Sunday, 22 September 2013


Tuam Trad Festival part 2

Galway, Eire

Most tourists to Ireland have this image of musicians in tiny Irish pubs banging out traditional tunes on traditional instruments, while the Guinness is flowing plentifully and everyone is enjoying the craic.

What most people get is the tourist version with the same old anthems such as Whiskey in the Jar, Wild Rover et al, where they are expected to participate on the well-known choruses.
Well the Tuam Trad Festival can and does deliver the real thing.
The majority of the proliferation of pubs around this small town were on board and the sounds coming from the back rooms was as authentic as turf smoke, green fields and the stone walls dividing them.
This festival opened up one of the real gems of the town McDonagh's pub and were it not for the gorgeous sounds coming from a back you could easily walk past what looks more like a grocery store/off licence.
Banjo player Norman Kelly
However, follow the jaunty and unmistakeable sound of the banjo, the fiddle and squeezebox among others and you are drawn into a back room bar no bigger than most people's sitting rooms, a quarter of which is taken up by seven musicians all fluently weaving a sound which has been heard throughout Ireland for thousands of years.
Almost like stumbling on a fairy fort you are wooed in by the wonderful sounds tripping so easily from the fluent players as they fill the cosy room with a magical musical aroma.
The sound of Norman Kelly and friends grab you by the hand, welcome you in and invited you to fill your fist with a Guinness and wile away the night listening to their jigs and reels.
Norman, already red-faced and feeling the heat of so many bodies in such a small space takes time out of playing to welcome you with a firm handshake and genuinely friendly smile.
He straight away he introduces the other musicians first by name Sandra, Diarmuid, Tony, Finula, Padraigh, Septa and Cenzo and then by county before giving a potted history of his musical career where he played banjo and mandolin for many years before giving it up for a while, but thankfully he was persuaded back to playing. Now he and his fellow musicians pass on their skills to the next generation of musicians in weekly sessions for all stages of competence.
Then slotting back in to the ring like the missing piece of a jigsaw Norman is soon back in the fray picking up the tune and becoming part of the whole once more.
Norman Kelly and friends in the backroom of McDonagh's 
It doesn't matter that you don't know what the tunes are it only matters there is something organic about the sound. You know just by listening for a few minutes that the musicians are not just playing music they are playing heritage, they are playing beliefs they are playing generations.
The expert fingers and hands moving so fluidly and easily to produce a sound which is instantly recognisable as the authentic sound of Ireland in general but of Galway and more specifically Tuam. And as the notes waft across the room like turf smoke across the fields the danger in finding this wonderful pool of sound is that, like the sirens you will be lured into never leaving.
However, Trad Festival has more pubs and more music to offer, too many to fit into one night and stay upright
From left Bill Wright, Finbarr Naughton and
Colm Naughton at Reapy's bar

Down in Shop Street, the sound of the banjo once again pulls you towards another small pub. Reapy's bar which as soon as you open the door the heat and noise of the packed drinkers come at you like opening a stove.
Make your way through the chattering and drinking customers and soon the sound of Colm Naughton's banjo, Finbarr Naughton's fiddle and Billy Wright's bouzouki cut through the noise.
As part of the Trad Festival Colm, from Creggs in North Galway, has taken this opportunity to launch his new CD, The Space Between the Notes.
With the three musicians grouped into an even smaller space than at McDonagh's the sound was just as authentic. It's hard to believe such a rich sound could be created by such a small group of musicians. The album is well worth a listen with 13 tracks which give a perfect platform for Colm's banjo playing.
Like many of the best bars in Ireland Reapy's is not particularly inviting from the outside but its in two parts and has retained it's local image. The walls are crowded with memorabilia and just sitting in the bar can be a history lesson.
The Trad Festival is perfect way to get people into pubs and listening to music they may not necessarily find by themselves and nothing adds more to the atmosphere of a pub than good live musicians and festivals such as the Tuam Trad give players a chance to perform to a much wider and varied audience and for that alone events such as these are important.
Tuam may be a small town but it's certainly big on talent and one of the best ways to sample as much of it as you can take over three days is through events such as the Trad Festival.

To read the first part of the Trad Festival review follow the link below.

No comments:

Post a Comment