Matt Cranitch to Receive O’Keeffe Festival Award

P.J. Teahan and Matt Cranitch.  P.J.'s research into the history of the O'Keeffe monument in Scartaglin will be launched by Matt Cranitch at the River Island Hotel to open the festival on Friday night at 9pm.  ©Photograph:  John Reidy
P.J. Teahan and Matt Cranitch. P.J.’s research into the history of the O’Keeffe monument in Scartaglin will be launched by Matt Cranitch at the River Island Hotel to open the festival on Friday night at 9pm. ©Photograph: John Reidy

Cork native and resident, Matt Cranitch has agreed to accept the 2017 award for dedication to the music of Sliabh Luachra at this month’s Patrick O’Keeffe Traditional Music Festival. The festival will get underway on the coming Friday night, October 27th at 9pm. 

The special, 25th anniversary award is going to the fiddle player and area ambassador for his work on behalf of the music of the area and for his continuous promotion of the festival abroad.

A Long and Distinguished List

In accepting the award, Matt will join the likes of: Mikey Duggan, Johnny O’Leary, Denis McMahon, Willie O’Connell, Ann and Nicky McAuliffe, Jimmy O’Brien, Paddy Jones, Maurice O’Keeffe, Ciarán MacMathúna, Peter Browne, Paddy Cronin, Dan O’Connell and many more.

The festival, will run from Friday, October 27th to Monday 30th inclusive and will include the proverbial something for everyone.

Because it’s the 25th anniversary of the founding of the festival, a special fiddle recital will be held and this will be attended by some of the finest, established and young players of our time.

Emphasis on Classes

There is a strong emphasis on classes also this year with a variety of the traditional Sliabh Luachra instruments being taught by the leading exponents of the day.

Broadcaster, piper and festival co-founder, Peter Browne will also conduct a piping class in the course of the weekend.

There is a change to the Saturday afternoon singing session this year at Fagin’s/Hartnett’s Bar. Due to requests from patrons, many of whom travel long distances for this particular event, the first couple of hours will be dedicated solely to the invited singers. The session will then be open to the floor before the musicians take over later on.

This year’s featured singers include: Tim Dennehy, Mickey MacConnell, Don Stiffe and festival first-timers, Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh and Donal Clancy.

Gabriel Fitzmaurice, poet and editor Best Loved Poems: Favourite Poems from the South of Ireland reading at Waterstone's Book Shop for the Cork launch. John Reidy /
Gabriel Fitzmaurice will conduct a poetry writing workshop at the festival on Monday at 3pm. ©Photograph: John Reidy

Poetry Writing Class

Apart from the all enveloping, musical element of the festival and in the something for everyone category, Gabriel Fitzmaurice will conduct a poetry writing workshop on the bank holiday Monday at 3pm.

A long time festival guest, Gabriel changed the shape of his workshop last year to concentrate on the writing and publishing of poetry.

It was something which struck a chord with people and he’s going down that route again at this year’s festival.

PJ Teahan’s Exhibition

The opening event will be conducted by Matt Cranitch who will then introduce local musician and Handed Down / World Fiddle Day Scartaglin co-founder, P.J. Teahan.

P.J. will display the findings of his newspaper research into the funding effort, commissioning and ultimate unveiling of the monument to Patrick O’Keeffe in Scartaglin in July 1983.

Matt Cranitch pictured on the day of his conferring at the University of Limerick. He was conferred with a PHD for his thesis on 'Padraig O'Keeffe and the Sliabh Luachra Fiddle Tradition'. Photograph:  Liam Burke/Press 22
Matt Cranitch pictured on the day of his conferring at the University of Limerick. He was conferred with a PHD for his thesis on ‘Padraig O’Keeffe and the Sliabh Luachra Fiddle Tradition’.
Photograph: Liam Burke/Press 22

Matt’s Doctorate Conferring In 2006

At the end of 2006 at a graduation ceremony in University of Limerick a doctorate degree was conferred on Matt Cranitch for his study and thesis on the life and music of Patrick O’Keeffe.

Matt himself and his various music groupings including Sliabh Notes and more recently Jackie Daly and Paul de Grae have been frequent visitors to various music venues in Kerry, but especially to the Patrick O’Keeffe Traditional Music Festival here in Castleisland each October.

Sliabh Luachra Greats

For many years, Matt has taken a great interest in O’Keeffe’s music, as well as in that of the other Sliabh Luachra greats like: Denis Murphy, Julia Clifford, Johnny O’Leary and Paddy Cronin. He has studied their music, especially the styles of playing, as well as the unique repertoire of tunes

from this area.

Matt also has a particular interest in the special systems of music notation that were used by Patrick O’Keeffe to give tunes to his pupils.

Generosity of Mikey Duggan

“I was first introduced to this way of writing music when a number of Pádraig’s manuscripts were generously given to me many years ago by Mikey Duggan, fiddle-player from Scartaglin.

When I saw them for the first time, my interest and enthusiasm were fired to learn more about this method of writing music, as well as about Pádraig himself and his playing. In my quest to gain further knowledge on these topics, I have been helped greatly by many musicians in the Sliabh Luachra area.”

It is perhaps not surprising then that Matt’s field of study has been centered on these notation systems as well as on Pádraig’s own fiddle-playing and music. The resulting Ph.D. thesis is titled: Pádraig O’Keeffe and the Sliabh Luachra Fiddle Tradition.

A Tribute to Pádraig and the Music

The fact that a doctorate dissertation such as this has been written is surely a tribute not only to Pádraig himself, but also to the music of Sliabh Luachra.

“This study is an acknowledgement of the importance of Pádraig O’Keeffe in the history of Irish traditional music. I hope that it will go some way towards bestowing on him the universal recognition that he deserves.”

With regard to the thesis itself, it examines the various facets of Pádraig’s fiddle notation system, as well as his teaching methodology.

The Sliabh Luachra Fiddle Master

Also, the style of playing in his music is considered in depth, with particular attention being paid to the detailed features of bowing. And in order to provide an appropriate context and background, Pádraig’s own life-story is also examined. In summarising his dissertation Matt said:

“This study has been about a number of things: Irish traditional fiddle-playing; the music and fiddle-playing traditions of Sliabh Luachra; a school teacher; a fiddle master; the process of teaching the fiddle; music notation; the life and times of an extraordinary musician; a legacy of notated manuscripts.

“All these various topics and subjects are drawn together and encapsulated in the life and times, or in a word, the very persona of one particular individual, namely The Sliabh Luachra Fiddle Master, Pádraig O’Keeffe.”

Pádraig or Patrick ?

As a footnote: In order to avoid confusion on the issue of whether it’s Pádraig or Patrick in referring to the Sliabh Luachra Fiddle Master. It’s a matter of preference and style and be assured they both refer to the same man.

The festival committee adopted the Patrick O’Keeffe version after hearing Peter Browne’s 1993 documentary and one of the women interviewed uttered a heart-felt: ‘Poor Patrick’ while referring to his wayward lifestyle. It was the late Mike Kenny, with a thump of affirmation on the pitch pine, sloping counter of Sheila Prendiville’s Bar and Grocery, who announced it would be Patrick O’Keeffe from that morning onward. Another day gone.

All festival information on venues and times will be available at: and in the festival brochures which will be available at the River Island Hotel and in pubs throughout the town.


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