2018 Traditional Irish Music and Dance Summer Schools and Festivals

THERE’S NO BETTER PLACE in the world than Ireland in the summer, especially when the weather obliges. But whether the sun shines or not, I guarantee that the music, song, dance and craic will lift your spirit to the very best Ireland has to offer.

This year, I have included MAY in the summer listing, because there are too many gems not to be missed, including all the county fleadhanna that begin towards the end of the month. This leads into the four provincial fleadhanna in July and the the All-Ireland Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann  being hosted this year by Drogheda, Co.Louth in August.

You can find your way around all 53 festivals and summer schools listed here by either using the interactive map OR by scrolling the date listing below, which also includes a brief description.

FESTIVAL LISTING BY DATE

(If you don’t see your festival here, please let me know)

Festivals in May 2018

Festivals in June 2018

Festivals in July 2018

Festivals in August  2018


MAY 2018

Friday 4th – Monday 7th May 2018
Feile Chois Cuain
Louisburg, Co.Mayo
A traditional festival celebrating traditional music, song and dance.

Friday 4th – Sunday 6th May 2018
Portmagee Set Dancing Weekend
Portmagee, Co Kerry, Ireland
Traditional music, set dancing and singing in the Bridge Bar, Portmagee.

Friday 4th – Sunday 7th May 2018
Half Door Club Castletown TradFest
Castletown, Co Laois,
County Laois’s biggest dance festival offers plenty of great music and dancing over the four-day May bank holiday weekend.

Friday 11th -Sunday 13th May 2018
Sweets of May
Tralee, Co Kerry
The weekend celebrates set dancing with workshops and céilís by top teachers and bands in a lovely setting outside the town of Tralee.

Friday 11th- Sunday13th May 2018
Féile Chnoc na Gaoithe
Tulla, Co.Clare
Cnoc na Gaoithe (Windswept Hill), the Tulla Comhaltas Cultural Centre’s mission is to promote, preserve and showcase the rich Irish traditions and culture of Tulla and the East Clare area.

Monday 7th -Thursday 13th May 2018
CosCos Sean Nós Festival
Rathcormac, Co Sligo,
A weekend dedicated to sean nós music, song and dance, packed with workshops, céilís, sessions and concerts.

Thursday 17th – Sunday 20th May 2018
Féile Damhsa Gaelach
Gortahork, Co Donegal

Saturday 19th May- Sunday 20th May 2018
Skerries Traditional Music Weekend
Skerries,Co.Dublin
Traditional music weekend in a beautiful location just North of Dublin – big line-up of well-known artists.

Thursday 24th – Monday 28th May 2018
Fleadh Nua
Ennis, Co Clare, Ireland
2018 Fleadh Nua in Ennis promises to be an exciting and innovative festival, full to the brim with concerts, céilís, sessions, CD launches, recitals, Irish dance competitions and street entertainment.

Tuesday 29th May – Monday 4th June 2018
Limerick Fleadh
Kilfinane, Co. Limerick
Fleadh Cheoil Luimnigh will host around 1,000 competitors on the June bank holiday weekend, all wishing to progress from Limerick for Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann.

Thursday 31st May – Sunday 3rd June 2018
Monaghan Fleadh
Ballybay, Co. Monaghan
County-level competition for traditional Irish arts of playing music, singing and dancing, at the Ballybay Community College (Tullycorbet CCÉ).


JUNE 2018

Friday 1st – Monday 4th June 2018
Cavan Fleadh
Kilnaleck, Co. Cavan
County-level competition for traditional Irish arts of playing music, singing and dancing at Kilnaleck, County Cavan.

Friday 1st – Monday 4th June 2018
Laois Fleadh
Mountmellick, Co. Laois
County-level competition for traditional Irish arts of playing music, singing and dancing at Mount Mellick, County Laois.

Saturday 2nd – Sunday 3rd June 2018
Sligo Fleadh
Sligo Town, Co. Sligo
County-level competition for traditional Irish arts of playing music, singing and dancing, jointly hosted by Fred Finn CCÉ and Sligo Town CCÉ.

Saturday 9th – Sunday 10th June 2018
Fermanagh Fleadh
Derrygonnelly, Fermanagh
County-level competition for traditional Irish arts of playing music, singing and dancing hosted by the Fermanagh Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann,

Sunday 10th June- Friday 15th June 2018     
Welcome to Enniscrone Irish & Country Music Festival      
Enniscrone, Co.Sligo
Classes will begin each morning at 11am in céili, Fior céili & sean nós. Plus ballroom, jive & salsa with piret also beginning each morning at 11am.Great Irish céilí bands including the Duntally,Foot Tappers, Salamanca, Longnote and Matt Cunningham.

Friday 15th – Sunday 17th June, 2018
Doolin Folk Festival
Doolin, Co.Clare
Taking inspiration from the great festivals of the 70’s and 80’s such as Lisdoonvarna down the road and from the deep musical roots of the county, The Doolin Folk Festival presents powerful music in an intimate setting and ensures that audiences & musicians can feel at one and just enjoy the communal spirit

Sunday 17th – Sunday 24th June 2018
Tyrone Fleadh
Dungannon, Co. Tyrone
County-level competition for traditional Irish arts of playing music, singing and dancing, hosted by Craobh Úi Néill CCÉ, Dún Geanainn.

