Midwest plans ‘e-Fleadh’ for May

“Slí na mBeaglaoich Ciarraí” is must-see viewing on TG4.

By Daniel Neely

It’s not like you needed any more reminding of how severely the Covid-19 pandemic has affected the world of Irish music, but the big news this past week is that the Milwaukee Irish Fest, the country’s largest Irish festival, has been cancelled. Irish Fest (irishfest.com) takes place over four days every August since 1981, and is host to over 100 acts on 17 stages. This is a substantial loss for the community and for the Irish Fest organization – hopefully, it comes back bigger and better next year.

Sign up to The Irish Echo Newsletter

Sign up today to get daily, up-to-date news and views from Irish America.

(At the time of writing it is my understanding that gatherings like Scoil Samhradh Willie Clancy and the Catskills Irish Arts Week are still under review, but I’ll let you know when decisions are made.)

peaking of cancelations: although the Midwest Regional Fleadh was cancelled on April 11, it was announced last week that the Murphy Roche branch will host a virtual “e-Fleadh” that will take place May 15-17, the same weekend of the original. According to their announcement, it is “a non-qualifying, nonofficial event,” its goal being “to offer entrants an opportunity to present a recorded performance that will be reviewed by a qualified adjudicator and receive feedback.” Only solo entries will be permitted, save for accompaniment, ceili band drum, or bodhran, as those competitions require a second musician. The e-Fleadh’s registration deadline is May 1, for the full scoop visit murphyroche.org/fleadh2020.htm.

If you’ve been stuck perusing social media this week, you’ve doubtless come across the word “Quarantunes.” It’s something of a game of tag for the last month or so, wherein one person shares a tune or song of their choice, add the #Quarantunes hashtag, include the World Health Organization’s website, www.who.int, where people can donate, and then nominates others to take part. It’s a really interesting way of getting in your traditional music fix, as there have been some brilliant posts from great players like Danny O Mahony, MacDara Ó Raghallaigh, Bríd Harper, Mick Mulvey, Declan Folan, a couple by Kevin Crawford, Dylan Foley, Katie Linnane & Ivan Goff, Theresa O’Grady, John Flynn, Mick O'Brien with his daughter Ciara, Frankie McCormack, Hollie Greenwood, Louise Mulcahy, Brenda Castles, and Jayne Pomplas (who, you might remember was the subject of last week’s column). There are loads of these videos from all sorts of players, search them down on Facebook using the hashtag #Quarantunes .

Hey, speaking of folks making music, on March 30th, Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann launched a repertoire-teaching website that the musician readers of this column should know about. “The material used for this programme,” the press email reported, “is taken from and guided by the varying levels of the SCT exam syllabus,” and Comhaltas is providing it free of charge. There are three levels being provided for – elementary, grades 1-5, and grades 6-8 – and the tunes are taught in a very clear, straightforward manner. if you’re looking to sharpen your skills while you’re hanging out at home, this is a great way to do it. Follow along at www.sctexams.com.

Finally, if you’re still hankering for the finest in traditional music entertainment, be advised that the Irish language station TG4 has a lot of programming available on its “Traditional Music” page, tinyurl.com/TG4tradmusic. There, you can watch documentaries about the great piper Liam O’Flynn, the show “The Green Linnet” (which followed Barney McKenna and TonMcMahon around Europe), “Gradam Ceoil TG4 2020,” “Sé Mo Laoch Speisialta” with Matt Molloy, Michael Flatley & Seamus Tansey, and much, much more, all for free. In addition, on Sunday the station premiered the first episode of “Slí na mBeaglaoich Ciarraí,” a beautiful and fascinating six-part series that follows Brendan and Cormac Begley’s rambles around the West of Ireland where they chat and play with musicians in Kerry, Clare, Galway, Mayo, Sligo, and Donegal. It’s must-see viewing, especially if you love music in the west. (And for the non-Irish speakers out there, yes, there are subtitles!) You can find TG4’s English language homepage at www.tg4.ie/en/.