When CRAIC can make you CRY!

Sinéad Ni Cheallaigh faoi lán seoil

Sinéad Ní Cheallaigh faoi lán seoil

‘Cad é mar atá sibh, a chairde?’ How are yous this week, friends? ‘Bhí deireadh seachtaine den chéad scoth agam an tseachtain seo caite’ we had a great weekend last week. ‘Bhí oíche den chéad scoth againn’ we had one of the best nights ever. ‘Le dhá mhí’ for two months, ‘bhí mé ag súil go mór leis an Oíche Mhór Ghaelach san Amharclann’ I had been eagerly awaiting the Irish Cultural Night in the Alley Theatre, organised by local trad group CRAIC on behalf of CRY (Cardiac Risk in the Young).‘Nuair a bhain muid an amharclann amach’ when we arrived at the theatre, ‘bhí scaifte maith bailithe cheana féin’ there was a good crowd already gathered. There is always a great buzz in the Alley just before a performance; so many people to talk to, and so little time before the show. You only manage to get 20 second snippets of conversation with as many people as you can. ‘Tá sé rud beag cosúil le fíbíní cleamhnais’ It’s a bit like speed-dating, without the dating.

 

 

‘Isteach linn sa halla éisteachta’ we went into the auditorium, ‘áit ghalánta ar fad’ which is a lovely setting. ‘Bhí an áit plódaithe’ it was a packed house, and I was so pleased for the Gallagher family and CRY, for CRAIC, for the Theatre, and even for our own culture. ‘Bhí léar mór ceoltóirí áitiúla ar an ardán i rith na hoíche’ there were many local traditional musicians, of all ages and playing a wide range of instruments, on stage throughout the course of the night. ‘Cad é mar atá sibh?’ how are yous all, asked Strabane’s newest piper-on-the-block, Mick Conaghan, in Irish, as he took the stage with fellow musicians, Seán an Bhosca Ó Néill, Flint na Feadóige, Brian Hasson on guitar, Paul Rouse on bazouki, agus Simon Kennedy ar an fheadóg stáin. ‘Bhí cuid mhór Gaeilge á labhairt ar an oíche’ a lot of Irish was spoken by the musicians on the night.

 

Just before the break, ‘fágadh an t-urlár ag foireann damhsóirí seit as Doire’ a team of set-dancers from Derry took to the floor, joined by Strabane’s own ‘Ardrí an Damhsa’ Lord of the Dance, Mel O’Kane. When they went into a ‘luascadh’ or swing, ‘tógadh gáir a bhain croitheadh as creatacha an tí’ a roar went up that shook the rafters.

 

‘Chuir páistí Rang 4 as an Ghaelscoil taispeántas beag ceoil ar fáil’ the P4 children from the Gaelscoil gave a great wee performance, singing a couple of action songs in Irish ‘An Fathach Fíochmhar’ the Ferocious Giant, with little Sarah shining in vocals, and Erin Gallagher giving a confident note-perfect rendition of Egan’s Polka on the Feadóg Stáin, tin whistle. ‘Tá an teanga agus an ceol slán ar an Srath Bán’ the future of the music and language is in safe hands in these youngsters. ‘Rinne Dominic McGinty scéal a aithris’ then Dominic McGinty delivered one of his famous recitations. In the course of the night we had contrasting ballad styles from several local singers; Brian Hasson with his passion and emotion and musical awareness, Paul McCusker with his relaxed traditional style backed up by the bodhrán, and Brendan Gallagher with his unique Dubliners style of folksinging.

 

‘D’fhreastail mé ar chuid mhór imeachtaí den chéad scoth san amharclann’ I have been to some top class performances in the Alley Theatre; Altán, Kila, Téada and Frances Black, to name but a few. ‘Tá rún le sceitheadh agam’ I have a confession to make. While all these acts are among the best in the country, I tend to think ‘gur leor uair an chloig’ that an hour is more than enough, ‘agus bíonn doicheall agus leisce orm dul isteach arís i ndiaidh an tsosa’ and I sort of dread going back in for another hour after the short break in the show. I don’t know if anyone else feels like this. I get it in every show.

 

However, I did not get it in this CRAIC show. I couldn’t wait to get back in and see who and what would be on the stage next. ‘Agus níor ligeadh síos muid’ and we were not let down. The young dancers of the Barrett School of Dancing lifted the second half with a powerful Riverdance performance. It was great to see a performance that was purely focused on dancing, posture, choreography, music and flowing movement, and it is a breath of fresh air from the wigs, make-up, Book of Kells dresses, and shackled approach of some Irish dancing. ‘Maith sibh’ well done, folks. ‘Agus bhí súil amháin agam ar neacht óg de mo chuid a ghlac páirt sa damhsa sin’ and I had one eye on my own niece, Aoife Devine, who was in the dancing troupe. Well done, Aoife!

 

Emotions where high when Fear an Tí Thomas Maguire asked John Gallagher to say a few words on behalf of CRY, Cardiac Risk in the Young, for whom the night was organised. John and his wife Blanche tragically lost two of their children to the illness, Jonathan (9) in 1985, and Lauren (13) in 2006. He spoke of the struggle to secure cardiac screening for our young people in Strabane. ‘One of the biggest challenges, Seán’ he said to me later ‘is that most people think it won’t happen to them, or to anyone close to them. If cardiac screening can save one young life in Strabane, then it is worth it’. Geraldine Gallagher, a key organiser of the event on behalf of CRAIC local traditional musicians, stated that the organisation regarded all its members as friends and family, and when tragedy strikes one of us it is felt by us all. The night was one small way of offering support for the Gallagher family and for other families who have suffered in similar ways.

 

‘Caithfidh mé a rá’ I have to say, for me, this night was Strabane at its best; ‘An cultúr’ the culture, ‘an ceol’ the music, ‘an Ghaeilge’ the Irish language, ‘an amharclann úr’ the new state of the art theatre, ‘agus an pobal’ and the community, coming together for a vital cause.

 

‘Lean an dara cuid den oíche ar aghaidh i dTeach Christy ina dhiaidh sin’ and the second half of the night was finished off with a fine trad session in Christy’s Bar after the theatre.

 

Leitir Ceanainn

‘An lá dár gcionn’ the next day a couple of us went to play a bit of trad music at a wedding in Letterkenny. Sometimes musicians can feel a bit ignored in a bar, and not just trad musicians. But I now have found the best place and time for traditional musicians to play music; ‘is é sin faoin teilifís sa teach tábhairne nuair a bhíonn cluiche mór peile ar siúl’ directly under the TV in the bar when there’s a big match on. ‘Bhí gach duine cruinn thart orainn’ everyone was gathered around us, ‘bhí siad ag baint lán a gcuid súl asainn’ they were all staring directly at us, ‘agus bhí siad ag scairteadh agus ag bualadh bos’ and they were cheering an clapping. All we need to do now is time the ending of our tunes to coincide with goals being scored.

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