Allison haughmarianne mangan

Musical standards high in Parsippany

Whistle player Allison Haugh in silhouette at the Fleadh.

PHOTO: MARIANNE MANGAN

By Daniel Neely

Last weekend, Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann's North American Province and Mid-Atlantic Region held their annual joint Convention and Fleadh at the Hilton Hotel in Parsippany, N.J. It was a terrific weekend full of workshops, concerts, language events, ceilithe and sessions – truly something for everyone. The music and camaraderie that abounded reflected well the spirit and enthusiasm the Irish and Irish-American communities have for our traditional music.

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The weekend was chock full of activities. In addition to the regional and provincial meetings on Friday, there was a full array of music workshops led by members of the Moylurg Ceili Band (the 2013 All-Ireland Senior Ceili Band champions), dance workshops led by Mick Mulkerrin, Maureen Mulvey and Shannon Dunne, the Grupai Cheoil Competition and a Ceili.

The bulk of the Fleadh competitions took place on Saturday. Hundreds of young people from all over the country came to compete and compete they did. If the myriad sessions in the hotel lobby throughout the weekend were any indication, the musical standard was very high all around. It was clear from the competitions I watched myself that these young folks put in a tremendous amount of work and could go home full of pride that they did the music proud. Congratulations to the select few who qualified to compete for the All-Ireland in Sligo from Aug. 9-16, it should be a great adventure. Best of luck over there! (See www.fleadhcheoil.ie for more information.)

Saturday evening featured an invitation-only cocktail reception sponsored by the Irish Consulate of New York to celebrate the weekend. In attendances were several members of the Mid-Atlantic Region’s Hall of Fame, numerous branch officers from branches all over the country, representatives from Sligo and guest of honor Jimmy Deenihan, T.D., Minister for Diaspora Affairs.

Later that evening, the region’s Hall of Fame gala banquet took place. Brendan Fahey, Frankie McCormick and “The Sligo Masters” (Michael Coleman, James Morrison, Paddy Killoran and James “Lad” O’Beirne”) were the honorees, rightly recognized for their contribution to the music. Congratulations to all the inductees and to their families as well for the support they’ve given as well!

The Small Group and Ceili Band competitions both took place on Sunday. These are great competitive events that not only speak to the talent of those competing, but to their sense of teamwork as well.

Overall it was a lovely, successful Comhaltas weekend! Truly, it was truly a thing to see so many young people represent the music so well, but it was great, also, to see the tremendous pride in the eyes of the parents and teachers who know (maybe all too well) how much work goes into a weekend such as this. A rich and rewarding experience!

Visit www.nyfleadh.com to learn more about the Mid-Atlantic Fleadh. For those interested in learning more about the region, go to www.cce-ma.com or www.facebook.com/groups/MidAtlanticCCE.

Many of the young folks who compete in the Fleadh have teachers who are local to them, but a very large number of them also attend the music camps that take place throughout the country. One of the most interesting such weeks in the Mid-Atlantic region is the Musical Arts and Dance Week – known to most as “MAD Week” – which is sponsored by the O’Neill-Malcom Branch of Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann and will take place July 6-10 at the Cedar Lane Unitarian Church in Bethesda, Md.

MAD Week is a day-oriented "commuter" camp for locals directed by fiddler Mitch Fanning. Under Fanning, the week has developed a stellar reputation and attracts some of the music's best teachers.

This year’s MAD Week staff will feature one of it’s best lineups to day. On staff, they will have John Carty, MacDara Ó Raghaillagh, Brendan Mulvihill, Rose Flanagan, Sean Cleland, Kevin Crawford, Linda Hickman, Jerry O'Sullivan, Zan McLeod, Donna Long, Billy McComiskey, Gearóid Ó hAllmhuráin, the Devane brothers and many more. It should be quite a week.

A hearty congratulations is due to MAD Week for two reasons. First is that this summer the camp will celebrate its 10th anniversary. What a milestone! Secondly, they recently received word that they were awarded a substantial grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. It’s very important that Irish music continues to get federal arts funding and it’s great to see it going to the right place. Congratulations, MAD Week – keep up the excellent work!

If you live in the area, MAD Week definitely worth checking out. For more information, visit www.ccepotomac.org.

Daniel Neely is the Irish Echo's traditional music correspondent.