Ó Neachtain to open O’Carolan Festival on Sunday

The 29th annual Turlough O’Carolan Harp & Traditional Music Festival and summer school takes place in Keadue, Co. Roscommon from Friday 3 to Sunday 12 August.    The festival has been a resounding success since it began in 1978 and is a celebration of the life and times of the world-renowned composer and harper Turlough O’Carolan.    Seán Ó Neachtain MEP will perform the official opening of the Festival in Keadue on Sunday next, August 5th at 3.30 pm. The opening will be preceded by the parade which is led by the Boyle Marching Band. Music after the opening will be provided by Shaskeen. This year’s O’Carolan Harp Festival lecture in Keadue takes place on Bank Holiday Monday, August 6th at 12 noon and is entitled ‘The Architecture and History of Roscommon Castle’. It will be given by archaeologist Margaret Murphy who has carried out a two-year study of the castle.   O’Carolan was born in 1670 near Nobber, County Meath and moved to Ballyfarnon, Co. Roscommon with his family when he was fourteen-years-old. Around the age of eighteen he was left blinded by smallbox but notwithstanding this he would go on to travel around Ireland composing many extraordinary and exceptional tunes which subsequently made him into the well-known figure he is today.   The festival is not only a celebration of harp playing and composing but of Irish Traditional Dance and Music down through the ages. There are numerous recitals, concerts and ceiles taking place throughout the week not to mention other events for the public to attend and enjoy.   There are also classes in all the traditional music instruments commencing on Monday 6 August with high profile musicians tutoring throughout the week. Classes such as tin whistle, bodhran, fiddle, flute, accordion and harp are all available to attend and are proving increasingly popular over the years.   One of the highlights of the festival is a special concert in Keadue Church on the opening night of the festival, Friday August 3 rd , which will feature Patricia Daly on Harp, the Keadue Harpers and Liam Purcell and friends.   Other top performers include Charlie McGettigan and Eleanor Shanley in concert on Saturday night, August 4 th . This is sure to be a wonderful occasion.    Some of the other artists who have performed at the festival in the past are The Chieftains, Sean Keane, Altan, Dervish, Stocktons Wing, Mary Black, Sharon Shannon and Frances Black. Indeed Frankie Gavin and Hibernian Rhapsody are due to perform on Sunday night 5 August in this year’s line-up for what should be a wonderful night’s entertainment.   The spotlight will once again be focussed on the harp events, as the festival has now become a focal point for harpists all over the world. The Senior Harp Competition will be held on Monday, August 6 th and the winner will take home a prize of 650 euro and a crystal trophy. The Harp competitions are sponsored by Arigna Fuels Ltd.   One man who has been instrumental in the establishment of the festival is Keadue native Padraig Noone. He is one of a number of people who have promoted the event throughout the years and seen it blossom into the world-renowned festival it is today.   ‘The O’Carolan festival has been very successful indeed. It has become increasingly popular over the years and this is reflected in the numbers not only attending the week from this country but also from around the world.   ‘Last year the girl that won it was actually from Bulgaria so this just shows you the interest that there is from abroad,’ stated Padraig, when I spoke to him last week.   The numbers attending the summer school have been steadily increasing, with first-class tutors available all week to give classes to both young and old.   ‘The summer school covers all instruments in Traditional Irish Music and the numbers going to the school are growing all the time’ Padraig added.   A past student of the summer school, Aidan Shannon, also praised the festival and what it adds to the summer for Irish music lovers.   ‘The sessions over the week are very lively and energetic. There is a great atmosphere at the festival and this is helped by the numbers of younger people now attending it.    ‘The numbers are also smaller in the classes than in other summer schools and this is a major advantage as it’s basically one on one tuition,’ added Aidan, who has won many All-Ireland titles throughout the years at the All-Ireland Fleadh.   So festival fever will hit the small village of Keadue in the next week. It is an event which is highly recommended and if you get the chance make the effort to go and join in in the festivities as a fun and enjoyable week is in prospect for all.