This is a huge year for anniversaries somehow. You can’t turn these days but you’ll bump into an anniversary of one sort or another – and we’re not even thinking about JFK and Dallas and November.
Locally and musically it’s no different. I mentioned here earlier this year that we raised glasses of heart and soul-warming goodness over in Kilmurry at the graveside of Patrick O’Keeffe on the 60th anniversary of his death.
The festival in his honour which is being planned for the October bank holiday weekend will celebrate the 30th anniversary of its founding.
The Chosen Man
The man chosen to pick up the Dedication to the Music of Sliabh Luachra Award at the festival this year P.J. Teahan also celebrated a rounded up anniversary with the culture and heritage enriching projects in his life.
P.J. with Mick Culloty and Tomás Mac Eileagóid founded the monthly Scartaglen based Handed Down season of lectures and performances in 2013 and they have incorporated the Scart version of the annual World Fiddle Day into their repertoire.
The Scartaglen mid May festival is part of a world-wide celebration of all members of the fiddle family of instruments and players and it has attracted Irish music loving visitors from many parts of the world.
The Charm of its Festival
Now Scart is sharing the charm of its festival as bus tours to places of interest in its hinterlands have taken a grip on the Saturday programme of events.
Handed Down is an ideal nursery for the well of young talent that’s always bubbling to the surface.
The young musicians are provided with a stage – quite literally – and the opportunity of sharing it with the masters of the genre.
A mentoring session has, in recent times, been introduced on Handed Down evenings.
Here, a couple of the masters take the lead in a session in which all are encouraged to play and join in and discuss tunes and techniques in a room away from the main auditorium.
No Stranger to Awards
P.J. Teahan is no stranger to awards and other high points in his endeavours on behalf of the music of his own locality.
Just before the first Handed Down night of the year in January 2018 a bit of a huddle developed in the kitchen of the Sliabh Luachra Heritage Centre in Scartaglen and the Dan O’Connell Memorial Award was presented to the Handed Down / World Fiddle Day team at Sliabh Luachra Heritage Centre by the late Timmy ‘The Brit’ McCarthy and the late Dan O’Connell’s daughter, Mairéad Kiely.
The River Maine in Music
P.J. and the team were nominated by members of the traditional band ‘The Rising’ from Killarney.
At the latter end of 2021 an American multi-instrumentalist, Dennis Botzer from the Maryland / Washington DC area of the USA was compiling a list of tunes for a forthcoming CD.
And he sent an ‘Is it OK if I include your composition’ message to P.J. from his base in the USA.
The CD, The Doctor Is In emerged and there amongst the tune titles is a local and unmistakably Castleisland composition The River Maine written by PJ Teahan.
The tune was composed in 2012. Then, during a late night tune at the Patrick O’Keeffe Traditional Music Festival in October 2013 visiting honeymoon couple Crystal Bailey and Patrick Cavanagh heard P.J Teahan playing it.
Tune Played in the US
They brought it all back home, liked it enough to learn it and started playing it in the Washington DC sessions.
A message to P.J. in 2014 simply said: “The folks here love your tune and everyone is playing it.”
Another transatlantic message read as follows: “The River Maine has reached America and permission is requested to record it.”
The request was received with a sense of mild shock and considered a fantastic honour by its composer.
The tune, its origins and source are acknowledged there in the sleeve notes: “The River Maine (waltz) written by PJ Teahan, we learned this tune from Patrick Cavanagh and Crystal Bailey who brought it back from their travels in Castleisland, Co. Kerry.”
Equally Impressive Honour
And that’s not all. There was an equally impressive honour bestowed on him at home on this side of the Atlantic Ocean.
This is in a Jackie Daly composed jig for and named in honour of P.J. and for what he’s doing for the ceol áitiúil and the culture with his Scart based Handed Down and World Fiddle Day initiatives.
The tune called PJ Teahan’s Jig is one of over 220 polkas, slides, jigs and reels composed by the Kanturk musical genius, included in book form and launched at the Willie Clancy Summer School in Miltown Malbay in July 2022.
PJ’s tune got an airing, ‘a world premiere’ as Jackie announced it, in a session on the eve of the May 19th World Fiddle Day in 2018 in Scart when Jackie and Matt Cranitch topped the guest list.
It was a nice surprise for PJ then and it hasn’t lost an ounce of its charm since.
Breaking the News
On the Patrick O’Keeffe Traditional Music Festival front, it fell to chairman Cormac O’Mahony to break the 2023 award news to P.J. Teahan at a recent meeting / session at Fagin’s Bar to commemorate the anniversary of festival founder member Mike Kenny.
Getting a land probably summed up P.J.’s reaction best on taking in the news. But Cormac O’Mahony and co took and recognised all that had been achieved in Scartaglen over the past ten years.
He pointed to the fact that Handed Down and World Fiddle Day are gaining momentum with every passing year and with an impressive record of giving young musicians the start.
And, in summing up his choice for 2023, the chairman also mentioned the gathering and preservation of music on the verge of being lost.
That put the seal on his proposal and there wasn’t a dissenting voice in the house.
Honours List Includes
The list of Dedication to the Music of Sliabh Luachra Award winners includes: RTÉ broadcasters, Dr. Ciarán Mac Mathúna and Peter Browne, Denis McMahon, Paddy Jones, Jimmy Doyle, Johnny O’Leary, Anne and Nicky McAuliffe, Mikey Duggan, Maurice O’Keeffe, Willie O’Connell, Matt Cranitch, Dan O’Connell, Jimmy O’Brien, Máire O’Keeffe – to mention but a few.
Demand for Accommodation
In terms of festival-time accommodation in the Castleisland area and hinterland, there has been a marked improvement in the amount of rooms which have become available – but there’s still a demand.
Some are rooms only – and that’s fine – while others will provide the full bed and breakfast service and that’s something which should be established by the householder and the weekend lodger in the initial contact to avoid any misunderstandings which may arise.
Castleisland will also be a campervan friendly zone for that weekend as Walsh Bros Electrical will make their expansive yard available at the rear of their shop and that of the Centra Supermarket.
Camping and Caravan Site
In fact, the findings of a survey were delivered in person by a lady at the Ivy Leaf Art Centre in the mid 1990s and one of the firm recommendations included the provision of a serviced caravan and camping park in the town. And that was because of its central location to all the tourist hot-spots in the county.
Since Easter, and since people began to really complain about the cost of hotel accommodation, there has been a marked increase in visitors in vehicles towing caravans.
Maybe the suggestion from that survey finding in the 1990s should be looked at again because, in spite of an utterly changing cultural landscape, the town is still here in a prime location with easy access to what tourists want.
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