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Ballad superstars, The Fogues, are to play Cnoc na Gaoithe, Tulla on Saturday, March 25.

The Fogues to raise the roof at Cnoc na Gaoithe

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A LIVELY night of music, song and dance is promised within the beautifully-restored walls of Cnoc na Gaoithe, Tulla, on Saturday, March 25.

Since the state-of-the-art auditorium was opened last October, it has hosted packed shows featuring PJ Murrihy and Séamus Shannon, and a well-attended céilí mór to test out the new dance floor. Saturday week will see fresh, upcoming four-piece folk, ballad and trad band, The Fogues, take to the stage in a show that is set to attract an audience from across Clare and beyond. Hailed for a repertoire that covers everything “from the Dubliners to Cascada”, the band even have a bus coming from their own native Mitchelstown, such is their unique appeal. The band is made up of three Fogartys, who are first cousins, and their close friend Ted O’Brien.

A champion Irish dancer, Micheál Fogarty is no stranger to Clare and has travelled overseas with Cnoc na Gaoithe, under the auspices of Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann. “I’ve been lucky enough that Breda [McNamara] enabled me, when I was in college, to travel with Cnoc na Gaoithe to the St Patrick’s Day celebrations in Shanghai and also South Africa, which was incredible,” he said. Micheál is looking forward returning, later this month, to Tulla and taking The Fogues’ special show to the Comhaltas Cultural Centre. 

Speaking to The Champion from Mitchelstown, as he looked out at the snow-covered Galtee Mountains, Micheál explained how the band got their first opportunity to perform in the heart of a hectic silage season. “Myself, Jack and William have been singing and playing music together since before we could even talk, I’d say,” he outlined. “Ted became a close family friend in later years. He’s almost part of the family at this stage. We always joke that Ted is our best  ever investment in the band. Our fathers and uncles used to play in a band locally called The Fogartys and Friends. When myself and William got older, we were playing the accordion when them. In April or May 2017, a pub that usually booked The Fogartys and Friends got on to see if they’d be around in June, but that’s peak silage season and all of us – except Ted – are from farming backgrounds. Our fathers would have been doing silage and they couldn’t do it. Of the group, I’m the oldest. I’m the self-proclaimed boldest as well so I said we’d do the gig and that got the wheels in motion.”

The band was three-piece at first, with Ted regularly filling in. Micheál had to go to Dublin to perform on RTÉ’s ‘Up for the Match’, when Ted was persuaded to cover. “The three of us Fogartys decided then that we wanted Ted in the band, so later on I asked him if he was happy with the name,” Micheál explained.  “I didn’t even ask him if he wanted to be in the band. He happy out then and that was the way we kind of inducted him in.”

With Ted’s grandmother a prominent Comhaltas member, the band are steeped in the tradition of song and story. “We all grew up listening to folk and ballads, but there’s a wide genre of music that we listen to,” Micheál outlined. “Ted is an avid Beatles fan. We’re lucky that we have pop influences as well. When I was growing up, Elton John would have been played quite a lot. Even though it’s pop, he’s still quite a good story teller and that’s the basis of all folk songs. Someone said to us a while ago that we do trad to techno and everything in between. We bring that mix everywhere. Our show ie mostly folk and ballad with some of our original songs. I’ve written two songs, but Ted is our lyrical genius. He’s written songs for the four of us, but just three of us are singing just yet. He’s brilliant with lyrics. The title song of our first album is called ‘Long Nights in Pokey Places’. It describes all the small places we played in when we were starting off. The kind of places where the walls would be sweating. It brings the listener on a journey in terms of how we see things we we’re playing. Our latest single ‘The Golden Vale’ describes the area we’re from. It tells stories of Dan Breen and Seán Hogan and the area we call home. Tim also wrote a song for his grandmother who sadly passed away. It’s called ‘The Swallow’ and when you listen to the lyrics, it’s really beautiful.”

All in their early to mid-20s, the band members have busy lives outside music. Twenty-six year-old Micheál is a pharmacist, while William is an Agricultural Advisor, Ted is a primary school teacher and Jack is studying Criminal Justice in college. Touring is hectic, with the band set to appear in Tulla hot on the heels of a series of St Patrick’s Day appearances in the UK. “Music is a hobby that serves us well, but we all have our full-time jobs,” Micheál said. 

The Fogues are passionate about the ballad tradition, and delighted with the current revival of interest among younger generations. “Since Covid, I there’s been a serious revival in ballad music,” Micheál said. “You have the likes of Hell for Leather, All Folked Up, The Tumbling Paddies and other groups who are really becoming popular. It’s good to see that the revival is happening. A lot of friends of my age wouldn’t have been listening to ballads growing up, but they’re into them now. Ballads tell the history of Ireland and there are a lot of stories that wouldn’t have been known unless they were in songs. Folk music in general did save a lot of stories and hopefully the story of our times can be encapsulated in song too.”

The Fogues’ Turas na Mumhan, Munster tour has been going down a storm so far and Micheál anticipates that the Tulla gig will be no different. “We are all steeped in traditional music and our gig will have some dedicated Irish sets,” he outlined. “There will also be the Irish dancing with raw rhythm and plenty of ballads. I think we’ll appeal to a wide audience.”

More details are available on thefogues.com, cnocnagaoithe.com and the Facebook page of Cnoc na Gaoithe.

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