Sunday 17th-Sunday 24th June 2018
Galway Sessions
Galway city, Co.Galway
The annual Galway Sessions Festival, celebrates Irish folk and traditional music and the music Irish emigrants brought with them across the world. The festival has a variety of events including gigs in theatres and pubs throughout Galway City from 1pm-1am.

Wednesday 20th –Sunday 24th June 2018
Clare Fleadh
Ennis, Co. Clare
County-level competition for traditional Irish arts of playing music, singing and dancing in Ennis, County Clare.

Thursday 21st – Sunday 24th June 2018
Jim Dowling Uillean Pipe & Traditional Music Festival
Glengarriff, Co.Cork
Fabulous line-up this year including Sharon Shannon, Steve Cooney and many more.

Friday 22nd June – Saturday 23rd June 2018         
All-Ireland Sean Nós Dance Festival           
Athboy, Co Meath, Ireland          
A summer sean nós festival with workshops, sessions, céilís and a competition with a top prize of €500.

Saturday 23rd –Sunday 24th June 2018
Down Fleadh
Portaferry/Castlewellan, Co. Down
County-level competition for traditional Irish arts of playing music, singing and dancing in Portaferry and Castlewellan, Co. Down.

Monday 25th – Friday 29th June 2018
Craiceann International Bodhrán Summer School 
Inis Oirr, Co.Galway (Aran Islands)
Love the rhythm? The festival focusing on the bodhran drum will satisfy your need to listen and learn, in a most beautiful setting steeped in traditional Irish music.

Monday 25th June – Friday 6th July 2018         
BLÁS         
Limerick, Co.Limerick     
Intensive “deep dive” workshops and master classes for experienced singers, dancers and musicians with a focus on collaborative integration of understanding between the disciplines. A residential program at the University of Limerick including international accreditation.


JULY 2018

Sunday 1st July – Friday 6th July 2018
Seaosamh Macghabhan Summer School
Kilmovee, Co.Mayo.
Full summer school with individual and group tuition in a wide range of instruments, dancing and singing.

Sunday 1st July – Friday 6th July 2018
Cairde na Cruite, An Chúirt Chruitireachta
Termonfeckin, Co. Meath
Friends of the Harp – an international festival for Irish harp.

Monday 2nd – Sunday 8th July 2018
Fleadh Cheoil Connaght 2018
Ballinamore, Co. Leitrim       

Connacht Province Fleadh, which is primarily provincial competitions for traditional musicians, dancers & other artists, organised by the local Comhaltas Cheoltóirí Éireann (CCE).        

Monday 2nd – Friday 6th July  2018
Westport Schoil Cheoil
Westport, Co.Mayo
Full summer school with tuition, concerts and recitals.

Friday 6th- Sunday 8th July  2018
Traidphicnic
Spiddal, Co.Galway
A taste of local traditional music, arts and culture in Spiddal.

Saturday 7th- Sunday 15th July 2018       
Willie Clancy Summer Schoo
Miltown Malbay, Co.Clare  
Affectionately known as Willie Week, this festival is held in traditional music heartland that calls music and dance lovers back year after year. There’s a great atmosphere in the town and surrounds, with plenty of sessions, céilis and busking to complement the official program of classes and recitals. An addtional program of dancing is also held at the Armada Hotel

Sunday 8th – Sunday 15th July 2018
Leinster Fleadh 2018
Muine Bheag (Bagenalstown), Co. Carlow

Leinster Province Fleadh, which is primarily provincial competitions for traditional musicians and dancers and other artists, organised by the local Comhaltas Cheoltóirí Éireann (CCE).  

Monday 9th– Friday 13th July  2018
Ceol na Coille Summer School of Irish Traditional Music
Letterkenny, Co.Donegal
Full summer school with traditional music and singing for all,  and special Gaeltacht experience for young people.

Sunday 15th- Saturday 21st July 2018         
South Sligo Summer School  
Tubbercurry, Co.Sligo
This has become my favorite festival for it’s laid back nature but also the learning to dance program is excellent. Different energy to Willie Clancy, it’s more intimate, gentler and very enjoyable in this beautiful part of Co.Sligo, with very deep music & dance tradition. Set dancing and music classes are in the morning 10am-1pm, a sean nós dance program in the afternoon from 4-6pm, and a range of concerts in the afternoons, and set dancing céilís in the evenings, with sessions in the pubs to follow.         

Sunday 15th – Sunday 22nd July  2018      
Munster Fleadh 2018          
Ennis Co.Clare
Munster Provincial Fleadh, which is primarily provincial competitions for traditional musicians and dancers and other artists, organised by the local Comhaltas Cheoltóirí Éireann (CCE).

Sunday 15th – Sunday 22nd July 2018        
Céilí at the Crossroads Festival
Clarecastle,Co.Clare
Annual céilí at the Crossroads  has expanded to a whole week – an opportunity to dance outside!         

Saturday 21st – Saturday 28th July 2018
Joe Mooney Summer School    
Drumshanbo Co. Leitrim
Drumshanbo is delightful – a similar format to South Sligo Summer School, the difference here is the focus is very much around the unusual main street, which has a pedestrian mezzanine above the lane of traffic, where you can sit out in the sun, dance, listen to music & enjoy the people going by and enjoy a number of excellent evening céilís.

