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THE FLEADH DOWN IN ENNIS —THE ORIGINAL OF THE SPECIES
It is hard to imagine that there was a time in the not too distant past when our traditional culture was neither profitable nor popular. Faced with indifference at best and outright hostility at worst followers of our native music, song and dance must often have despaired at what the future would hold for our traditional arts.
It is against this backdrop that Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann was established in 1951. Among the aims of the fledgling organisation was the creation of a closer bond among all lovers of Irish Music. One of the principal ways of achieving this aim was the holding of Fleadhanna Ceoil - a gathering of musicians with a view to maintaining high musical standards through competition.
Mullingar played host to the first Fleadh in 1951. However, it is generally accepted that it was when the Fleadh came to Ennis some 5 years later that things began to take off. The Organising Committee under the stewardship of Seán Reid came up with an innovative and exciting new format for the presentation of traditional music, song and dance.
The Fleadh proved a tremendous hit with both artistes and audience alike. Not surprisingly, it generated huge media interest. Not only did it encourage existing musicians it also kindled the enthusiasm of a new generation who had no hang ups or inferiority complexes concerning our traditional culture. In 2005 over 220,000 people gathered in Letterkenny to participate and witness one of greatest celebrations of music song and dance in the world.
It is generally accepted that the 1956
Fleadh in Ennis played a pivotal rôle in the renaissance of traditional
music. Now some fifty years later it is timely for us to bestow due
and proper recognition on this central event. Fleadh Nua ‘06 will
celebrate the characters and events that have garnered such a special
place in the memory of traditional music lovers.
Fleadh (pronounced "flah")
is the Irish word for "festival." There are all sorts of fleadhs
in Ireland throughout the year, most of them centered on music and dance.
At the Fleadh Nua, in Ennis, I kick off my musical mystery tour with
a glorious 48-hour immersion. On my first afternoon in Ireland, I listen
in on a crowded session (or seisiún an informal gathering of
musicians) at the pub in my hotel. Then I meander through the narrow
streets of the town center... where a stage is set up on the back of
a small flatbed truck. [T]he music, by a series of groups and solo players
and singers, is bright and joyful. A troupe of young step dancers in
colorfully embroidered costumes arrives and performs in the percussive,
straight-armed Irish style on the street in front of the stage….
Scoil Fleadh Nua
Drawing on some of the finest traditional music tutors in the country, co-ordinator Deirdre O’Brien Vaughan is assembling a series of masterclasses in some of the more popular traditional music instruments in association with the World Irish Music Centre in the University of Limerick.
The Celtic Studies Programme covers
themes in Irish History, Folklore and the Irish Language and colours
in the background to our music, song and dance. A welcome addition to
this year’s programme is Focal ar Fhocal an introduction to Conversational
Irish which will run from 22nd to 26th May. A talk by eminent Musicologist,
John O’Regan on the various trends in traditional music over the
last half century, Storytelling Sessions with Eddie Lenihan—Ireland's
foremost Seanchaí, Exhibitions on Traditional Music and Musicians,
Lectures, Discussions, Presentations of Archive Material and a Guided
Walking Tour of Ennis bring a value added element to this feast of traditional
entertainment that is rarely found at like festivals.
Cois na hAbhna plays host to the world
famous Kilfenora Céilí Band on 27th May while the ever
popular Star of Munster Céilí Band will put dancers through
their paces at the Temple Gate Hotel on the same night. On 28th May
Fleadh Nua welcomes the Glenside Céilí Band who will surely
raise the rafters at Cois na hAbhna. The Farewell Session at the Queen's
Hotel has proved unmissable for Fleadh stalwarts over the years and
will take place on 29th May with music provided by the Star of Munster
Céilí Band. If you have any energy left after all that,
the Four Courts Céilí Band will be doing their utmost
to drain the last ounce of it from your feet later that evening at Cois
And that is only the "organised" part of the Fleadh. A myriad of impromptu sessions both indoors and out ensures that the narrow streets of Ennis resound with Traditional Music, Song and Dance throughout the Festival.
County Clare is nationally and internationally
recognised as the heartland of Irish Traditional Music Song and Dance.
Ennis has been the natural home for Fleadh Nua since 1973. So come and
join us - níl fleadh níos fearr!!!
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