music was honed. Mairéad attributes this to Yvonne Griffin, who taught her at Shragh National School.
“She is definitely responsible for me playing and she is probably responsible for my career path as well. She was such an influence and so passionate. She used to teach me at break time,” Mairéad, who teaches at Ennistymon National School, recalled.
This weekend’s festival commemorates the seismic contribution made to traditional music by the Crotty brothers and Nell Galvin.
“Growing up, Peadar would have been one of the musicians you would have wanted to play beside. I would also have known of his younger brother, PJ. When you’re young, you look up to these people and when they ask you to play with them, you think it’s great. I was quite young when Peadar asked me to teach at the festival and I think I’ve taught there every year since. I don’t really want to know how many years that is,” Mairéad laughed.
The festival secretary is Tim Thompson and while he doesn’t play, you sense that he loves his music.
“I don’t play music but I know when it’s being played properly,” Tim smiled. He loves to sit back and simply listen to the flow.
“It’s the likes of Mairéad, Orla Coughlan, Niamh O’Dea and their passion for it that I love. I don’t know if you have ever sat in when Niamh is playing. I just don’t know how she can keep going all day long. At two o’clock tomorrow morning she’d still be going. It’s unbelievable the energy she has. They come every year religiously. If they can be there at all, they’ll be there,” he said.
A committee member since year one, Tim remembers the morning he heard that Peadar Crotty had died.
“In the first year or two, Peadar Crotty was our chairman and PJ and Peadar played every year, until PJ passed away in 2005. We were at a Nell Galvin meeting on Tuesday night in 2009. Peadar went home and I got a call at 7am the next morning to say that he had passed away overnight. We were two weeks away from the festival. His wife, Josephine, who is now a committee member, said ‘we’ll go ahead. He would want that.’ His son, Brian, is on the committee now as well,” Tim explained.
This year, the festival has been brought back a week, primarily to avoid clashing with the All-Ireland hurling final.
“When Clare were in it, we took a bit of a slump but people go to the hurling no matter what. Also, schools are going back at the end of August so when it came to the first weekend in September, there were no school-going families around. The families were all gone home. We felt that we’d come back a week,” the Dublin native, whose wife Carmel is from Moyasta, explained.
Tim was also keen to note that any profit is ploughed into the festival.
“We’re non-commercial so anything that we get from sponsorship goes straight back into the festival. Nobody makes anything. Nobody gets paid for anything. We don’t pay huge fees to musicians. We just give them expenses, although musicians who travel long distances, we provide accommodation for them,” he said.
Of course, it’s all about the music and it’s when they are immersed in it that Mairéad and her friends feel at home.
“If you’re in a good session, you’re so relaxed and lost. You don’t even think of yourself as playing. If it’s a really good tune, you don’t want it to stop at all. Time doesn’t really register and it’s really good when you’re in sync with the musician that’s with you. People like Orla [Coughlan] and Caoimhe [Millar] would know your music down to a tee and they’d know where you’re going to turn. They’d even know when you’re going to change your head to the other side,” Mairéad has found.
She feels that traditional music has a grip on West Clare like never before.
“I think it’s bigger now than when we were growing up. When we were young, you were taught by the local teacher and that’s where your influence came. I think that’s brilliant because your style is West Clare style and it’s unique. Whereas now they have an advantage in that they are going down to Limerick and up to Dublin for lessons. That’s brilliant because they get influences from all round but the other way of looking at it is, it’s hard to recognise what style they have. You could be from West Clare but have a Kerry style of music. That’s something that I wouldn’t be too gone on but they are much more skilled and they get influences from everywhere,” Mairéad reflected.
As for this weekend, it’s all about the music and what it will bring to Moyasta.
“You feel really proud when you’re sitting there in the thick of it on a Saturday evening. You’re looking around and the quality of the musicians is just unbelievable. They are from everywhere and you’re thinking this could be at a Fleadh and you wouldn’t have as many musicians at one venue,” she said.
By Peter O’Connell