Monday 23rd – Friday 27th July 2018
Meitheal Residential Summer School
Villiers School, Limerick City, Ireland
Residential summer school for young traditional musicians.

Monday 23rd -Sunday 29th July 2018         
Ulster Fleadh 2018         
Castlewellan,Co.Down.
Ulster Province Fleadh, which is primarily provincial competitions for traditional musicians and dancers and other artists, organised by the local Comhaltas Cheoltóirí Éireann (CCE).

Saturday 28th July  – Saturday 4th August 2018
Scoil Acla Summer School
Achill Island, Co.Mayo
Traditional music courses, art workshops, sean nós singing, writers workshop, dance workshop, sean nós dancing,  basket weaving workshops in a most unique location.


AUGUST 2018

Monday 30th July – Friday 3rd August 2018
Belfast Summer School of Traditional Music
Belfast, Co.Antrim
Full programme of classes, sessions, talks, concerts, workshops, launches and more.

Monday 30th July – Saturday 4th August 2018
Sean nós dancing residency for adults, with Edwina Guckian
Carrick on Shannon, Co. Leitrim
An intensive course in sean nós dance from 11-2pm daily, with sessions and ceilíthe running throughout the week.

Monday 30th July – Saturday 4th August 2018        
The Irish Dance Festival         
Carlingford, Co.Louth   
Spend a week learning from some of the world’s best Irish dance masters of three styles – step, set and sean nós – and connect with fellow lovers of Irish dance by immersing yourself in Irish culture and heritage.      

Monday 30th July – Sunday 6th August 2018        
Summer Festival of Dance          
Ballyfin, Co Laois
Maureen Culleton is an expert dancer, teacher and supporter of all forms of Irish traditional dance, with strong followings among dancers in Europe, Japan and across Ireland. She calls the sets at the céilíthe running through out the week, teaches the workshops and leads the sessions.
EMAIL MAUREEN for more information.

Wednesday 1st- Monday 6th August 2018
Kilrush Trad Music & Set Dancing Festival
Kilrush Traditional Music & Set Dancing Festival is a 6 day festival of music & set dancing including open air céilis in Kilrush Square on Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday.
Music sessions, singers club, sean nós & set dancing workshops will also take place throughout the festival.

Friday 3rd  – Sunday 5th August 2018
Ballyshannon Folk Festival
Ballyshannon, County Donegal
The 41st annual Ballyshannon Folk and Traditional Music Fesitval is the place to be this August Bank Holiday Weekend as the sounds of traditional and folk music echo from the streets, pubs and Marquee concerts along Donegal’s Wild Atlantic Way.

Saturday 4th – Sunday 5th August 2018 (TBA)         
James Morrison Traditional Music Festival         
Riverstown, Co Sligo.    
A full trad festival with open air céilís, concerts, sessions and more in the home village of a fiddler who became famous in the USA.

Friday 4th – Monday  7th August 2018
O’Carolan Summer School and Harp Festival 2018         
Keadue, Co Roscommon         
The Irish composer Turlough O’Carolan is the inspiration for this summer school and festival in this gorgeous town. Plenty of dancing including the famous Annual Door Dancing Competition on Monday 7th August  at 7pm.

Tuesday 7th- Tuesday 13th August 2018  (TBC)      
Kilcar Fleadh          
Kilcar, Co Donegal
A 7 day festival of traditional music, songs and dance, celebrating the living heritage of traditional music in South West Donegal.      

Wednesday 8th- Monday 13th August 2018          
Feakle International Festival of Traditional Music          
Feakle, Co Clare  
For a few days each August, Feakle village becomes a very special place where the best in traditional music can be heard, songs sung, dances danced and friends meet up again for another Feakle Festival.      

Sunday12th – Friday 17th August 2018
Fleadh Cheoil na h’Eireann & Scoil Éigse 2018
Drogheda, Co.Louth

The best kind of celebration and competition, with provincial finalist musicians, dancers and artists competing to win their All-Ireland categories. Comhaltas Ceolteoiri Eireann (CCE) showcase fabulous music, dance and a wide range of concerts and other events celebrating Irish culture. Don’t miss it!

Wednesday 22nd – Sunday 26th August 2018       
Masters of Tradition         
Bantry, Cork
Celebrating traditional music in its’ purest form through a series of concerts and performances, directed by Martin Hayes.

 

Enjoy the craic and I hope the sun shines strong for you.
Nora Stewart
www.EasyIrishDance.com
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The Clare Lancers Set: Tradition and Evolution

FOR MOST OF US set dancers, the idea that the original Lancers set from County Clare was not always danced to reels could seem very strange indeed. The evolution of our beloved dances have an interesting past, as told by Larry Lynch in his extensive and beautiful book, Set Dances of Ireland: Tradition and Evolution (1989).

This trove is based on oral history told by dancers from each area, and is a written  and illustrated record of music, musicians, dances and dance style from counties Cork, Kerry, Kilkenny, Tipperary, Limerick and Clare. Larry Lynch has very kindly agreed to allow me to re-produce the following chapter (Italics text) on The Lancers.

