The first gig of Cork Folk Festival saw the high king and high queens of Irish folk music, Andy Irvine, and Tríona and Maighread Ní Dhomhnaill, take to the stage at Triskel Christchurch.
First up, the Ní Dhomhnaill sisters took us on a harmonious journey to Gaoth Domhair, Tory Island, and also to Cahersiveen for a beautiful rendition of a song their mother, from Doneraile, loved dearly, ‘(The Boys of) Barr Na Sráide’.
This was an opening act that filled you with the final rays of autumn warmth, with ‘The False Fly’ and ‘Do You Love and Apple’, among the many songs to warm the cockles and muscles of the heart.
Then up stepped Andy Irvine. “It’s lovely to be here, lovely to be anywhere,” said the 75-year-old as he launched into such songs as ‘When The Boys Are On Parade’, ‘The Three Huntsmen’, and ‘Down By The Sally Gardens’, with guitar and bouzouki finger work that would still give anyone a run for their money.
Then ‘that’ special song he wrote while in a hospital bed, following his near drowning accident in Australia. “Your life flashes before you. I was amazed how much I had forgotten.” And out of that brilliant mind came ‘My Heart’s Tonight in Ireland (in the sweet County Clare)’.” It brought tears to one American visitor’s eyes; it’s not hard to see why.
“I can’t come here without singing this song”, he told us... and out came ‘The Spirit of Mary Jones’, about the Cork-born woman who organised American union workers.
Irvine was on fire as the night drew to a close with ‘The Blacksmith’, which brought the house down.
“My mother says I have to leave stage and then come back for the encore. I never had the confidence to do that,” he said as he finished up with ‘As I Roved Out’, aptly followed by the final song of the night from his all-time hero, Woodie Guthrie, ‘Never Tire Of The Road’.