Welcome to the Inishowen Traditional Singers’ Circle!
ITSC hosts monthly singing sessions alternating between two bars in Clonmany, Co. Donegal: the North Pole Bar, Drumfries, and McFeeley’s Bar, Clonmany. They take place on the second Friday of each month during the months of January – June, and September – December. These are free, open, sociable gatherings with anyone welcome to sing any song of their choosing. We are always delighted to meet new singers, and listeners. ITSC especially welcomes anyone who might be nervous or new to singing in company – we’ve all been there and are there to help you enjoy a good night among friends.
Also known as the ‘Inishowen Singing Weekend’, this is our annual gathering of traditional singers from around the world. In existence since 1990, it is now the longest running festival of traditional singing on the island of Ireland.
Each March, guests are invited to join local singers to celebrate the rich singing tradition of Inishowen and that of other song communities both in Ireland and internationally. Singers and listeners are offered a packed programme of concerts, talks, workshops, guided tour, and lots of formal/informal singing sessions. The festival is based in the Ballyliffin Hotel in the village of Ballyliffin.
ITSC offers a Bursary Scheme to younger singers (18-25) or singers who are studying traditional singing/music to attend and take part in the festival, should funding allow. They are provided with free registration to attend all events and shared accommodation with other Bursary holders. If you are interested in a Bursary to the Inishowen Singing Weekend, please contact us.
The festival is supported by The Arts Council of Ireland, Donegal County Council, local businesses and those who attend and register at events.
The Inishowen Song Project
In 2012-13, the Inishowen Traditional Singers’ Circle secured funding from Inishowen Development Partnership to fund a collaborative project with the Irish Traditional Music Archive (ITMA) to host multimedia song material from Inishowen on the ITMA website. The free online project contains approximately 2000 items: digital sound and video recordings, books, photographs, transcriptions of song texts, and metadata catalogue information. The majority of the recordings come from field recordings made by Jimmy McBride, and have been made freely accessible to listen and view online thanks to the generosity of singers and their families.
While the original collection of songs and singers continues to remain accessible via the Irish Traditional Music Archive, unfortunately we can no longer edit or add new material. Taking this as opportunity, the ITSC is now committed to revamping the Inishowen Song Project. A group of 15 volunteers has been working during lockdown to edit and improve the existing transcriptions and information.
We are currently fundraising and exploring funding options to finance the redesign and development of a new Inishowen Song Project website. The new site will feature existing material, new audio-visual recordings, including recordings from the Inishowen Singing Weekend, updated information on songs and singers and a digital map. If you are interested in supporting our fundraising for the revamp of the Inishowen Song Project, please contact ITSC or make a donation here.
In the meantime, keep listening and learning to the existing wonderful collection accessible at the Irish Traditional Music Archive.
One of our most enjoyable and popular events at the Singing Weekend, and occasionally during the year are Song Tours. At the annual festival, local singer Colm Toland leads a lively bunch to local townlands associated with local songs, singers, and local history. To date, we have visited Urris, the Isle of Doagh and …
ITSC has also enjoyed a day tour following the journey of a cow and its owner based on the song ‘The Mincer’. This trip took us to five locations where songs and music were played at each spot along the way. A memorable day for all who followed the trail.
ITSC has ventured further afield in recent years to share and showcase the rich song tradition of the Peninsula. Audiences in Berlin and at Universities across the island of Ireland have been treated to live performances from ITSC singers and an audio-visual presentation on songs and singers from Inishowen.
ITSC members regularly present talks and presentations on singers and songs from the Inishowen Peninsula and on the digital exhibition ‘The Inishowen Song Project’ hosted by the Irish Traditional Music Archive. These feature at the Inishowen Singing Weekend and at events organised at other festivals and conferences.
As well as ITSC events, there are numerous local, national and international events which feature singers and songs which we know will be of interest to ITSC friends. We hope to share news of these events, especially those of local, Donegal and Ulster interest, and associated with friends and supporters of the Inishowen Traditional Singers’ Circle.
The Inishowen Traditional Singers’ Circle is a voluntary community organisation formed in 1988 to encourage, foster and perpetuate the folk song and ballad tradition of the Inishowen Peninsula, Co. Donegal.
We do this by:
- Organising regular opportunities for people to meet and sing, including monthly sessions and an annual festival of traditional singing;
- Providing platforms to share the wealth of the Peninsula’s local song tradition: events, digital and hard-copy multimedia publishing, broadcasting, performing & lecturing;
- Striving to keep singing accessible, relevant and alive for everyone.
As with the rest of the world Covid-19 brought profound change to ITSC. The announcement of the first national lockdown meant the cancellation of the 2020 Festival at the last minute, and of course all sessions and gatherings were put on hold. Regrouping, we took our sessions online from April 2020 to June 2021, and pivoted to provide a very successful online International Folk Song & Ballad Seminar in March 2021. Under the bonnet we have been working on: a new strategy for the organisation and its future funded by the Arts Council of Ireland; redeveloping the Inishowen Song Project; the digitisation of at-risk audio-visual recordings funded by the Heritage Council, and developing our new organisational website funded by Donegal County Council Creative Ireland Funding.
Our public sessions will begin again on Friday 8 October 2021 in the North Pole Bar, Drumfries.