The Tulla at Fifty

by John O'Regan

The legendary Co Clare band celebrate their 50th birthday this summer with a performance at the Feakle Festival and a new CD in the autumn

To have one major ceili band in a county is recommendation enough of the strength of traditional music in the area, but Clare has proven itself a hotbed with both the Tulla and the Kilfenora Ceili bands making their own legends. The Tulla Ceili Band's half century is celebrated with a gala weekend of music in Tulla itself, and also an appearance at the Feakle festival of traditional music and the autumn release of a new album on Green Linnet records.

The roots of the Tulla Ceili Band go back to its formation in 1946, when Teresa Tubridy, a local pianist, and Bert McNulty a garda stationed there, formed the band. P.J. Hayes an original line up member, recalls their foundation.

"Teresa's sister, Mrs Cummins, lived on the Ennis Road, and she was very much involved in music as well. She asked Teresa could she put a band together to compete at Feile Luimni and that's how the Tulla Ceili Band came to be."

Their initial repertoire came very much from local sources. "Some of the tunes would be local tunes. We got a share of them from Paddy Canny's father and local musicians and of course Joe Cooley had a few Galway tunes as well. Since their inception, names like those heretofore mentioned, also fiddler Michael Murphy, drummer Martin Garrihy, accordionists Matty Ryan, Paddy McNamara and Sean Conway, pianist George Byrt, flautists J.C. Talty and Peter O'Loughlin and singers Martin Ryan and Michael Whyte have all passed through the line up."

Currently the band stands as a ten member line up for the new album. "J. J. Conway's with us. He joined the band around ten years ago - a Kilfenora man, Martin my son plays on the CD and Francie Donnelan and his son and myself, we are the four fiddle players, J.J. Conway and a young girl called Jennifer Lenihan are the flute players, Sean Donnelly a Galwayman, and Michael McKee are the accordion players and Michael Flanagan on the drums and Jim Colley on the piano."

The forthcoming 50th anniversary album was recorded not in a studio but in Pepper's Bar in Feakle earlier this year. The setting was natural and relaxed as was the recording itself. "We just sat around the pub and played. The natural atmosphere was perfectly conducive to the music recorded." Clare music has always been possessed of a natural warmth and conviviality. That has come across on their recordings and their live appearance whether here or on their trips to England, and their five visits to the USA . Their music has been timeless from the very start and is still very much so.