Feis Ceoil Singers

Feis Ceoil Singers
Feis Ceoil Singers
Feis Ceoil Singers
Feis Ceoil Singers
Feis Ceoil Singers

Considering the huge impression that James and The Little Gaelic Singers made on America -and that America made on James - it was hardly surprising that invitations to return soon poured in. During his previous coast-to-coast tours he had performed for many religious bodies and orders which had close links with Ireland and Derry. He had got to know some priests who were members of the Columban Fathers whom he especially admired, so when they invited him to bring over a concert party to help them fund raise he began to organise a group of performers not just from Derry but from  across the country to ensure the widest possible appeal.

These tours which ran every year from 1965 until 1969 differed somewhat from the L.G. S. ones. Firstly they were for only three weeks or so.; then they were largely confined to the north - east and mid - west.; finally they were largely adult parties.

The local representatives consisted of singers such as Mick McIliiams, Hester McClintock, Maureen Hegarty (nee McGuinness), Charlie Meehan, Don MacCafferty, Willie Loughlin, Gloria Hegarty and Clare Heaney. James added other guest singers such as Leo McCaffrey, Frank Ryan, Mary Sheridan, Edmund Browne and the comic Hal Roach.

The Dancers were exclusively drawn from Mary Mc Laughlin’s own family and dancers.

As well as James on the piano Don Mac Cafferty played the bass fiddle, Leo Mc Caffrey was on the fiddle and Don O’Doherty the accordeon.

James’s shows always worked to a tried and tested formula. They were well- paced productions with a variety of performers, tempos and moods. So you might have had a rousing opening chorus featuring all the cast which would  merge seamlessly into an Irish dance routine, followed by a few songs by one of the soloists. There might have then been an instrumental piece or two blending into a  choral medley, and so on. The overall effect was one  which minimised the boredom which other shows suffered from when, perhaps one performer remained on stage too long or the M.C. was constantly interrupting and introducing.

This was something which had distinguished the L.G.S. concerts. The concert party played to full houses everywhere and won rave reviews - eg -The show was well thought out, it ran smoothly and non- stop for two of the shortest hours it has ever been my pleasure to spend in a theatre. Meryl Schafer, critic for the New England “ Theatre Guide”. One criticism, she added. This show was too short.

One singer who left an indelible impression on James was Frank Ryan whom James had invited along on the 65 tour. Frank was then 64 and had a hugely successful career, but it was the first time that James had the pleasure of accompanying him. He often recalled Frank as he hit the stage, six-foot tall and a yard across the shoulders, wearing his Black and Tan campaign ribbon on the breast of his dinner jacket, and  the thrill of hearing him launch into “The Boys of Wexford.”

Sadly, this was to be Frank’s only tour. He had a heart attack that summer and James saw him just once more at his home in his sick bed that July, shortly before his death.