The Set in Local Tradition: Crusheen, Co.Clare: The Lancers
Joe McNamara first saw the Lancers in about 1931. Joe learned the Lancers from John Kinley, who brought the set to the area from South Galway. John Kinley was about twenty years older than Joe.

“Joe Kinley picked it up at a wedding in South Galway. At the time, there were kitchen house dances maybe only three times a year. It was hard to see all the figures. John Kinley was anxious for everyone to dance the Lancers, but no-one knew how to dance it. No-one knew the full set, only himself. There might be only two in the house who knew it, and they weren’t too clear about it either.”

 Joe McNamara recalls, House dances stopped during the war (World War II) because they were illegal. The gardaí would come and close them down. The government wanted the revenue and tax. Priests stopped the house dances but they built parochial halls and got licenses and had their own dances.”

 “Céilithe were started during the late forties and early fifties by Irish language teachers. No sets were allowed because sets were not considered Irish. Sets were danced at an odd get-together in the home – a return from England, or a wedding. Comhaltas (Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann) organised the first Fleadh Cheoil in Athlone in 1953 and started reviving set dancing. The Caledonian Set was danced in the competitions. Because of emigration, there were no crowds to dance, so the generation of the fifties missed out. Modern music and show bands became popular, so today, people between the ages of thirty and fifty can’t dance.”

 “I often saw John Kinley in pubs and he was anxious for the two of us to get the Lancers going. And we would often go through it in the pubs, having an old chat about the sets. He always hinted on me that we should get it going.”

Joe McNamara revived the Lancers in 1980. “ I had to go back in my memory and remember the set as I saw Kinley dancing it, and work out one figure from another until I go the shape of a set. I might see that dancing in my young days, and I might no see that set danced twice in a year. There was that drawback that I had to remember the set after not dancing it for forty years. I usen’t to sleep, and I often went through a figure (while unable to sleep). I was teaching set dancing at Crusheen at the time. I did it one figure at a time. I had to take figure one, do that and see how it worked out. Then onto the next figure. It took a lot of memorizing.”

Joe says about the Lancers “ When Joe Kinley danced it, it was danced to polkas. I revived it to reels because dancers today prefer reels.” According to Joe McNamara, the dancing speed of the music at two beats per measure used to be: polkas 102 beats per minute. Today, the dancing speed of the music at two beats per measure is: reels 123 beats per minute.

Pauline McNamara, Joe’s niece, told me recently that her father, Paddy McNamara, always insisted that the dance be done at a “slow and easy pace”. And polkas at 51 bars per minute, is certainly much slower than now- often around 60-70 bars per minute for polkas.

She also told me that the (Clare) Lancers, as it became, was an instant hit at competitions and social dances because it was a set with five reels – no jig. They won everything, every competition they entered – Paddy McNamara and Biddy McNamara (photo below), Eoin and Mary Donnell, Muriel and Danny Liddy; Catherine Brigdale, Pete Connors and Kevin O’Brien, with Joe McNamara as the manager of the group.

Now, about twenty-five people dance the Lancers in the Crusheen area. Joe and Biddie McNamara have also taught the Lancers every summer since 1983 at the Scoil Samhraidh Willie Clancy, in Miltown Malbay, Co.Clare.

Photo of Biddie and Joe McNamara

Biddie and Joe McNamara © Larry Lynch

We all know that there are now thousands of dancers happily dancing the Clare Lancers all over the world. In addition, Larry Lynch said to me in an email recently:

“Joe and Biddie McNamara were wonderful people and very gracious to me.  Joe and Biddie knew their subject well; they deserve to be recognized and honored for passing on the tradition.  Biddie was one of the most beautiful and graceful female set dancers I encountered in twenty-seven years of research and teaching set dancing in Ireland.”

Music, people and place are absolutely key to any Irish set dance, and Larry Lynch has also recorded some of that information for the Lancers.

Musicians: The Lancers Set
Some of the popular musicians who played the fiddle were: Katie Costello (later played with Michael Coleman in America), Rathclooney; Delia (also played the concertina), Mary and Winnie Littleton, Drumbaniff, Crusheen.

Others who played the concertina were: Mrs. Cunneen, James and John Costello, Rathclooney; James McInerney, Drumbaniff, Crusheen; James McNamara, Drumbaniff, Crusheen.

Those who played the accordion were: Joe McNamara (played with the Tulla Céilí Band 1953 until 1963), Drumbaniff, Crusheen. Patsie Kinley (John Kinley’s father), O’Brien’s Castle, Crusheen, played the flute. Petie Littleton, Drumbaniff, Crusheen, played the tin whistle and the concert flute. (There is also an extensive list of tunes, for anyone interested).

Homes: The Lancers Set
When Joe McNamara was young, set dancing was done at house dances. Some of the homes where sets were danced were: Joe Kinley’s, O’Brien’s Castle, Crusheen; James McNamara’s (Joe’s father), Drumbaniff, Crusheen; Mickie Littleton’s, Drumbaniff, Crusheen; Paddy O’Connor’s, Cappafean, Crusheen.

My great thanks to Larry Lynch for taking the time to record all this amazing information, and agreeing to let me share it here.  If you would like to purchase a copy of the book Set Dances of Ireland: Tradition and Evolution (1989), please contact Larry Lynch directly.

