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It’s coming close to that time again folks, the time of year when the annual “Nyah” festival sees Cavan take centre stage in the world of traditional music, song and dance.
The list of names lined up for this year’s biggest ever “Nyah County Cavan Arts Festival 2008”, to give it the full name, reads like a who’s who of Irish music’s cream of the crop. Over 300 artists from 18 countries will descend on the Breffni county throughout March to take part in a packed programme of events across the county, ranging from major concerts to intimate pub sessions, with a host of extras including music and song workshops, awards presentations and book and CD launches. The big difference this year is that the Nyah spreads across the county, with towns like Virginia, Ballyjamesduff, Belturbet, Cootehill and Bailieboro all having a share of the action, as well as Cavan town itself. The word “nyah” refers to the very expression of the tradition … to its lift or “soul”. This is a festival of all things Cavan. Now in the Fifth year, the Nyah festival celebrates the traditional music, song, dance and culture of County Cavan, the Ulster tradition and the county’s very own musical style. The Nyah  programme promotes events throughout the county on a year-round basis.

Fiddle masters Cathal Hayden, Zoë Conway and Gerry O’Connor, accordion legends Tony McMahon and Finbar Dwyer, pipers Ronan Browne and Brian McNamara, flute player Desi Wilkinson, banjo king Kieran Hanrahan, bodhran and bones specialist Johnny “Ringo” McDonagh, multi-instrumentalist and singer Seamie O’Dowd and top band Cran are just some of the big names on the bill over the first big Nyah weekend, from Friday 7th- Sunday 8th March. New event happening this year is a musical exchange between the Nyah Festival and the Haworth arts & music group  England
The festival continues on St Patrick’s weekend, with shows and sessions from Friday 14th March to Tuesday 18th. The Widow’s Bar, Belturbet hosts events throughout the weekend, culminating with two shows in the venue’s upstairs folk club by the celebrated singer and bouzouki player Andy Irvine on Monday 17th and Tuesday 18th March. Another big act visiting Cavan on this second Nyah weekend is WilloS’, an Irish trad band from Italy (that’s right, the music can catch on anywhere!) who will be playing in the Widow’s, Belturbet and Don Smith’s Cootehill on Friday 14th and Saturday 15th respectively.
The “Nyah World Music & Celtic Music Day” rounds the month off, with a performance by Kerekes, a Hungarian ensemble with strains of jazz, blues and classical who’ve been taking the folk music world by storm in recent years. Catch then at the Backyard Arts Centre, Moynehall, Cavan Town on Saturday 29th March. Meanwhile, here’s the full Nyah programme. Keep your diary free for as much of it as you can, and remember — this is not music for the laid back or faint of heart!
Wednesday 5th March
10.30pm - Nyah Session, Farnham Arms Hotel, featuring a musical tribute night to Barney Jenkins, local music lover.
Thursday 6th March
10.30pm - Session Trail will see great seisiúns at Boylan’s Bar Kilnaleck (special guests Pauline and Patsy Hanly, with John Carlos, Roscommon), Maggie’s Bar Killeshandra and the Lavey Inn, Dublin Road, Cavan.
Friday 7th March
8.00pm - Cathal Hayden Concert in Crowe’s Corner, Upstairs Folk Club, Ballyjamesduff. Cathal Hayden, master of the banjo and fiddle will be playing up a storm with singer/guitarist/fiddler Seamie O’Dowd and bodhran veteran Johnny “Ringo” McDonagh (doors open 7.15pm). Presenter is renowned singer Seán O’Sé, and the show also features Pat McManus on guitar and fiddle and Tadhg Ó Meachair on piano accordion. Tickets are €15, from Multisound Cavan or pre-book at 086 234 2270.
10.30pm - Nyah Session in Crowe’s Bar (downstairs) follows to round off a great day of music in Ballyjamesduff.
10.00pm - Session Trail also continues on Friday 7th with a seisiún in the front bar, Riverfront Hotel, Virginia, with Eileen O’Brien (fiddle), Christina Dolphin (flute), Dean Warner (piano accordion), John Daly (fiddle), Philip Clarke (piano), John McEntee (accordion), Katie Boyle (fiddle) and Gary Lynch (fiddle). All are welcome, admission free.
11.00pm - Zoë Conway Concert in Riverfront Hotel, Virginia with fiddle supremo Zoë Conway and guitar genius John McIntyre; tickets €10. The show also features the Ealu band, the Kelly family from Sligo, and Cavan’s own World Fleadh winning all-girl band Sin É. MC for the night is Clare flute player Garry Shannon.
Saturday 8th March
10am - The Saturday Connection on Shannonside/Northern Sound features Charlie McGettigan presenting an eclectic mix of music and what’s on. This particular show will feature live songs and music from Nyah festival guests, including UK folk singer Tim Moon.
Music & Song “Speed Masterclass” Workshops take place throughout the day with top flute, fiddle, accordion, banjo, whistle, concertina, pipes, bodhran singing and lilting artists (venues and times can be had from Martin Donohoe at 086 234 2270).

