SOMETIMES, actions speak louder than words. But when Buttevant musician, Alan Finn, who is leader of the Shandrum Céilí Band, launched his debut DVD, The Road to Crossfields, he let his music do the talking.
The 34-year-old is donating all the proceeds from the DVD, made in memory of his grandparents, to Marymount which is a cause very close to his heart.
“Both my maternal grandparents, Maureen Cremin and Peter Cremin, were diagnosed with cancer in 2010 and they sadly died within days of each other in October, 2011,” says Alan, who has played the accordion and the fiddle since the age of five.
“These two people were the main reason I began playing music as a child and they had a massive impact on my life growing up,” adds Alan.
“They took me to music sessions and Fleadh Cheoils all over the country from the age of six until they both got sick.
“My grandfather was cared for at home and his final days were lived out in Mallow Hospital. I cannot thank the doctors and nurses there enough for the great care they gave him. Throughout my grandmother’s illness she was admitted to Marymount various times during her treatment for cancer.”
The care given at Marymount Hospital and Hospice is renowned far and wide.
“The care my grandmother received in Marymount was second to none and even when visiting her, we as a family, also received the best of attention from Marymount in an effort to help not only what my grandmother was going through, but the whole family to feel comfortable with the journey she was going through,” says Alan.
Maureen passed away three weeks after her husband Peter, on October 27, 2011.
“Again, the attention Marymount Hospice gave my grieving family was something I cannot describe even to this day,” says Alan.
“I had the privilege to use my musical gift of music for both my grandparents’ funerals. It was my way to thank them for the gift of nurturing they gave me throughout my life and helping me realise my full potential in everything I did in life, especially in music.”
Everyone knows that Marymount is always there providing ongoing care to those who need it most.
“We owe them a huge debt of gratitude,” says Alan.
As we are all aware, this is an unusual time for everyone and the charity sector has been very badly hit due to not being able to hold their usual fundraising events. One place that was much affected was Marymount Hospital and Hospice as they are very dependent on public funding to run their vital services. Over the years there are very few families who haven’t had the need of the hospice services whether it be residential or home care.
“On behalf of Marymount we would like to thank Alan most sincerely,” says Paula McGovern, head of fundraising.
“It is a very generous thing to do, particularly in these uncertain times.
“We need to raise €3.5 million each year to sustain the level of palliative care services so each donation and event makes a big difference to us. We encourage you to support Alan and buy his DVD in aid of Marymount.”
Alan, who is a gifted musician and a traditional music teacher, saw this as the ideal time to make his wonderful gesture to Marymount, the safe haven where his beloved grandmother was cared for. Like so many musicians and artists he found that he had time to himself during the pandemic. He took the opportunity to honour both his grandparents and Marymount.
“There wasn’t a lot happening,” says Alan.
“I was aware that charities like Marymount had no fundraising events during Covid-19. I decided to avail of it.”
Alan, a multi-winning musician in his own right who played for President Michael D Higgins in Dublin Castle for the 1916 commemoration and for President Barack Obama in the White House, did not avail of the time out promoting himself.
“I didn’t have to think twice about donating the proceeds of The Road to Crossfields to Marymount,” says Alan.
Music is his passion and later on this year we can look forward to seeing Alan and the Shandrum Céilí Band on the Late Late Show.
“Our planned appearance on the programme didn’t go ahead when lockdown was announced,” says Alan.
“It was a massive disappointment. We were to be playing live from Limerick where the Late Late Show planned to air from.
“It hasn’t been cancelled, just postponed,” says Alan.
“There is light at the end of the tunnel! The band, 10 of us, are used to being on the road, playing concerts up and down the country and going to festivals. Since St Patrick’s weekend we were totally booked out to play.”
Good times will roll again.
“When we are able to get going again, we’ll be ready for the road,” says Alan.
“We’ll be smashing down the doors! These times have been really strange, especially when you’re used to being so busy, playing music and teaching classes to young musicians in North Cork.
“Being so quiet and things being so uncertain was very strange. It was a big change trying to adjust. Hopefully Covid-19 won’t last too long more.”
The Shandrum Ceílí Band is popular; in big demand.
“We could play three venues at the week-end,” says Alan.
“We all get on very well together. We’re best friends. It is uplifting to play music and we enjoy the social side of it.”
Growing up, Alan always made the sweet sound of music.
“My second cousin Maggie McCarthy taught me how to play. Since the age of seven and eight music became my passion.”
He made his mark, achieving many accolades during his successful career as a musician, teacher and band leader.
“I won seven All-Ireland medals.”
Alan regards his greatest achievement as acting as mentor for many young groups. Many of these are well known, North Cork Comhaltas Group, Craobh Chronáin Comhaltas branch in Freemount, most recently achieving All-Ireland status at the Plearacha/Scor All Ireland in the Brú Boru in Cashel.
His underage Crossfields Céili Band, under 12 , 15, and under 18 have achieved 11 All-Ireland titles since 2011, including a three-in-a row win under 15, and a record breaking 5 in a row win under 18.
Music is in the Finn family.
“My paternal grandfather Paddy Finn was a good singer,” says Alan.
“He was a great supporter of the original Shandrum Ceíli Band that was formed in the 60s and from which the current band took its name. There are a lot of good singers in the family. I grew up with that.”
Alan got great encouragement from his grandmother Maureen.
“Both my grandparents were full of life,” says Alan.
“Suddenly they were wiped out, which was sad. I have great memories of them bringing me to Fleadh Cheoils and to music sessions.”
He must miss them both?
“I do,” says Alan.
“I wouldn’t be human if I didn’t.
“I miss them every day, every session, festival, concert or Fleadh Cheoil, but when playing music I know I am making them proud using the gift of music to provide entertainment, joy and even comfort to many people.”
Grief, like love, can last forever.
“Certain milestones are hard,” says Alan.
“When the band won three All Irelands in a row, the only feat achieved by a band in County Cork, my grandparents were not around to see it.”
No doubt Maureen and Peter would be very proud of their grandson and of his generous gesture for Marymount.
“A lot has happened since 2011,” says Alan.
“They are with me in spirit, on my shoulder.”
Where did the name of his debut DVD come from?
“The place where I built my house, Grange, was originally called Cross Fields,” says Alan.
“I recorded the DVD in the beautiful setting of Booney House in Churchtown in the historic surrounds of Ballybeg Abbey in Buttevant. Some of my favourite tunes are on the DVD.”
What’s his favourite tune?
“I have loads!” says Alan.
“If I was asked to play a tune I would probably play a set of reels.”
He is not one to blow his own trumpet.
“Alan is very unassuming,” says Pat O’Hara, who produced The Road To Crossfields.
Alan is the consummate professional.
“He is a really talented musician in his prime,” says Pat.
Alan is one of the most respected musicians in the Irish traditional circuit so all who buy his debut solo DVD are in for a real treat while supporting a very worthy cause.
“Working with him was a dream,” says Pat.
And why wouldn’t it be? After all Alan Finn is the leader of the band.
The Road To CrossFields can be purchased at outlets throughout North Cork. €20. All proceeds to Marymount.
Also available from Pat O’Hara: 086-8528904