Cormac De Barra is a third generation harper raised in an Irish-speaking family of traditional musicians and singers in Dublin.

With a reputation for being one of Ireland's most innovative harpers, he has travelled the globe performing and recording with artists including Julie Feeney, Hazel O'Connor, Brian Kennedy, Moya Brennan and Clannad. Also a presenter, he was the host of TG4’s flagship arts series Imeall as well as the first season of the award-winning traditional music series Flosc.

This September, Music Network presents a collaboration featuring Cormac, Altan's Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh, and piper, flautist and whistle player Mark Redmond on tour nationwide.

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We asked Cormac for his choice cultural picks...

FILM

One film I'm really looking forward to seeing is Tarrac, the latest offering from TG4’s inspired Cine4 series. It comes hot on the heels of films like An Cailín Ciúin and Arracht, so it’s in the best of company. This one is set in the West Kerry Gaeltacht and has already won an award at the Galway Film Fleadh for its cinematography. Definitely one to watch.

Tarrac

MUSIC

We finally got back to trad music festivals and summer schools this year, so I’ve been surrounding myself with the many new CDs (yes, CDs) that I picked up as colleagues and friends released their long-awaited recordings. Two such are the debut release by harper Aisling Lyons, Aistear, and the fiddle and flute duo album, The Youth That Belonged To Milltown by Marian Curtin and Therese McInerney. Hup Contae an Chláir!

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BOOK

My most recent purchase is the collection of poems by Marcus Mac Conghail, Spásas. He moves from short, funny musings on people grappling with WhatsApp or government services through Irish to some very serious topics and incisive social commentary. Anyone who may think the Irish language is not keeping up with modern terminology need only read this book to have their doubts assuaged.

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PLAY

The Dublin Fringe Festival is fast approaching and my first port of call will be WAKE, the new production by THISISPOPBABY. Philip McMahon et al never fail to deliver, and they’re also billing this one as ‘lifting the veil between worlds, where club culture meets Irish tradition’ so it has me intrigued and excited to see what they’ve created.

TV

I’ll be unashamedly biased for this one, as I used to present the series fadó fadó, but TG4’s arts series Imeall is back on the air starting on Oíche Chultúir/Culture Night. It has chronicled the arts in so many facets over the years and I’m delighted it’s back. No presenter this time, though. A new format!

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GIG

The last gig I was at was Imelda May in Vicar Street. Exquisite is the only word I can use to describe that night. As for upcoming gigs, there’s a certain Music Network tour of Ireland that I’m very much looking forward to myself, but Clannad’s farewell Dublin gig in December is not to be missed, dar liom. It’s part of their In A Lifetime farewell tour and I have it on good authority that this may be the last time to catch the band live in Dublin, so it’s etched in my diary, anyway.

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ART

I’ve been a huge fan of Sinéad Ní Mhaonaigh’s work for years and I’m raging that I missed her most recent exhibition, Struchtúr at the Kevin Kavanagh Gallery in Dublin. She has since shown it in New York under the title Structure. Kevin’s gallery is a hidden gem on Chancery Row and is always worth a visit. You never know what visual wonders await.

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RADIO

An Taobh Tuathail, Cian Ó Cíobháin’s long-running late night music series on RnaG has kept me company so many nights on the drives home after gigs. His choices can at once inspire meditation and jog memories of club nights or the FOMO for a club night you wish you’d gone to. The show celebrates 23 years on the air this year.

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TECH

My little anorak moment here. The most useful app ever on my phone is my digital tuner app - Tuner Lite by Piascore. It has helped me tune my harp for a good few years, and I’m never stuck or caught without a tuner now (as long as I don’t forget my phone!)

THE NEXT BIG THING...

The band Big Love is one to watch. They formed during the pandemic so have had time to work on their distinctive sound before introducing themselves to the world. Featuring the vocals of the next generation of the Ó Maonlaí dynasty among the ensemble of hugely talented musicians, they are an absolute joy to listen to.

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Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh, Cormac De Barra & Mark Redmond kick off their nine-date tour at Dublin's The Sugar Club on 14th September, running until 2nd October with performances at Pavilion Theatre, Courthouse Arts Centre, Ionad Cultúrtha, Clifden Arts Festival, Áras Inis Gluaire, Riverbank Arts Centre, Triskel Arts Centre as well as a performance across the channel at The Irish Cultural Centre, Hammersmith, London - find out more here.