Enjoy your dancing.
Nora Stewart
Easy Irish Dance/ Irish Bliss

2016 Irish Traditional Music and Dance Summer Schools and Festivals

If you are anywhere near Ireland this Northern hemisphere summer, there is absolutely no excuse for not learning to play, sing or dance. Festivals and summer schools are burgeoning, with most offering opportunities to learn Irish set dancing, Irish sean nós dancing and/ or to learn to play or master a range of traditional musical instruments, as well as a wide range of concerts, céilís and lectures. And, of course, there are the four provincial fleadhanna (flaa-na), festivals incorporating competitions for traditional musicians and dancers, with the Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann  being hosted by Ennis, Co.Clare in August this year.

This listing has now been updated for 2018.

There is a tangible increase in 2016 for opportunities to learn and compete at sean nós dancing, to attend singing classes and performances, and much more on offer specifically for children.

You can find your way around all 38 festivals listed here by either using the interactive map or by scrolling the date listing below, which also includes a brief description.

FESTIVAL LISTING BY DATE
(If you don’t see your festival here, please let me know)

JUNE 2016

Friday 10th – Sunday 12th June 2016
Craiceann International Bodhrán Summer School 
Inis Oirr, Co.Galway (Aran Islands)
www.craiceann.com

Friday 10th – Sunday 12th June, 2016
Doolin Folk Festival
Doolin, Co.Clare
www.doolinfolkfestival.com

Sunday 12th June- Thursday 16th June 2016         
Enniscrone Irish and Country Music Festival          
Enniscrone, Co.Sligo
The 5 day festival brings together some of the best Country and Western stars under one roof in the Diamond Coast Hotel but the festival also gives the opportunity for people to take part in set dance workshops, ballroom and social dance workshops, music tutorials, sessions and with music and dance taking place till late in the night.
http://www.diamondcoast.ie/Irish_Trad_and_Country_Music_Festival.html

Sunday 12th-Sunday 19th June 2016
Galway Sessions
Galway city, Co.Galway
Dedicated this year to the memory of Éamonn Ceannt, there will be lectures, music, recitals and wide range of other events.
www.galwaysessions.com

Thursday 16th -Sunday 19th June 2016
Jim Dowling Uillean Pipe & Traditional Music Festival
Glengarriff, Co.Cork
www.jimdowlingfestival.com

Friday 17th June – Saturday 18th June 2016         
All-Ireland Sean Nós Dance Festival          
Athboy, Co Meath, Ireland          
A summer sean nós festival with workshops, sessions, céilís and a competition with a top prize of €500.
http://www.discoverireland.ie/Whats-On/all-ireland-sean-nos-dancing-festival/511411

Monday 20th June – Friday 1st July 2016         
BLÁS         
Limerick, Co.Limerick     
Intensive “deep dive” workshops and master classes for experienced singers, dancers and musicians with a focus on collaborative integration of understanding between the disciplines- a residential program at the University of Limerick.
www.blas.ie

Saturday 25th-Sunday 26th June 2016 & Saturday 2nd – Sunday 3rd July 2016
Fleadh Cheoil Chonnacht 2016         
Strokestown,  Co.Roscommon 
Connacht Province Fleadh, which is primarily provincial competitions for traditional musicians, dancers & other artists, organised by the local Comhaltas Cheoltóirí Éireann (CCE).        
http://www.connachtfleadh.ie/

Saturday 25th-Sunday 26th June 2016          
Carlow Set Dance Weekend 2016
Weekend of set dancing workshops and céilís.
Carlow, Co. Carlow         

JULY 2016

Saturday 2nd July- Saturday 9th July 2016         
Willie Clancy Summer School 
Miltown Malbay, Co.Clare  
Affectionately known as Willie Week, this is probably the longest running of these festivals. There’s always a great buzz in Miltown: we call it Set Dancing Mecca! Classes for music and dance are run each morning from 10-1pm from Monday – Saturday, interspersed with a wide range of afternoon and evening set dancing céilís around the area, singing sessions & music sessions in pubs. Highly recommended for those who want full immersion, deep dive into Irish culture & craic.        
http://www.scoilsamhraidhwillieclancy.com/
http://www.armadahotel.com/events.html/armada-festival-of-music-dancing-2016

Monday July 4th– Friday July 8th 2016
The Junior Davey Bodhrán Academy
Gorteen, Co Sligo
www.juniordaveybodhranacademy.com

Monday 4th July-Sunday 10th July 2016         
Leinster Fleadh Cheoil 2016         
Kilkenny, Co.Kilkenny
Leinster Province Fleadh, which is primarily provincial competitions for traditional musicians and dancers and other artists, organised by the local Comhaltas Cheoltóirí Éireann (CCE).   http://www.leinsterfleadh.ie

Sunday 10th July- Saturday 16th July 2016         
South Sligo Summer School         
Tubbercurry, Co.Sligo
This has become my favorite festival for it’s laid back nature but also the learning to dance program is excellent. Different energy to Willie Clancy, it’s more intimate, gentler and very enjoyable in this beautiful part of Co.Sligo, with very deep music & dance tradition. Set dancing and music classes are in the morning 10am-1pm, a sean nós dance program in the afternoon from 4-6pm, and a range of concerts in the afternoons, and set dancing céilís in the evenings, with sessions in the pubs to follow.         
http://www.sssschool.org/index.html

