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03 Dec 2021

Laois hosts world's only festival of pipes and harps

Laois hosts world's only festival of pipes and harps

Music Generation Laois harpist. Picture: Alf Harvey

The spirit of Paddy Moloney is sure to be looking down over Laois this month when the only harp and pipe festival in the world takes place in the county.

Music Generation Laois’ annual Tionól for harp and pipes takes place on October 29, 30 and 31 in the county where the famous leader of The Chieftains was rooted.

Paddy’s parents both hailed from Laois where they were steeped in the local traditional music scene. Paddy, who died in October, would go on to lead The Chieftains as the group’s Uileann pipe player. He referred to his family ties to Laois on many occasions during his career so it’s perhaps fitting that the county hosts such a unique festival in the month of his death. 

This year’s event includes a range of workshops with well-known musicians, and young people from all over Ireland will be in attendance.

Workshops take place in Laois Offaly ETB’s Dunamase College Campus in Tower Hill, with a line-up that includes Gradam Ceoil winner Michael Rooney on harp and world -renowned Scottish harper Catriona McKay. 

Harp workshops also include Music Generation Laois’ own Siobhan Buckley, Grainne Hambly and William Jackson from Mayo, Deirdre Ní Bhuachalla from Louth, Jill Devlin from Waterford and Niamh O’Brien from Clare.

Pipers teaching at this year’s Tionól include, the well-known Cavan musician Pádraig McGovern, Leonard Barry from Kerry, and local pipers Joseph Byrne and Alain Carroll. 

James Mahon, uilleann piper with Irish supergroup Kila will also be part of Tionól, and also returning to Tionòl is Donegal-based piper Paul Harrigan. 

Harpers and pipers can sign up to a weekend of workshops, by contacting Music Generation Laois on 057 8681782 or email mgl@loetb.ie. Classes are available for recent beginners to advanced students – classes are available in-person or online. Details are on https://www.musicgenerationlaois.ie/tionol-21/  with the online schedule available upon request. 

A free live-streamed event from The Malt House, Stradbally will be screened on the Music Generation Laois facebook page at 8pm on Saturday 30 October with harpers, pipers and a range of special guests. 

A final Tionól Closing Party, free of charge, will take place in Andy Bergin’s pub on Main Street, Portlaoise at 7pm on Sunday and all are welcome to attend. This event will feature Catriona McKay (harp), Chris Stout (fiddle) and Leonard Barry (pipes), fancy dress please for this event to celebrate Halloween.

Speaking ahead of the event,  Rosa Flannery, Music Development Officer with Music Generation Laois commented: ‘We are delighted to bring Tionól back to Laois in-person in 2021, now in it’s 6th year, we delivered the programme primarily online in 2020, so it's just so wonderful to be able to come back together in person, and give young people this opportunity to play music and develop their musical skills, meet new people, make friends,” she said. 

In 2021, young people from Donegal, Mayo, Sligo, Louth, Waterford, Wicklow, Wexford, Clare, Tipperary and Laois are expected to take part.

Some students will attend online, and some in-person, so there is something for everyone. 

Music Generation Laois’ Annual Tionól is funded by the Music Generation/Arts Council Partnership Creativity and Collaboration Fund. 

Music Generation is Ireland’s National Music Education Programme, initiated by Music Network and Co-funded by U2, The Ireland Funds, and the Department of Education. Locally Music Generation Laois is part of Laois Offaly ETB and supported by Laois County Council.

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