When news filtered through to Kilmovee in March, that the Dr. Douglas Hyde Summer School was not taking place in Ballaghaderreen in 2011, we had a thought – would it be possible to host a Summer School in Kilmovee? In this time of financial uncertainty, we knew we had what everyone was looking for, a very safe currency – Seosamh Mac Gabhann! The level of goodwill and support towards the idea of setting up the Seosamh Mac Gabhann Summer School was enormous, both from Tutors and the local community groups in Kilmovee. After four months of hard work, we were delighted to be in a position to officially open the first ever Seosamh Mac Gabhann Summer School in Kilmovee, on July 4th 2011.
Seosamh Mac Gabhann dedicated his life to the promotion of traditional Irish music, the Irish language and culture, as well as drama and a multitude of community projects. What better way to remember and continue this legacy, than to launch a Summer School in his honour! Seosamh had been a founder member of the Dr. Douglas Hyde Summer School in Ballaghaderreen, which had run with great success for 15 years. While the time available to set up the Seosamh Mac Gabhann Summer School was short, the community goodwill towards hosting this event ensured that by the time July 4th arrived, everything was in place for a fantastic week in Kilmovee.
The week started on Sunday, July 3rd with Aifreann Gaeilge i Séipéal Ghiniúint Mhuire gan Smál, Cill Mobhí. The Mass offered by Fr. Sherlock, with the choir led by Ann Marie Rooney and music from Seán Hanily and Fergal Smyth, set the tone for the week to come. On Monday, the classes started in the Kilmovee Community Centre with Tutors: – Fiddle – Paddy Ryan, John McHugh and Caoimhe Kearins, Tin Whistle – Michael Hurley, Cian Kearins, Fionnuala Kearins and Louise Casey, Concertina – Bernie Geraghty, Flute – Paul Smyth, Accordion – Tommy Doherty and Seán Hanily, Bodhrán – Junior Davey.
This line-up of top class Tutors attracted a huge influx of pupils, with over 220 signing up for classes for the week. The fantastic facilities of the Kilmovee Community Centre were fully utilised. The teamwork of the Seosamh Mac Gabhann Summer School Committee, the staff of the Kilmovee Family Resource Centre plus the Kilmovee Community Centre and local volunteers, had to be seen to be believed and was essential to cater for the capacity attendance at the classes. Feedback from everyone who attended during the week was one of great praise for the fantastic community spirit evident at the Summer School in Kilmovee.
Tea and coffee were in regular supply throughout the week, with a shop available to the pupils to purchase supplies, to keep them going through the day. Meals and sandwiches were also available for anyone that wanted a hot meal or snack. The afternoon classes included: – Sean Nós Dancing – Ger Butler, Comhrá Gaeilge – Méabh Ní Chathasaigh, Traditional Singing in Irish & English – Cian and Caoimhe Kearins, Banjo – Bernie Geraghty, Piano Accordion – Fionnuala Kearins. A key to the success of the week was the option for pupils to take a class in their favourite instrument in the morning and then have a choice of Sean Nós Dancing, Gaeilge or Singing in the afternoon. This proved to be a popular choice for a lot of pupils, who chose to do morning and afternoon classes at the discounted rate on offer.
It was a marvellous opportunity for the pupils in Kilmovee and surrounding areas to have access to some of the best tutors available in Ireland, with the likes of Ger Butler – a tutor who teaches Sean Nós Dancing all over the world and Cian & Caoimhe Kearins – both All-Ireland Champion Singers. This was added to, by the regular attendance of the Tutors at the nightly events, which meant the pupils got a chance to play alongside these icons of traditional Irish music, song and dance.
On Monday night July 4th, the official opening of the Summer School by Seamus Mac Cormaic, Uachtarán, Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann took place. The hall was packed to capacity, with honorary awards presented by Seamus Mac Cormaic on behalf of C.C.É. to Michael Joe Caulfield, Frank Keane and Bea Anna Smyth for their lifetime contributions to Comhaltas. Michael Joe and Frank have been members of the traditional Irish music scene in Kilmovee for as far back as anyone can remember, and are always available for any event to entertain with their music and humour. They also tasted All-Ireland success in 1984, being part of a group from Kilmovee that won Ceol an Gheimhridh. Bea Anna was a teacher with her husband Seosamh Mac Gabhann in Clooniron National School and subsequently in Kilmovee No.1 National School, until they both retired. While Seosamh was famous for his work in developing Irish music across the country, what many people may not have known was that all his pupils started their music careers under the stewardship of Bea Anna, before moving on to Seosamh, for their last few years in National School.
It was a fitting tribute to Michael Joe, Frank and Bea Anna to receive their awards from Comhaltas, and the presentations and Official Opening was followed by a fantastic night of music, song and dance. On Tuesday morning, everyone was back bright and early for their classes and Joe Byrne came along to make some recordings for his Mid West Radio Programme, Ceol agus Ealaín to be aired that night. The nightly entertainment continued in Duffy’s Four Ways on Tuesday, with a lovely ‘seisiún’ attended by a number of the Tutors. Joe Byrne in the meantime, was broadcasting some great sound bites from the classes on his show, which he had recorded earlier that day.
Things were really buzzing by Wednesday and classes continued in the Kilmovee Community Centre, where we had a visit from Tommy O’Connor of Claremorris Community Radio, who spent the day recording clips in various classes, which were broadcast in 2 one-hour programmes on Monday 11th July and Monday 18th July. That night, the session moved to Shazzy Macs, Kilkelly which was packed to the rafters with musicians, again featuring some of the finest of our Tutors, as well as local and visiting musicians from our classes. It was another great night of music.
By Thursday it was all happening! The Kilmovee Community Centre had a visit by a group of Pride of Place judges who were checking out the fantastic facilities in Kilmovee and took a look at some of our classes during their visit. A huge night’s entertainment took place in the Brusna Inn, Brusna with musicians of all ages playing tunes into the night. We were now on to the final day, with our big event of the week – our closing concert, featuring pupils and tutors. It proved to be the highlight of what was an absolutely brilliant week. The quality of the music, singing, sean nós dancing and Comhrá Gaeilge after the week’s tutoring was top class and the week was wrapped up with a toe tapping and soul uplifting blast of tunes from the Tutors.
The resounding feedback from the week was that it was a fantastic week for the pupils, their parents, tutors and everyone involved. The unrivalled hospitality of the Kilmovee community made this a week to remember. The future of traditional Irish music, song, dance and Gaeilge is safe in Kilmovee, with the next generation of youngsters rubbing shoulders for the week with the best tutors available in each discipline. The only thing missing from the week was Marian Egan, who unfortunately due to illness could not attend as a Tutor. However, Marian and everyone involved in the Seosamh Mac Gabhann Summer School are already looking forward to the 2nd Annual Seosamh Mac Gabhann Summer School which takes place from Monday July 2nd to Friday July 6th 2012. As per the popular quote of the late Seosamh Mac Gabhann “Ní Neart Go Cur Le Chéile” – he would surely have agreed this was most relevant for the first Seosamh Mac Gabhann Summer School in Kilmovee, based on the work of everyone involved to make it such a huge success.