August 27, 2008

Music Event is Back in Town

AFTER an absence of seven years Strabane welcomes back the prestigious Johnny Crampsie Traditional Music Weekend to the Alley Theatre, Strabane from September 5-6.

Named in honour of the legendary Strabane fiddle player Johnny Crampsie, the festival will provide a mix of professional brilliance from the world renowned Teada, performing on September 5 at 8pm, followed by the talent and enthusiasm of local traditional musicians from Craic on September 6.

Craic is a local organisation that provides tuition and promotes the music in Strabane.

Sean O'Neill, chairman of Craic, said: "This is a revamped version of the much acclaimed Johnny Crampsie Traditional Music Weekend which ended in 2001 having achieved its objectives in raising awareness of the traditional music scene and raising the standard of traditional music in the Strabane area.

"At a time when the Irish feadh and summer cultural festival scene is drawing to a close, this is the perfect time to relax and enjoy inspirational traditional entertainment within the intimate surroundings of the Alley Theatre."

Performance and musical arrangement-based workshops will also play a major part within the festival and will be offered to the general public with five classes of offer, each tutored by a member of Teada. These classes seek to drawn on the proficiency of musicians, enhance their confidence and ability to develop musical arrangements and to produce professional standard performances.

With a concert by Teada on Friday night followed by fun music workshops on Saturday, the weekend will close with a concert that will provide the workshop participants with the opportunity to perform in the fantastic new auditorium of the Ally Theatre with professional sound and lighting technicians.

"We are delighted to be hosting the new Johnny Crampsie Festival and working in association with Craic to bring traditional Irish music to the forefront of the arts scene in the North West this September," stated John Kerr, Alley Theatre manager.

"We have two great performances arranged and excellent workshops planned, so if you love traditional Irish music or wish to find out more, then the Johnny Crampsie Festival has something to offer everyone."

Johnny Crampsie was born on January 13, 1915, the first of three children, two sons and one daughter to John Crampsie and Maggie (nee McDaid of Ballyheather). The family home was in Cloughcor and Johnny attended the local primary school.

At a young age Johnny expressed an interest in music and his natural talent and determination were rewarded when, at the young age of 13, Johnny was awarded a Certificate from the London College of Music to enable him to teach classical music on the violin.

After leaving school Johnny became a fully qualified electrician but still couldn't escape his great love of music. He learned the saxophone and clarinet and played with St Eugene's Silver Band in Strabane.

In 1947 he met Kathleen, a talented Irish dancer (later to be his wife) and became enchanted with Irish traditional music. He learned a substantial repertoire of tunes and was soon playing at festivals, fleadhanna and Irish dancing feiseanna throughout the North West .

Kathleen emigrated to Croyden, England and Johnny followed suit. After a few years they returned to Ireland and were married on June 10, 1950. He lived in Meetinghouse Street, Strabane for approximately four years and became the proud father of four children.

The family moved to St Colman's Drive where he was blessed with another four children to make it four boys and four girls. Johnny continued his trade as an electrician, working in the new DuPont factory in Derry .

The great showband era arrived and Johnny couldn't resist the new big band sound. He could be found playing with some of the local bands, among them Columba Gallagher, Joe Molloy, Johnny Quigley, Gay McIntyre and also the great showbands such as The Merry Macs, later to be renamed the Clipper Carlton, and of course the mighty Melody Aces.

When he retired from the big band circuit Johnny returned to traditional music and had a resident booking in Ostan Ghleann Cholm Cille in the Donegal Gaeltacht every summer playing in sessions and entertaining tourists.

He was a great admirer of fiddle player Sean Maguire and modelled his style on Sean for the remainder of his playing career.

He died on October 18, 1987 and is survived by his widow Kathleen and their children. Johnny was a colourful character, and was welcomed into the best music sessions where he provided craic and gave great pleasure to a multitude of people.

A spokesman for the festival organisers said: "It is with great pride that we dedicate a weekend of traditional music, song and dance in his name, so that the people of Strabane and far afield can enjoy and absorb the rich culture cherished by this great musician.

"We would like to thank Kathleen and her family for allowing us to use his name, providing us with information, and supporting the event."

For further information or to book tickets, contact the Alley Theatre on 028 7138 4444 or book online at

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