200 young fiddlers to meet masters at NAFCo Youth Camp

Tom McConville
Tom McConville

More than 200 young musicians from Ireland, Scotland, Sweden and Canada will converge on Derry next month to take part in the Youth Camp organised as part of the North Atlantic Fiddle Convention (27th June - 1st July).

A total of sixteen groups from the four countries have signed up for a series of workshops taken by an international selection of master fiddle players. Many of the young fiddle students will also be involved in performing a new work by Belfast composer and musician Neil Martin which has been specially-commissioned for NAFCo as part of the Youth Camp, which is funded by the NI Arts Council.

Fermanagh fiddle player Maggie Maguire, a former music student at the Magee campus who’s helped to organise the Youth Camp, says there’s been a great response to it and places quickly filled up.

“The interest and demand has been huge and we’ve actually had to turn people away as the Youth Camp has been over-subscribed,” she says. “This is the first time NAFCo has been held in Ireland and the interest across the island and internationally has been brilliant.”

Fiddlers taking the workshops include familiar names from folk festivals across the world, such as Scotland’s Paul Anderson, Troy MacGillivray and Shane Cook from Canada, the renowned Dundalk fiddle player Gerry O’Connor, Elend Viken from Norway, Andrea Beaton from Cape Breton, Anna Wendy Stevenson and a ‘son of Buncrana’, Simon Bradley, who’s now living off the Scottish coast.

Budding fiddlers around the North West haven’t been left out. There’s a NAFCo Fiddle School for young and even not-so-young fiddlers who are keen to learn. One of the organisers, Tara Connaghan, the well-known fiddler from Glenties, says they’re also expecting a big response to the school.

“We’ve got top-class tutors involved here as well, including Pete Cooper and Amy Geddes from Scotland, Oisin MacDiarmada from Sligo, who plays with the group Teada, and Brendan Hendry from Bellaghy. We’re able to cater for beginner, intermediate and advanced levels.”

There are also classes for accompanists on guitar, bouzouki and piano, with Martin McDonald from Scotland on hand to pass on his skills. Liz Doherty, NAFCo director, said bringing on the young players is key to handing on the tradition.

“Young people have so many different opportunities these days so it’s important to give them opportunities first and foremost to develop their enthusiasm for playing and for the music. Encountering these exceptional players and teachers, as well as enjoying all the concerts and sessions that are part of NAFCo, can only help stimulate their interest - and ours!”

Fiddle School classes cost £15.00 per day or £70.00 for Wednesday to Sunday inclusive and booking for the NAFCo Fiddle School is via the website at www.nafco2012.com and through the office at (028) 71 375134.

One significant aspect of the Youth Camp will be the daily Alexander Technique workshops given by fiddle player Tom McConville. The Alexander Technique is designed to improve musicians’ postures and avoid possible physical damage that might occur over long hours of playing and practise.

The new piece of music by Neil Martin is called “100 Fiddlers @ 50 degrees North” and will be premiered as part of the Famiy Day “Fiddles on the Foyle” event on Saturday 30th June, timed to co-incide with the Clipper celebrations.

Outreach in Inishowen

In Inishowen and elsewhere in Donegal musicians can meet with some of the high profile NAFCo players in a series of NAFCo Community Outreach performances and workshops which are part of the Youth Heritage and Cultural Training Programme funded by the Donegal Local Development Company and Inishowen Development Partnership under the Leader Rural Development Programme.

On Monday June 25th in McGrory’s, Culdaff the exciting five piece fiddle band from Norway, Majorstuen, will engage with local musicians and offer insights into their approach to music. Lau from Scotland will be in Moville on Wednesday 27th June, while Cathal Hayden, Tola Custy and Desi Donnelly of the group Blazing Bows will present a programme in Buncrana on the 28th. Troy MacGillivray and his trio will be in Ballyshannnon on Friday 29th while fellow Canadian Pierre Schyrer will be in Culdaff at lunchtime on Saturday 30th.

The Balor Theatre in Ballybofey will host Cape Breton women Andrea Beaton, Janine Randall, Dawn and Margie Beaton on Saturday 30th.

Kevin Doherty of Four Men and a Dog will present a songwriting workshop in The Coffee Cup, Buncrana, at 3pm on Sunday 1st July.

The three talented Danish women that make up the band Fiolministeriet, which translates unsurprisingly as The Ministery of the Fiddle, will also present a workshop in Buncrana on July 1st.

With session trails planned and informal music-making sure to be high on many agendas, there will be plenty of chances for swopping tunes, learning and absorbing music and tips or for just simply letting the music sweep over you over the course of the North Atlantic Fiddle Convention!