Monday, November 09, 2015

Ireland 2015….Fiddler of Dooney

 I finally had a day at home yesterday and realized I have been a bit lax with keeping up on my blogging.

The past few weeks have been a, fun, and, of course, a lot of Irish music. Haley and Dylan spent September and the beginning of October doing performances nearly every  weekend, sometimes as a duo and other times with their Méara Meara bandmate, Keegan.

Haley and I traveled to the Catskills in NY with Keegan and his mom, Lynette, for the Northeast Tionól the weekend of October 16th. The tionól is a gathering for uilleann pipers, and in the last few years fiddlers also…maybe to help make the evening sessions more diverse? Haley had applied for a scholarship for the tionól prior to a last minute decision to make an October trip to Ireland for the Fiddler of Dooney competition. We figured if she received the scholarship, we'd go to the tionól and if she didn't, we'd skip it this year and try again when we weren't headed to Ireland the following week. She received the scholarship and though it made from crazy logistics, I am so glad she did.  We had a great time! It was freezing and even snowed a few flurries on Sunday but good friends, meeting new friends, and great music can warm you up in spite of the weather.

When we arrived home from the tionól, Haley and I had about 48 hours to unpack, do laundry, and re-pack before leaving for Ireland…and I had to work a long day. It was busy but we managed.

We flew to Ireland on Wednesday night, arriving at 6:30 am (Irish time) Thursday morning with no sleep (an aside...not sure why airlines feel the need to feed you so much during an overnight flight…I didn't even eat the food but all the hustle and bustle of passing it out makes sleeping near impossible).

Haley took this from the plane as we flew into Dublin airport.
We had a few hours to pass before our flight from Dublin to Donegal so we took a bus into city centre for breakfast at one of our favorite little cafes then walked around the city a bit, dragging suitcases, before getting on a bus back to the airport. While waiting on our flight to Donegal, we were surprised by the arrival of Mairead (who was supposed to be meeting us in Donegal but who had a morning radio broadcast in Dublin last minute) and Kieran, both wonderful musicians in the band, Altan. They flew to Donegal with us on the teeny little propeller plane. I have never flown on something so small. Haley fell asleep before the plane even left the ground and slept the entire hour long flight.

Flying into Donegal, we had the best views of the islands and beaches!

View from our seat in the teeny little plane as we left Dublin. Ugh!
Mairead had me drive her car home from the airport for practice. I hadn't driven manual in about 20 years and never on the left side of the road and I was taking her car to Sligo the next day. It was only a 5 minute drive…you can see the airport from her house. Haley went with her to pick up her daughter, Nia, from school then she filled us with tea and vegetable soup…I had lost my voice during our flight from home either from the dry airplane air, lack of sleep, or a combination of both.

Haley and I slept for almost 14 hours Thursday night then enjoyed a quiet morning by the peat fire, sipping tea and having breakfast with Mairead and Nia. Haley and I left for Sligo in the early afternoon. It was about 2.5 hours drive and we wanted to get there in the daylight. The drive was a little hairy at first…roads too narrow for two cars at first and one looked more like a long driveway than an actual road so I missed it twice and Google maps stopped working leaving me to teach Haley to use a "real" map to navigate the old fashioned way while driving manual on the "wrong" side of the skinny road too small for two cars with no shoulder just a drop off on one side and tall bushes or stone walls on the other. We eventually made our way to a more major road, my comfort level increased, and we found our way to Sligo. By then, I was a pro at driving manual on the left side of the road.

Through some wonderful friends here at home, the Kelly family in Sligo offered us a place to stay while there. They are a wonderfully musical family in Sligo and we were so happy to meet them! (Check out two of their sons' band Moxie…Irish-jazz-rock fusion.) They were so nice! Mrs. Kelly, Catherine, cooked us a full Irish breakfast fry Saturday morning and we followed Mr. Kelly, Charles, into Sligo so he could show us the best place to park then walk us to the competition venue.

The Junior Fiddler of Dooney (under 16) competition was Saturday morning and the large stairwell in the old Methodist church was full of amazing, young fiddlers warming up when we arrived. Haley found an unoccupied landing then tuned up and warmed her cold fingers with practice and the hand dryer in the bathroom…it was a chilly morning in the church and out. The list of competitors was full of names we knew from previous All Ireland competitions, many of them All Ireland champions and place-winners over the years, so the level of playing was as good as it gets and it was wonderful to hear all the different styles played at such a high level! The competition lasted about three hours and we were delighted in the end...Haley took 1st!

