Festival review: Féile na Laoch

Aidan Vaughan dancing a reel in the flickering light of a crackling fire; the nimble fingers of US piano virtuoso David Syme cascading over the notes of Moonlight Sonata under the night sky; the gossamer voices of Cork sean nós-singer Máire Ní Chéileachair and Anna Mhoireach from the Isle of Lewis floating through the ether.

Glen Hansard and Michael D Higgins at the Féile na Laoch. Pictures: Paul Reardon

Anyone who missed Féile na Laoch may rue their misfortune for the seven years until the next celebration of cultural heroes, inspired by the life and work of composer Seán Ó Riada.

Those camped by the banks of the Sullane for the all-night Aeríocht by seven heroes of poetry led by President Michael D Higgins, seven of song, dance, music, acting, and storytelling, were witness to a magical, elemental exploration of creativity as the stage was rotated by degrees to face the coming dawn.

A field in Cúil Aodha became the open-air arena for a gathering that began with the spiritual mixing- together of waters from local holy wells. It traversed the experimental electronic wizardry of Giordaí Ua Laoghaire, of Microdisney and Nine Wassies From Bainne fame; and the mesmerising, fabric-entwining dance of Natasha Bourke, suspended in animation as she dangled high off the arm of a crane.

Ailean Domhnullach’s piping stirred senses soothed by the harping of Laoise Kelly, before Phil Coulter tapped themes of home and identity with his Derry anthem ‘The Town I Loved so Well’, composed nearly half a century ago but the poignancy of his prayer for a bright brand new day undimmed.

Heroes recently departed were there in spirit as Glen Hansard paid musical tribute to his Camino sailing colleague, poet Danny Sheehy; and Christy Moore offered ‘The Cliffs of Dooneen’ in memory of fellow Planxty legend Liam Óg O’Flynn.

Moore, Hansard, Coulter, and Brendan Begley jamming on ‘The Auld Triangle’ brought the crowd to its feet in a dawn chorus of song, the elements chiming in as the heavens opened to the orchestral strains of Ó Riada’s iconic ‘Mise Éire’.

Pet O’Connell

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