Ballycastle Fleadh 2009 Report

24 May 2009
The recent County Antrim Fleadh in Ballycastle was a very special moment for quite a few young musicians from the Portglenone area. This was because it was the first time they had ever competed in any sort of competition let alone played in the public domain. Many of these musicians had only started playing Irish Traditional music the previous September at the Portglenone CCE branch music classes held every Monday night in St Mary’s Primary School.
On the Friday night of the Fleadh, the Portglenone Junior Irish Traditional musicians joined forces with the Cushendall, Loughgiel, Ballycastle and Dunloy CCE branches and played at the Opening Fleadh Concert. There were over one hundred musicians on the stage for the first half of the concert, all playing a mixture of tunes which were arranged by the Portglenone and Cushendall tutors, Kieran Convery and Kieran Dempsey.
The competitions on the Saturday in Cross & Passion College were remarkably attended with big numbers of competitors in most venues. The highlight of the afternoon was the Grupai Cheoil competitions with most branches entering a group in the various age groups. It was an exciting finale to the day’s proceedings and one in which saw both the Portglenone CCE Under 12 and Under 15 Grupai Cheoil’s gaining a very worthy 3rd place in each of their competitions, only losing out by the narrowest of margins to Crosskeys and Loch Lao CCE groups who progress to the Ulster Fleadh in Castlewellan in July.
As the weather was so unpredictable, the Open Air concert due to take place on the Gig Rig in the Diamond on the Sunday was relocated to the Antrim Arms Hotel and once again the young musicians from Portglenone showed their true calibre. They put on a fine spectacle with many a medley of tunes played. The group were so fittingly accompanied by Róisín O’Neill from Clady who enhanced the groups repertoire when she sung a few old Irish songs to a very captured audience.
The group finished with a fine selection of Polkas and afterwards were thanked by the County Chairman, Eamon Graham, for all that they had contributed to the Fleadh over the weekend. He made reference to the fact that the group had only been playing together since last October where they started to meet in the newly refurbished Wild Duck Inn every Wednesday evening between 7-8pm. Eamon went on to congratulate the ‘new’ young musicians who had just started learning their respective instruments the previous September and here they were now, not even eight months later, representing their Portglenone CCE branch at the annual Fleadh Cheoil, playing in front of large audiences and competing against some of the best Irish Traditional musicians in County Antrim. The objective of the Fleadh and the Comhaltas classes is to encourage people of all ages and backgrounds to learn Irish Traditional Music and to this end the Portglenone CCE branch musicians were most successful.
The Portglenone CCE branch would like to congratulate all the young musicians on their recent achievements and wish the very best of luck to all those who qualified for the Ulster Fleadh. Also, to the rest of the group, many thanks for representing the branch so well and good luck on their future ventures which include playing on the Gig Rig on the Saturday of the Ulster Fleadh in Castlewellan and also playing on the Ann O’Brien Tribute Stage of the Gig ‘n’ the Bann Festival in early September. So keep on practicing and we look forward to hearing you all soon! Many thanks also to Harry O’Neill, Monica Maguire, Robert Close and Kieran Convery for helping with the young musicians every week and preparing them for the Fleadh.
A very big thank you goes to Ciaran Bradley and the Management and staff of The Wild Duck Inn who facilitate Portglenone CCE’s young musicians every Wednesday evening. Many thanks too, for all their support and encouragement over the past months and look forward to their continued support (ice cream and cake included) in the future.
If you are interested why not drop in and hear the young musicians practice in The Wild Duck Inn every Wednesday evening. Alternatively why not come along to The Wild Duck Thursday Session from around 9pm every Thursday night where you could join local musicians for a tune or two.
If you want to learn an instrument, keep a look out for the enrolment class in early September where you can join Portglenone CCE and either begin to learn the Fiddle, Tin Whistle, Flute, Bodhran, Accordion and Chanter from the experienced tutors we have from the local area.