New series “Taoscadh ón Tobar” showcases Ireland’s rich musical heritage

Dónal McCague from Monaghan features in episode four of "Taoscadh ón Tobar".
New Irish traditional music docuseries “Taoscadh ón Tobar” highlights Ireland’s rich musical traditions. Dónal McCague (pictured here) from Monaghan features with Seán McElwain in episode four, airing 2 June, as they shine a spotlight on the music of Sliabh Beagh (pic: courtesy of TG4).

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Brand-new Irish traditional music series “Taoscadh ón Tobar” premieres on TG4 this Sunday, 12 May, at 9:30pm and will be available worldwide on the TG4 Player.

In 2020, the Irish Traditional Music Archive (ITMA) launched its artistic programme “Drawing from the Well”, with the aim of connecting Ireland’s leading traditional musicians, singers and dancers with the ITMA’s rich archival material in order to inspire new artistic works.

Now, in collaboration with TG4, ITMA is bringing this idea to our television screens with “Taoscadh ón Tobar” (meaning “Drawing from the Well”). In this new five-part docuseries, five contemporary musicians from across the country will investigate the stories of some of Ireland’s most distinguished traditional musicians, singers and music collectors of the past, as well as exploring specific regional musical traditions. Through performances, interviews and research, they draw inspiration from the deep “well” of traditional Irish music.

In the first episode of “Taoscadh ón Tobar”, airing Sunday night, 12 May, at 9:30pm, Italian fiddle player Andrea Palandri (now living in Baile na nGall, Co. Kerry) explores the musical legacy of the travelling Sliabh Luachra fiddle master Pádraig O’Keeffe (1887–1963) from Co. Kerry. The adopted Kerryman meets musicians and researchers who have followed O’Keeffe’s life, including Matt Cranitch and Peter Browne, and together they uncover previously unheard recordings. Joined by Clíodhna and Cormac Begley, Nicky McAuliffe, Aidan Connolly, and other friends and fellow musicians, Palandri reinvigorates O’Keeffe’s tunes through lively performances.

Episode two is set to air on Sunday, 19 May, at the slightly earlier time of 9:15pm and features Cúil Aodha singer Iarla Ó Lionáird as he researches the songs of his local area as documented by English scholar Alexander Martin Freeman in the early 1900s. While exploring the social and cultural backdrop to the collection of 84 Irish-language songs entitled “Songs from Ballyvourney”, Ó Lionáird performs select songs from this collection, such as “Loch Léin” and “Aililiú na Gamhna”.

Iarla Ó Lionáird features in episode two of “Taoscadh ón Tobar” airing 19 May at 9:15pm.
Iarla Ó Lionáird features in episode two of “Taoscadh ón Tobar”, which airs on 19 May at 9:15pm (pic: courtesy of TG4).

In the third episode, scheduled for Sunday, 26 May, at 10pm, Doireann Ní Ghlacáin traces the remarkable life of fellow Dublin fiddle legend Bridget Kenny, affectionately called “The Queen of Irish Fiddlers” by the famous music collector Captain Francis O’Neill. Ní Ghlacáin pays tribute to Kenny by busking on a busy Thomas Street, a stone’s throw from her home.

>>> READ MORE: Bronze Age horns: Ireland’s oldest musical instruments

In episode four, airing on Sunday, 2 June, at 11:10pm, award-winning musician Seán McElwain shines a spotlight on the music of Sliabh Beagh, an area straddling the border between Counties Monaghan, Fermanagh and Tyrone. Reflecting on the work of local collector James Whiteside, McElwain delves into the manuscripts, engages with historians and performs tunes from the collection alongside a roster of fellow musicians.

In the fifth and final episode of “Taoscadh ón Tobar”, airing on Sunday, 9 June, at 9:30pm, singer Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh performs a deep dive into the songs of Kerryman Seán de hÓra, a distinguished figure in the Corca Dhuibhne tradition and the region’s only Oireachtas winner. Through interviews with de hÓra’s friends and family, Nic Amhlaoibh seeks deeper insights into his personal life.

All of the episodes will have English subtitles, and if you can’t tune in live to TG4, you can always watch the episodes anywhere in the world online for free on the TG4 Player –

The ITMA offers unlimited access to its online Irish music and song collections. This extensive archive continues to inspire contemporary artists and fuel fresh creative works. You can explore the archive for yourself here.

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