Slí na mBeaglaoich - traditional Irish music series on TG4

Renowned West Kerry traditional musicians, Father and son Breanndán and Cormac Ó Beaglaoich, travel up the West coast of Ireland from Kerry to Donegal in their 40 year old camper van, Beauty, on a journey of musical discovery. In this exciting new six-part traditional music series, they meet with friends old and new, traditional musicians and artists as they embark on a trip of a lifetime.

In what will be an eye-opening journey, they will unearth some of the most exciting musicians, singers and dancers of the Wild Atlantic Way. They will dig deep to explore the traditional music of all the regions they visit, showcasing exciting new talent as well as celebrating established musicians who embody the tradition of their county. We are with the pair every step of the way as they travel through Kerry, Clare, Galway, Mayo, Sligo, before finally reaching their ancestral home of Donegal. 

The Oliver Award nominee Cormac Begley and his father traditional music legend Breanndán, who is known for his spirit for adventure most recently seen in award winning documentary Camino Voyage, live for their music but this is not only a musical journey but a personal one too. They have a unique relationship as a father and son who both share the same passion. Young and old, they bring a musicians perspective to the telling of the tale of the traditional music of Ireland’s western coastline. Along the way they take in all the  great sights, experience some mishaps, enjoy plenty of laughs, and their camper van, Beauty has her own issues, as together they explore what defines the music of the West coast and each other. 

“When Cormac asked me to do this project with him, to travel across Ireland meeting with musicians and artists and all sorts of people, that’s something different entirely.” Says Breanndán, “So I am hopeful that we’ll spend time together, to talk to each other, and maybe a few things will come out about me that he didn’t know and maybe something from his perspective that I didn’t know until now.” 

“My father was my first teacher, He encouraged me to do my own thing and to be honest with my music and emotions. He’s a unique individual and I’m looking forward to spending this special time together, expressing ourselves through our music and getting to know each other better as adults.” 

This series will sate the appetite of any traditional music lover with familiar, fun characters at the helm, enjoying a road trip through some of the most musical areas in the country with a wide variety of fantastic and inspiring music in the line-up throughout. 

Episode one sees the pair set off on their trip from their home place and Breanndán’s famous house on wheels in Baile na bPoc, Co. Kerry. They get a good West Kerry send off from local musician, accordion player, Tommy ‘The Lord’ O’Connor and the Ó Beaglaoich Clann themselves, as we see a first time performance from Cormac and his three siblings Bréanainn, Clíodhna and Conchúbhair. They meet with artist, Liam O’Neill who explains that Breanndán’s criticism of his box playing skills made him the painter that he is today. They find uilleann piper Rob Fell in the Kerry landmark, the Blennerville Windmill. Cormac learns how the civil war affected the historical town of Ardfert and they see how Kerry music can be heard the world over from fiddlers, Aidan Connolly and Andrea Palandri. Sean-nós singer Sláine Ní Chathalláin joins them on Banna Strand for a song, before they head for the Kerry Writers Museum in Listowel where they meet local singer Mícheál ó Sé, they learn of North Kerry music styles with fiddler, Geraldine O’Callaghan and accordion player, Graham Guerin. Sliabh Luachra concertina player Michelle O’Sullivan is joined by her son Conall Mac Thréinfhir on Uilleann Pipes and Paul de Grae on guitar in a performance, before Cormac and Breanndán board the ferry across the Shannon to Co. Clare. 

Episode two finds the pair in Clare, after a roadside feast they head to the Donnellan Farm and East Clare fiddler Mark Donnellan is not shy to put the lads to work, feeding the cows. They receive a warm family welcome from the rest of Donnellan clann and see how the music has passed on to the next generations when Mark is joined by his niece, Eimear Donnellan on concertina and nephew Brain Donnellan on piano. They head to Feakle next where Cormac joins his old pal banjo player, Páraic Mac Donnadhcha in their Feakle Festival spot in Peppers bar. Down the street in the old shop at the Clare Eco Lodge they meet London born fiddler Claire Egan and learn the differences of playing traditional music at home and abroad. Beauty has some issues in Corofin but dancer, Stephaine Keane gives her a step to get her going again.They stop for tea in Father Ted’s house where they find the Howley Sisters, Eimear on fiddle and on Cello TG4 Young Musician of the year, Sharon with their cousin harpist, Elaine Hogan. Later they are joined by well known Clare musicians fiddlers, Tony Linnane, James Cullinan and Éamonn Ó Riordan on flute. They learn that “the listener is a great man” and the importance of the céillí house in Patsy O’Grady’s cowshed in Kilmaley, with music from Geraldine Cotter on piano, her brother Eamonn Cotter on flute and Mark Donnellan on fiddle. Breanndán joins in for a step dance and seannós dancer Suzanne Leahy throws down the board for a step. Singer Edel Vaughan  demonstrates that we all have music in us even if not from a musical family. Local sisters, Aoibheann on concertina and fiddler Pamela Queally accompanied by Shane Creed on guitar, show how the next generation of Clare musicians are keeping the tradition going. As Breanndán and Cormac head off on the road, Beauty’s troubles get a little more serious; but family is not too far away to lend a hand…or even a camper van.

