County Sligo is living up to its reputation for being a nexus for traditional music and nurturing its many manifestations among local, national, cross-border, and international participants and audiences. Three events currently running in Sligo foster traditional music’s appeal across generations and affirm the value of handed-down traditions and the role that family plays in ensuring that inheritance and of being creative, listening to others and working as a team, regardless of nationality, age and gender. These promote cohesion and community.
Firstly, from the 19th of June, Sligo’s Hawk’s Well Theatre has been running a ten-week trad@lunch event, extending by two weeks last year’s successful inauguration (https://www.hawkswell.com/event). This trad@lunch series particularly features Sligo performers in addition to trad players in nearby counties with whom they play. The series is inclusive by being free and informal, thereby enabling the attendance of children and those who might be excluded on a purely practical level. As a mother of three (now all grown up and creative), this is literally music to my ears!
The trad@lunch also nurtures emerging practitioners. Making an exception, they invited back a young (in terms of age only) group consisting of the harpist, fiddler-player and singer Kate Gavin, flutist and drummer Conor McDonagh and box and bodhrán-player, as well as dancer, Ryan Sheridan. You’ve missed the event: but do watch the ‘Bodhrán Boy’s’ performance on Youtube to see a younger Sheridan and friends playing and dancing. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q93Zn0RKvxI; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F-mDPU4eeiA). Having a glum day? Their performances will lift your spirits!
This year, funding from the Government’s rural development programme, the Sligo Local Action Group and County Sligo LEADER Partnership CLG and Sligo Country Council has enabled the marketing of the trad@lunch series this year to tourists. Trad@lunch is featured in Ireland’s West Airport Knock’s magazine and on in-flight videos on flights from the USA. I’ve noticed each week more and more enthusiastic Americans attending.
Secondly, now in its 33rd year, the South Sligo Summer School is being held in Tubbercurry from the 14th to the 20th of July (www.sssschool.org). The packed programme includes classes, workshops, interactive talks and masterclasses in addition to formal and informal evening events. Set dancing and Sean Nós dancing add to classes in Fiddle—Sligo style, banjo, button accordion, Bodhrán, drums, concertina, mandolin, fiddle, flute, harp harmonica, tin whistle, Sean Nós singing, traditional singing & lilting, traditional guitar and Uilleann pipes. (I’m sure someone will have packed their spoons!)
Renowned trad musicians featured in the Hawk’s Well series this year are also tutors on the Tubbercurry South Sligo Summer School including fiddlers Oisín Mac Diarmada, Declan Folan and David Doocey; traditional guitarist (and multi-instrumentalist) Seamie O’Dowd and Shane McGowan; Bodhrán players Junior Davy and Conal McCormack (former student, first year as tutor! ) flutist Stephen Doherty; and banjo-player Theresa O’Grady. To these are added from last year’s trad@lunch series guitarist Shane McGowan and Uilleann pipe player Leonard Barry.
Thirdly, a new entity Trad Ireland/Traid Éireann (https://www.facebook.com/traideirann) initiated by trad fiddler Oisín Mac Diarmada with fellow Téada (‘strings’) (http://teada.com/) member and bodhrán player Dubliner Tristan Rosenstock has announced the first annual artist in residence (which began this month): the fiddler and banjo-player John Carty (http://www.johncartymusic.com/). Hawk’s Well Theatre is providing Carty with essential workspace. This residency initiative is intended to enable both personal development and community engagement. I’m looking forward to what these will entail and will be updating my readers as the year unfolds. (https://www.hawkswell.com/news/article/john-carty-announced-as-sligos-trad-artist-in-residence).
Together these two inclusive events in combination with the residency initiative showcase and nurture traditional music in County Sligo, and particularly the Connacht and South Sligo styles of playing, among all ages and levels of experience.
What do these events mean to Sligo? Sligo wants visitors to come and stay in Sligo while exploring its unique heritage, music traditions and Wild Atlantic Way features.
What do these events this mean to Sligo visitors? Visitors are welcomed and invited to participate from toe tapping and humming an accompaniment in D to trying out an instrument for the first time or extending their existing skills.
Sligo offers visitors both a journey and the destination.
Music and dancing defy borders and promote community.
Do come join us!
Dr Trudy Prescott, Carrowcullen, near Skreen, Co Sligo