CD Reviews: Scoil Samhraidh Willie Clancy

CD Reviews: Scoil Samhraidh Willie Clancy

Ceol agus Foinn: Music and Songs from the Willie Clancy Summer SchoolRTÉ 280CDReleased to coincide with the thirty-fifth anniversary of the Willie Clancy Summer School, this generous double CD also celebrates Raidió na Gaeltachta’s...

 

Ceol agus Foinn: Music and Songs from the Willie Clancy Summer School
RTÉ 280CD

Released to coincide with the thirty-fifth anniversary of the Willie Clancy Summer School, this generous double CD also celebrates Raidió na Gaeltachta’s involvement in recording live performances since the school’s inception in 1973. It’s the first time that any recordings from the school have been issued, and, given the excellence of the music heard at the nightly recitals there over the years, it is to be hoped that more may follow.

What makes these recordings particularly interesting (and perhaps useful for learners) is that these are, with some exceptions, solo performances, and highlight the school’s instrumental recitals as one of the few contemporary performance contexts where this type of presentation is the norm. As live performances, they often have a great spontaneity and vitality, and there are a number of tremendous fiddle duets here (particularly those of Junior Crehan and Bobby Casey, Eamon McGivney and John Joe Tuttle, and Siobhán Peoples and Paul Shaughnessy). Other tracks also successfully capture the exciting atmosphere of these concerts, but one of the CD’s flaws is that it’s not clear that all the recordings are from the recitals: some appear to be, but with the applause cut; others don’t seem to have been made with an audience at all. The lack of any information on either the tunes or the performers is a more serious deficiency, and there’s no indication at all of who is playing on any of the group tracks.

As might be expected, the music of Clare is well represented – as well as iconic players such as Paddy Canny, Micho Russell, and the Kellys, there are welcome recordings by less familiar figures, including a typically understated reel by Gus Russell. Fiddle, flute and concertina dominate the proceedings, and unusually there aren’t any recordings at all of button accordion, banjo, or harp, all of which are currently taught at the school. Considering Clare is a hotspot for ceili bands and set dancing, it’s also a pity that no recording reflects this. What I found more uneven was the temporal spread of the recordings – only one is from the 1970s (which is of Willie Clancy, and hence wasn’t recorded at the school), four are from the 1980s, five from the 2000s, with the remainder, and the majority, from the 1990s. The notes make it clear that sound quality was a factor in the selection process, but it is still disappointing that more earlier recordings weren’t included, and perhaps this will be remedied in future compilations. Despite these flaws, there are many gems among the recordings here, and it will be particularly appealing to those who value the ‘raw bar’.

Published on 1 July 2008

Adrian Scahill is a lecturer in traditional music at Maynooth University.

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