Monday, May 1, 2017

Irish Eyes

Music, Poetry, Stories And Drama

       I’ve had an interesting couple of months since I saw you last. First I was at a Comhaltas Ceoltori Eireann concert in the Tramway Theatre, Blessington, on 11th March. There the cream of local talent took to the stage, as part of Seachtain na Gaeilge. There was a great line up for a very good show to highlight the great Tradition we, in west Wicklow, hold in Music, Poetry, Song and Stories.

      We had;

       Phil Callery. A World Class international Singer with The Voice Squad. Phil featured on CDs, “.Landscape of the Past,” “From The Edge of Memory” and “Live in Hollywood. Co.Wicklow”. The real Hollywood!

Phil Callery

      Rachel Conlan, Young Person of The Year Award 2015 as Ambassador for Traditional Music, with links to Sweden, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia and Co.Clare. Rachel and Alan Reid have their first CD, just recorded.

      Rachel featured on DVD “Sunrise on the Wicklow Hills”, composing a tune, “Flower of Lugnaquilla”. She has a Master’s Degree in Traditional Music Performance.

       Jane Clarke. Poet. Born in Roscommon now living in Co.Wicklow. Winner 2016 Hennessy New Irish Writing Poetry Award and Listowel Writers Week Poetry 2014.

      SCOR 2016 All Ireland Finalists, with Rachel Conlan, Aoife Doyle and Orla Greaves. All are past members of Hollywood Music School under Eric Greaves and C.J.Darby, still encouraging the playing of traditional music and hold the festival “Music Under the Mountain”, every September.

      Feidhlim and Muirne Mac Roibin a brother and sister traditional duet from Lacken.

      Blessington Comhaltas Grupa Ceoil with Rachel and Sarah O Kelly was a very special occasion for the mums and Dads to see the great skills all have acquired through their classes at Blessington Comhaltas. Blessington Comhaltas received The Community Group Award 2016 for their work in promoting Traditional Music.

       You would hear a pin drop during the poetry reading by Jane Clarke from her collection “The River.” Jane is from Roscommon but moved to Wicklow twenty years ago. She told me about how the move influenced her writing, “I had a dream of becoming a writer but I hardly even admitted it to myself. The quiet and the beauty of the surroundings gradually helped me make time for writing. I began with prose and then attempted a poem. A few poems later, I realized that I had found my medium and from then my life changed as I became more and more involved in writing and reading poetry. Ten years later, my collection, The River, was published by Bloodaxe Books.

      " Somehow walking helps poetry, probably the physical rhythm of walking and the way it helps rest the mind. Being out and about in the fields, amongst trees, hedges and ditches, with sheep and cattle around reminded me of the farm where I grew up in Roscommon, even though the landscape of granite hills is very different to the flat, limestone midlands. Living in Wicklow has given me both the natural inspiration and the quiet time that is essential for my writing. “

      My local village of Blessington held its first ever Saint Patrick's Day Parade this year and a great turn-out it was. My one-Act monologue play “In the Hut” and my short Two-hander “Ye’ll Vote for Me” were staged by the Gunnison Arts Center, in Colorado, on Saint Patrick’s Day.

Myles Day Photo Used with permision from the Irish Times

       Then on April 02nd there was Myles Day, in the Palace Bar, Dublin. So what is MylesDay? This is what the organiser, Dublin engineer, John Clarke, had to say on the first Myles Day on 01st April 2011. “Let’s start with what it isn’t – it isn’t Bloomsday. I think we’re all probably aware of Bloomsday. For years, when Myles aficionados have gathered, they have often wondered why should James Joyce get a whole day to himself. The thing about Joyce, and I hear he’s a lovely fellow, but he can be a bit...dry? And we felt it was wrong that Flann O’Brien, who, and let’s be honest here, has brought more happiness, entertainment & pure joy to the lives of the Plain People of Ireland that any number of James Joyces ever will, should languished uncommemorated, while Joyce continues to get a whole day – every year.”

Val O'Donnell at Myles Day, 2017.

      So that was the genesis of MylesDay – to allow the ordinary, decent, people of Ireland celebrate one of their own. And this year was the seventh Myles Day which John has organised. And as for the date John picked, 1st April, it was the actual date of Brian O’Nolan’s death – 51 years ago. The original purpose of MylesDay was to celebrate the works of Flann O’Brien, who also wrote under the name(s) of Myles na Gopaleen, and Brian O’Nolan and brought delight to a generation of readers. Flann was involved in starting the tradition of Bloomsday. If you see the footage of the original Bloomsday, in 1954, of our hero requiring considerable assistance to get into a cab, it appears that it was not the most tightly organised event in the world. And some, crueller commentators, may even suggest that it was a thinly veiled pretext to facilitate an afternoon’s drinking. How times have changed. This year due to a sporting event Myles was relegated to April 02nd.

Mattie Lennon at Myles Day, 2017.

       One journalist wrote that yours truly had, “ . . .a penchant for holding forth at length on the little vignettes and foibles of human nature that many others pass by unnoticed.” Be that as it may I have now brought out a CD, “Truth and Lies With Mattie Lennon”. 80 minutes, 14 tracks, of Seanachai stories (some of them true!) Details at;

       And now . . I have just been informed that the Kill Musical and Dramatic Society will stage the world premiere of my play, “A Wolf by the Ears” on May 11th.

       See you in June.

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