Episode three sees the lads and their replacement camper van, The Beast, arrive in Galway, and their first port of call is the historical Coole Park, where local and renowned musican, accordion player, Conor Connolly takes a stroll through the woods with Cormac, explaining how he found his passion for the tradition. Conor brings the lads to meet his heroes flute player, Des Mulkere and accordion aficionado, Charlie Harris. They share a tune in the sun at Moran’s on the Weir before hitting the road westward to catch the boat to Inishbofin. They are welcomed off the boat by family friend singer, Andrew Murray, who is later joined for a song by his son Luke. They learn that the island has a habit of drawing you back home and how music is kept alive during the cold winter nights by brothers, fiddler Francis O’Halloran and accordion player, John O’Halloran. The theme of family continues as they are welcomed to the home of the Kane sisters, fiddlers Liz and Yvonne. The following morning they are joined in the van by brother and sister Caoimhe and Séamus Ó Flatharta who put their on spin on sean nós singing, while staying true to the story. At Lough Inagh they meet old friends tin whistle player, Mary Bergin and harpist, Kathleen Loughnane, who couldn’t imagine their lives without music. Accordion player Johnny Óg Connolly is joined by banjo player Clíodhna Costello and on the guitar Pádraig Ó Dubhghaill. Johnny Óg explains that while learning from his late father Johnny Connolly, he was able to put his own approach to his style of playing; much like Cormac has learned from Breanndán. 

Episode four looks at Mayo, where Cormac and Breanndán take in the sights of Croagh Patrick and Clew Bay with friend and local flute player, Tim McHugh, who is joined for a set of tunes by fiddler John Hoban. Tim then brings them to meet his musical heroes collector and accordion player, Alan Morrisroe and Paddy Joe Tighe. They explain where they learned their music and how it continues to be passed on through the generations. Cormac and Breanndán cross over the water to Achill Island and Breanndán joins singer Graham Sweeney for a dip in the sea. They learn of the Scoil Acla’s history with local legend John ‘The Twin’ McNamara. After marching with the Achill Pipers, award winning harpist and friend Laoise Kelly and her son Caoilte send them to bed with a tune. In Westport they call in to the famous Matt Molloys for a pint and a tune from Peter Molloy and Sean Regan, before heading to Westport House. Their Mayo trip comes to an end with music from singing group Coda and accordion virtuoso, Fiachna Ó Mongáin and fiddler, Jessica Zeigler. 

Episode five, after a rest, Beauty is back on the road with the lads. They travel to Sligo and celebrate the county’s music, meeting with friends, artists and local musicians along the way. Road weary, they treat themselves to a seaweed bath in Strandhill and they can’t help themselves but to play a tune in the bath. They explore Coleman country with fiddler Óisín Mac Diarmada and meet local concertina player Mairead Hurley with her sister Deirdre on flute and husband John Blake on guitar. In Sligo town they meet legendary Sligo flute player Séamus Tansey who enlightens them with his views on traditional music. Seámus is joined by Brian McGrath on keyboards for a tune in Shoot the Crows. The pub is famous for music and later they are joined by Cathy Jordan and Shane Mitchell of Dervish, this is where it all began. They speak about their years on the road and how it is always nice to come home for a tune.  Breanndán celebrates Sligo’s literary importance and explains how the county is surrounded in folklore. Friend and writer Brain Leyden takes them for a stroll on Streedagh beach and tells them of Sligo’s Blowing Sands. In Grange they find concertina player Rick Epping in an Antiques Shop known for hosting gigs. They are later joined by father and daughter Siobhán and Colm O’Donnell for a song. To finish their trip Breanndán plays a tune with accordion player PJ Hernon. 

Episode six Cormac and Breanndán come to the end of their journey up the West Coast of Ireland in Donegal, where the Begley clann left in the 17th century for the Battle of Kinsale. They kick off their homecoming with their old friend gutarist, Steve Cooney in Teelin. Local fiddler Iarfhlaith Ó Domhnaill explains the significance of Donegal fiddle music in Kilcar and brings them to meet his heroes The Campbells in the glens. They receive a warm welcome from Peter and his father Jimmy Campbell who give the lads a good taste of Donegal fiddle music with a highland set. Singer Shauna Mullin and fiddler Damien McGeehan hop into the van for a stunning performance in Glenties. Then Breanndán and Cormac travel further north to the heart of Donegal’s gaeltacht, Gweedore, where Glasgow flute player Frances Morten and sean nós singer Doimnic Mac Giolla Bhríde speak of the important ties between Scotland and Donegal before singing a bilingual song in Irish and Scots Gaelic. They meet old friends concertina player Caitlín Nic Gabhann and husband, fiddle player, Ciarán Ó Maonaigh who ask how they’ve survived the trip with each other? Breanndán is reassured that tradition will live on by young musicians and choir, An Crann Óg before reaching their ancestral homeland of Tullaghobegley where local historian, Séamus Doohan gives them some Begley family history. Cormac and Breanndán reflect on their journey and salute their ancestors with final tune on top of the mound. 

Slí na mBeaglaoich is scheduled for broadcast on TG4 at 21:30 Sunday nights on TG4 from April 26th 2020.