Noel Hill, Liam O’Connor and Caoimhin O Fearghail at Whelan’s. (Photo by Mick O’Connor)

The wellspring of tradition seems to be overflowing as there is so much great music swirling around for us to enjoy and share with people who embrace it and know the importance of having an audience for artists no matter where they perform.

This simple fact was brought home to me on a recent trip to Dublin a couple of weeks ago when I was fortunate enough to be in town for the opening night of a Music Network traditional music tour.

The grouping of three instrumentalists like Noel Hill on concertina, Liam O’Connor on fiddle and Caoimhin O Fearghail on guitar, flute, uilleann pipes and sean nos singing was inspired, and the performance at Whelan’s fulfilled the expectations.  Each had been recognized for excellence by TG/4 in their annual awards, with Hill garnering a Gradam Cheoil in 2011 while O’Connor earned the title of Young Musician of the year in 2002 which O’Fearghail claimed in 2012.

But each of them shared more than that common designation in grounding themselves deeply into the world of the pure drop music scene with enough confidence and brio to mark their own distinctive trails while piling up awards.

Serious students of the music call on the icons like Willie Clancy, Seamus Ennis, Tommy Reck, Nioclas Toibin, Tommy Potts, Aine Ui Cheallagigh, Mike Rafferty and many other influences to light their flames and allow their own musical prowess to burn brightly as well.  They may have differed in age which is a healthy indicator for the music overall, but not in the command of respective realms and interactions on stage.

Their tour was entitled “Bellows, Bridge & Bow” for eight shows from Dublin to Bray, Castlebar, Listowel, Baile Mhurine, Tipperary, Portlaoise and finally Letterkenny.

It is very common these days to see young and old musicians turn out to encourage these acts on tour and to sustain the living tradition within the music.  But it is also noteworthy to see the kind of audience development that these Music Network tours put behind great artists like this, and they do so in many different genres throughout Ireland through the generous commitment of Ireland’s Arts Council which still sees the value in supporting artists and the performance infrastructure around the country.

If you are ever in Ireland when one of these Music Network tours is underway, treat yourself to a good night of music and also a vibrant display of Ireland’s love affair with musicians and their craft.