Away at the very top of the country, right at the close of the year, in an area blessed with wild beauty, lived tradition and fire-side hospitality, Scoil Gheimhridh Ghaoth Dobhair is a world apart.
In its first year under its new organisers, Comharchumann Forbartha Ghaoth Dobhair, the School will continue the original vision of the Frankie Kennedy Winter School: to pass on, through sharing knowledge and nurturing talent, the joys of Irish traditional music, with special place given to the music and songs of the Donegal Gaeltacht.
So successful has this aim been down the years, the old Vocational School, An Chrannóg, as it is known, has been redeveloped and now facilitates over 200 children for year-round music lessons and other cultural activities.
Staying true to that success, morning workshops remain at the heart of the Scoil Gheimhridh Ghaoth Dobhair, and this year there are even more instruments on offer, as well as sean-nós dance and Irish language classes.
In partnership with Na Píobairí Uilleann, they will be fostering the great tradition of piping in the area represented by An Píobaire Mór himself, Tarlach Mac Suibhne, who is buried in Gaoth Dobhair.
There will be three levels of piping classes, with Conor Day offering to let people “Try it out”, Síle Friel helping those at an intermediate stage in their playing, and Gay McKeon guiding the advanced players.
The tutors for this year – chosen not just for the calibre of their playing and teaching, which is central to the success of the School, but also for their individual connections with the area and/or its music – are as follows:
Fiddle: Ciarán Ó Maonaigh, Bríd Harper and Clare Friel
Flute: Tara Diamond and Harry Bradley
Tin whistle: Anna Friel and Maureen McGrattan
Accordion: Danny O’Mahony
Concertina: Míchéal Ó Raghallaigh
Singing: Máire Ní Choilm
Dancing: Edwina Guckian
Guitar: Séamie O’Dowd
Bodhrán: Séamus O’Kane
Student musicians, friends, family and visitors to the area will be able to enjoy intimate afternoon recitals and concerts each evening with an A-list line up including Fiddler’s Bid, Liz Carroll, Séamus Begley, Catríona McKay, Chris Stout & Séamus Egan (Solas), Boys of the Lough, Mícheál Ó Raghallaigh & Danny O’Mahony, Bríd Harper & Friends, and many more.
As well as the usual pub sessions, there will also be craft workshops, guided walking tours and a special full screening of the famous Johnny Doherty interview done by Pete Seeger.
Comharchumann Forbartha Manager, Cathal Ó Gallachóir told Donegal Daily, “Scoil Geimhridh Ghaoth Dobhair will continue the long-standing emphasis on music learning, and embed it in what we hope will be an even deeper experience of the local community, traditions and language of this beautiful Gaeltacht area.
“There’ll be plenty of craic throughout, of course.”
All events will take place in the parish of Gaoth Dobhair, which is situated on the north-west coast of Donegal.
Ó Gallachóir added that the new venues, such as Pobalscoil Ghaoth Dobhair in Derrybeg, “reflect that wider community input” that makes the School so special.
Others include: Dún Lúiche’s, Ionad Cois Locha; Club CLG, Gaoth Dobhair; An Gailearaí, Páirc Ghnó Ghaoth Dobhair; Teach Hiúdaí Beag in An Bun Beag; and Óstán an Chúirt.
Scoil Gheimhridh Ghaoth Dobhair receives annual funding from An Comhairle Ealaíona.