Monday 11th July– Friday 15th July  2016
Ceol na Coille Summer School of Irish Traditional Music
Letterkenny, Co.Donegal
www.ceolnacoille.ie

Monday 11th July– Friday 15th July  2016
Westport Scoil Cheoil 2016
Westport, Co.Mayo
Full summer school with tuition, concerts and recitals.
www.westportscoilcheoil.com

Monday 11th July- Friday 15th July 2016         
Sean Nós ar an tSionnan Feet and Beat Summer Camp
Ballymote, Co Sligo
A week of dance training for children from 7 to 15 years.     
http://edwinaguckian.com/dance-classes/

Friday 15th July – Sunday 17th July 2016         
Danny Webster Weekend
Meenaneary, Co Donegal         
Kilkenny’s master accordionist visits Donegal for a weekend of three céilís.

Friday 16th July -Sunday 25th July 2016         
Ulster Fleadh 2016         
Bangor, Co.Down 
Ulster Province Fleadh, which is primarily provincial competitions for traditional musicians and dancers and other artists, organised by the local Comhaltas Cheoltóirí Éireann (CCE).
www.ulsterfleadh.com

Saturday 16th July – Sunday 17th July         
Munster Fleadh 2016          
Listowel,Co.Kerry
Muster Province Fleadh, which is primarily provincial competitions for traditional musicians and dancers and other artists, organised by the local Comhaltas Cheoltóirí Éireann (CCE).
www.munsterfleadh.ie

Saturday 16th July – Sunday 17th July         
Céilí at the Crossroads Festival         
Clarecastle,Co.Clare
Annual céilí at the Crossroads – an opportunity to dance outside!         
www.clare.ie/event/ceili-at-the-cross-roads-festival-clarecastle/

Sunday 17th July – Saturday 24thJuly 2016         
Joe Mooney Summer School         
Drumshanbo Co. Leitrim
Drumshanbo is delightful – a similar format to South Sligo Summer School, the difference here is the focus is very much around the unusual main street, which has a pedestrian mezzanine above the lane of traffic, where you can sit out in the sun, dance, listen to music & enjoy the people going by and enjoy a number of excellent evening céilís.
www.JoeMooneySummerSchool.com

July 18th – 22nd, 2016
Meitheal Residential Summer School
Villiers School, Limerick City, Ireland
Residential Summer School for young traditional musicians.
www.tradweek.com

Monday 18th July – Friday 22nd July          
Get in Step Summer Camp         
Riverstown, Co Sligo
€60 for five classes sean nós and set dancing summer school for kids from 5 to 17 years from 10am–2pm daily         
Eimear Mulvey (086) 258 4465

Friday 22nd July- Sunday 24th July          
Kilrush Traditional Festival         
Kilrush, Co Clare         
Free outdoor céilís in the market square are the big attraction at this weekend organised by Kilrush Comhaltas
http://www.wildatlanticway.com/directory/details/kilrush-traditional-music-set-dancing-festival-2016/511986/#52.637223|-9.481393|14

Saturday 23rd July  – Saturday 30th July 2016
Scoil Acla Summer School
Achill Island, Co.Mayo
Traditional Music Courses, Art Workshops, Sean Nós Singing, Writers Workshop, Dance Workshop, Sean Nós Dancing,  Basket Weaving Workshops
www.scoilacla.com

Monday 25th July- Sunday 31 July 2016          
Kilcar Fleadh          
Kilcar, Co Donegal
A village on the wild Atlantic coast of Donegal hosts this week-long music and dance festival.           
https://donegalgathering.com/july/kilcar-fleadh/

Monday 25th July – Sunday 31 July 2016         
Summer Festival of Dance          
Ballyfin, Co Laois
Maureen Culleton, one of Ireland’s best-known dance teachers organises this festival for the love of music, song and dance.
http://www.midlandsireland.ie/events/maureen-culleton-summer-school-and-festival-of-dance

Monday 25th July 2016          
O’Carolan Summer School and Harp Festival         
Keadue, Co Roscommon         
The Irish composer Turlough O’Carolan is the inspiration for this summer school and festival in this gorgeous town.
http://www.ocarolanharpfestival.ie/

Monday July 25th- Friday 29th 2016         
Liffey Trust Studios, 117-126 Upper Sheriff Street, Dublin 1       
Rince 2016-Treblehop 
Irish step dancing intensive tuition including solo technique, stage performance, céilí, show style and injury prevention.       
http://www.treblehop.com/rince_2016

Friday July 29th –  Sunday 31st July  2016
Ballyshannon Folk Festival
Ballyshannon, County Donegal
www.ballyshannonfolkfestival.com

Saturday 30th July 2016          
James Morrison Traditional Music Festival         
Riverstown, Co Sligo.    
A full trad festival with open air céilís, concerts, sessions and more in the home village of a fiddler who became famous in the USA.
http://jamesmorrisonfestival.com/author/admin/

