Nasc 2022

Féile Nasc confirms line-up for May festival in Dublin

Féile Nasc, the one-day festival of traditional and folk music held in Dublin’s Marlay Park, has confirmed the line-up for its event on May 21. The bill for the festival is nominally topped by Paul Brady. But such is the quality of this year’s line-up that any of All-Ireland champions and multiple award-winners appearing could  headline.

These include Daorí Farrell, Cáitlín (Ni Gabháinn) and Ciarán Ó Maonaigh), The Bonny Men, Cathal Croke and Eoghan Ó Ceannabháin and Ultan O’Brien.  From Scotland comes the award-winning young virtuoso of the small pipes, Brìghde Chambeul, accompanied by Jamie Murchadh.

Also on the bill are The LoCal (comprising Ciarán Tourish on fiddle and James Delaney on keyboards, The Dublin Lasses, Rónán Ó Snodaigh from Kíla, singer-songwriter Steo Wall, Núadan from the Déise, local fiddler, Aidan Connolly, and the Hennesy sisters, otherwise known as Sisterix.

In the meantime, some of the features expected to included in this year’s event are outlined here: https://fonn.online/events/feile-nasc/.

Paul Brady
Brìghde Chambeul
Daoirí Farrell
Rónán Ó Snodaigh
The Dublin Lasses
Caitlín and Ciarán
The Bonny Men
Eoghan Ó Ceannabháin and Ultan O'Brien
Macdara Yeates 1200x900

Abair: Macdara’s festival within a festival

Shaping up to be one of the real gems of this year’s St. Patrick’s Festival in Dublin is Abair 2022, curated by traditional singer and producer, Macdara Yeates.

A multimedia project  consisting of a series of specially produced films – each accompanied by a live performance – Abair aims to explore, through song and story, episodes in Irish history which connect us in various ways to our near neighbours in Scotland, Wales, Brittany and Spain.

The Abair project presents the outcome of four journeys – each captured in a short documentary (directed by award-winning filmmaker Bob Gallagher) – which see Macdara and crew travel to the foothills of the Sierra Nevada in Andalucia, to a former prison camp in rural Wales, to the language archives in eastern Brittany and to the banks of the Firth of Forth in Scotland, meeting a variety of singers and oral historians along the way to investigate their place in the Irish story.

Alongside the screening of each film during the festival, many of the artists featured in the films will attend in person to perform in Dublin “to complete the cycle of history.” Among those taking part in the project are: Sarah Ghriallais, Clarisse Lavanant, The Mary Wallopers, Chris Miles, Joe Mulheron, Juan Pinilla, Gwilym Bowen Rhys and Grace Toland.

Macdara Yeates
Juan Pinilla
Grace Toland
Gwilym Bowen Rhys
Sarah Ghriallais
Clarisse Lavanant
Chris Miles

The screenings and performances are as follows:

1. The Civil War in Spain (Film and performance: Palatine Room, Collins Barracks, Friday March 18, 2pm)

Setting off from Derry, Macdara Yeates meets traditional singer, songwriter and activist, Joe Mulheron, to discuss the Connolly Column, the brigade of Irish volunteers who fought against Franco’s army in the Spanish Civil War and their remembrance in the Irish song tradition. In Granada, Macdara meets with flamenco singer and commentator, Juan Pinilla, in Andalusia, the home of flamenco music and the first site of battle for the Connolly Column, to explore the wealth of Spanish songs from the Civil War period and to learn of the ruthless tactics employed by Franco’s regime to curtail and control flamenco and broader Andalusian culture. Following the screening, Juan Pinilla and Joe Mulheron will take part in a discussion and performance.

2. The University of Revolution (Film and performance: Palatine Room, Collins Barracks, Saturday March 19, 2pm)

Setting off from the Inishowen peninsula, Macdara Yeates meets singer and local historian, Grace and Colm Toland to learn of their grandfather who was interned in Wales for his involvement in the Irish rebellion. While there, the Tolands share their grandfather’s prison diaries and letters home during internment and also sing a selection of songs from the revolutionary period.  In Wales, Macdara travels to the site of Frongoch prison camp near Bala in rural Wales. Nicknamed the ‘University of Revolution’ by Irish internees, Frongoch became an accidental breeding ground for leaders such as Michael Collins to plan revolutionary activity, with Welsh guards allowing the captured men to hold regular meetings, play Gaelic football, and conduct regular Irish language classes. There, Macdara meets Gwilym Bowen Rhys, an accomplished Welsh language folk singer steeped in the songs of the region, and Alwyn Wilson, the retired farmer currently living on the site where the prison camp once stood who has dedicated much of his life to the commemoration of the camp’s history. Following the screening, Grace Toland and Gwilym Bowen Rhys will take part in a discussion and performance.

