If you like traditional music, then Ballydehob was the place to be this weekend. Féile Átha Dá Chab, the Ballydehob Traditional Music Festival, had us bouncing on our bar stools, hooting and cheering in our concert seats, and applauding the talent of hoards of youngsters.
The Festival kicked off with an outstanding concert by Four Men and a Dog. Playing, singing, telling stories, and with the unique wit of Gino Lupari (an Italian bodhran player with an Irish accent) they entertained us for over three hours in the village hall. They invited two talented local girls to play with them, and with Mairead and Maria Carey on their flutes, we were on our feet for an intense finale that left us exhilarated.
Once the concert is over, where do you go? To the pubs, of course, where there were sessions going on till all hours. We were in Levis’s, but we could have been in any one of half a dozen pubs, all with great music.
Our friends from Devon, Chris and Gill, who are staying with us, bravely signed up for the set dancing workshop next day, along with sixteen others. They are tango dancers and in great shape, but by noon they were exhausted and had a whole new respect for this form of dancing. Maureen Culleton, highly experienced and very encouraging, introduced some new dances to the locals and put everyone through their paces. The day culminated in a Céilí (pronounced kaylee) where the set dancers danced into the wee hours to the music of the Striolán Ceilí Band from Kerry. People around here love set dancing and are very good at it. It’s an activity that brings together all ages in country villages. Here’s a good example of set dancing, with the Striolán Ceilí Band playing in the background.
Robert and I aren’t set dancers so we took to the pubs (amazing how much time a couple of non-drinkers can spend in pubs!) for the sessions that were going on in most of them. Members of Four Men and a Dog were in Rosie’s, playing with local musicians. Getting to see them in such an intimate setting was great.
Today, Sunday, the sun came out and the streets of Ballydehob filled up with young musicians competing in the Street Seisiún Competition. Seisiún, pronounced seshoon is the Irish word for session. And a session, in case I haven’t explained this before for our non-Irish readers, is the word used for a bunch of traditional musicians getting together to make music. The younger children, of course, stole our hearts, singing, dancing and playing music on the streets. The teens were remarkably accomplished: many of them have been studying in the Comhaltas system for years.
As I type, people are wandering from pub to pub on the session trail in Ballydehob. When you love something, you just don’t want it to stop! Fortunately, in this part of Ireland, the music is alive and well – and in good hands for the future.
Well done, Ballydehob, on another fantastic traditional music festival!