Junior Fiddler of Dooney 2015…so glad we did not have to take that trophy home!!
Adjunicators, competition organizers, and Junior winners
After the competition, there were photographs and the winners played a set of tunes together. The parents of the other place winners were so nice and friendly. We found Senan (last year's Junior Fiddler of Dooney and multiple time All Ireland champion…he and Haley tied in the under 12 fiddle in 2012 with him taking 1st after the recall…we've been friends since) and his aunt in the audience and made plans to get together later in the evening for some tunes then Haley and I went off in search of some supper. We found a busy little cafe that served very healthy but delicious food then walked into a few shops before we went to a performance of old tunes from Monahan (Our Dear Dark Mountain with the Sky Over It) because one of the adjudicators from the competition was in the band and they had asked Haley to go onstage to play a set as the competition winner.  We liked the music so much, we purchased their CD…great, happy, old tunes!!!) then we went to the hotel to meet up with Senan and his aunt, found a pub with room to sit (not an easy task in Sligo), and Haley and Senan enjoyed some tunes together. While they were playing, Blaithin, who took 2nd at the competition, came in with her parents and sat down with them to play while we parents talked.

On Sunday morning, Haley and I had a quick breakfast, can't eat a full Irish breakfast every morning, then took a drive to find a walk up Benbulbin that Catherine and Charles told us about...only we got a little lost, didn't go up the road far enough before turning off, and ended up in Leitrim (not as far away as it sounds) at Glencar Waterfalls. We took the walk to the falls, got some great photographs, then went into the little cafe there for hot cocoa before reversing our steps back to Sligo.

When we realized we were lost but the scenery was beautiful and there was space to pull off the road.

Glencar Waterfalls

In the afternoon we went into Sligo city to watch the Senior Fiddler of Dooney competition…hours and hours of great playing! We then walked to the venue where Altan was playing to find Mairead and give her the CDs we'd carried to Sligo for her. The band was preparing to go for supper so we joined them and during the walk to the pub and supper, they told Haley stories and gave her some insights on touring with a band. I sold CDs before the show, during intermission, and at the end. It was a great performance! Altan invited the junior and senior Fiddlers of Dooney on stage during the 2nd half of the show to play a set.

Fiddlers of Dooney onstage with Altan
After the show, Kieran, Mairead, Haley, and I drove back to Donegal. Thank goodness Kieran drove!! I couldn't imagine doing that drive in the dark. We didn't get to Mairead's until after 2am but had to get up in the morning because Mairead was doing a spot on the local Radio na Gaeltachta and wanted Haley to go and play a few tunes for them.

It was a drizzly, cold day so we picked up Mairead's mother, had brunch then took a drive to walk on some of the smaller local beaches, stopped in a pub for hot drinks, ate Chinese take away, had a party with balloons and s'mores over the peat fire, the fiddlers played some tunes for Granny then we went off to a local session later that night.

Party time!!

S'mores…yummy!! Haley and Nia did the roasting.

Tunes for Granny.

Donegal session
Tuesday was very rainy and we did nothing!! Everyone slept through the morning then we had cheese and bread because the gas ran out on the stove when we started cooking breakfast. We sat around the peat fire drinking tea, reading, talking, and fiddling all day. Mairead taught Haley a song in Irish and it was a lovely, quiet day!!

A funny video from Tuesday…watch the curtains behind Haley and Mairead for some cat shenanigans.

Great video of some tunes on a quiet afternoon in Donegal. Watch the curtains behind Haley and Mairead then towards the end, Blondie makes her entrance.
Posted by Donna Richardson on Monday, October 26, 2015

On Wednesday, we took a walk on the long beach near the airport in Donegal. It's a beautiful, sandy beach with rock formations here and there. It was a very warm day, for Ireland, and the girls looked for shells and we all hiked on the rock formations.

After our walk, Haley and I picked up our rental car at the airport then we said our goodbyes and headed south to Westport. Haley has always wanted to play in a session at Matt Malloy's Pub and on Wednesday night she got her chance. Unfortunately, it was very crowded and Haley was sitting in a corner of the booth right below where I was standing so I didn't get a photo of the session. There were a lot of musicians playing tunes Haley knew and a room full of appreciative music lovers so it was a great session and we were out very late (or early in the morning).

