Anyone that has attended the All Ireland Fleadh will tell you it is an unforgettable experience, I still have strong childhood memories of the year I attended The Fleadh Cheoil (Festival of music) in Listowel, County Kerry…the buzz and the music was unforgettable. Although an Irish traditional music competition it has the feel of a festival and draws people from all over the world who come to play and enjoy the numerous sessions.
Last year the Fleadh was held for the first time in Derry, the second-largest city in Northern Ireland which was also the first ever UK City of Culture. As part of the celebration Sean-Nós singer Lorcán Mac Mathúna was commissioned to write a special suite of music which celebrated the history and present story of Derry, one which is steeped in a rich history. Lorcán is renowned for taking Sean-Nós into the 21st Century and has featured regularly on Folk Radio UK. He gives a great insight into this project on his website on which he explains the background and historical context of the work:
The major story of Derry in the 19th century was one of departures. The Foyle has always shaped Derry’s story, and it has shaped the story of countless exiles whose parting from their homelands was finalised by the fast flowing streams of the Foyle. During the great hunger of 1845-51 Derry became a transit point where people gathered in from the surrounding county, and counties, on their way to Liverpool and America. Most often both.
The works that were commissioned were performed on the opening day of the Fleadh Cheoil and the writing and performance of the song was captured in a BBC’s documentary an extract of which you can watch below. It gives a great depth to the final performance as well as an inside eye on the challenges faced by Lorcán and Martin Tourish (Altan).
Derry to the Sea, a specially commissioned song cycle which celebrates the Foyle and the history of Derry from its founding to the present day, was also performed by Lorcán Mac Mathúna and Deep End of The Ford (read our review of An Táin) which you can watch below.
Read more about the project on Lorcán’s website here.