Cló Iar-Chonnachta; 75 minutes; 2000


Apart from being extremely good value, Cumar reminds us of the extraordinary worth of the Cló-Iar Chonnachta label. Since its establishment in the early 1980s Inverin-based CIC has released a wealth of material largely drawn from Ireland’s Irish-speaking regions. To be sure, some of the labels more pop-oriented album and those exhibiting that extraordinary Connemara adaptation of Country and Western might not be to everybody’s taste, but when it comes to releasing the ‘pure drop’, then CIC’s up there with the best. 


According to my dictionary, ‘cumar’ can mean ‘a ravine’, so I am indebted to the anonymous author of the liner notes for the information that the word can also refer to a confluence of rivers ‘and retains other older connotations of an assembly or meeting place’. The word has also been chosen as the title of an ‘annual week-long school of indigenous arts for young people’ and this album features a splendid selection of those who appeared in the three concerts during Cumar 1999.


Those concerts also featured musicians such as Mary Bergin, Johnny Connolly, Noel Hill, Gerry O’Connor and the late Eithne Ní Uallacháin, though none of them are featured here. Instead, the Cumar album is largely devoted to the younger set, though there’s still a place for older singers such as Sarah Ghriallais and Meaití Jó Sheamuis Ó Fátharta and teachers such as the flute-player Siobhán Ní Chonaráin.


The rest is a joyful celebration of youthful (and unaccompanied) talent and almost a who’s who of young musical Ireland. Several of the musicians, such as flute player June Ní Chormaic, fiddlers Oisín Mac Diarmada and Ciarán Ó Raghallaigh, and harper Micheál Ó Ruanaigh, have since become very well-known. However, there are plenty of less familiar gems in this collection, including the wonderfully talented singer Mairéad Ní Fhlatharta and the equally skilled Ciarán Ó Concheanainn – the latter’s rendition of An Tréigean is simply spine-tingling in its intensity.


Add to that bundle the resonant flute of  Sarah-Jane Woods and Tracey Ní Shúilleabháin’s almost ghostly-sounding fiddle and Cumar amounts to a very pleasant brew indeed. There is also one oddity in the shape of Pádraig Ó Mianáin from Portstewart, County Derry, though such comment is not intended to be personal and, rather, refers to the fact that he plays the jigs Kitty, Move Over and Paddy Fahy’s on a three-row (A/D/G) button accordion. Now, outside of a Seán McGuire concert, when was the last time you saw one of those monsters?


Geoff Wallis


23nd September, 2004


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