Altan and Mairéad Looking Forward to Visiting and Playing at Castleisland Festival

Altan: Heading for Castleisland. From left: Ciarán Curran, Dáithí Sproule, Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh, Martin Tourish and Mark Kelly.

A no holds barred estimate of the popularity of the band Altan on audiences throughout the world suggests that no Irish traditional music band has had a wider impact on music lovers from Donegal to Tokyo to Seattle.

Now the members of Altan are preparing for their first visit to Castleisland on October 29th to play in the 31st Patrick O’Keeffe Traditional Music Festival.

The band members understand instinctivy well what a musical legacy in an area like Castleisland means to those open to the calling.

Doherty and McLoughlin Legacies

They live their lives and play their music influenced, inspired and surrounded by the Doherty and McLaughlin legacies of their area of Donegal.

Just like our great musicians down here pay homage, praise them while they can, the richness of what Patrick O’Keeffe and his equals handed down, gave and gifted to them to mind.

Altan will understand what drives the scene in Kerry and in Castleisland for those few mad musical days of togetherness and all the ordinary days that sacrifice themselves for what really matters.

Kerry and Castleisland have not been anything like frequent hunting grounds for the Donegal based band over the years.

Innocence Exposed

In the course of a telephone chat with Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh during the week I was taken aback and my innocence exposed by her response when I mentioned to her the infrequency of the band’s appearances down here since it was formed back in the early 1980s.

After expressing her and the band’s delight at the opportunity to play at the Castleisland festival she explained in rational if seldom heard terms why appearances in Ireland generally are such a rarity.

“We’re delighted to be coming down to play in County Kerry and we can’t wait to be honest with you. You mention that we’re not down in Kerry too often, the thing about playing traditional music in Ireland is that it’s very difficult to get gigs anywhere in the country for traditional musicians or a traditional band,” said Mairéad.

Hard to Make a Living

“The irony of it all is that, unless we’re playing at festivals around the country it’s very hard for us to make a living here in Ireland and we have to leave to do that. And that’s why we’re looking forward to playing in Castleisland. It’s so lovely when we do get the chance to play a gig here and there in Ireland when we can – because it’s a rarity in fairness,” she said.

“It’s strange in a way because we have such a strong tradition of great music in Ireland and yet it’s so hard to get an audience to come out to hear traditional music in Ireland – unless it’s at a festival.

God Bless Festivals ?

“Look at The Chieftains and many other bands like them – we all have to leave Ireland to make a living. That’s the way it is here and it would be fabulous if we could stay at home and make a living here. But we’re delighted to be coming down to Kerry and getting the chance to play there,” she added.

“God bless festivals then ? I offered – and she wholeheartedly agreed.

Altan, the name of the band, was taken from a deep and mysterious lake behind Errigal Mountain up in Co. Donegal.

Down here in Co. Kerry, however, there’s no mystery at all in getting to see this truly magnificent band in concert in Castleisland on Sunday, October 29th. from 8pm. Click on the link below for more information.

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