We got this photo the next morning when it was light outside.
On Thursday, we drove to Casla to meet with Nancy at the Radio na Gaeltachta there. It was an amazingly gorgeous drive! We arrived a little early, ate lunch in a local coffee shop, then drove down to the coral beach to walk around, find shells, and take pictures. The beach there is man-made with no sand, only coral. The rock formations were similar to those in Donegal but not as tall. Haley found a handful of beautiful shells in the crevasses and pools left behind by the high tides.

We met a couple from Colorado on the beach as we were leaving then drove to the radio station and after having tea with the women working there, Haley spent an hour recording tune sets (and even a movement of a Bach Partita because someone asked her to play a classical piece) and talking with Nancy.

From the radio station, we drove through Galway to East Clare (Scariff/Tuamgraney). Google maps thought it would be fun, instead of taking us along the highway for the full trip, to take us 13km along the curviest, most narrow road I have ever driven, up and down hills, and only wide enough for one car. I spent those 13km praying no car would come the other way as I "whipped" around those curves doing 60km/hr and wondering how anyone was supposed to go the 80km/hr speed limit posted. Ha!! Somehow, when we get lost or go on those scary roads in Ireland, we see the best scenery…it was worth the scary-ness.

We made it to Scariff at dark and met up with Manus McGuire at he and his wife's physicians office and he had us follow him to his home. His wife, Genevieve, cooked us a delicious supper before we went off to a session in Feakle. What you cannot see in the photo below was a huge group of talented, young musicians from Tulla who attended the session as well. The lighting was not great in the room so my photos of the whole group were not clear.

On Friday, Manus had set up a tour of University of Limerick's Irish Music program with Niall Keegan, who runs the program. Niall sat with us for about 40 minutes telling Haley all about the program and answering questions then he walked us around the music studies building. After the tour, he asked Haley to play him a couple tunes and talked with her about music. We talked with an Irish dancer from Philadelphia in the program at UL (imagine going all the way to Ireland and the student we see to talk to is almost our neighbor) about her experiences. We grabbed a quick lunch at the University then tried to meet up with a friend who is in the master's program there but through a series of unfortunate events were unable to catch up with her before we had to drive into Limerick city. We parked then toured King John's Castle to waste time before we met with John O'Regan from Limerick City Radio Eclectic Celt for an interview. We drove back to Manus' home late where we had dinner with he and his wife. We thought about going to another session but we'd been out late the night before and had a busy day so Haley and Manus played tunes together for a couple hours before bed.

University of Limerick Irish Music Building

View from the turret of King John's Castle

King John's Castle from the turret.

Haley and Manus McGuire
Here's a little sample of Friday nights' music…

A little sample of the tunes shared between Haley and Manus McGuire on Friday night in Scariff. Dr. Gilbert's and Queen of May.
Posted by Donna Richardson on Sunday, November 1, 2015

Saturday morning, we drove to Dublin airport to drop off our car then took the bus into the city centre, walked to our hotel to check in and drop off bags, then went shopping…this might be Haley's favorite part of the trip. Ha! We had supper at one of our favorite Dublin restaurants then went to Murphy's IceCream for our yearly brown bread ice-cream. Haley likes hers with raspberry sorbet and I had mine with cookie ice-cream. The weather was warm and sunny and it was Halloween so there were costumed people young and old all over Dublin city. We saw some great costumes! At night fireworks were barely visible from our 6th floor hotel room window.

On Sunday, we got up fairly early then walked to a cafe to pick up some tea and scones to take back to our hotel room for breakfast. Afterward, we walked all over city centre, walking into shops and watching buskers on Grafton St. We toured the wax museum…Haley has always wanted to go into a wax museum so she finally had her chance. We got some cheese and crackers from Cheesemongers and had a little picnic in St. Stephen's Green before finding the correct Butler's Chocolate where we were meeting up with a few friends from Studio2Stage who live in Dublin. We all had hot cocoa and talked for hours.

Haley and I went back to our hotel to pick up our bags then walked to the bus to travel to the hotel near Dublin Airport where we had salads in the hotel bar and went to bed early. We had to be at the airport at 6am for an early flight home on Monday morning. It was an absolutely fabulous trip!!!