AUGUST 2016

Saturday 31st July – 7th August 2016         
The Irish Dance Festival         
Carlingford, Co.Louth   
Spend a week learning from some of the world’s best Irish dance masters of three styles – step, set and sean nós – and connect with fellow lovers of Irish dance by immersing yourself in Irish culture and heritage.      
www.irishdancefestival.com

Wednesday 3 August-Monday 8th August          
Feakle International Festival of Traditional Music          
Feakle, Co Clare  
The big festival in the small village of Feakle runs for seven days from Wednesday to Monday with many concerts & sessions in addition to the dancing events shown here.       
http://www.feaklefestival.ie

Monday 8 August – Friday 12 August          
Get in Step Summer Camp         
Kilcummin, Co,Kerry      
Sean nós and set dancing summer school for kids from 5 to 17 years.   
Adrian Moriarty (087) 933 0768

Monday 8 August- Friday 12 August 2016         
Sean Nós ar an tSionann Feet and Beat Summer Camp
Drumshanbo Co. Leitrim         
A week of dance training for children from 7 to 15 years.
http://edwinaguckian.com/dance-classes

Sunday 14th August- Monday 22 August 2016          
Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann         
Ennis, Co Clare
Nearly two weeks of fabulous music, dance and a wide range of concerts and other events celebrating Irish culture. Don’t miss it!
http://fleadhcheoil.ie

Wednesday 17 August – Sunday 21 August 2016         
Masters of Tradition         
Bantry, Cork
Celebrating traditional music in its’purest form through a series of concerts and performances, directed by Martin Hayes.
www.WestCorkMusic.ie/MastersOfTradition

Thursday 18th August- Sunday 21st August 2016
Coleman Traditional Festival
Gurteen, Co.Sligo

The Coleman Traditional Irish Music Centre is a celebration of Irish Music, Culture and Heritage as expressed in the South Sligo Style of music played by Michael Coleman and other musicians of his time.
This community based enterprise in Gurteen, Co.Sligo, Ireland is dedicated to ensuring that the tradition of Irish music remains a living one ‘an traidisiún beo’ and that it continues to be enjoyed by all ages and nationalities.
www.colemanirishmusic.com

Enjoy the craic!
Nora Stewart
www.EasyIrishDance.com
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WINNER 5

 

Riverdance: Have we lost what captivated us so?

22 years ago, when the Eurovision song contest was being held in Dublin, there was a filler act for the interval that was initially met with modest, uncertain applause when it started. What happened after that performance  is now history, but I wanted to go back and have a look at the performance to see what it was that so transfixed us all.

Quite simply, it was beautiful, effortless and dream-like. It looked elegant and it sounded amazing, from the incredible singing introduction from Anúna, the gorgeous lyrical music and those stunning percussive rhythms, dancers synchronised playing off and responding to drums and each other. It had a story moving from the spiritual spell of water to a slick, modern city backdrop, in a kind of Clannad-meets-An-American-in-Paris moment.

And people responded in their hundreds of thousands, flocking to unprepared, dazed Irish dance schools, wanting a piece of that dream they had glimpsed and experienced. I know, I was one of them. Up until Riverdance, Irish step dancing had been something that young Irish girls and boys and those of the diaspora did as an obligation, taking their weekly classes or more often than not, skivving off and spending their sixpence on sweets (I’ve heard that story from many a dance friend).

The image of Irish step dancing was a little old-fashioned, a bit dowdy but reliable. As a student, you knew the rules, you knew the repertoire of dances, what to do to pass an exam and you got on with it. Costumes were modest, competitions and performances were regular and classes were strict.

young irish step dancers 1970s

Young irish step dancers 1970s. Image: http://www.crossexaminer.co.uk

Now, with the influx of thousands of young hopefuls, the sheer volume of interest has begun to move the dance in a whole different direction: a tidal surge causing it to lose it’s mooring of grace, rhythm and a deep connection with the music.  I am concerned about much of what that means for the dancing, the dancers and the Irish culture it supposedly represents.

It’s now all about the extremes, intensity and deadly seriousness, and a slightly nasty edge that comes with all that- I have written more about this from an Australian viewpoint. For many dancers, there is an expectation of very intensive training, that dancing on pointe and extreme ballet turnout is the norm, that getting injured is de rigueur, that money is no object and that dancers will do almost anything to win including moving schools – sometimes even moving country to improve their chances of winning a competition.

Irish world champtionships 2015

Modern champions. Image: http://www.PhotoMagic.ie

And those dresses, wigs and make-up – what can I say. It is natural that styles will change over time and is part of all development. However, t’would give the haute couture of Louis XIV, Sun King of France a run for his money. And look what happened to him and his court!

Louis the sun king

Louis XIV The Sun King

Gavin Doherty design DSC_62212

Image: Gavin Doherty Design

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The saddest part for me is seeing the music applied like wallpaper – a background only for the dancing, and not integral or cherished in any way. There seems to be very little attempt to fit the steps to the music and to really connect with the complexity and beauty of it. Irish music is so full of character and life and much of the music I see in many Irish step dancing performances is pretty dreary stuff, in my opinion.

Not a patch on those beautiful compositions of Bill Whelan, nor any of the thousands of wonderful recorded uplifting music tracks available online for a few dollars. Music and dance work best in harmony, not submission.