3. A Breton in Connemara (Film and performance: Palatine Room, Collins Barracks, Sunday March 20, 2pm)

Setting off from Connemara, Macdara meets acclaimed sean-nós singer Sarah Ghriallais and award-winning actor, Olwen Fouéré, daughter of Yann Fouéré, in their adopted home of Connemara, to discuss his life and work and the theme of exile in the Connemara song tradition. In Brittany, Macdara meets Breton singer, Clarisse Lavanant, to discuss modern Breton regionalism and its expression in song and the influence of Fouéré on the culture and language of the region. Following the screening, Sarah Ghriallais and Clarisse Lavanant will take part in a discussion and performance.

4. Dominic and Hamish (Film and performance: Spiegeltent Beag, Festival Quarter Sunday March 20, 4.30pm)

On a journey from Dublin to Dundalk, Edinburgh and Fife Macdara explores the influence of Scottish writer Hamish Henderson on one of Ireland’s most celebrated folk songwriters, Dominic Behan. Setting off from the Behans’ childhood home in Russell Street, Dublin, Macdara meets Fergus Whelan, historian and personal friend of Dominic and, in Dundalk, the emerging band, The Mary Wallopers, to discuss the influential Dubliner, his life and his songs. In Scotland, Macdara meets  ‘bothy’ singer, Chris Miles, to discuss Behan and Henderson’s camaraderie in Scotland, Henderson’s storied life and career as a poet, war veteran and political activist, and Dominic’s decision to settle in Glasgow – where he remained until his death. Following the screening, The Mary Wallopers and Chris Miles will take part in a discussion and performance.

While all four events are free and unticketed, capacity is limited.

Taken from the Irish word meaning both ‘to say’ and ‘to sing’ Abair is a staple oral traditions programme in the St. Patrick’s Festival. First beginning as a concert series in historic venues around Dublin city, Abair, now in its fourth year, broadens its scope to look outward and examine the influence of our neighbours on our native song and storytelling traditions. For more info visit: https://stpatricksfestival.ie/events/abair

Chirsty MacNamara1

Christy is new photographer in residence at ITMA

Christy MacNamara (Photo: Peter Laban)

Clare musician, photographer, artist and story-teller, Christy Mc Namara has been named as the Irish Traditional Music Archive’s Photographer-in-Residence for 2022.

Christy grew up in a family steeped in Irish music and traditions in County
Clare. His father, Joe, played with the Tulla Ceili Band with his uncles
Paddy and P.J. Hayes. His mother Biddy was a renowned set dancer.

He
has lived and worked in London, Sydney and New York. His perspective on
Irish music and home place has been a central pillar in his work as an
artist. His black and white photography is an intimate portrayal of
Irish rural life. His photographs tell a personal story of home, family, community and traditions. Christy has exhibited extensively both at home and abroad, and his book, The Living Note, produced with the writer Peter Woods, was published by O’Brien Press in1996 to critical acclaim.

Work by Christy will be shared online by the ITMA during the period of his residency.

This image of Christy was taken by Peter Laban, who was the ITMA’s Photographer-in-Residence for 2021.

Norma-Waterson-lg

Ómós: Norma Waterson

Norma Christine Waterson (15 August 1939 – 30 January 2022)

Norma Waterson died at the age of 82 last Sunday. Although Norma had recently been hospitalised with pneumonia, her passing was nevertheless a shock. Her daughter, Eliza Carthy, confirmed the grim news on Facebook: “Not much to say about such monumental sadness, but mam passed away yesterday afternoon, January 30th 2022.”

One of the towering figures of the British folk revival, Norma was held in the highest esteem by traditional singers , musicians and fans across the generations ever since her emergence alongside her siblings, Mike and Elaine (‘Lal ‘) and cousin John Harrison as The Watersons, in the 1960s.

Born in Hull, in East Yorkshire in 1939, Norma was the oldest of the three siblings, followed by Mike in 1941 and Lal in 1943. Orphaned at an early age, the siblings were raised by their grandmother. According to the sleeve notes of the Topic compilation album, Mighty River of Song:

“On their father’s side, they were Huguenot stock. The family had fled religious persecution and settled in Northern Ireland before moving to South Shields. On their mother’s side, they were of Southern Irish, Roman Catholic stock. A measure of Gypsy blood had been poured in, too. The three siblings were orphaned young and raised by their maternal grandmother, Eliza Ward, and a close-knit circle of family and friends.”

