Alannah Kissane

Traditional music, song and dance have been a huge part of my life from a very young age. I started learning music and more specifically the Tin Whistle from Maura Walsh in Lixnaw at the age of 4 and then I got my first fiddle for my 5th birthday from my parents. Shortly after that, I joined Lixnaw Comhaltas where I attended dancing and music classes along with drama with Moira Galvin in the Ceolann in Lixnaw for many years. I later went on to teach my own music classes there with the branch.

I remember my very first Kerry Fleadh Cheoil in Milltown as if it was yesterday. I was 7 years old and I competed in the trio and Grúpaí ceoil competitons with James Duggan being our mentor at the time. We qualified for the Munster Fleadh Cheoil in the Trio competition and as you can imagine, we were over the moon only being 7 in an under 12 age group. We didn’t place in the Munster Fleadh Cheoil that year but it was never about the winning for me, it was more about the fun.

Dancing was also a major part of my childhood, where I was involved in Irish, Set and Sean-Nós dancing. I started Irish dancing with Bridget Dennehy in the Ceolann. I competed in many different competitions including the annual Causeway Feis and the Feis at the annual Féile Feabhra and Féile Cheoil in Lixanw. In later years, I became a member of Rinceoirí na Ríochta under the stewardship of Jimmy Smith. This led me to compete in Feis’ all around Ireland. At the age of 6, I progressed onto Set Dancing in primary school with John Stack. I liked Set Dancing so much that I started going to the local Set Dancing classes that were held in the Ceolann where John Stack was also the teacher. I remember becoming the first girl ever to win ‘Best Female Performer of the Night’ in the Feis’ that John held. Those were the good days. Later, at the age of 15 I took up Sean-Nós dancing with Kate Townsend, where she helped me achieve a lot. I got 3rd place at the All Ireland Fleadh Cheoil in Sean-Nós dancing and I also qualified for the televised final in the Oireachtas na Samhna for Sean-Nós dancing.

I became a member of Siamsa Tíre at the age of 7 where I attended dancing, singing and drama classes along with music classes. The music classes were particularly my favourite as our tutor was Nicky McAuliffe. Nicky made learning music enjoyable and was a book of knowledge when it came to the fiddle. I remember this one time I came in with false nails and I can explicitly remember him telling me to take them off straight away or ‘I will have to bring in the chainsaw next week to chop them off’—His words, not mine. I continue to work with Siamsa Tíre as a member of the Community Cast where I sing, dance and act in shows from May to September every year.

My love for singing arose from being involved with Siamsa. I attended a few singing lessons with Karen Trench in Listowel where I learned some lovely traditional songs. At the later age of 16, I took up Sean-Nós singing with Joe Creedon where he taught me some more lovely Sean-Nós songs. My singing career never took off but I always have some lovely songs in both Irish and English to sing around the house.

Apart from Comhaltas competitions, I also competed in many Scór and Community Games competitions. Some of these competitions occasionally clashed and I remember having to race from Athlone to Killarney to compete in both the All Ireland Community Games and the Kerry Fleadh Cheoil all in the same day. We ended up winning the All Ireland Community Games with our play called ‘The Matchmaker’ written by the late Father Moore.

In recent years, I have earned a spot on the Kerry Comhaltas committee as ‘Treoirí na Gaeilge’, where I promote the Irish language in any way I can. I also teach music with CCÉ Craobh an Ághasaigh where it’s my goal to promote culture. I have also co-organised a Summer Camp ‘as Gaeilge’ in conjunction with CCÉ Craobh an Ághasaigh which aimed to show children that there is a fun side to music, song and dance. I am also a member of the ‘National Folk Orchestra of Ireland’ which is run by Comhaltas in which I play the fiddle.