Ireland’s biggest traditional music, song and dance celebration ends its two-year residency in Co Clare this month.
The Banner County, and the people of Ennis in particular, are planning to send off the showcase of Irish music and culture with some of the best performances ever seen between 13-21 August.
It will actually be the fourth time the event has been hosted there, the other occasions were in 1956, 1977 and, of course, last year.
It is the largest festival of Irish music in the world and 1,500 volunteers have been recruited to work at the event which brings in at least €38m to the local economy.
For musicians in the UK affiliated to Comhaltas Ceoilteoiri Eireann’s British arm, it will be a chance for many born and raised in this country to show that they are just as good, and even better, than many on the island of Ireland.
As such it exists as a vital cultural bridge – comprised of music, dance, and the spoken word – between Ireland and its diaspora across the world and, in particular, in this country.
At least 400, 000 visitors – 80,000 of them from overseas – are expected expected to see 6,000 competitors and 10,000 session musicians at 400 events. A fifth of competitors come from outside Ireland.
The county’s best known musician, the ever popular Sharon Shannon, whose performance in the ‘Shannon Aerodrome’ at the Fleadh in Ennis on Saturday night, 19 August will be one of the many highlights of the week-long celebration, said that there’s already a great sense of excitement building ahead of this year’s Fleadh.
“There was an incredible buzz all over the world last year about the Fleadh in Ennis. I met so many people who were blown away by the hospitality and the atmosphere around the town. Ennis has got great character, with the mix of narrow streets and open areas, and is tailor made for the Fleadh. People are already gearing up for another amazing treat of nine days and nights of music, dancing, singing and craic at the Fleadh here in Ennis once again. I’m really looking forward to it,” she said.
The organization behind it, Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann, has more than 420 branches and 40,000 members worldwide and, as mentioned at the beginning, has been active here in the UK for 60 years this year.
It also has branches across the USA, Australia, throughout Europe, and in Moscow, Tokyo and Buenos Aires. It organises and supports more than a thousand music, singing and dancing classes every single week in Ireland alone and has regional resource centres in Cashel, Ennis, Sligo, Mullingar, Dundalk, Dublin and Omagh offering support to members and promoting traditional music.
Comhaltas is very strong and vibrant within the Irish Diaspora, particularly in North America and Britain with structures in both that ensure very close links with Ireland.
The inclusion of members in all Comhaltas activities, in particular the Fleadh structure, is a fundamental part of the Comhaltas philosophy.
Global Reach Comhaltas Groups have performed in Expo in China and Milan and have performed in many engagements abroad at the request of Ireland’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT).
Every year, a Comhaltas Tour Group performs at 10 venues and locales in North America, while another Group performs at a series of concerts in Britain.