In an interview with FolkRadio UK in 2018, Norma explained the influence of her grandmother on the siblings’ musical formation: “My grandmother, who brought us up, was half Irish and a travelling lady, and she was very eclectic in her musical tastes. She was a lovely singer and knew a lot of parlour ballads and musical songs she had learned from her childhood, and we all used to sing them. We also had an uncle who played lead cornet as a young man in the pit bands in the early days of sound cinema. I had another uncle who played the banjo and organ and my dad played guitar and banjo. Most of them liked different things, so we had a very eclectic musical upbringing and there was no music we weren’t allowed to listen to. It wasn’t like ‘oh no you don’t want to listen to the Beatles or Elvis Presley!’ My grandmother didn’t care, she said ‘if it’s a good tune and a good song, then it’s a good tune and a good song. It’s better to let children choose what they listen to, because in the end, they will choose the good stuff.’”

Originally a skiffle band called the Mariners, the group turned to traditional music adopting the name, The Folksons, before reverting to the family name around 1963 – apparently at the suggestion of Lou Killen, who performed at the trio’s folk club, Folk Union One in Hull, which also hosted performers like Matt McGinn and Norma’s future husband, Martin Carthy.

In an interview quoted in The Guardian newspaper in 2011, Mike Waterson relived a pivotal first meeting with the renowned folk song collector, A.L. Lloyd, in the band’s early days:

“He asked us to sing a song once, which we did, and then he asked us to sing it again,” he said. “When he asked us to do it yet again, we said, ‘Are we doing it wrong?’ He said: ‘No, it’s pure indulgence because it’s giving me so much enjoyment.’ ”

The Watersons’ first recording was for the Topic sampler New Voices in 1965. This was followed in the same year by their debut album, Frost and Fire: A Calendar of Ceremonial Folk Songs, selected as Album of the Year by Melody Maker. Two more classic albums followed in 1966: The Watersons and A Yorkshire Garland.  The band broke up temporarily in 1968 – when Norma moved to the island of Montserrat in the Caribbean to work as a DJ on Radio Antilles.

The Watersons 2.1: (from left) Martin Carthy, Norma, Lal and Mike Waterson (Photo: Keith Morris/Redferns)

When the band reformed in 1972, John Harrison was initially replaced by Bernie Vickers before the arrival of another emerging talent on the British folk scene, Martin Carthy, who married Norma in the same year. With this line-up, the band  recorded For Pence and Spicy Ale (1975), Sound, Sound Your Instruments of Joy (1977), and Green Fields (1981). Lal and Mike also produced original compositions which were showcased in 1972 on the groundbreaking album, Bright Phoebus, on which Norma also appeared. Lal and Norma also recorded as a duo on A True Hearted Girl (1977) while Mike released a solo album, Mike Waterson.

While the Watersons continued to perform throughout the 1980s, ill-health limited Lal’s appearances – leading to fluctuating line-ups involving Mike Waterson’s daughter, Rachel; Mike’s wife, Anne; Norma’s daughter, Eliza; Lal’s daughter, Maria Gilhooley; and close friend, Jill Pidd from Hull. In 1987, the Watersons collaborated with members of Swan Arcade under the name, Blue Murder, to play occasional gigs and record from time to time (including No One Stands Alone in 2002). In 1988, the thirteen-year-old, Eliza, put together an informal line-up known as the Waterdaughters, in which she was joined by Norma, Lal and Maria (Marry).

Perhaps in part a reflection of her own Irish traveller roots, Norma acknowledged the great Irish singer, Margaret Barry, as a major source of inspiration for her singing. Another Irish tradition bearer beloved of Norma and her siblings was Mary Ann Carolan from the Hill of Rath just outside Drogheda. Mary Ann was a living repository for many traditional songs sung around Britain as well as Ireland – some of which had almost disappeared. Her son, Pat, and grandson, Stuart, continue to draw from Mary Ann’s repertoire.

Coal not Dole

Among the many songs that became part of the Watersons’ repertoire was the topical ballad, Coal not Dole. Originally a poem by Kay Sutcliffe from Aylesham in the Kent coalfields, written following the Miners’ Strike of 1984, it had been set to music by Paul Abrahams. The song became a feature of the Watersons’ stage performances in the late 1980s. A solo performance by Norma in 1991– which had been recorded for posterity – was released as a single in April 2013 after the death of Margaret Thatcher.

Norma also guested on several recordings by other artists before eventually undertaking a new family project in the mid 1990s, Waterson:Carthy, with husband, Martin, and daughter, Eliza. The trio released seven albums: Waterson:Carthy (1994), Common Tongue (1996), Broken Ground (1999), A Dark Light (2002), Fishes and Fine Yellow Sand (2004), The Definitive Collection (2005) and Holy Heathens and the Old Green Man (2006).

Norma also released three solo albums in the late 1990s and early 2000s – including her eponymous debut album, Norma Waterson, in 1996  – which included collaborations with Eliza, Martin and other members of the Watersons, along with Richard Thompson, Danny Thompson and Roger Swallow. The critically acclaimed album was nominated for the Mercury prize. In 1999, the follow-up The Very Thought of You once again featured Richard Thompson, Danny Thompson, Eliza and Martin. The album was dedicated to Lal who had died in 1998 and included Lal’s Reply to Joe Haines, triggered by the columnist’s appalling commentary on Freddie Mercury’s disclosure of his HIV status.

