Castleisland – The Custodian of Culture and Music

Castleisland has been entrusted with the beating heart of Sliabh Luachra culture and music this weekend – and oh how we’re minding it in our own and in a most international kind of way.

There was a distinctly international flavour to the opening of the 23rd Patrick O’Keeffe Traditional Music Festival in Browne’s Bar on Friday night.

Paddy Jones delivered his lecture on The Music of Sliabh Luachra in the intimate surroundings of the back room of Browne’s Bar.

His style of delivery and passion for his subject presented the music and the people who played it in an almost pop-up fashion. He breathed life into the culture of censorship and hardship under which they managed to maintain their music and language as a living entity. He left his audience in no doubt about how lucky we are that the music survived at all.
The music was all they had and they were its custodians in a time before any type of recording mechanism was even thought about.

They stored it in their heads and in their hearts and let it loose in the company of friends and people who appreciated it.
Paddy’s audience was made up of devotees of Sliabh Luachra Music from the USA, Holland, Russia, Miltown Malbay, Currow, Castleisland and Castlecove itself.

And we raised and clinked full glasses and drank to the St. Joseph’s Miltown Malbay team and their winning of the Clare Senior Football Championship with John and Aidan O’Looney in the main bar at Browne’s afterwards.

Our Russian ambassador, Anton Zilla switched from cello to fiddle some years ago because it was a comparatively easier instrument on which to play Sliabh Luachra polkas and slides on.

He asked me for my email address and I gave him a Maine Valley Post card and he looked at it and said “this is the one where I learned of this festival” – The Maine Valley Post being read in Moscow ! Small world – long reach.

Paddy got technical too. In terms of bowing, long and short. He emphasised how the pupils of Patrick O’Keeffe ( he referred to him as Pádraig throughout) who carried his advice on long bowing techniques became the most successful players afterwards.
He emphasised this with copious references to the seminal, 1969 recording The Star Above The Garter which featured the playing of Denis Murphy and Julia Clifford.

On the street outside it was pouring rain but that didn’t matter as people localised their traipsing to short runs between participating pubs.
The beautiful, musical madness and sodality of it all will continue unabated until the early hours of Tuesday morning. God willing there will be someone left standing to quench the light. Come on over and join us. You’ll find all the information on: