Padraig O'Keeffe died in 1963 but it took 30 years for his name and his beloved music of Sliabh Luachra to be turned into a festival – thanks to Peter Browne, who made a 4 part radio programme in 1994 exploring the life of the wandering musical genius.
This year, Graham and myself didn't get down to Kerry until the Saturday, as we were singing in the Sunday night concert. Had we gone down on the Friday, we would have been shattered by Sunday, I know this from past experience! A lovely town, Castleisland is the perfect place for a festival. Apart from the Saturday and Sunday night concerts, there were sessions all over the town, with some of the finest music to be heard. I headed straight for the Saturday singing session which was held in a perfect little pub called the Half Barrel. Hosted by Aileen Roantree, who does a brilliant job every year, the guest singers were Andrew Murray, Dessie O'Halloran, Tim Dennehy and myself – unfortunately Sean Garvey couldn't make the early session. But the pub was also filled with listeners and many singers, and Aileen made sure to get around to everybody, while still ensuring that the guest singers got a few songs in. It was a great pleasure to sit beside Andrew and listen to his deep sonorous voice – Tim Dennehy as usual brought a tear to my eye, which is own wonderful songs, and Dessie is just amazing, and sang Sweet Inniscarra especially for me! Other singers and songs were heard, including Constance from Holland, and a young local girl who sang a composition of her own, Aine Nelligan is a fine singer and that song was just beautiful, I was very impressed. There were two young sisters, in their mid teens, who blew me away, Catherine and Ellen Broderick. Bonny Bunch of Roses O and The Whistling Thief were just two of the songs I heard them sing, and really I just thought there goes 2 great very young carriers of the tradition. An amount of whiskey was tasted and I ended up the worse for wear so I didn't get to the concert that night.
But it was a hard night's sleep with some partying going between the two floors of the hotel – we'll say nothing but we know who it was!! Sunday afternoon found me downstairs in Con's bar. There was a great session with one of my favourites, Connie O'Connell along with Eileen de Paor and Graham Dunne on guitar. Glorious music. There were sessions all over the town, and everybody was happy with the amount, and quality of the sessions.
The concerts have moved to a new venue, the Ivy Leaf Centre is an old Church down a laneway from the centre of the town – and what a wonderful venue. The sound was brilliant and the audience were even better! No bar meant no distractions. I was delighted to be part of this concert, and did two spots, one in the first and one in the second half. I met loads of wonderful musicians. Donal Murphy was on with his 12 year old daughter Melanie, playing concertina and fiddle, John Brosnan played, as did Gerry Harrington with Peter Horan and Peter Browne – just a great concert. Maurice O'Keeffe was honoured with the Padraig O'Keeffe Award for Dedication to Sliabh Luachra
Back at the hotel later, we sat and enjoyed the music of Eoin Begley and Cormac Begley, cousins, and sons of Seamus and Brendan – I was very impressed with the tunes, the playing, the general atmosphere they created in the bar, it was just great to sit and wind down and chat and catch up with people like Paul de Grae and Edel Fox, neither of whom I got a chance to hear over the weekend. Over the weekend in general, I managed brief chats with McDara O'Reilly, Seamus Creagh, Derek Hickey, Dan Brouder, Patsy Broderick, Johnny Ringo McDonagh and Eoin O'Sullivan.
As Sunday was a late night, and I was so wrecked on Monday that I couldn't stay around for the afternoon session in Brennan's which I knew would be excellent, with Connie O'Connell and probably his daughter and son-in-law, Francis and Aine O'Connor – ah well……
Roll on Ennis, the weekend after next – oh …..in the meantime we have to go to Italy – work work work!!!