In 2001, Norma released her first solo traditional album, Bright Shiny Morning, while in 2010 she collaborated with daughter, Eliza, on the acclaimed album, Gift, which won two BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards in 2011 – Best Album and Best Traditional Track. These two prizes were added to Norma’s earlier awards for Best Group for Waterson-Carthy in 2000, Best Traditional Track for Waterson-Carthy in 2000 and Folk Singer of the Year in 2001.  A sixth award followed for Norma in 2016 for Lifetime Achievement. (Incidentally, husband Martin was named Folk Singer of the Year in 2002 and 2005 while daughter Eliza took the honour in 2003.)

In 2010, Norma suffered a major health setback when a serious illness left her in a coma. As part of the recovery process, she had to learn to walk and talk again. In 2011 her brother, Mike, died leaving Norma as the only surviving Waterson sibling. However, she returned to the recording studio for another collaborative project with Eliza: the album, Anchor, released in 2018 to critical and popular acclaim.

Although continuing health issues curtailed Norma’s capacity for further recordings and performance, she took great delight last year when Eliza was named as the successor to Shirley Collins as President of the English Folk Dance and Song Society. However, the two-year moratorium on touring opportunities for Martin and Eliza caused by the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020 caused real financial difficulties for the family prompting Eliza to launch a crowdfunding appeal to cover Norma’s care and to provide support for Martin. The appeal is still open at www.ko-Fi.com/elizacarthy

 

Eliza and Norma pictured on the cover of their duo album, Anchor.

Among the torrent of tributes that followed the announcement of Norma’s passing came these words from England’s other great family of traditional singing, The Coppers, who said: “Over the years we enjoyed her company along with that of her husband Martin Carthy and daughter Eliza at festivals and gigs. Norma was a consummate performer and true bearer of English traditional song and always presented her work with passion and dignity. We shall miss you Norma, and our condolences go to Martin, Eliza and the rest of the family.”

We have lost a matriarch, a statuesque, dignified magnificent singer. She had a incomparable trove of songs and stories in her life’s treasure chest and she opened it for decades for all to share. She was my friend. Our friend. A rock to lean upon and fearless onstage. She was one of those that you thought incapable of dying, one of the ones we will now pack into our tour-bags and take through our remaining days on and offstage. As the old adage goes, She’s not gone. Only gone before. Bon voyage, Norma. Have a safe onward journey and I'll catch you up down the road." – Peggy Seeger

For some, like British folk luminary, Martin Simpson, feelings were difficult to articulate: “There is nothing I can say that expresses the importance of Norma Waterson and her family in my musical and personal life over the last 50 plus years. We have lost so much.”

Award-winning singer Kate Rusby said: “I’m so sad and sorry to hear of Norma Waterson’s passing – the end of an era. She was a proper legend.”

Her voice was a thing of dazzling brilliance like no other I've ever heard like some wondrous mystical mythical bird of fabulous legend and her heart and mind were equally brilliant, kind and very very wise...she'd always blow my mind with her thoughts and knowledge! I've enjoyed Norma's friendship for many years and enjoyed making her laugh. She had a wonderful sense of humour and laughter was never far away in her company." – Sheffield singer-songwriter, Richard Hawley, who performed on the Bright Phoebus Revisited tour in 2013.

Another singer-songwriter, Billy Bragg, said: “Very sorry to hear that Norma Waterson, the last of the singing Watersons from Hull, has passed away. She started out as a skiffler and went on to become one of the defining voices of English traditional music. My thoughts are with Martin and Eliza and the rest of the family.”

On this side of the Irish Sea, singer Niamh Parsons who has shared stages with Norma, Martin and Eliza on many occasions, led the tributes to her friend: “So very, very sad at the news that the great Norma Waterson has left us…I loved Norma and remember great times singing and hanging out with the family in Canada, England, Ireland, Denmark and USA. RIP.”

An Góilín Traditional Singers in Dublin said: “Deepest sympathies from all at An Góilín to the Waterson/Carthy family on the sad death of Norma. A lovely person and a wonderful singer. RIP.”

Dervish added: “We are deeply saddened to hear of the passing yesterday of legendary folk singer Norma Waterson. Our sympathies go to Martin, Eliza and all her family and friends at this sad time.”

Portrrait of Norma by Ken Wilson
Norma singing with the family at a concert in Barry's Hotel, Dublin, organised by An Góilín Traditional Singers in 1986 (Photo: Colm Keating)
The Waterson Family at the Góilín concert in Barry's Hotel, Dublin: (from left) Norma, Martin, Rachel, Mike and Lal (Photo: Colm Keating).