This is an article written for the Connacht Fleadh in 2013 when it was in Carrick-On-Shannon and the tune below, Music is the Answer was one of two of Rónán's tunes; 'The Connacht Fleadh In Carrick' and 'Music is the Answer' that also featured in the Connacht Fleadh magazine.
Music is the answer?
I was having a tune the other day in the house with Irene Guckian and noticed that she had on one of those fashionable Joe Mooney Summer School hoodies. I thought to myself, happy days and happy memories of music and dance in wonderful Drumshanbo and didn't think much more of it as we settled into a few tunes; kicking off with 'The Magic Slipper' and 'The Ballinafad Polka'; if my memory serves correct. On and on we went, mullling over the music of Morrison, Duignan, Blessing, and McKenna and the mighty, hearty music of the McDonagh brothers of Ballinafad, tipping our caps to the artistry of Josie McDermott's 'Ballad of the O'Carolan Country' and lauding the lyricism of the Lennon's.
The Music of this region, around the Carrick area, and more generally that of North Connacht, is a music that I've always gravitated towards, a lifty, lyrical, fluid and hearty style of music. Perhaps that my granddad Martin Regan was from near neighbouring Ballaghdereen might go some way toward explaining this leaning. Growing up in the Wilf and Áine Regan school of induction didn't hurt either. It's not an exaggeration to say that the surrounding hinterland has produced magical music in the past and happily to this day it's a musical mecca with no more than the occasional modicum of mediocrity! It's a fitting spot for the celebration of the Connacht Fleadh as it's a town of good humoured folk with a love for music, and you'll find plenty of character in the hostelries and much musical excitation exuding from the nooks and crannies of Carrick. No doubt the place will ooze hup for the fleadh!
Anyway, away played Irene and I, seeking fiddling finesse, for we were preparing for our forthcoming recording, and speaking for myself, I'd finally decided to take the great Danny Meehan's advice to heart and take my music seriously when didn't I get distracted with the phrase on the back of Irene's hoodie. What was on the back of her hoodie but 'Music Is The Answer'. That's a fine sentiment and worthy of examination, thought I. The first thought that struck me of course was, if I had had the foresight to ask Irene what was written on the back of her hoodie we could have become entangled in a dangerous and downright raucous ream of rhetoric. In all seriousness and with a decree of solemn certitude; across the span of my lifetime the wonderful hobby of traditional Irish music making has brought me on journey's of great philosophical insight, camaraderie and craic.
The tuneful journey of music making is surely an interesting one. For me, it's a bridge of friendships, and of learning, tutelage and shared experience. This current project has seen Irene and I work alongside the diverse talents of Gary Fitzpatrick, Jim Connolly, Mick Blake, Ciaran Curran, Tommy Murray, Paddy Ryan and Ben Lennon at various stages. This 'job of journeywork' or rubbing shoulders with creative and interesting people, allow humbling gems of wisdom to poke through and the collective of stories and conversation add to ones appreciation and understanding of life and of our rich musical heritage. Not least of these gems are carried with the brave people who emigrated and are once again emigrating from our shores to assail adventure and eke a livelihood, and who are most especially celebrated at this year's Fleadh.
Earlier musical journeys come to mind; visits with Kevin Abeyta to North Leitrim on the way back from Falcarragh, enjoying the musical company of Kathleen Meehan, Ben Lennon, Rosie Stewart and Jim Connolly or childhood trips to Gormanstown or time spent at Connaught Fleadhanna in Dunmore where delightful tunes and company with Paddy Mills (RIP) were had and the magical memory of interesting musical chat with Paddy Fahy spring forth. This dulcet journey has continued apace and in recent times has seen the exuberance of dancing to the mighty musicianship of Brian Mostyn and P. J. Hernon, the joy of hearing the unique musical voices of Brian Rooney, Danny Meehan and many another celebrated in Cryan's music pub or simply enjoying the powerful Moylurg Ceilí band in full swing.
Music has certainly given me huge cross-generational and cultural understanding and has added a congenial hue to my geographical and historical understanding of our fond and floundering Éire.
So, is music in fact the answer? That it's a question of a propitious and profound nature is certainly unquestionable, in fact, it could be argued that it's the linchpin of many a fleadh lovers existence! If we look at the best qualities in music, the ability to be true and to reach out and create unity or shared understanding, these are the characteristics that fly high long after the triumphs and anxieties of competition and critique pass by. If we manage to harness these qualities in ourselves as listener or musician then perhaps music is the answer. On a lighter note, in relation to the Fleadh in Carrick-On-Shannon, we could always heed T.S. Elliot's advice: 'Oh do not ask what is it, let us go and make our visit!'
One way or another, I hope we have an enjoyable Connacht Fleadh in Carrick and a huge thanks to those who've make this and other such events happen, and to those that lend their perceptive ears to the music, people such as Mary Mostyn, Mary Blake, Bernie McNulty and Nancy Woods spring to mind to name but a few. As Ben Lennon said when I was writing my UL thesis on the North Leitrim Style, 'Look after the music and the music will look after you' and we all have a hand to play in that!
Bain taitneamh as Fleadh Cheoil Chonnacht i gCora Droma Rúisc.