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*Photograph: Ann O’Connell

Scoil Samhraidh Willie Clancy is going all virtual for the second year running as COVID-19 restrictions have forced the iconic Miltown Malbay traditional music school to host all events this summer through Zoom.

The school will be providing online classes in piping, whistle, flute, fiddle, concertina, button accordion, melodeon, banjo and harmonica between 11 and 12.30 Monday the 5th to Friday the 9th of July.

There will also be an array other events and workshops throughout the week including demonstrations in traditional Irish forms of song and dance, a documentary on the life of Connemara sean-nós singer Johnny Mháirtín Learaí MacDonnahadha and a number of pre-recorded concerts.

The Willie Clancy Summer School was founded in 1973 shortly after the death of its namesake uilleann piper. Last year was the first time in its 49 year history that the school didn’t take place in person. Scoil Samhraidh Willie Clancy’s administrative director Harry Hughes said “it was disappointing” to have to move the school online again.

Speaking to The Clare Echo earlier this week, he said “We felt we had a duty to our community, the musicians themselves, our tutors and performers and to the prospective students to put on a series of classes for them”.

“Really we felt when we were doing it last year that that would be a once off and by 2021 we would be in a position to hold the full program again. In actual fact we had thought that maybe by Autumn coming into winter 2020 we [could] put on a weekend of events but that wasn’t possible obviously. We continued on, drew up the program for 2021 and then events after Christmas were simply prohibited and we decided early on this year that we weren’t going to be agonising about it we’d simply take the decision and go online.” said Harry.

In a normal year the school would attract over 1,000 students to the region making it both one of the most important annual cultural events in Clare as well as a major economic boost to Miltown Malbay and the surrounding areas. The cancellation of all in person events this year will be a significant blow to the area but Harry is already looking forward to their 50th anniversary next year “We would hope to be back with a real event and a full programme in 2022. Let’s be optimistic”.

Registration for classes will begin in early June. More details will be posted on www.scoilsamhraidhwillieclancy.com.

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