As I was driving to Letterkenny from Muff yesterday evening I knew that I was about to witness a very special night of music. The elite of Irish female musicians were about to play Donegal and to say it would be a ‘treat’ would be such an understatement. On arrival at The Clanree Hotel I was delighted to see such a great mix of people. Young and old alike were in the audience awaiting the onset of this music event.
Sharon Shannon, Mary Coughlan and Frances Black are the core of Ireland’s leading female performers. All 3 have been part of the historical ‘A Woman’s Heart’ project and each an outstanding artist in their own right. Alongside Donegal’s The Henry Girls, Earagail Arts Festival was about to present a magical evening of music tradition!
At approximately 8.20pm, The Henry Girls came on stage. Lorna, Joeleen and Karen are firmly established as one of Ireland’s best folk exports, with regular tours in the USA and Europe promoting their own brand of roots and traditional tinged Donegal music. They didn’t disappoint last night. They started their set with ‘Silver Moon’. And from here it was just a string of rapturous folk music songs. The girls said they felt like the ‘ball boys coming onto the pitch with the players in the World Cup’, in relation to them being first on stage prior to Frances Black, Mary Coughlan and Sharon Shannon. The Letterkenny audience ensured the girls with the applause that they were equally deserving to be sharing this stage with the three up coming ladies.
Mary Coughlan came on stage around 9.10pm. This was the lady I most wanted to hear. Coughlan is one of Ireland’s best jazz/blues singers ever to come from these shores. She is unique in her husky voice and can
produce a singing masterpiece with little effort. She showed this last night. Mary Coughlan stole the show for me. She belted some of her greatest works including ‘Look out World I’m about to be Bad’, and ‘Wayward Man’ to the Letterkenny audience. And she didn’t forget the current music crisis in Ireland; ‘Are you all going to Garth Brooks? What the fuck is that about?’ she asked. Letterkenny didn’t need Garth Brooks. This town was currently experiencing music heaven. And it was far from over.
10pm saw Frances Black come onto the Letterkenny stage. Donegal ‘is a special place for me’ she said. ‘My Dad grew up on Rathlin Island, which you can see from Malin Head’. Black told the story of her father and her memories of returning to Rathlin as a child. Her love of Rathlin and her father were very clear in her choice of songs. Black had the audience singing and swaying to her music. This audience could
have been at Carnegie Hall, The Royal Albert Hall or even Sydney Opera House. But we were seated in The Clanree Hotel, Letterkenny!
Sharon Shannon, former member of The Waterboys, platinum-selling, multi-instrumentalist blew the Donegal audience away with her magical musical set. From start to finish, it was non-stop music extravaganza. If you weren’t tapping your feet, clapping your hands, then you certainly weren’t in The Clanree Hotel! It really was a taste of musical heaven.
The night finished off in spectacular style. The Henry Girls, Mary Coughlan, Frances Black and Sharon Shannon sang ‘A Woman’s Heart’ and quite literally blew everyone away. This was not just a special night, this was something unique in Donegal’s musical memories. This night will be remembered for many years to come. Earagail Arts Festival thank you for making a night of music into a memory of a lifetime.
There’s so very much more happening over the coming two weeks at Earagail Arts Festival. Just check out http://www.eaf.ie and you’ll find something for everyone.