Weekend Celebrating the Life and Work of Seán Corcoran to Take Place in Drogheda
A weekend celebrating the life and work of the late singer and collector Seán Corcoran will take place on 8–10 September in Drogheda, Co. Louth.
The Seán Corcoran Series will bring together the various elements that informed his life in Irish traditional music and song, including performance, broadcasting, academia and field work. The weekend, organised by his daughter Rósa Corcoran, will feature over 25 musicians, singers, writers, dancers and artists across five venues with two main concerts.
Concerts, sessions and workshops
The weekend will be launched by Cathal Goan at the Highlanes Gallery in Drogheda at 6.45pm on Friday, and this will be followed by a concert by Andy Irvine and Dónal Lunny at the Droichead Arts Centre at 8pm. Irvine will play Corcoran’s bouzouki, which was originally presented to the Planxty singer by the collector and philanthropist Diane Guggenheim and later given to Corcoran. The instrument has been specially restored for the series by luthier Frank Tate. There will also be a session with fiddle player Edel McWeeney and flute player Harry Bradley at Sarsfields Bar on Friday evening.
On Saturday at both Scoil Aonghusa and the Barbican Centre from 10am to 12pm there will be traditional music and sean-nós dance workshops with Breda Keville (fiddle), Colm Naughton (banjo and mandolin), Cormac Cannon (uilleann pipes), Aoife Kelly (concertina), Niall Hackett (bouzouki), Harry Bradley (flute), and Róisín Ní Mháinín (sean-nós dance).
Also on Saturday from 10am to 3pm, there will be a Bread and Roses Community Fair in the grounds of St Peter’s Church of Ireland with food, music, talks, art workshops and a Try the Pipes event with Na Píobairí Uilleann and pipers Muireann Ní Shé and Cormac Cannon. From 2pm to 3.30pm at the Droichead Arts Centre there will be an Irish bouzouki and stringed instrument workshop with Tate.
Singing session and Guth na nDaoine concert
A singing session will take place on Saturday at Sarsfields Bar from 4pm to 6pm, and that evening the main event will be the Guth na nDaoine / The Voice of the People concert at St Peter’s Church of Ireland with Radie Peat from Lankum, Harry Bradley, Róisín Ní Mhainín, Stephen Rea, John Banville, Breda Keville, Jesse Smith, Maighread and Tríona Ní Dhomhnaill, Libby McCrohan, Neil Martin, Gerry O’Connor and more.
The weekend will end with a double-decker bus tour of Drogheda on Sunday morning at 10.45am with community historian Brendan Matthews and guest artists Rachel Joynt, Gerry Cullen and Libby McCrohan. Finally, at 2pm there will be a Louth foraged lunch, at a location to be announced.
A life in song
Corcoran grew up in Clogherhead and Drogheda in Louth. He began singing at Feis Ceoil competitions and while still at school started to seek out local traditional singers. In the 1960s, he was a member of The Rakish Paddies with Mick Moloney and Paul Brady. From c. 1970, Corcoran worked as a collector for Breandán Breathnach and also assisted with the music journal Ceol. With Niall Fennell, Dave Smith and Tom Crean he was a member of the vocal group The Press Gang. In 1977, with Eddie Clarke, Maeve Donnelly and Mairéad Ní Dhomhnaill, he released the album Sailing into Walpole’s Marsh. In the late 1970s he was also the director of Féile na Bóinne, the Drogheda folk music festival.
Corcoran went on to study ethnomusicology with John Blacking at Queen’s University Belfast and from 1979 worked as a music collector for the Arts Council of Northern Ireland. He also collected for the Irish Traditional Music Archive from 1994 until 2001.
Corcoran formed the band Cran with flute-player Desi Wilkinson and uilleann piper and cellist Neil Martin and they released their debut album The Crooked Stair in 1995. Martin was then succeeded by piper Ronan Browne and the group went on to release four more albums – Black Black Black (1998), Lover’s Ghost (2000), Music from the Edge of the World (2002) and Dally & Stray (2014). In recent years, Corcoran researched and presented a number of television and radio documentaries, including Na Bailitheoirí Ceoil for TG4. In 2012, he released a recording with Gerry Cullen and Donal Maguire titled Louth Mouths from Drogheda. He lectured in Irish music at Mary Immaculate College in Limerick and was a founding member and former chair of the Old Drogheda Society. He died aged 74 on 3 May 2021.
Commenting on the weekend, writer John Banville said:
Seán Corcoran was, and indeed remains, a major figure in Irish culture. As a performer, scholar, and administrator, he did much to preserve and promote our rich heritage of folk music. In the modern electronic age, with so much material so easily available online, the nurturing of a living tradition is all the more vital. In this regard, Seán’s legacy is precious and still vividly present, two years after his death. His daughter, Rósa, carries on the flame, and no one could be better qualified than she to organise a series in his honour.
For further details and tickets for all events, visit https://seancorcoranseries.com
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Published on 23 August 2023