A hidden secret in this county is the amount of traditional music you will find. We are not just talking gigs for the tourists, but real seisúins where musicians sometimes hit those levels of musical bliss, just for the love of it.
We, that live in County Clare, take it for granted, it is only when we have visitors that we realise how music flows through our everyday life. It is true that many don’t have the exposure to Irish trad music as my family has and that there are other counties where the music is alive and kicking. But there are few places in Ireland where it flows so effortless as in Clare, where you will find it in a pub most days of the week, the whole year round.
Doolin attracts the tourists and while lively it is aimed at them, in Ennistymon the music is for the locals and in Ennis it cuts acrossall generations and styles, it is played for the youngest to the oldest clientele.
Our home is steeped in Irish trad music, even the name encompasses the mix of who we are. Casa Ceoil – casa for house in Spanish, a nod to my own background, and ceoil for the trad music – House of Music. While it is fiddle and piano that is mainly played in this house, you will often find Kevin or one of the kids tinkering away with the array of instruments Kevin has collected over the years.
We have a piano, a fiddle, half-size fiddle (on loan), quarter size fiddle, two fiddles in state of repair, parts of a fiddle that may or may not one day be built, numerous tin whistles in a selection different keys, a concertina, guitar, bodhran, flute and a Swedish Nyckelharpa, which is a type of key fiddle. These are at least the instruments I know about, I believe there is a lost banjo somewhere.
Kevin plays regularly around the county. I am often asked if he plays in a band, if he practices a lot at home or if he practices with the musicians he plays with any given evening. The questions shouldn’t take me by surprise, as few understand the natural flow and relaxed attitude of the Irish trad music.The answer is no, Kevin practices only for concerts or plays for his own pleasure; he often doesn’t even know who he will be playing with when he is asked to fill in for a musician or what instruments will be part of the gig. Most musicians will know each other and will have played together at some point, but they will start with well-known tunes and slowly test out different pieces. As a spectator, you will probably not even notice, to your ears it will sound as if they have played together forever.
Are you feeling out of your depth? Feeling a lack of musical skill? Don’t worry, that makes two of us. I don’t play, I don’t sing and after almost twenty years of listening to Irish trad, I have a hard time differentiating one tune from another. In a house of musicians it makes me the odd one out. But, that will not stop anyone enjoying a night of tunes hopping through a pub, as there are few types of music that lift you and is infused with such energy and happiness as Irish trad music. You will learn to appreciate the steady rhythm that characterises the trad style of County Clare.
For a full rounded experience of Irish music, you should not miss this year’s Fleadh Cheoil, the All Ireland trad music, dancing and singing competitions, in Ennis. Our holiday home, Casa Ceoil, has been booked out since last year and accommodation may be hard to get in Ennis, but it is still worth a day visit if you are staying anywhere near.
Can’t make it to the Fleadh? Here’s a list of a few of the Trad Festivals in County Clare in 2017:
- February – 5th Annual Concertina Cruinniú – 17th-19th Feb
- February/March – Corofin Trad Festival – 28th Feb-2nd Mar
- April – Kincora Trad Festival – 6th-9th Apr
- April – Kilfenora Traditional Music Festival – 21st-24th Apr
- May – Fleadh Nua – 21st-29th May
- June – Doolin Folk Festival – 16th-18th Jun
- July – The Willie Clancy (Scoil Samhraidh Willie Clancy) – 1st-9th Jul
- July – Céilí at the Crossroads Festival – 9th-16th Jul
- July – Kilrush Traditional Music & Set Dancing Festival – 19th-23rd Jul
- August – Feakle Internation Trad Music Festival – 9th-14th Aug
- August – Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann – 13th-21st Aug
- October – Willie Keane Memorial Weekend – 27th-30th Oct
- November – Ennis Trad Fest – 9th-13th Nov