BY SEÁN P. FEENY
It is with great excitement that we look forward to the second ever Seisiún Thír Chonaill in Dungloe this weekend which brings together everything that’s great about Irish culture, from trad sessions, seán-nós dancing to top class Irish entertainment through music and dance.
A major part of the weekend is of course the trad sessions competition, which will see dozens of groups representing pubs all over the county vying to take the title Best Trad Session Pub back to their home venue.
There will be up to 20 pubs represented and as well as seven pubs from Dungloe, these include The Beehive, Ardara; The Reel Inn, Donegal Town; McIntyre’s Bar, Dunkineely [Home of Fidíl’s Aidan O’Donnell]; McDaid’s, Clonmany; The traveller’s Inn, Milford, Bonner’s Bar, Mullaghduff and several from the east of the county.
Organiser, Patrick Boyle said last year’s competition, which was won by the Bayview, Dungloe was a tremendous success. “All the musicians had so much fun and we’re hoping to build on that. Having a lot more groups taking part this year has been a great boost.”
Over Saturday and Sunday afternoon, competitions will take place in three of the Dungloe pubs, while the other bars will entertain groups for practice sessions.
“This means that there will be music played in every pub of the town, before we announce the winner on Sunday evening and bring them onto the main stage.
“Once we announce the winner, we will invite all the musicians present to take part in the session and it should be a lot of fun,” said Patrick.
As well as the competition, there is a lot of entertainment in store for the weekend and it all kicks off on Friday night with a special exhibition at Ionad Teampall Chroine.
Opening the weekend will be the Tribute To Rosses Fiddlers photographic exhibition (8 to 9pm), which was put together by Dungloe fiddle teacher Geraldine Bonner from Falmore and librarian Fiona Sweeney.
Geraldine, who is the granddaughter of the late fiddle player Néillidh Boyle, said: “We went all over the Rosses from Arranmore, Crolly to Leitirmacaward, to collect photos of Rosses fiddle players, past and present for the exhibition.
“It will be a chance for young fiddle players and people from around the area to take a look at the who’s who of Rosses fiddle music.”
The photographs date back as far as 1910 to the present day, including some of Geraldine’s own fiddle students. “I teach fiddle to some of the grandchildren of these well-known fiddle players and we’re hoping that on they night the children will play some of their tunes.”
That night the musical entertainment on the town’s main street will kick off with The Perfect Mix, winners of the Today Fm Beat The Original 2009 title, who recently entertained the crowds at Donegal Live in the Iveagh Gardens, Dublin.
The musicians and singers behind The Perfect Mix are Dungloe man Ronan Brennan (guitar, vocals), Conal Early (keys), Gary O’Meara (banjo, mandolin and vocals), Brian Garvin (fiddle, whistles and percussion), Connor Smith (flute, vocals) and Stephen Doherty (flute, percussion).
On Saturday there are workshops being held in music and dance with very exciting teachers. Perfect Mix member Stephen Doherty, an All Ireland winning full-time professional musician and teacher from Foxford, Co Mayo, will be giving workshops in bodhrán and flute.
Before taking to the stage in Dungloe with a world famous Irish music and dance show that night, All Ireland winning fiddle player David Doocey, originally from Massachusetts will be passing his knowledge to eager students.
There will also be an accordion and concertina workshop held by Rona McLaughlin from Co Clare who lives in Letterkenny and is very well known on the local scene.
Seeing sean-nós dance in these parts of the country is always a treat and having Connemara’s Emma O’Sullivan of All Ireland Talent Show fame, come up to give a workshop is an even bigger one. All Ireland champion Emma will be there to give an insight into this wonderful tradition.
On Saturday night an Irish dance and music extravaganza will make its Dungloe premiere as part of Seisúin Thír Chonaill, and it will be a highlight of the festival Patrick said.
World famous show Ragús is being staged in the new multi-purpose centre at Rosses Community School. This will be a big one as our own Ronan Brennan is one of the musicians and people can look forward to world class Irish dancing, music and singing in the show.”
Choreographed by Irish dancing stalwart, Michael Ryan of the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance at the University of Limerick, a close friend of the show’s creator Fergal Ó Murchú, Ragús has toured every from Tokyo, Cape Town to Las Vegas.
Currently also on a five-month residency at the Burlington Hotel in Dublin, the show’s creator and producer, Mayo man Fergal Ó Murchú said its a rare treat to be able to bring Ragús to Dungloe, the home of the company’s manager, Ronan Brennan.
And the weekend’s entertainment doesn’t stop here! On Sunday afternoon at 4pm, the ever popular Inishowen sisters, The Henry Girls are making a very welcome return to the main street stage.
It’s been a really successful year for the Henry Girls who performed at the prestigious Celtic Connections festival in Glasgow and later this summer are heading for the Milwaukee IrishFest, the world’s biggest festival of its kind. “The girls went down really well last year and we’re so delighted they’re coming back,” said Patrick.
It certainly going to be a fun-filled bank holiday weekend in Dungloe so be sure to make your way down to Seisiún Thír Chonaill.
The music workshops are being held at Ionad Teampall Chroine, Chapel Road from 10am to 1pm, while Emma O’Sullivan’s seán-nós classes will be in the Parochial Hall, Caranmore Road, Children 10 to 11am and Adults 11.30am to 2.30pm. For more information onSeisúin Thir Chonaill contact Geraldine on 086 818 0080 or Patrick on 086 833 2366.