8.30pm - “Jig of Life” Nyah Awards, in Ramor Theatre, Virginia, featuring the 2008 Awards Winners’ Concert. An appreciation for outstanding contributions to the Traditional Arts, the awards go to Sean O’Se, Cork, Gerry “Fiddle” O’Connor, Louth, Josephine Keegan, Armagh, Seamus Mac Mathuna, Clare and Dublin, Danny Meehan, Donegal, Charlie McGettigan, Donegal and Leitrim, and John Kennedy, Antrim.
 Guests acts on the night include Tony McMahon, Finbar Dwyer, Robbie Hannan, Dermot McLaughlin, Padraic O’Reilly, Mick, Louise and Michelle Mulcahy, Eileen O’Brien, Pat and Fintan McManus, Martin Gaffney and Antoin  Mac Gabhann, top band Cran and more. MCs are Kieran Hanrahan of RTE Radio and Martin Donohoe of Shannonside/Northern Sound. Tickets for this special night are €20, booking at Ramor Theatre, Main Street, Virginia, Co Cavan, 049 854 7074, e-mail .
10.00pm - English folk singer Tim Moon, in Riverfront Hotel’s front lounge.
12.00pm - Midnight Nyah Hour, Tunes, Songs & Stories, in Riverfront Hotel, hosted by Mattie Joe Shéamais of Radio Na Gaeltachta and featuring Cran, Desi Wilkinson, Sean Corcoran, Ronan Browne, Tony McMahon, Angelina Carberry, Gabriel McArdle, Martin Quinn, Tiarnán Ó Duinnchinn, Aoife Murray, Seamus Fay and Nyah festival artists (tickets are €12 for this event).
Sunday 9th March
1.00pm - Lunchtime Session, Riverfront Hotel, Virginia, all welcome.
3.00pm - Finbar Dwyer Concert, Crowe’s Corner, Upstairs Folk Club, Ballyjamesduff (to 4.30pm, tickets €10). Legendary accordionist Finbar Dwyer returns to the stage after an 18-year break, performing here with fellow box player Martin Donohoe and Fintan McManus on bouzouki.
5.00pm - CD and book launch, “The High Hills of Largy”, Crowe’s Corner, Upstairs Folk Club, Ballyjamesduff. This celebrates the compositions of the late Sean Nugent, Fermanagh, whose life was immersed in music (to 6pm, admission free). Well-known Kilnaleck musician Philip Clarke will present a diverse programme at the launch, while Finbar Dwyer, Cork will officially launch the book/CD. Artists will include Gerry “Fiddle” O’Connor, Fintan McManus (bouzouki), Áine Nugent (fiddle), Catherine and Brendan Nugent (vocals) and Antoin Mac Gabhann (fiddle).  The CDs and books will be on sale during the event. 

8.00pm - Irish Uilleann Pipes, “Squeeze your Bag”, Widow’s Bar, Belturbet, Upstairs Folk Club, admission €15. This is a musical tribute night to P J Flood of Belturbet, who has made a major contribution to traditional Irish music over many years. Launched on the night will be “Reed Only”, the new CD featuring Brian McNamara, piper and his friend and concertina player Tim Collins (described as a “magnificent album, simultaneously timeless and yet very much of its time” by Prof Mick Moloney of New York University, and named “album of the year 2007” by noted critic Earle Hitchner).

