Scoil Samhraidh Willie Clancy 2020

The 48th Willie Clancy Summer School, Miltown Malbay, Co. Clare, Ireland. Saturday 4th July to Sunday 12th July, 2020.

Sráid na Cathrach, Co. an Chláir  4ú Iúil - 12ú Iúil.

Johnny Connolly (1944-2019)


The renowned musician, who died at the end of December 2019, was a tutor at Scoil Samhraidh Willie Clancy for many years. He brought a joyous enthusiasm for traditional music and the melodeon into his teaching, and inspired a younger generation with his dexterity on the single-row instrument, which had been almost eclipsed by the two-row accordion in the latter part of the twentieth century.  In his hands the melodeon was coaxed into producing music that many believed was not possible. His son, Johnny Óg, summed up his fathers’ skill in making the melodeon as expressive as the two-row instrument: ‘My father had an almost magical ability to overcome its limitations in a musically satisfying manner’.  His 1993 solo album, An tOileán Aerach, illustrated the possibilities of the melodeon in the hands of a master.


Johnny Connolly with his class during Scoil Samhraidh Willie Clancy 2012.

Photo: Tony Kearns

Johnny Connolly was born on the island of Inis Bearacháin, near Leitir Mór, and later settled with his wife, Patricia, in Indreabhán.  He took up the melodeon at a young age, later moving on to the accordion, but returned to his first instrument in the 1990s and is credited with playing a major role in the revival of interest in the instrument. A frequent performer at festivals, concerts, summer schools and sessions, as a solo artist and in various combinations, often playing for Conamara sean-nós dancers and set dancers, he established a unique musical reputation. An active promoter of the music and culture of his native Conamara, his warm personality and powerful rhythmic music meant his presence was always an energising factor in any gathering. King of the melodeon was a title he justly earned.


He worked at the Moneypoint Power Station in Clare for a period and made friends with many Clare musicians, so the county and its music was familiar to him when he took up tutoring at the Willie Clancy Week. Outside of tutoring he enjoyed the many informal sessions with friends and students during summer school week. And he regularly travelled down to Miltown Malbay, Mullagh and Quilty in the off-season to renew acquaintances and swap tunes and stories.


He will be missed in Clare and at the summer school. But the good memories he engendered will live on among his friends, fellow musicians and former students. And his musical legacy is assured.


Our sympathies from all at Scoil Samhraidh Willie Clancy to Patricia and family, Mary-Ellen, Jimmy and Johnny Óg.

Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam uasal.

© Scoil Samhraidh Willie Clancy 2020   Website: Tony Kearns