Evening Céilí – Tulla Céilí Band
✦ CECIL SHARP HOUSE
2 Regent’s Park Road, London NW1 7AY – click for map
29th Oct 2016
IMDL ticket booth here: https://www.musicglue.com/irish-music-and-dance-in-london-imdl/
Grand Céilí in memory of Marion Savage
Sponsored by the John Griffin Foundation
The latest incarnation of the legendary Tulla Céilí Band features Mark Donnellan (fiddle), Martin Glynn (flute), Jennifer Lenihan (flute), Brian Donnellan (concertina), Charlie Harris (accordion), Michael McKee (accordion), Benny O’Connor (drums) and Jim Corry (piano).
The Tulla Céilí Band – 70 years and still going strong
By Chris Keane and Laurie Harper
We are delighted that our céilís this year will feature dancing to arguably the greatest of the céilí bands, the mighty Tulla Céilí Band.
Celebrating its 70th anniversary this year, the Tulla has, remarkably, been in continuous existence since 1946, managing to survive when others struggled and were forced either to disband or take a break from playing. During its long history, the membership of the band has included many iconic and legendary musicians.
The Tulla’s origins lie in the Ballinahinch Céilí Band, from East Clare. In 1946, several musicians, including Theresea Tubridy, Paddy Canny, P.J Hayes, Bert McNulty and Mrs Cummins, met to discuss forming a band. Legend has it that the conversations took place in Minogues Bar, in Tulla, Co. Clare. The band’s inaugural performance took place in March 1946 at a céilí band competition in Limerick City, where it competed as the St Patrick’s Amateur Band Tulla.
Featuring fiddlers Paddy Canny and P.J. Hayes, pianist Teresa Tubridy, legendary accordion player Joe Cooley, Aggy Whyte and flute players Paddy and Jim O’Donohue, the band placed first; an auspicious start. Subsequently, Sean Reid from Donegal joined them and they went on to win the Oireachtas Na Momhann céilí band competition, in Cork.
In 1948, Joe Cooley left for England and his place as accordion player was taken by the great Paddy O’ Brien, from Tipperary, whilst the band also acquired its first drummer, Jack Keane, from Clarecastle.
The 1950s saw the beginnings and burgeoning of céilí band competitions and the Tulla began its great rivalry with the Kilfenora Céilí Band. It enjoyed tremendous success, winning its first All-Ireland title at the Fleadh Cheoil in 1957, in Dungarvan, losing by the slimmest of margins – half a point – to the Kilfenora in 1958 and winning again in 1960, in Boyle.
During the late 1950s, the band toured Britain and Ireland and in 1958, made its first visit to the USA, where P.J. Hayes, Jack Shaugnessy, Dr. Bill Loughnane, Martin Mulhaire, Michael Preston, Sean Reid, Seamus Cooley and Jack Keane gave a memorable performance at Carnegie Hall on St. Patrick’s Day.
In the 1960s, the band added a vocalist, Martin Vaughan from Miltown Malbay, to its line-up and its profile was further raised by its recordings with him for EMI, culminating in 1970 with The Claddagh Ring. During the 60s, Mattie Ryan, from Tulla, joined as accordion player and was to remain with the band until 1977.
In 1964, RTÉ commenced its famous ‘Club Céilí’ broadcasts and the Tulla, comprising Peader O’Loughlin, P.J Hayes, J.C Talty, Paddy Canny, Sean Reid, Mattie Ryan, George Byrt and Martin Garrihy, featured regularly.
In the 1970s, the band celebrated its 25th anniversary with the release of its third album, Sweetheart in the Spring. During that time, they were joined on drums by Michael Patsy Flanagan, who was to remain with them for more than 25 years.
During the 1980s, the band toured Ireland and Britain regularly and made three visits to the USA, in 1982, ‘84 and ’86, releasing its 40th anniversary CD for Claddagh Records in 1986.
The 1990s was a significant decade for the Tulla. In 1995, Clare won the All Ireland Hurling Championship for the first time in 81 years and the Tulla Céilí Band, fittingly, was chosen to play at the victory party at the Berkeley Court Hotel in Dublin and at the celebration which was held for the winning team at Shannon Airport on its return from Croke Park.
1986 saw the band celebrating its half century and Muintir an Chláir, The Clare Association, Dublin, conferred its Clare Person of the Year award on P.J Hayes in recognition of his leadership of the Tulla over 50 years.
The release of the band’s 50th anniversary CD took place on the Late Late Show, with a live broadcast from Peppers Pub, in Feakle. The band followed this with a visit to Aras An Uachtarain, to be honoured by then President of Ireland, Mary Robinson.
In 1997, the band toured the USA for the seventh time, where P.J Hayes was made a Freeman of the City of New York by Mayor Rudy Giuliani. In 1998, a 50 year history of the Tulla Céilí Band was published, whilst P.J accepted the Entertainers of the Year award on behalf of the band at the National Concert Hall in Dublin.
One cannot help but wonder what those musicians who met in 1946 would have thought had they known what their conversation about forming a band was to lead to…
The 2000s ushered in a period of profound change. In 2001, its leader and great champion, P.J Hayes, passed away at his home in Maghera, Co Clare. For many bands, this might have signified the end, but the Tulla, thankfully, vowed to ensure the tradition he had worked so hard to create would endure.
P.J’s son, Martin (no slouch on the fiddle himself…) stepped into the breach and played with the band as often as his own performing schedule would permit, whilst current band leader, fiddler Mark Donnellan, took his late father’s place and ensured the music would continue.
2006 saw the launch of the 60th anniversary CD in Feakle. In the following year, the band undertook a Caribbean cruise, whilst Martin Hayes was named Traditional Musician of the Year by TG4. At the end of the decade, the band performed at the Volvo Ocean Yacht Race in Galway and at the Electric Picnic Festival in Laois.
The Tulla Céilí Band paid its first visit to Return to Camden Town in 2012. In 2013, it performed at the Temple Bar Trad Fest, supported Martin Hayes at Bantry House Masters of Tradition in 2013 and was invited for the second time to Aras An Uachtarain, to be honoured by President Michael D. Higgins.
Coming right up to date, 2016 saw the release of the band’s 70th anniversary CD in Feakle, celebrated via a live broadcast on RTÉ’s ‘Céilí House’ and a performance at Dublin’s National Concert Hall. In the summer of 2016, the Fleadh Cheoil na h’Éireann returned to Ennis and the band performed extensively throughout the 10 days of the event.
The present members of the band hail from Tulla, Maghera, Kilmurry, Kilfenora, Labane, Gort, Galway and Dublin. There is no doubt, however, that the music remains true to the spirit of the original band, founded as a result of that conversation in Minogue’s Bar all those years ago.