The opening of the 18th Scoil Gheimridh Frankie Kennedy drew a large crowd of music lovers and musicians to Teach Hiúdai Beag’s pub in Gaoth Dobhair on Tuesday night.
The evening featured speeches and book launches, and music -- most of all, music. Gearóid Ó Maonaigh, a director of the winter school, said some of the musicians who arrived this week came from as far as Jerusalem and California.
The winter school was opened by fiddle player Ben Lennon, whom Gearóid called “one of the finest traditional musicians we’re ever likely to meet”. Ben, a recent recipient of TG4’s Lifetime Achievement Award, is to perform in concert this afternoon.
Winter school organisers said flute player Frankie Kennedy, in whose memory the school was established, held Ben in high esteem as a person and as a musician. At Tuesday night’s opening, Ben made it clear that the feeling was mutual.
Ben said Frankie and Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh, founding members of Altan, “were a lovely couple and they played so well together”. Frankie, “was such a handsome man and such a lovely man. It is so sad he went away so early”, Ben said.
Ben also took the stage at the pub on Tuesday night to play a few tunes with flute players Conal Ó Grada and Hammy Hamilton. Hammy had launched Conal’s new book, “An Fheadóg Mhór: Irish traditional flute technique”. Also on Tuesday, Cathal Goan, chairperson of Comhar, launched a new collection of poetry, “Annála”, by poet Greagóir Ó Dúill.
After the launches and the speeches, more instruments came out as musicians began a session, one of countless, spontaneous sessions that will complement the week’s concerts, classes and other events.
In opening the winter school, Ben said that the news these days appears “all gloom and doom”. But he suggested events like the winter school serve as an antidote: “You can forget everything if you get the right blend of people and the music that lifts your heart,” Ben said.
For more on the Scoil Gheimhridh Frankie Kennedy, see page 10.