Musical weekend for John

Advanced fiddle tutor Teresa Clarke with students  at the John Kennedy Weekend in Ballycastle
Advanced fiddle tutor Teresa Clarke with students at the John Kennedy Weekend in Ballycastle

Local music legend John Kennedy has been honoured at a weekend of music and culture in Ballycastle.

Hosted by the local Comhaltas group, the event was held in recognition of “the bard of Cullybackey’s” contribution to the preservation, performance and teaching of Irish traditional music across the religious divide over 50 years.

Kennedy, now in his 89th year, is a multi-instrumentalist, composer and singer, who is accomplished on a range of instruments, including the flute, accordion, tin whistle, fife and fiddle, and is as at home playing in a band on the 12 July as he is competing in the All-Ireland Fleadh.

John taught both community marching bands as well as Comhaltas branches over the past 50 years, and his commitment and love of music has brought closer engagement across the Irish and Ulster-Scots traditions, teaching a new generation of musicians about their shared culture.

A packed Ramoan Parish Centre heard testimonials from former students of John Kennedy, many of whom who have gone on to win All-Ireland medals, including former All-Ireland singing champion, Mairéad Smalls.

The centre-piece of the event was the presentation of a Comhaltas Life-time Achievement Award to John by Ulster Council Chairperson Éamonn Graham, followed by a plaque by Catherine Sands on behalf of members of the local Ballycastle Comhaltas.

The weekend included a music taster event for pupil’s of Cross and Passion College and Ballycastle High School, through which members of Comhaltas provided an introduction to the wide variety of rhythms used in traditional music.

Other events included a singing workshop as well as céilí dancing workshops, a talk on the role of Protestants in preserving Irish Traditional Music, as well as music workshops at St Patrick’s and St Bridget’s Primary School on flute, harp, uillean pipes,fiddle and traditional singing.

The organisers wish to acknowledge the support from the funders The Executive Office, Arts Council Northern Ireland Lottery Fund, and Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann through its C.E.O.L. and Meitheall programmes.