Derry fiddle player, Eugene O’Donnell (right) pictured with James MacCafferty.
Taking places in Derry and various towns in Co Donegal, the North Atlantic Fiddle Convention (NAFCo) will run for its first time in Ireland from Wednesday 27 June to 1 July, and as ever it has a strong academic element running through it.
With funding and support from the University of Ulster, Leader, Donegal Local Development Company, the Arts Council, Donegal County Council, the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, Derry-Londonderry UK City of Culture 2013, Derry City Council, NITB, Creative Scotland, Dance Research Forum of Ireland, and the Derry Visitor and Convention Centre, NAFCo is a celebration of the traditional fiddle music and dance from countries around the north Atlantic seaboard, featuring concerts, masterclasses, lectures, discussions, film screenings, a trade fair in the Millennium Forum and a series of lunchtime concerts. Dance Research Forum Ireland is running its conference, entitled ‘Connecting Communities Through Dance’, as part of NAFCo.
Liz Doherty, a lecturer in music in the University of Ulster in Magee, is Director of NAFCo and describes the planning and work that went into bringing NAFCo to the north-west as ‘a labour of love begun years ago. NAFCo is a cross border and cross community event but it’s also an international event that celebrates the local.’ The programme including over eighty academic papers which will be delivered over the course of the convention in the University of Ulster.
A fiddle player herself, Doherty was keen to shine a light on Derry and Donegals rich tradition of fiddle playing and music making and celebrate this aspect of local cultural heritage. ‘As part of NAFCo this year we are delighted to be honouring the renowned Derry fiddle player, Eugene ODonnell who spent a large part of his life in Philadelphia having left his native city in 1957 where he influenced a whole generation of Irish American musicians. Since his return home Eugene’s influence still runs deep and this will be reflected in some of the Derry fiddle players, among them Peter Tracey, Frank Gallagher, Maurice Bradley and Dermot McLaughlin.’ A series of daily lunchtime concerts will be held in An Culturlann, Great James Street, Derry, the first of which will be a tribute to O’Donnell, and will feature those Derry fiddle players along with Liz Carroll. (Others performing at the lunchtime concert series through the week are Tommy Peoples, Mick Moloney, Brid Harper and Dermot Byrne, Liz and Yvonne Kane, Nancy Kerry and James Fagan, Tom McConville, Tara Conaghan and Derek McGinley, Cleek Schrey and Stephanie Coleman, Amy Geddes, Laoise Kelly and Michelle O’Brien.)
The NAFCo keynote address will be delivered by Neil Rosenberg, Prefessor Emeritus, Department of Folklore, Memorial University of Newfoundland, editor of Transforming Tradition and of other key works among them Bluegrass: A History (1985) which many regard as the definitive work on the topic. A performing musician himself, Rosenberg has conducted research in Canada and the US, focussing upon the lives and music of professional, semi-professional and amateur old-time, bluegrass, country and folk musicians.
A number of new commissions by NAFCo will be premiered in Derry and Donegal during the convention. Among them is a new twenty-minute composition by Shetland fiddle player Chris Stout entitled Sail, a piece exploring the links between the various north Atlantic fiddle traditions. Belfast cellist and uilleann piper Neil Martin has written a new piece, 100 Fiddles at 50º North, which will be heard first in Derry when some one hundred fiddle players from the Youth Fiddle Camp will perform it. Dancer Breandán de Gallaí known for his lead role in Riverdance has developed a new dance piece that will be unveiled on Thursday 28 June at the Fiddle & Feet Concert in Derry’s Millennium Forum Theatre.
A series of informal conversations/demonstrations led by Dr. Matt Cranitch and featuring fiddle players Martin Hayes (Ireland), Antóin McGabhann (Ireland), Andrea Beaton (Canada), Paddy Cronin (Ireland), John Carty (Ireland), Paddy Glackin (Ireland), Pierre Schryer (Canada) and Alasdair Fraser (Scotland) will take place from Wednesday to Saturday, between 3 – 4pm and 4.15 – 5.15pm in Bridie’s Cottage, Craft Village, Shipquay Street, Derry. Entrance is free.
Classes in fiddle for all levels and accompaniment styles (piano / guitar) will run throughout the convention at the Millennium Forum in Derry costing £70 for the week or £15 per day. Tutors include Pete Cooper (UK), Eilidh Steele (Scotland), Amy Geddes (Scotland), Brendan Hendry (Ireland), Óisín Mac Diarmaida (Ireland) and more. Masterclasses for advanced level only will also run at the Millennium Forum and the tutors are as follows: Wednesday – Kristen Bugge (Denmark) and Erland Viken (Norway); Thursday – Martin Hayes (Ireland) and John Carty (Ireland); Friday – Alastair Fraser (Scotland) and Shane Cook (Canada); and Saturday – Catriona McDonald (Shetland) and Liz Knowles (USA). Fiddle/accompaniment workshops with Alasdair Fraser and Natalie Haas (Scotland/USA) and Jennifer and Hazel Wrigley (Orkney), will take place on Friday th June at the Regional Cultural Centre, Port Road, Letterkenny from 11am _ 1pm as part of the Women of the Fiddle event.
In a series of outreach community workshops in Co. Donegal, musicians from Ireland, Scotland, Norway and Canada play tunes and discuss their traditions, as follows:
Monday, 25 June Majorsteun (Norway), in McGrory’s, Culdaff; Wednesday 27 Lau (Scotland), Moville and Blazing Bows (Ireland) in Buncrana; Thursday 28 Troy McGillivray, Shane Cook, Jake Charron (Canada), in Ballyshannon; Friday 29 Pierre Schryer Trio (Canada) in McGrory’s, Culdaff; Saturday 30 Andrea Beaton, Janine Randall, Dawn and Margie Beaton (Cape Breton) in Balor Theatre, Ballybofey; Sunday July 1 Kevin Doherty (Four Men and a Dog) and Fiolministeriet (Denmark), in the Coffee Cup, Buncrana.
Published on 25 May 2012