THE wealth of musical talent of the young people of the Miltown Malbay area is set to be showcased to audiences around the world in a new web series to be released from this week.
The series, which was the brainchild of the Miltown Malbay Development Committee (MMDC) and was filmed by Neil Hynes, the manager of the state-of-the-art €1.4m community centre in the West Clare town, features some of those who have taken the tradition into the 21st century. The initiative was prompted after the pandemic forced the cancellation of this year’s Willie Clancy Summer School. Mr Hynes explained, “Realising the streets wouldn’t be heaving this July with musicians and tourists from all over the world, we felt that it may be easy for the public to assume that the spirit of the area had been sucked out of it, that it was no longer there. No Willie Clancy, no Miltown Malbay. Nothing could be further from the truth.”
Ordinarily, the new hall would be the nerve-centre of the Summer School, a location for classes, concerts and gatherings of all kinds. “No one expected a pandemic to hit and quench all the aspirations that the organisers and performers had for this new unique space in Miltown Malbay this July,” Mr Hynes said. “There will be no album or book launches at the Willie Clancy this year. Many artists who were planning there ‘big breaks’ have their dreams on hold. For now.”
Mr Hynes, with a co-ordination team, that included local music teacher Bríd O’Donohue and secretary of MMDC Michael Howe, then filmed performances and interviews to showcase the local area and its talented residents – particularly its younger ones. “This wasn’t about promoting the performance or the personalities,” he said. “It wasn’t about telling everyone what they already knew; that such-and-such is a talented musician and is based in Miltown Malbay, or whatever. That’s what pointed us in the direction of children, and their stories. The children who practice in their bedrooms and living rooms, and their parents at home with them, proud as punch, Willie Clancy Week or no Willie Clancy Week. We focused on the grassroots; the new emerging generation bringing forward the skills of the musicians gone before them. We wanted them to perform their own favourite tunes or songs, at locations of their choice.”
Those featured in the series include Caoimhe Shannon, who sang in Irish on the Breffa Road; pipers Seán Talty and Seán Neylon; flute-maker Donal Mahony; tin-whistle player Ciara Lynch; founder member of the Scoil Samhraidh, Harry Hughes and 11 year-old Conor Lynch who said he has made friends from around the world thanks to the summer school.
“The videos are set to be released over the course of what would have been the 49th Willie Clancy Week,” Mr Hynes outlined. “Each video will coincide with an instrument that would feature on that day during the Summer School’s classes, and that idea from the outset helped us dive into the production shoot in an organised manner. We took the new opportunity presented this year to showcase the talents of our young musicians, singers and dancers. They carry the spirit of the tradition handed down from generations and are our ambassadors for the future. We have every faith that they will lift the spirits of those all over the world who love Irish culture and who are missing the festival and the town this summer.”