The third annual Féile Cnoc na Gaoithe gets underway in Tulla on the last weekend of this month.
Celebrating fiddle music, with fiddle workshops, competitions and recitals, the cast is headed up by the legendary fiddle-player, Maurice Lennon, with Liam O’Connor, Anton MacGabhann, Bernadette Nic Gabhann and local legendary fiddle-player, Vincent Griffin.
The festival highlights include a performance by Maurice Lennon. His father, Ben Lennon, is well-known as a master of the Leitrim style of traditional fiddle and his uncle, Charlie Lennon, is renowned as a composer, piano accompanist and fiddler.
At 19, Maurice became the youngest person to win the Senior Fiddle Championship at the All-Ireland Fleadh Cheoil, held in Ennis in 1977.
Shortly after this, he joined with three other All-Ireland champions to form Stockton’s Wing, with local Clare musicians, Kieran Hanrahan, Paul Roche and Tommy Hayes, with whom he composed, recorded and performed for the next 27 years.
More recently, he has been composing and travelling the world, performing in concerts and providing workshops.
Also on the festival programme is Liam O’Connor, one of Ireland’s leading fiddle-players. Born into a musical family in Dublin, Liam’s father, Mick O’Connor, is a noted flute-player, music collector, researcher and member of the Castle Céilí Band.
Liam was taught by Séamus Glacken and won several All-Ireland and Oireachtas fiddle titles, and was awarded TG4 Young Musician of the Year in 2002.
Fiddle-player and dancer, Bernadette Nic Gabhann also comes to Tulla this month. From Ashbourne, County Meath, she has played with Michael Flatley’s Lord of The Dance.
Bernadette is the daughter of Antóin MacGabhann and comes from a musical and dancing home. Her sister, Cáitlín, an All Ireland champion concertina-player and dancer with Riverdance, will also perform at the gala concert at Féile Chnoc na Gaoithe and will teach steps for sets.
Also on the programme is East Clare’s Vincent Griffin, one of the top traditional Irish fiddlers of his generation.
Fiddle workshops will be provided for all age groups and abilities, except for complete beginners, who will be catered for on Saturday, June 28 at Cnoc na Gaoithe Comhaltas Cultural Centre in Tulla, with registration at 9.30am.
On Saturday, June 29, the festival will hold a Fiddle Feis, an open fiddle competition, starting with competitors in the under-eight age category, up to those aged 20.
Among the prizes is a cash bursary of €500 for the Young Fiddler of East Clare title, a half-scholarship to Meitheal Summer School to the value of €350, a week of workshops at Scoil Samhraidh Willie Clancy, worth €140, and workshops at the Feakle and Tulla Traditional Music Festivals.
The Young Fiddler of East Clare competition is open to fiddle-players between 17 and 20 years of age from all over Ireland and abroad, they must play three selections of music and the emphasis will be on musicality, not technicality.
Previous winners of the Young Fiddler of East Clare title include Gearóid Curtin from Brosna in Kerry in 2012, and Caoimhe Grogan from Galway in 2013.
A full list of rules, with a downloadable entry form, is available online.
Workshops will take place in fiddle for all ages and abilities. There will also be workshops in sean nós and set dancing, traditional singing, and comhrá Gaeilge.
There are céilís and pub sessions each night, along with CD launches by Danny O’Mahony and the Shannonvale Céilí Band and Josie Nugent and Brian Stafford The Caves of Cong.
On Sunday, from noon, the line-up continues with a feast of fiddle music as the annual fiddle recital gets underway at Cnoc na Gaoithe Cultural Centre.
By Carol Byrne