“What was in the air?”
What Influences did Pàdraig O Keeffe draw from when he played slow airs , was it the geography , poetry or old songs ?
A filmed discussion which took place in Fleming’s Bar during World Fiddle Day in Scartaglin “A Meeting of Minds – What was in the Air?” This was a collaboration amongst some of our finest musicians, poets, historians, singers, storytellers and artists. Invited to take part are: Peter Browne, , Jackie Daly, Matt Cranitch, Skip Gorman, Eileen Sheehan, Breda Joy, Éamonn Ó Braoin, John Reidy, Joe Creedon and Lisa O’Neill. Like all good discussions it went off in a tangent .The event was chaired by Maggie Prendiville Keane. Our thanks to to all who took part and the audience for their attention and quietness during filming . Our thanks also to the Kerry Co Library Cultural Archive Award 2017 and The Co Kerry Community Fund for their funding.
Review from Kerry’s Eye Newspaper
Inspiration wells from the rushy kingdom of Sliabh Luachra
THE VERY first time that I heard a discussion on Sliabh Luachra was in a classroom down in Saint Bridget’s Secondary School. The particular translation of the territory’s name be- ing put forward was the ‘Mountain of the Rushes’ because of the poor nature of the land running along the borders of East Kerry, Cork and Limerick. “This uninhabited wet, marshy, rushy, mountain area of the old Kingdom of Luachra was first noted in the Annals of Inisfallen in 534 when the King of Luacar won a battle against Tuathal Moel nGarb,” online sources will tell you. Six Blue, our class down in the Pres, was divided among ‘townies’ like myself and the ‘bus girls’ from the country. Among the latter was a spirited girl, Margaret O’Sullivan, who, sadly, passed away at a young age. Margaret counted herself among the citizens of Sliabh Luachra.
Over 40 years later, I can still remember the fierce pride in her voice when she added her take on the ‘rushy mountain’. The gist of what she said went like this, ‘The land might be poor but we’re rich in spirit.’ I quoted her words last Saturday afternoon in Scartaglen when I took part in a discussion cum music and singing session inspired, literally, by the question – what was in the Sliabh Luachra air that sparked so much creativity in terms of music and language? My theory is that when people have very little materially, they are thrown back on their own resources. The elemental drive to create flows freely because of the lack of distractions and because there is more spiritual hunger, more struggle.
Put it another way. If you watch a river in full flood and rising up to the banks, you will hear very little sound. Come back when the current has subsided and the rocks are exposed to hear the real music of the water.
The Newcastlewest poet Michael Hartnett wrote: ‘The act of poetry is a rebel act.’ Small wonder then that Sliabh Luachra, a ref- uge for rebels, produced so many of Kerry’s finest poets. Scartaglen poet Eileen Sheehan, another speaker last Saturday in Scart, put forward the theory that poets writing out of the Sliabh Luachra tradition took on the rhythms and the cadence of the music in their verse.
I believe that character runs through localities in a similar way to seams of limestone and other rock. This came to my mind a long time ago when I first got to know the people of Coolea/Ballyvourney/ Kilgarvan. They seemed to be cut from the same cloth. I recognise the same depth of character and individuality in Sliabh Luachra where the compass points are Castleisland, Scartaglin,Brosna, Ballydesmond, Newmarket, Gneeveguilla and Rathmore.
Joe Creedon, a member of Cór Chúil Aodha, compared Sliabh Luachra to the Killarney oakwoods that once covered all of Ireland. He posed the question as to whether the musical heritage of the area was a remnant of what was once commonplace.
At a push, you could describe Sliabh Luacha as a little Amazon producing the oxygen that keeps our culture and traditions vital . It’s the cultural equivalent of a biosphere where endangered species can flourish. But these special places need conservation. There are no guarantees of survival . Saturday’s session in Scart was part of World Fiddle Day, organised by a committee headed up by PJ Teahan. With the support of grant aid from Kerry County Council, the session, so rich and varied in the rendition of slow airs as well as ideas, was filmed to become part of a cultural and heritage archive of Sliabh Luachra. Raw and powerful slow airs, brought to a fine art by the famed Sliabh Luachra fiddle master Pádraig O’Keeffe, were performed in song and music on Saturday by some of the finest traditional musicians and singers in Ireland today.
A few in particular stand out. Jackie Daly played ‘The Wounded Hussar’. Lisa O’Neill from Cavan sang a lament that would put the hair standing on the back of your neck. The modulations and inflections of Joe Creedon’s voice, singing a lament as Gaeilge, prompted broadcaster and uilleann piper Peter Browne to say that no instrument could match the range of the human voice in this genre. All this and much more, introduced by Maggie Prendeville Keane, unfolded in the cloistered back lounge of Fleming’s Bar while the afternoon sun beat down on the village green. And it inspires me to write that the film of the session will be another bright coin slipped into the archive pocket.
Kerry Co Library Archive award 2017
Kerry Co Council Community Fund