Musicians joining Brian and Tim will be Padraig McGovern (pipes), John McCartin (guitar), Oisin Mac Diarmada (fiddle), Sean McElwain (guitar/banjo), Gabriel McArdle (concertina/songs). Mattie Joe Shéamais Ó Fatharta of RnaG will be MC.
10.00pm - Nyah Bar Session in Widow’s Bar (downstairs) with Donal O’Reilly, Martin Smith and friends.
The second Nyah weekend from Friday 14th to Tuesday 18th March will see the Widow’s Bar, Belturbet host a Full Traditional Irish line-up of events. The new Upstairs Folk Club at the Widow’s provides a perfect venue in which to see great musicians and singers in an intimate setting. Under the ownership of Brendan and Ailish Fay, the Widow’s has been hosting traditional sessions for eight years. Tuesdays and Sundays are trad nights in the downstairs bar, while Brendan has created a lovely performance space for special concerts upstairs, which includes a state-of-the-art sound system under the direction of Fintan McManus .
Friday 14th March
11.00pm - WilloS’ Concert, Widow’s Bar, Belturbet, Upstairs Folk Club. WilloS’, formerly known as Will o’ the Wisp are a five-piece band from Italy led by Belfast fiddler Stephanie Martin and featuring flute, tin-whistle, guitar, bouzouki bodhran and more, with songs from Italian lass Simona Lippi — many “as Gaeilge”!
Saturday 15th march
11.00pm - WilloS’ Concert, Don Smith’s Lounge, Cootehill. The Italian Irish traditional five-piece bring their show to Cootehill, performing in Don Smith’s, Bridge Street, another excellent venue for those wishing to experience top musicians “up close”.
Sunday 16th March
10.00pm -  Euro Ceol Monster Session, Widow’s Bar, Belturbet, downstairs lounge.
Monday 17th March
1.00pm – Six-hour St Patrick’s Day Session, Farnham Arms Hotel, Cavan. Music, song and dance with Cavan CCE, Euro Ceol, Fermanagh musicians and Seamus Fay.
8.00pm - Andy Irvine Concert (SOLD OUT),Widow’s Belturbet, Upstairs Folk Club, St Patrick’s Night, doors open at 7.25pm. The legendary singer, bouzouki, mandolin and harmonica player of Planxty and Patrick Street fame visits the Belturbet venue for the second time in two years, with Cavan’s Paul Jermyn appearing as a special guest support act.
10.00pm - Session in Widow’s Bar, downstairs lounge ends the night, with Ton a Ceoil, featuring Gary Cosgrove, Billy Murray, Gerry McBreen and a host of friends.
Tuesday 18th March
8.00pm - Andy Irvine Concert, Widow’s Belturbet, Upstairs Folk Club. Andy has been hailed as “a tradition in himself”, and it’s small wonder this second show had to be added due to public demand. Expect a night of incredible musicianship, with all the warmth and camaraderie shown when he was last at the Widow’s in 2006. Again, the special guest is Paul Jermyn, Cavan’s own troubadour. This second show will also feature songs from Cavan’s Aoife Murray. MC for both Irvine concerts is Mickey McDonnell. Doors open at 7.25pm, cover charge is €20, and tickets can be booked from Brendan Fay at 049 952 2274.
10.00pm - Session in Widow’s Bar, downstairs lounge with regular Tuesday night session musicians.
Friday 28th March
9.00pm - Music Recital in the Wesleyan Chapel Arts, Cultural and Tourism Centre, Bailieboro, with fiddler Antoin Mac Gabhann, the “master musician of Mullahoran”, lilter Seamus Fay, “king of the lilters, bodhran and bones expert Trevor Bury and Cavan’s up and coming harp playing sensation Kavan Donohoe, three times Granard Harp Festival winner.
Saturday 29th March
Nyah World Music & Celtic Music Night takes place in the Backyard Arts Centre, Moynehall, Cavan Town with the internationally acclaimed Kerekes, from Hungary, to headline. Formed in 1995, Kerekes soon became a well-known dance-house band across Hungary. Named as “Ambassadors of Culture for the European Year of Intercultural Dialogue” earlier this year, they perform what’s now known as “Magyar Funk”, a special mixture of Hungarian, Romanian, Serbian and Turkish folk music.
Nyah 2008 continues through April and May with even more big-name acts — so keep the eyes open and ears to the ground to keep up with all that’s happening!
Please visit www.cavanmusic for information about Nyah events in County Cavan.
For further details about how you can help the Nyah Music for All Series with Sponsorship, Contact Terry Crowe 086 1591354  Martin Donohoe 086 2342270.
The Nyah Arts Festival Programme 2008 is subsidised by the Arts Council, Cavan Co Council, Cavan Arts Office, Failte Ireland, Wrangler Footwear, Riverfront Hotel, Virginia, Widows Bar, Comhaltas, Northern Sound Radio, Supervalu, Fox’s Footwear,, Cavan Tourism, Farnham Arms Hotel, Cavan 1 Hour Kodak Express, Crowe’s Corner Bar, Ramor Theatre, Backyard Arts Centre. Don Smith’s Bar, Supervalu, Cavan. The Nyah acknowledges its grateful thanks for this support and all those others who have provided generous support over the years.

Permalink - Posted: February 15, 2008 at 10:37 am