FolkWorld #66 07/2018
© The Johnny Doherty Festival

Something for Everyone

The Johnny Doherty Festival

The Johnny Doherty Festival, Ardara, Co. Donegal, Ireland, 21 - 23 September 2018.

Following on from the huge success of last years festival which brought people from all over the world to the scenic town of Ardara, the organisers are confident of a successful weekend again this year. The organisers hope to provide something for everyone to enjoy, with Concerts, Ceilis, Barn Dances, Sean Nós, Set Dancing, Workshops, Pub and Street Sessions.

Johnny Doherty

John Doherty (1900 – 26 January 1980) was born in Ardara, County Donegal. He came from a famous clan of Irish Travellers who worked as tinsmiths and horse traders. His birth certificate was uncovered in recent years, firstly by Professor Alun Evans, and subsequently by researcher Caomhin MacAoidh, allowing confirmation that his date of birth was 1900, rather than 1895, which has been recorded in error in several publications. His father Mickey 'Mor' Doherty was a fiddler as were a number of his brothers and sisters. Mickey Mor married Mary McConnell, a singer (whose brothers Alec and Mickey were well-known musicians in south Donegal). Together they had nine children and John was the youngest. In an interview in the 1970s he said that he had to practice in the barn as a teenager, and was not allowed to play fiddle in the company of his parents until he had mastered "Bonny Kate". He heard recordings of James Scott Skinner and imitated his style. His brother, also called Mickey, tended to play more in the style of Michael Coleman. Mickey was also recorded, notably on the album "The Gravel Walks".
From the late 40s to the 1970s he was sought out by collectors. The Floating Bow contains recordings made between 1968 and 1974 by Professor Evans in the town-land of Glenconwell. This collection arguably comprises the most extensive collection of his music, and was made when some argue Doherty was at his peak as a musician. He played with much ornamentation, including bowed and slurred triplets, rolls, 'cuts', mordents (particularly on long 'first-finger' notes), double-stopping (based on standard western music principles, normally highlighting the tonic and third of a particular chord). Heavily influenced by the Scottish bagpiping tradition, he often replicated the sound of the pipes' drones, by either retuning the fiddle to an open tuning ('scordatura'), or by maintaining the fourth finger on the string below the pitch of the melody. According to Alex Monaghan in the magazine, "The Living Tradition", he was a significant influence on the fiddle playing of The Chieftains and Altan. Doherty was also a story-teller, and some of his tales appear on the liner notes to "The Floating Bow".
Doherty sometimes did not carry a fiddle with him on his travels because he knew that, if needed, he was always likely to be provided with one when he visited "house dances" (folk music parties hosted by a family in their own house). The Floating Bow was played on a borrowed fiddle (owned by Professor Evans). He once travelled to Dublin to play in the Oireachtas Championships. He was first recorded in 1945 by The Irish Folklore Commission during one of his trips to Teelin in Southwest Donegal and later by the BBC (Peter Kennedy) in Belfast in 1953. 10 of these 1953 recordings were issued on Traditional Dance Music of Ireland (various artists). Kennedy's recordings were later issued in three volumes on the Folktrax label, the first of which was Pedlar's Pack (1964). These recordings are available from Topic Records who now own the copyright. Paddy Glackin first met him in 1965, and was heavily influenced by John. He could probably be described as the last of the travelling fiddlers. He died in Ballyshannon Rock Hospital, County Donegal.
Artist Video

Ardara is a very popular Donegal holiday destination on the Wild Atlantic Way and offers many accommodation types including Hotel, B&B and Airbnb options.

Brid Harper, Dermot Byrne and Steve Cooney

Dermot Byrne has played accordion since a very young age, his seemingly effortless playing, combined with great subtlety, and a faultless ear, makes him one of the great accordion players of his generation.

Brid Harper has been hailed as one of the leading exponents of traditional fiddle playing of our time. She was senior All-Ireland Champion, Fiddler of Dooney and Oireachtas winner in 1988. Brid has released her Solo Album which has been hailed as one of the best traditional albums of 2015.

Brid Harper, Dermot Byrne and Steve Cooney

Artist Video Brid Harper @ FROG
Dermot Byrne @ FROG

Cherish The Ladies

Artist Video Cherish The Ladies @ FROG

The Friel Sisters

Artist Video The Friel Sisters @ FROG

Australian born Steve Cooney started his professional musical career from the age of seventeen. In 1981 he bought a one-way ticket to Ireland where he joined Stockton’s Wing, playing bass guitar and didgeridoo. Since then he has been very active performing and recording with Dermot Byrne, Sharon Shannon, Mary Black, Sliabh Notes and many others.

Cherish The Ladies

“It is simply impossible to imagine an audience that wouldn’t enjoy what they do,” says the Boston Globe speaking of Cherish the Ladies, the long-running, Grammy-nominated, Irish-American super group that formed in New York City in 1985 to celebrate the rise of women in what had been a male-dominated Irish music scene and has since toured the world, played the White House and the Olympics, recorded 17 outstanding albums including a live recording, “An Irish Homecoming,” which was simultaneously videotaped for a Public Television Special that aired across America and won an Emmy.

Under the leadership of All-Ireland flute and whistle champion Joanie Madden, named by The Irish Voice Newspaper as one of the Top 25 most influential Irish Americans of the past quarter century, these ladies create an evening that includes a spectacular blend of virtuoso instrumental talents, beautiful vocals, captivating arrangements, and stunning step dancing. Their continued success as one of the top Celtic groups in the world is due to the ensembles ability to take the best of Irish traditional music and dance and put it forth in an immensely entertaining show.

The New York Times calls their music “passionate, tender, and rambunctious,” and the Washington Post praises their “astonishing array of virtuosity.” They’ve won recognition as the BBC’s Best Musical Group of the Year and were named Top North American Celtic Group at the Irish Music Awards and not to mention having a street named after them in the Bronx! They’ve collaborated with such musicians as The Boston Pops, The Clancy Brothers, the Chieftains, Vince Gill, Nanci Griffith, Pete Seeger, Don Henley, Arlo Guthrie and Maura O’Connell as well as being the featured soloist with over 250 nights of symphony orchestras.

The Friel Sisters

The Friel Sisters, Anna, Sheila and Clare, are young traditional musicians hailing from Glasgow/Donegal. Born and brought up in Glasgow with their family roots firmly entrenched in the Donegal they play a mixture of music interspersed with songs, many from their family repertoire. Being siblings, they achieve a close blend on fiddle,flute and uilleann pipes approaching their music in a style inspired by many encounters with great musicians and singers throughout Europe & USA. Anna, Sheila and Clare have performed in various venues and festivals including the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall as part of Celtic Connections, the Danish Tonder Festival, Willie Clancy Summer School, Catskill’s Irish Arts Week in New York, Frankie Kennedy Winter School, Sligo Live and at many other festivals. They have appeared as guests on stage with acts such as The Chieftains, Solas, Cherish the Ladies, and Altan on several occasions.

Photo Credits: (1) The Johnny Doherty Festival, (2) John Doherty, (3) Brid Harper, Dermot Byrne and Steve Cooney, (4) Cherish The Ladies, (5) The Friel Sisters (unknown/website).

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