60th anniversary Comhaltas Congress in Tullamore

AN exciting array of musical events will form the heart of the forthcoming Annual Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann Congress, which takes place in Tullamore from Friday, April 29 to Sunday, May 1.

AN exciting array of musical events will form the heart of the forthcoming Annual Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann Congress, which takes place in Tullamore from Friday, April 29 to Sunday, May 1.

This Congress will celebrate a milestone in Comhaltas history as they mark their 60th anniversary with a weekend of workshops, sessions, concerts and impromptu sing-alongs.

Concerts over the weekend include the Button Accordion Champions Concert, Fiddle Players Champions concert and the Singing Champions Seisiún.

Accordion players who will attend include Tullamore woman Helen Comerford who was All Ireland champion in 1967, Pat Barton, Banagher and John Bowe, Birr and London will also perform.

All three box players are among the most respected players in Ireland today. Another player performing who has close Offaly roots is Killaloe man Martin Connolly. Internationally known accordionists including the inimitable Joe Burke and Jackie Daly formally of Dé Danann will also perform.

At least a dozen champions will perform at what promises to be an accordion lover’s dream occasion. RTÉ’s Kieran Hanrahan will be Fear an Tí so those who attend can be guaranteed good dialogue as well! There is already huge interest in this concert and people are advised to turn up early to the Sacred Heart School Gym. Doors will open at 7.30pm and tickets will available at the door.

Ceiliúradh the concert will take place in the Bridge House on Friday night starting at 8pm. Fear an Tí will be local man Frank Brennan and the concert will feature the Offaly youth group Mol an Óige, Offaly Siamsa groups, Smidiríní, Ceoltóirí Gailean from Ferbane, and Geasa. Special guests will be the Ard Eiscir Céilí Band who were placed joint third in last year’s All Ireland in Cavan.

The Fiddle Champions concert will take place in the Bridge House Hotel, Millennium Room on Saturday night April 30 starting at 8.30pm. Doors open at 7.30pm. Well-known fiddlers who will perform on the night include Eileen O’Brien, Nenagh, Jim McKillop, Belfast and Antóin Mac Gabhainn, Cavan. Kieran Hanrahan will again be on hand to entertain the crowd with his happy humour and sharp wit as Fear an Tí. Another spectacular night is promised for fiddle and music lovers alike. Tickets available at the door.

Workshops master classes will be held in the Sacred Heart Secondary School on Saturday starting at 10am to 12pm for the morning session and from 1pm to 3pm for the afternoon session. Many talented and well-known musicians will treat the attendants to pearls of wisdom including new tunes and techniques from their repertoires.

These include Gerry O’Connor (fiddle), Kieran Hanrahan (Banjo), Junior Davy (Bodhrán), June McCormack (flute), Mícheál Ó Raghallaigh (concertina), Janet Harbison (harp), Brian McNamara (Pipes), Danny O’Mahony (Accordion), Michael Rooney (Composition), Emma O”Sullivan (Sean Nós dancing), Geraldine Cotter (Whistle). Some of the classes are almost full. Anyone interested in coming along should book their places beforehand to ensure a place in the workshop of their choice.

The All Ireland Singing champions will be in the Tullamore Court Hotel on Friday and Saturday night, both starting at 8.30 for an informal style singing session. This promises to be a haven for singers and listeners. Some very well known singers will attend and treat the crowd to their specialties. Local interests will include Rose Fox who is one of an elite group of singers to win All Ireland titles three years in a row. Her niece, Shauna McGarrigle, also an All Ireland champion, will act as hostess for the night along with Tullamore’s Tony Monaghan. Cathal Lynch from Tyrone, himself an All Ireland champion and a renowned authority on traditional and séan nós singing will also attend and act as Fear an Tí. Máire Begley of the famous Kerry musical dynasty will attend on Friday night.

Education interests will be comprehensively discussed and showcased at the Tionól an Oideachais which takes place in the Court Hotel on Saturday afternoon. The Tionól will include presentations on the SCT exams, the TTCT along with the launch of TRAD IS FAB, the new Comhaltas information pack for primary schools and Cas Ceol the new primary schools tutor pack.

A special mass in Irish will take place in the Church of the Assumption at 7.30pm on Saturday evening. The vigil mass for Sunday, it will feature the Aifreann Uí Bhrádaigh, John Brady’s compositions of music for masses in the Irish language.

Irish language enthusiasts are invited to attend the forum on the language in the Court Hotel on Sunday at 2.30pm. Anyone with an interest and a point to make about the future of the language is welcome to attend. Neansaí Ní Choisdealbha from Raidio na Gaeltachta will speak, as will Daithí Ó hÓgáin from UCD. Daithí, who has lots of cousins in the area, makes a welcome return to Tullamore, having been crowned Ard Ollamh at the Fleadh in 2008.

Sunday night will see the grand finale of the weekend with a dinner céilí in the Court Hotel. This promises to be a great night with music by All Ireland Champions the Allow Band from Cork. The reception starts at 7pm with dinner served at 8pm sharp to allow plenty of time for dancing and socialising afterwards! Tickets are priced at only €40 each and are now on sale at reception in the Court Hotel.

The local organising committee promises the events are ones not to be missed and that it will be a wonderful weekend of traditional Irish music and an excellent showcase of Irish talent, local, national and international. They are asking people to come out and show their support for this milestone celebration and are looking forward to seeing many talented musicians demonstrate their love of the music as well as their talents over the weekend.

For further information on any of the weekend’s events, please check out www.comhaltas.ie or email gormagh@aol.com.