Traditional Music / By Daniel Neely
Two of the events that loom large on the traditional music calendar in the United States are on the horizon, Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann’s Mid-Atlantic Fleadh and its meeting of the North American Province. The former is one of two fleadhs in North America that decide who travels to Ireland to compete in the Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann (the “All-Ireland”) and the latter is a convening of all the Province’s officers to discuss the issues and ideas that affect and shape the organization. When held separately, both events attract throngs of people from all over, but this year, once again, they’re being held together in Parsippany, N.J. A robust turnout of the musically minded is anticipated and good craic is expected.
The Convention begins on Thursday, May 7, and the Fleadh competitions get underway on Friday, the 8th. Attendees can expect a wide range of events over the course of the weekend, including competitions; instrumental, singing, Irish language, set dance, ceili, and sean nós dance workshops; Ceilithe; Concerts; and a gala banquet. The festivities continue all weekend – morning, noon and night, all night – and will come to a close on Sunday the 10th.
The theme of year’s event will be Sligo, which is fitting as Sligo was where last year’s Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann was held and where it will once again be held in 2015. To commemorate this, the “Sligo Masters” documentary I reviewed back in February will be shown. In addition, the Sligo fiddle masters Michael Coleman, James Morrison, Paddy Killoran and James “Lad” O’Beirne will be inducted posthumously into the Mid-Atlantic Region’s Hall of Fame (www.cce-ma-hof.com).
Also being inducted to the Mid-Atlantic Region’s Hall of Fame will be banjo player Frankie McCormick and drummer Brendan Fahey. Originally from County Armagh, McCormack is a well-known teacher and is a member of the popular group Celtic Cross. He also has a long track record of service with Comhaltas. Fahey comes from Clare, Galway and Mayo stock, is the founder of the popular Ceol na gCroí Céilí Band and plays with other groups, including the Green Gates Céilí Band and the Doonbeg Society of New York). Induction is a great honor, and it will be nice to see this group join the long list of previous honorees.
Another of the weekend’s great highlights will be feature performances by the Moylurg Ceili Band from County Roscommon. The Moylurg earned senior All-Ireland champion honors at the historic Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann in Derry in 2013. The group’s members are Ronan Greene, Shane Meehan, Enda McGreevey (fiddles); Mick Mulvey, Aidan Shannon, Lorraine Sweeney (flutes); Breda Shannon (concertina); Brian Mostyn (accordian); Mick Blake (piano); and Damien McGuinness (drums). The group will play for the dances and select members will lead instrument workshops on the Friday. (Other workshop instructors include Eimear Arkins [singing], Maire ni Chatsaigh [harp], Mick Mulkerrin [set dance], and Shannon Dunne [sean nós dance].)
Readers should know that musicians from North America have represented admirably over the years with last year’s showing being especially memorable. Strong showings were given by Dylan Foley (1st, Fiddle, over 18), Patrick Hutchinson (1st, Uilleann Pipes Slow Airs, over 18), Molly O’Riordan (1st, Songs in English [Ladies], 15-18), Bridget O’Donnell (2nd place, Fiddle 12-15), Haley Richardson (2nd place, Fiddle Slow Airs, under 12), Jake James (2nd place, Fiddle Slow Airs 15-18), Annmarie Acosta (3rd place, Piano Accordion, over 18), Alex Weir (3rd place, Fiddle Slow Airs, 12-15), Kieran Flanagan (3rd place, accompaniment, 12-15), and Bram Pomplas (3rd place, Bodhrán, under 12) in the solo competitions. In the group competitions, Keegan Loesel, Haley Richardson, Alex Weir (3rd place, Trios, 12-15) distinguished themselves well.
Can’t make the Mid-Atlantic Fleadh but still want a chance to compete in Ireland? The Midwest Fleadh, which is the other All-Ireland qualifier, takes place in Cincinnati, from May 15-17. See midwestfleadh.org for details.
The 2015 Convention & Fleadh promises to be a great weekend of music, camaraderie, and spirit. Not to be missed! For information about competing in or simply attending the Fleadh, visit www.nyfleadh.com. For information about Comhaltas and the Mid-Atlantic Region, visit www.cce-ma.com.