Scoil Acla CCÉ 2023 – A Report

Tá deireadh na bliana buailte linn arís agus bliain fíor-ghnóthach a bhí ann do Scoil Acla CCÉ.

Scoil Acla, as branch of Comhaltas, is a very active, year-round volunteer-led organisation which aims to promote and foster the wonderful traditions of music, song, dance and language across the parish of Achill. 2023 got off to a busy start with Music Classes, Seachtain na Gaeilge and the hosting of a truly special concert on the 1st of April in recognition of Achill’s unique pipe band tradition spanning over 75 years.

A Celebration of Achill Piping

The concert was originally planned to take place in 2021 however, Covid-19 put a firm halt to the committee’s preparations. Scoil Acla was delighted that world-renowned piper Terry Tully accepted our offer to commission a special suite of music for the event. The various pieces were performed on the night by representatives of each of the Pipe Bands who were joined by members of the famous St. Laurence O’Toole Pipe Band. The different tunes paid homage to Achill’s placenames and to some of the figures synonymous with the piping tradition in Achill. The audience was treated to a slow air, Áitín Aoibhinn, two marches, John “Twin” McNamara and Hughie Connaghan’s March as well as a lively hornpipe “Pauric Carr of Dugort” in honour of Terry’s late friend.

The evening was complemented by music, song and poetry from local musicians, Fiona Connaghan and local poet and former bandsman, Michael O’Donnell including a finale by members of the pipe bands. It was an amazing night of history, nostalgia, music and culture that will live long in the memory.

Scoil Samhraidh 2023 | Summer School 2023

As always, the main focal point of Scoil Acla’s year was the Scoil Samhraidh. The week’s events got off to a wonderful start with the Official Opening on Monday the 24th July officiated by Alan Dillon TD. There were performances from Artist in Residence – Fergal Scahill – along with some of Mayo’s young talent “Armóin” and TG4 Ceoltóir na Bliana – Mick O’Brien.

 Artist in Residence for the week was Fergal Scahill. Fergal’s social media project, “Fergal’s Tune a Day,” showcases his musical prowess and collaboration skills, and he has recorded over 750 different tunes and worked with hundreds of artists. His visits to all the classes were highly entertaining and he was very popular with everyone. By the week’s end he had composed some new tunes inspired by the beautiful rugged landscape of Achill.

Adults and children from all corners of the country and globe attended classes during the week. The Paddy Bushe’s Writers’ Workshop was another great success and provided a forum for established writers to share their experiences & expertise and for beginners to take their first steps. Master Poet Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin also stopped by to give some readings and speak with attendees. Other workshops included quilting with Sheila Mangan, masterclasses on the fiddle and a new addition to the programme – a “Multi-Instrumental Workshop” taught by Stephen Doherty. Other activities included outdoor sessions: “Trad ar an Trá” on Keel Beach where the glorious weather matched the wonderful backdrop of the Minaun Cliffs. There were Session Trails during the week for intermediate and advanced players and we thank the various pubs/hotels who hosted them.

Cuireadh tús agus deireadh le himeachtaí na seachtaine le hAifreann na Féile ar an Domhnach i Séipéal an Phollaigh. Craoladh an tAifreann beo ar Raidió na Gaeltachta agus tá muid fíor-buíoch d’Athair Seán Ó Muirí as a chuid oibre linn ag fáil réidh don Aifreann speisialta. Bhí sár-oíche Ghaelach againn. Ghlac breis is céad páirt i dTráth na gCeist i Gielty’s Clew Bay agus d’éirigh go h-iontach leis. Bhí craic is spórt ann agus bhain gach duine an-taitneamh as. Bhí ranganna Gaeilge do thosaitheoirí ar siúl chomh maith i rith na seachtaine. Bhí an-éileamh ar “Turas Bus – Gaeilg’ Acla”…thug an sraith imeachtaí seo léargas ar Ghaeilg’ Acla, a stair, oidhreacht agus cultúr.

The themes of art, love, personal loss and war as well as the Achill landscape and its wildlife run through the poetry of Mark Chaddock. Mark read from his latest collection of poems “Spirit Bird” which was launched on the first night of the summer school.

Concerts during the week included the Traditional Music Recital and Ceolchoirm na Féile where the audiences were treated to some wonderful music, singing and dancing by musicians of the highest calibre. Also staged during the week was the Hata Acla Competition which was won by “Seoidíní Mhaigh Eo”. There was a hugely popular scéalaíocht dá-theangach event with Niall de Búrca as well as a drumming workshop with Anthony McNamee.

One of the highlights of the week was the “Oíche Aitheantais do John Twin McNamara”. In October 2022 Dooagh Day & Emer Mayock from Music of Mayo launched a new collection of songs from the archive of John ‘Twin’ McNamara. The recording, which is entitled ‘Oileán m’Aislingí’ or ‘Island of my Dreams’ is a compilation of 18 songs and includes a mix of old Achill songs, John’s own compositions, old Achill poems to which John has composed the music as well as some of John’s other favourites. At the Oíche Aitheantais there was an opportunity to hear some of the songs performed by those whom John inspired over his many years promoting Cultúr, Oidhreacht agus Gaeilg’ Acla. Oíche fíor-speisialta a bhí ann. It was a wonderful celebration and was considered by many to be the highlight of the week’s events.

Unfortunately, due to inclement weather conditions the traditional Aeraíocht/Open Air Concert usually held at Lourdie’s in Dooagh had to be cancelled on Saturday. Scoil Acla is grateful to all the venue providers, venue supervisors, photographers, traffic management team and to all who helped to ensure the Scoil Samhraidh ran so smoothly. Our thanks also to the dignitaries and special guests who attended the Official Opening. Thank you to our funding agencies – the Arts Council, Ealaín na Gaeltachta, Foras na Gaeilge, Music Network, Mayo Arts Service & Mayo County Council and to Councillors Paul McNamara and Michael Kilcoyne – for their continued support. A word of thanks also to Joe Byrne from Midwest Radio and Raidió na Gaeltachta for their coverage of the Scoil Samhraidh.

The 2024 Scoil Samhraidh runs from the 28th of July to the 3rd of August. Online booking with a special Early Bird Discount opens in March 2024.

Fleadheanna Cheoil

Scoil Acla was well represented at county, provincial and at the All-Ireland Fleadh in Mullingar this year -well done to all the winners, runners-up and those who took part. There was a historic first in Mullingar as the Piper’s Cross Céilí Band became the first Mayo band to win the All-Ireland Senior Céilí Band competition. Glór na dTonn representing Scoil Acla CCÉ gave yet another rousing performance earning them second place. Congratulations to Scoil Acla tutors in both bands on doing Mayo proud!

Culture Night

Rinneadh ceiliúradh ar Oíche Chultúir i Meán Fómhair le Camchuairt Chultúir ó áit go háit sa pharóiste. Bhain gach éinne taitneamh as an oíche. In September we celebrated culture night with a number of pitstops bringing the magic of music to various venues across the parish of Achill. To mark Culture Night, Scoil Acla also ran a very successful art competition across the National Schools in Achill.

Local Classes & Chongie Road Launch

September also saw the return of weekly Music Classes. A word of thanks to the principal and staff of Coláiste Pobail Acla for accommodating the weekly classes. Another wonderful event in September was the launch of “Chongie Road” – a 10-track album by Achill musician and Scoil Acla tutor Seán Lynch. Scoil Acla was delighted to support the project – visit to learn more.

Tá muid ag tnúth go mór le 2024 agus na himeachtaí atá eagraithe againn. Keep an eye on our social media channels and sign-up to the newsletter on our website for the latest news on upcoming events.

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