Old Time Appalachian Musicians Gathering in Clare

Old Time Appalachian Musicians Gathering in Clare


Ireland’s first ever ‘Old Time Appalachian Musicians Gathering’ is to take place in County Clare later this month.

Staged at the Roadside Tavern and Burren Storehouse in Lisdoonvarna on the 16-18th February, the event will feature leading old time musicians from Ireland as well as the US, UK and elsewhere.

“An annual gathering like this has never been held before in Ireland, but has happened for decades in the US, for example over 5000 musicians meeting up at Clifftop in West Virginia, and on a smaller scale in Gainsborough in England,” said event organiser Andy Lambert.

“It is highly participative, thriving on people getting together to play and dance, rather than listening to commercial artists. The core activity will be jam sessions, with musicians meeting up to play and swap tunes,” he said.

Old Time music refers to the musical culture of descendants of the early settlers in the backwoods of the Appalachian mountains, stretching from Canada to Alabama. The music derived primarily from tunes and ballads of Ireland, Scotland and England, subsequently absorbing influences from other European nationalities and rural blues musicians.

Scattered across Ireland there are many old time music enthusiasts and musicians who hold regular sessions in Dublin, Belfast, Cork, Galway, Sligo, Clare and Carrick-on-Shannon.

“The main aim is to provide Irish old time musicians with an annual social and musical get-together, just as happens for Irish trad at the Fleadh Cheoil and Willie Clancy festivals. Just as in the Appalachian music tradition in the US, this will be a gathering of musicians rather than a festival with paid performers.”

“However, the longer-term goal is to increase awareness and knowledge about old time music in Ireland. Just as Philip King and Donal Lunny did in the famous 1990s TV series, we’re bringing this music back home.”

“Many Irish musicians say they are interested, and this will enable them to mix with and learn from some of the best players from Ireland, and from the US and UK old time communities. And it made sense to host this event in County Clare with its rich traditional music heritage”, Andy observed. There will be workshops for fiddle, banjo, mandolin, guitar, and flatfoot dancing.

Amongst those attending will be Dan Levenson, considered to be one of the US’s finest Appalachian musicians.  Joining him will be a great musical duo Erynn Marshall and Carl Jones from Virginia. Details of these artists can be seen at www.irisholdtime.com

One of the event organisers Bob Denton cut his musical teeth in the Blue Ridge Mountains, and is an award winning banjo and fiddle player. Along with Andy Lambert, he ran old time Sunday sessions in Egan’s pub in Liscannor – a variant of this now continues in the Cliffs of Moher Hotel.

The three-day event kicks off at the Roadside tavern on Friday night at 7pm with informal jam sessions throughout the evening. Sessions will continue through Saturday daytime alongside workshops for registered participants. These will take place in the Roadside Tavern and various venues nearby in Lisdoonvarna.

On Saturday night Dan Levenson will take to the main stage at the Burren Storehouse giving a talk and performance, which will be followed by a barn dance and more jam sessions. The barn dance is open to the public and tickets can be purchased for this event at the door. There will be more informal jam sessions and workshops on Sunday.

In addition to the music, there will be an opportunity to try traditional Appalachian food and a selection of Irish dishes which will be available at the Roadside Tavern.

Entry to the barndance in the Burren Storehouse is also open to non-participants  from 7pm on Saturday 17 February.

For more information and to register for the event go to www.irisholdtime.com

Chief Reporter Pat Flynn has worked as a journalist for almost 30 years. His career began during the late 1980s when, like many aspiring radio presenters of the time, he worked for local pirate radio stations in Clare and Limerick. Pat joined Clare FM in 1990 where he worked as researcher initially and later presented several different programmes including the station's flagship current affairs programme. He was also the station's News Editor and Deputy Controller of Programmes. Despite leaving in 2003 to pursue a career as a freelance journalist, he continues to work with the station to this day. As well as being the Clare Herald’s Chief Reporter Pat is also freelance journalist and broadcaster, contributing to Ireland’s national newspapers and is a regular contributor to national broadcasters.