The inaugural concert, in association with Kanturk Arts Festival, is on March 15. The concert will feature fiddler, Matt Cranitch, accordionist, Jackie Daly, flautist, Con Fada Ó Drisceoil, the TG4 ‘young musician of the year,’ Bryan O’Leary, and singer, Conal Ó Gráda, who will be the MC.
Sliabh Luachra, which straddles northwest Cork and east Kerry, occupies a unique position in traditional music. Cranitch says its music is defined by its “heart and soul. It has a particular repertoire of tunes, such as the polka and slides, in particular, and some jigs that you won’t find in other parts of the country. The method of playing the instruments, and the style of the music, is different to what you’ll find elsewhere. A useful parallel for people is the question of language and dialect. West Kerry or Munster Irish is a lot different to Donegal Irish. In a similar way, Sliabh Luachra music has its own accent, dialect and vocabulary — what is called a repertoire of tunes. It’s also very powerful. It’s both extroverted and introverted. It’s music for the heart and mind.”
The trail is a joint initiative by the arts offices at Cork and Kerry County Councils. The two are organising concerts in conjunction with festivals such as the Maurice O’Keeffe Festival in Kiskeam, County Cork, in April; the Con Curtin Festival in Brosna, County Kerry, in June; Scully’s Festival in Newmarket, County Cork, in August; and the Pádraig O’Keeffe Festival in Castleisland, County Kerry, in October. Crantich hopes tourists will visit Sliabh Luachra. “It’s hard to say that a specific event will bring in tourists, but, over the year, once the word gets out, people will come and will be guaranteed high-quality events.”
Is Sliabh Luachra a place or a state of mind? “It’s something of both, I suppose,” says Cranitch. “The exact borders of the area are never very clear to anyone. Sliabh Luachra is loosely defined by places like Knocknagree and Ballydesmond, on the Cork side, and Brosna, Gneevguilla and Scartaglen, on the Kerry side.”
Cranitch and his three musical siblings grew up in Rathduff, near Mallow. “When I was learning to play the fiddle, I used to visit Sliabh Luachra a lot with my family. The great figures there, in terms of passing on the music, were Pádraig O’Keeffe and Tom Billy Murphy. Following that generation, there was the wonderful Denis Murphy, Julia Clifford, Johnny Leary and Paddy Cronin.”
Irish was the first language in Cranitch’s home. “Sliabh Luachra is not now a Gaeltacht area, although Irish was spoken there in the past. I suppose, for many people, the music and the language are very much parallel to each other... The idiom of speech and expression owe more to the Irish language than to high spoken English.”