Festival Fit: follow the laughter lines to Corofin and Tedfest

Séamus Begley sends ’em home laughing at Corofin Trad Festival, while rogue clerics send the tourists running for cover at Tedfest on Inis Mór

Fri, Mar 7, 2014, 00:00

Between tunes, Séamus Begley held up his wine glass and, not for the first time, smirked over the rim of it. “The Mother Superior addressed her congregation one morning,” he told us. “‘It pains me greatly to report that we have a case of gonorrhea in the convent,’ says she.” Begley took a sip and paused for effect. “‘Thank God,’ said one of the nuns, ‘I’m sick of the Chardonnay.’”

Begley polished off the last of the wine and was tearing into another set of tunes before the laughter died down. We’d gathered in the intimate setting of Teach Ceoil in Corofin for the most homely trad festival imaginable.

“You should’ve been here last night,” one of a trio of trad enthusiasts who’d travelled especially from Luxembourg told me. “De Danann were outstanding.”

“Would you miss Frankie Gavin?” I asked, more than a little mischievously.

“Not at all,” one of the Bock rockers dismissively responded. “The only place you’ll see them reunited is on a stamp.”

The Judean People’s Front and The People’s Front of Judea couldn’t hold a candle to the Irish supergroup. They originally performed as Dé Danann, until the fada was misplaced by a careless roadie while on tour in the mid-1980s. There was another nomenclature clash when the group split, resulting in two separate groups named De Danann and De Dannan – a consonant minefield. If the lost fada ever resurfaces, we’ll have a custody battle on our hands that’d make Usher pause for an OMG.

“This is my eighth time here,” the fiddler from London told me, and he wasn’t on his own. Mexico, Germany, The US and Laghtagoona were all impressively represented. The London lads reckoned it’s the intimacy of the performances, populace and pueblo that lend Corofin Trad Festival a unique charm. That and the fact that the seemingly sparse programme throws up tunes that are sharper than Occam’s razor. Back inside the whitewashed walls of Teach Ceoil, Blackie O’Connell and his posse brewed up a batch of the pure drop, distilling a crystalline concoction that kicked like a Sean-nós dancing ginnet.

Begley captured the spirit of the thing with his hail-fellow-well-met banter and style. “She won’t give me her number, Oisín,” Begley complained as he flirted with the lady who’d dropped him up another glass of wine. “She must be
ex-directory.” You couldn’t help but warm to the rogue.

Next morning there was to be more exposure to rogues on the top deck of a ferry heading for Inis Mór. One of the great joys of Tedfest is watching foreign tourists trying to get their heads around the clatter of unruly clergy getting the party started before the ferry even clears Rossaveal harbour.

My favourite Tedfest tale is of four lads who turned up on the island in full Nazi regalia (a la the Are you right there Father Ted? episode). The four boys decided it would be a bit of sport to march, jackboots swinging, down to catch the ferry home. A horde of nuns and priests joined their procession. As they all made their merry way towards the pier, the ferry was docking with its cargo of foreign daytrippers. The only reason that many of them got off the boat at all was because the Nazis and nuns got on. Many of the tourists stayed huddled together and didn’t stray far from the pier.

The assembled Pat Mustards, Mrs Doyles, lovely girls and dancing priests displayed something that Séamus Begley tapped into in Corofin – a readiness to laugh and a hunger for divilment. Tedfest can also lay claim to some of the most entertaining walks of shame this side of Mardi Gras. There wasn’t a case of Chardonnay left on the island, and hopefully, none of the clerics brought home takeaways.

Safe travels, don’t die.


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