Joe Heaney the beloved sean nos singer from Carna, Connemara. Photo by: YouTube

Celebrating music and tradition along the Wild Atlantic Way


Joe Heaney the beloved sean nos singer from Carna, Connemara. Photo by: YouTube

Good festivals like this also find ways to reach across borders for sympathetic, like-minded artists, so a Norwegian group known as Hallingdal Latelag was invited along with several artists from Scotland like Mary Mac Millan and Linda Nic Leoid and the Friel Sisters.

Of course the Friel Sisters, who produced their own solo album this year, seemingly spend as much time in Ireland as they do in their native Glasgow. They are very proficient in Irish music both in singing and instrumentally thanks to their Donegal parents who still maintain an active involvement in the homeplace.

The continuity of this festival would also depend on artists who return year after year or act as friends of the festival unofficially by attending or performing regularly.

Since Marcus Hernon and his family live in Carna they would seem obvious choices, but their presence is not to be taken for granted because of the energy and integrity they bring to both their Irish music and dance performances.

Add singer Don Stiffe from Headford to their mix and you have a lively ensemble for the ceili portion of the evening that propels people onto the dance floor for old time waltzes or for the Connemara Sets that suit their grand style of playing and tunes.

This year there were pipers a plenty, with Mick O’Brien performing with his daughter Ciara (on fiddle), Tommie Keane and his wife Jacqueline McCarthy (on concertina) and Sile Friel.

The Waterford piper David Power, who has been coming to Connemara for years, was a special guest for a launch of The Eighteen Maloney CD, a masterful solo display of his powerful piping.

There is a wonderful family vibe and attention to the young folks as well in the classes and even in a singing competition on the Sunday that produces a magnificent cup in the name of Joe Heaney to one of the young singers. The multigenerational mix at all events also is noteworthy and most indicative of the living tradition that surrounds the festival.

Like some other festivals in Ireland dedicated to the birthplace of musical heroes, there is a graveside commemoration that stirs the heart in a celebratory way that one doesn’t usually associate with cemeteries. Heaney’s gravesite lies along that western ocean that was of huge importance to those who remained in this part of Connemara, providing a livelihood from the sea or those who sought passage to far-distance climes due to the hard times they endured here.

Buried throughout the cemetery are a number of people who came before and after Heaney who preserved the Gaelic heritage that enriched their lives and assured them a place on history’s page when describing why it still thrives after so many assaults against it over the centuries, including many self-inflicted ones from today’s society who has no use for a “dead language.”

A visit to this festival would clearly convince them otherwise.

The Feile Chomortha Joe Einniu takes place the first weekend of May in University College Galway’s outreach facility known as Aras Shorcha Ni Ghuairim and the Carna Bay Hotel (www.carnabay.com). More information is available at www.Joeheany.org or by contacting michealocruaig@hotmail.com.


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