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KINCORA TRADITIONAL WEEKEND - Killaloe & Ballina - 14-17 April 2016

This festival, now in its fourth year, continues to delight and educate. The original committee, chaired by local resident, Michael Hackett, was in the first instance keen to restore teaching and performance opportunities within the area which, strangely for two bordering counties steeped in traditional music, were lacking in the twin towns of Ballina and Killaloe.

That they have been successful is very evident, with upwards of 40 youngsters and teenagers demonstrating their skills over the weekend. The creation of a vibrant and enthusiastic musical community is not always easily achieved with so many other distractions available to the youth of today, but the opportunities provided by local teachers and support from parents and commercial enterprises on both sides of the famous bridge over the Shannon have ensured the success of the venture.

A pre-festival opening session was held in Liam O' Riain's Ballina bar on the Thursday evening, with musicians Paul Smyth, Leon Agnew and Colm Slattery, with sparkling performances into the small hours. A presentation plaque was handed over to the bar owners to thank them for a decade of hosting the regular Tuesday session.

Friday, saw a good turn-out in St Flannans Cathedral in Killaloe to witness a very special performance of 16 Songs, a concert of Centenary songs, airs and poetry. Artists taking part included Brigid Delaney, Desi Wilkinson, Eileen O' Brien, Michael Hackett, Declan Payne, Ciara O'Sullivan, Tim Dennehy, Aiden Boland, Deirdre Scanlan and Michael Scanlan. It was an interesting concept - telling the story of Ireland through the famine years up to the 20s in song and poetry, with linking narrative from former Solas singer, Deirdre Scanlan. Such a pity that this ‘one off’ concert could not be performed elsewhere at home or abroad, as with the calibre of these performances it would have graced any stage. Where are the theatrical “angels” when you need them?

Saturday dawned a little early for some, but music workshops held in St Anne's Community Centre were well attended and the pupils took advantage of the array of experts providing tuition on accordion (Martin Connolly and Colm Devane), fiddle, (MacDara O' Raghallaigh and Liz Gaughan), tin whistle (Noreen O' Sullivan and Tracy Ryan), traditional singing (Tim Dennehy), concertina (Micheal O'Raghallaigh), flute (Desi Wilkinson), banjo (Theresa O' Grady) and Sean Nós Dance (Gerard Devane).

Throughout the afternoon there were a number of formal events culminating in The Rolling Wave Session on board the Spirit of Killaloe - another sell out. The informal music sessions in various bars continued, of course, unabated on that day and throughout the week-end.

8pm saw the start of the Kincora Concert and a full house held in The Washerwoman, Ballina. Artists included Noreen O' Sullivan, Theresa O'Grady with Declan Payne, Tim Dennehy, The O' Raghallaigh brothers and band and the Devane brothers. Traditional music and song at its best, enlivened by Sean Nós dance.

A junior session with The Kincora School of Music and Friends was a popular event on Sunday and complimented Saturday's Teen Session with Katie and Laura Donoghue. Later in the afternoon, the public and festival goers were entertained by a march of two pipe bands from the Green in Killaloe to the lakeside in Ballina, where they continued to play a selection of Irish and Scottish pipe tunes despite a bitter wind later in the day. The Tulla Pipe Band and The James McDonagh Band from Templemore were deservedly popular and it was particularly nice for me to see old friend, Joe Barry, still keeping the Templemore band in fine order.

Mention must also be made of a photographic exhibition by artist/printer, Ben Taylor, which was held in The Quay Arts, Ballina. These stunning limited edition prints preclude a book launch to be held later in the year called Out Of Darkness, the story of the blind piper of Inagh.

A final session, An Chuaird Mhor, in the Anchor Inn, Killaloe, brought the end to a memorable festival. Congratulations to the team.

Hector Gilchrist