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Could you be London’s fiddle player of the year?

A new trad music competition is seeking to find an outstanding musician to serve as ‘fiddler in residence’ to the Irish community during 2021.

The Fiddler of London is a tribute to the late Justin Whelehan, a farmer’s son from Killucan in Co. Westmeath who came to London in 1985 and immersed himself in London’s Irish music scene.

There he met, fell in love with and married, fellow fiddler Eilish Byrne.

With their two children, Olivia and Christy, they enthusiastically supported and developed Irish music in London.
Justin and Eilish discussed the venture before Justin’s untimely death in October 2019.

Eilish is Musical Director of Feith an Cheoil School of Irish Traditional Music in London and musical director of The London Celtic Youth Orchestra. She will judge and manage the competition.

The late Justin Whelehan

Depending on Covid 19 restrictions, the winner will perform at the Mayor of London’s St Patrick’s Day festival in March 2021, Coventry’s City of Culture 2021 event in June followed by a virtual performance at the All Ireland Fleadh Cheoil in Mullingar in August.

The winner will be expected to make themselves available – in cooperation with the contest administrator- to perform recitals at appropriate prestigious Irish community events.

Open to all

Entrants are invited to upload a video performance here by 17 January. The competition is open to any fiddle player anywhere in the world who plays Irish traditional music.

Up to ten finalists will be selected and announced next month with a live gala final to name the Fiddler of London in Spring, subject to COVID19 restrictions.

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Eilish Byrne-Whelehan, wife of Justin.

There are no age or geographic restrictions but to ensure the continued development of younger trad musicians, the judge will also select an Up and Coming Young Fiddler who will be invited to play at the gala final.

Competition organiser Eilish Byrne-Whelehan is an acclaimed musician. Her parents, Rosaleen and Barney, came to London from Offaly and Cavan. She has played Irish music since she was seven years old and is a five times All-Ireland Champion.

Eilish has been featured on BBC, RTE and TG4 and has toured extensively in the US and Europe, both as a solo performer and a member of bands and ensembles. She performed for the President of Ireland, Michael D Higgins during his State Visit to Britain and that same year was among members of the Irish community invited to meet HRH Queen Elizabeth at Buckingham Palace, in recognition of her work in the community.

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