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Gus Lacasse and fellow musicians playing during a performance by the Young Tradition Touring Group from Vermont at St. Joseph's Secondary School, Tulla. Photograph by John Kelly.

Young folk doing old stuff

ST Joseph’s Secondary School in Tulla were this week treated to a lunchtime concert by a young group of visiting traditional musicians from Vermont in the United States.

The Young Tradition Touring Group, made up of 19 musicians aged between 12 and 19, are currently touring the West of Ireland and have stopped in Clare for performances in The Powerhouse in Tulla, Pepper’s and Shortt’s in Feakle.

The group play North American traditional tunes, as well as Appalachian music, Cajun and some bluegrass. They also dance during their performances.

The musicians are being hosted in Clare by Mary MacNamara and her group of young East Clare musicians. As part of this, they performed a lunchtime concert in the secondary school in Tulla on Wednesday for students and teachers. Students at St Joseph’s also played music, sang and danced for the visiting group.

Most of the visiting group members are from Vermont, although a few hail from as far as Maine, Massachusetts and Quebec. With artistic director, Pete Sutherland, the group has performed at festivals, concerts, schools and dances in Vermont and Boston in preparation for their tour of the west coast of Ireland.

Executive director of the group, Mark Sustic said it is “dedicated to promoting, supporting and celebrating children, youth and young adults, who sing, play and dance in styles linked to a tradition”. Its ethos revolves around supporting “young folk doing old stuff”.

He explained that the trip is a first for the group and they are really happy to be here. They began their trip in Donegal and will be travelling down the coast to Dingle, before flying back from Shannon on Sunday.

“Many of these young people go to a school where they are the only ones who play fiddle so it’s difficult to continue, if you don’t have a social group,” he said.

This group allows the teenagers to pursue their music.

They performed a variety of tunes, songs and dances on Wednesday, including Strathspeys, reels, jigs and a rendition of The Script song, Hail, Rain or Sunshine, which they played to a jig called The Woods of Old Limerick. They also performed contra-dancing, a type of social dance with roots in England, Ireland, Scotland and France.

Speaking about how it all came about, Mary MacNamara said, “We’ve been doing exchanges over 12 to 15 years. We’ve done the Shetlands, Norway, we’ve been to Boston and those places have been to us and our name has got out there as having done exchanges. Mark contacted me last summer to see would we be interested in hosting the group for a few days, while they toured around Ireland.”

“They are going all over the country and will be touring for a couple of weeks. We have provided a platform for them to perform, musicians to exchange tunes with and we’ll do some dancing together as well,” she added.

A welcome night was held on Tuesday night, with the young East Clare musicians, in The Powerhouse in Tulla. On Wednesday, they played a further session in Pepper’s and, on Thursday, they will be in Shortt’s Bar in Feakle for a farewell session from 9.30pm.

By Carol Byrne

About Carol Byrne

Carol Byrne is a reporter at The Clare Champion newspaper reporting on news in the East Clare area and the arts. She also covers the courts in County Clare and has received seven national awards for this coverage from the Law Society of Ireland and a National Lottery Local Ireland national media award for Best Community Story 2019. A Masters in Journalism graduate of NUI Galway, she also holds a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Limerick in Music and Media Studies, and a Higher Diploma in Irish Legal Studies. She began her career interning at The Limerick Leader and Clare FM, before taking up a full time post at The Clare Champion in 2006.

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