Folk music academics on way for NAFCo conference

Flute-player and academic Dr Fintan Vallely, pictured here in the Princess Grace Library in Monaco, is convenor of the academic conference at Magee campus being held as part of the North Atlantic Fiddle Convention next month.
Flute-player and academic Dr Fintan Vallely, pictured here in the Princess Grace Library in Monaco, is convenor of the academic conference at Magee campus being held as part of the North Atlantic Fiddle Convention next month.

Leading academics in the field of folk music around the world are headed for Derry next month to take part in the conference that’s part of NAFCo 2012, the North Atlantic Fiddle Convention.

The conference will be based at the University of Ulster campus at Magee. More than 80 speakers will present papers and talks on aspects of fiddle music and will address a gathering of some of the world’s leading ethnomusicologists, folklorists, ethnochoreographers, fiddle players and dancers.

About 30 of the speakers are from Ireland and the rest are from a whole range of countries, including Scotland, England, Spain, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, USA, Canada and Australia.

The academic convenor of the conference is Dr Fintan Vallely, an Armagh flute-player who edited the highly-regarded ‘Companion to Irish Traditional Music’.

Dr Vallely told the Journal; “It’s a wonderful showcase opportunity for Derry and Donegal to be bringing so many international commentators and writers who concern themselves with cultural matters.

“The rich musical heritage that the North West has makes it particularly appropriate to bring this internation convention to this region. The enthusiasm with which people greeted the news that Derry and the University of Ulster was to be the 2012 NAFCo destination has resulted in us having more people than ever at NAFco signed up to give papers and be involved over the course of the five days the event will run”.

The Conference title is “From Dancing to Listening”.

Dr Vallely said this reflects the challenges and changes facing traditional musics all over the globe as its purpose changes with the times.

“The music is moving from being a simple part of social interaction and entertainment to music for listening to. There’s a lot of change happening and that means there’s plenty of scope for debate and discussion there.”

Dance Research Forum Ireland will also be convening their fourth international conference over the course of NAFCo and they will be among those meeting in Magee during the last week of June.

Another interesting aspect of NAFCo will be the opportunity it will afford audiences to hear well-known fiddle players talk about their music and their lives in a series of afternoon discussions entitled “Fiddle Talks”, presented in the Craft Village, Waterloo Street by the Cork based fiddle player and author, Matt Cranitch.

Matt was a member of Na Fili, the pioneering traditional music group that featured Derryman, Tomás Ó Canainn.

Among those taking part in Fiddle Talks will be Martin Hayes, Paddy Glackin, Pierre Schyrer from Canada, Alasdair Fraser the well-known Scottish fiddle maestro, and Paddy Cronin from Kerry, who played for many years in America. Andrea Beaton from Cape Breton in Canada will also talk to Matt, and London-born fiddle player John Carty and Meath-based Anton MacGabhann complete the line up.

The NAFCo keynote address will be delivered by one of the foremost experts on Bluegrass and other forms of north American music, Neil Rosenberg, Professor Emeritus at Memorial College, Newfoundland, Canada. He is the author of ‘Bluegrass - A History’, widely regarded as the definitive study on the music.

Professor Rosenberg will base his address on what he has learned from his involvement in fiddle music, dancing, and listening over a lifetime. This he observes through the eyes of his various roles in music - as performer, spectator, promoter, folklorist, historian and ethnomusicologist.

NAFCo also features a host of concerts and sessions in Derry, Buncrana, Letterkenny and elsewhere. More details on http://www.nafco2012.com/