So, while I genuinely applaud the interest in Irish step dancing, I am hopeful we will come full circle, back to a more beautiful and elegant form of dance that appreciates it’s cultural roots, more reflective of the emotion and rhythm in the music and just plain joyful and free.

Food for thought, I hope.

Nora Stewart
www.EasyIrishDance.com
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From Clare to Canberra: The Jack Canny Story Part 2-About Jack

Jack Canny would have been just over 3 years of age when the Easter Rising of 1916 took place in Dublin a hundred years ago, miles and worlds away from his home in the small townland of Glendree, two miles West of Feakle, Parish of Tulla in County Clare.

Maghera Mountain 1

Maghera Mountain, close to Jack’s home in Co.Clare, where Jack’s friend fell down a peat hole one foggy night coming home in the dark from dancing.                                     Image: http://www.ClareBirdWatching.com

The eldest of three sons of Patrick Canny and Catherine MacNamara, Jack was active,  and lively – “happy as a sand boy”, as he recounted, and was a natural sportsman including regular games of hurling, and later, cycling.

And, of course, there was music. His father, Pat Canny, was a noted local whistle and fiddle player “It was their main hobby when their day’s work was done in the farms. We had no radios or televisions at that time. We had to make our own enjoyment and our main enjoyment was music.”

“My Dad played, he was a great inspiration to all of us. He used often take down the fiddle on the long winter evenings and he’d play there for half an hour, just to keep on practising. He used to do that once a week…sometimes once a fortnight.”

Mark Tandy with Jack Canny

Jack Canny and Mark Tandy. Image: M.Tandy

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From Clare to Canberra: The Jack Canny Story Part 1-Threads

I used to think that a 100 years was a long time – ancient history. Now that I have just passed my own half century, I see it differently – close, not that far away, with threads that weave my own history into that time.

There is a reverberation, an echo from down the years, a depth of influence that County Clare has had, and is still having on, Canberra Irish musicians and dancers, like myself.

I was first alerted to this connection in 2004, when my husband Martin and I stepped into a King O’Malleys pub music session in Canberra on a Sunday night, for the first time. We looked at each other in surprise “Sounds just like the Tulla” we said, almost in unison. It was like an instant trip back to Clare – eerie and beautiful.

Music session at King O'Malleys, Canberra

Pete Hobson, Sue Hobson and Mark Tandy at King O’Malleys session. Photo: N.Stewart

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Your Top 5 Céilí Bands for 2016

The Dartry Céilí Band from Ireland got the most votes this year in our popular poll, closely chased by bands from the USA and the UK – see full results in the table below.

A fantastic response from all over the world with just over 4,000 votes and 175 bands listed. I thank everyone who took the time to vote.

Special mention goes to a very late entrant, the Tanzanian Céil Band – I suspect this  might be our most exotic entry to date. They are raising funds for the Tanzanian Children’s Project and the band’s slogan is:

Traditional Irish Music for A Better World

My sentiments exactly. Congratulations to all the ceili bands for your dedication and all the enjoyment you bring, no matter how many votes you got-more power to you all.

Happy St.Patrick’s Day and enjoy the music and dance wherever you are in the world.

Nora Stewart
www.EasyIrishDance.com
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RESULTS TABLE BELOW

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Vote for Your Top 5 Irish Céilí Bands 2016

It’s on again – the battle of the Irish céilí bands to get a place in the top 5 for 2016. We had a brilliant response last year and looking forward to supporting our old favourites and the newer bands within the ever-expanding stable of wonderful Irish dance musicians.

We dancers are so lucky to have so many talented and energetic musicians to play for us  and giving support  and a vote to our favourite bands is like the least we can do, although you can vote whether you dance or not. You just have to love the music!

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2015 Irish Set Dancing Summer Festivals Céilí Planner

Calling all dancers: the Irish summer is only weeks away now- get ready to dance!!!

Calling all dancers! It's summertime!I’m getting very excited about all the dance, music, fun, friendship and cráic ahead. It really is the best fun you can have standing up!I I have updated the Irish Summer Dance and Music for 2015 dates and information about a range of Irish, US and German dance festivals. This year  I have also put together this schedule of brilliant dance céilí choices below to help me decide what to go to and where… I need to grow two more pairs of legs to stretch myself across all these fabulous offerings!

IRISH SUMMER FESTIVAL CÉILÍS
You can click on the table below to make it bigger or you can download a Word document version here Irish set dancing summer festival ceili planner 2015.

2015  Summer Irish set dancing plannerHope to see you somewhere out there on the dance floor!
Best wishes and happy dancing!
Nora Stewart
www.EasyIrishDance.com

WINNER 5

Your Top 5 Irish Céilí Bands 2015

What an amazing response we had to this poll – the amount of interest far exceeded my wildest reckoning.

10,030 votes from 40 countries far and wide, with 128 bands on the list which  expanded over the poll week to include 171 bands, suggested by you.

I’m not sure if this is the first poll of Irish céilí bands, but the purpose of holding a popular vote was to try increase the level of interest in Irish dance music.  I can see that it doesn’t need a huge amount of help but I hope it has added something extra. I’d love to see the day where every country in the world has at least one céilí band.

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