Event a tribute to Irish fiddler with Newfoundland connection
A new summer festival is launching in St. John’s this weekend, a festival highlighting the links between Newfoundland traditional music and Irish traditional music.
“There’s a lot of links between the two types of music,” musician and festival player Graham Wells told The Telegram this week.
That may seem an obvious statement, but Wells said the discussion of traditional music and concerts of traditional music are not as common as you might think. Other music festivals, like the Newfoundland and Labrador Folk festival, often look at the wider spectrum of folk music and not the specific area of traditional Irish music. For example, this year’s provincial Folk Festival line-up includes the Wonderful Grand Band and Amelia Curran.
Féile Séamus Creagh (pronounced: fay-lay shay-muss cray) will feature concerts with the tradition bearers from both sides of the Atlantic, exploring the musical connections between here and there. “Folk music — there was a folk revival in the 1960s and people started playing guitars and singing songs, people like the Clancy brothers and the Dubliners, people like that,” Wells said. “We’re going to focus just on traditional music.
“It’s going to be a great cultural experience, a great musical experience.”
Local acts scheduled for Féile Séamus Creagh in 2010 include Daniel Payne, Billy Sutton, Sandy Morris and Anita Best. Visiting Irish players will include Jackie Daly, Conal O Grada, Matt Cranitch and Paul de Grae.
“These (visitors) are all world class musicians. They’re all internationally renowned and they’re coming up here after spending a week in New York. They’ve been teaching at the biggest Irish music event in the (United) States, just happened up in the Catskills. They were all performers and teachers down there,” Wells said, referring to Catskills Irish Arts Week (CIAW). “Jackie Daly … is also considered one of the best button accordion players in the world, ever,” he added.
Daly was also a longtime music partner of the music festival’s namesake — Irish fiddle player Séamus Creagh.
“We’re having it in memory of Séamus Creagh. Séamus was a fiddler from Ireland who came here in 1987 and he lived here for four or five years and he had a huge impact on traditional music while he was here. In fact he was one of the best fiddlers from Ireland, he was a master Irish fiddler. He played in the group here, Tickle Harbour,” Wells said. “He played around town a lot. He was very active on the music scene.”
"It’s going to be a great cultural experience, a great musical experience." Musician Graham Wells
Creagh was born in Killucan, County Westmeath in Ireland in 1946. Deep into the traditional music scene while in Ireland, after moving to Newfoundland he joined with the group Tickle Harbour to record the album “The Brule Boys in Paris.” He also completed a solo recording while here: “Came the Dawn.”
Creagh moved back to Ireland in 1992, settling in Cork where, in 2000, he met Wells. Wells, a player with A Crowd of Bold Sharemen and The Irish Descendents, had moved from Newfoundland to Ireland at age 19 and stayed there for two years. After meeting Creagh they began collaborating and, in 2002, they released “Island to Island.” The album was recorded in both Newfoundland and Ireland, examining the relationship between the two.
“Séamus, he wasn’t just a fiddle player. He also was a composer and a teacher as well, in fact. And a lot of people got music from Séamus, professionally and otherwise a lot of people learned music from Séamus and technique. He was a gentleman as well. A man’s man and a musician’s musician. He was just a great fiddle player and a great person,” Wells said. Creagh’s last work was “Tunes for Practice,” released in 2009, the year he died.
Yet, paying tribute to Creagh and other traditional musicians was not the only motivation for the festival, Wells said.
“Another reason for doing the festival … In the last few years, since Danny Williams has become premier especially, there’s been a lot of things done to establish business and cultural ties with Ireland. That’s really been to the fore the last few years, or it seems to have been anyway,” he said. “We wanted to be part of that and have something that had world class Irish traditional music, because it’s so strong here in Newfoundland.”
Wells said most of the performers from this province have developed their traditional work with visits to Ireland and some are looking at Irish tours in the future.
This weekend, they can be heard as part of the first ever Féile Séamus Creagh.
See Féile Séamus Creagh page 2