BY SEÁN P. FEENY
AFTER twenty years Scoil Gheimhridh Frankie Kennedy in Gaoth Dobhair will take place for the last time before a new group of organisers takes over the winter school.
The line-up for the 20th and final Frankie Kennedy Winter School has just been announced and it will be a bittersweet event for everyone involved.
Scoil Gheimhridh Frankie Kennedy was established in December 1994 following Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh’s husband Frankie’s untimely death from cancer in September of that year. The school’s vision was always to continue the Belfast flute player and co-founder of Altan’s huge contribution to Irish traditional music, especial the music and songs of Donegal by passing on knowledge and nurturing talent.
Director, well-known musician Conor Byrne said the annual winter school will continue, but under a new group of organisers. “The Kennedy and Ó Maonaigh family feel that after 20 years it is time to pass on the torch to those on grassroots level in Gaoth Dobhair. “These are the people that got the ethos of the Frankie Kennedy Winter School – nurturing local talent and celebrating the music of the Gaeltacht and that’s what’s most important.”
Conor, who personally knew Frankie, taught at the winter school and in recent years took over as director, said a lot of big names will be visiting Gaoth Dobhair at the end of September so they can be there for the last winter school celebrating the late Belfast man’s memory.
He said: “The aim of the final year is to end on a high, and with the line-up in place so far this is guaranteed to happen. Included this year are Altan, Séamus Begley and Tim Edey, Nollaig Casey and Arty McGlynn with Máire Ní Chathasaigh and Chris Newman, Fidil, Paddy Glackin and Dónal Lunny, Skara Brae, The Friel Sisters, and many, many more.”
The annual school has without question been one of the highlights of the traditional Irish music calendar for the past 20 years. This year is no exception. There will be classes in a broad range of traditional Irish musical instruments, song as well as dance from some of the most respected musicians and singers of the tradition.
All events will take place in the parish of Gaoth Dobhair which is situated in the North West region of Donegal. Venues include Dún Lúiche’s Errigal Hostel and Ionad Cois Locha, Ionad Naomh Pádraig in Dobhar and Teach Hiúdaí Beag in An Bun Beag.
Classes will cover the Donegal Gaeltacht song tradition, flute, fiddle, uilleann pipes, tin whistle, bodhrán, button accordion, Donegal traditional two-hand dancing, concertina & guitar.
There are events for all the family, including Children’s Art workshops, afternoon recitals, lectures and evening concerts. Tickets will go on sale soon from www.frankiekennedy.com