Fleadh secretary Terry Rafferty with Tír na nÓg champ Liam Kehoe.

Very high standard on display at lively Mid-Atlantic Fleadh

Congratulations to the the Mid-Atlantic Region of Comhatas Ceoltóirí Éireann on another successful Mid-Atlantic Fleadh!  It was a heartwarming scene in New Jersey as throngs of people of all ages descended on the Parsippany Hilton to compete for a chance to go over to the All-Ireland.  And after seeing some of the talent competing this week end, it would be fair to say that the United States will be very well represented at the Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann in Mullingar this August.

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 As usual, the competitions were lively and well organized.  The ones I observed included dozens of young, extremely well-prepared musicians who played to a very high standard.  I was thoroughly impressed with what I saw not only in the competition rooms, but also at the late night sessions that took place in the lobby and in the competition rooms.  One of the Saturday sessions included heavy hitters like Seán Gavin, Sean McComiskey, Liz Carroll, and Rose Flanagan, but also a huge number of young people, including button accordionist and dancer Claire Noonan and her sister Kiera, a fiddle player, whose music I found very, very impressive.  It was great fun!

 Word from Saturday night’s Hall of Fame banquet was all positive as well.  This year’s inductees were Mary Coogan, Bruce Foley, and Jimmy Lavin (RIP), all folks well known to the region.  Coogan, a guitar and banjo player, is founding member of the acclaimed ensemble Cherish the Ladies and Foley, her husband, is a renown singer, guitarist, and uilleann piper who has toured extensively throughout the USA and Ireland.  Lavin was a much-loved accordion player who many will remember as a member of Pete Kelly’s Shannonaires Céilí Band in his youth.  Congrats to all the inductees and their families!

 The rest of the weekend was lovely as well. There was one key new addition this year that gave the Fleadh a new – almost liberating – wrinkle for parents. While the adults banqueted on Saturday night, the kids had the option of attending “The Juice Box Sessions” pajama party.  Somewhere in the range of 40 or 50 children showed up, decked out in pajamas with instrument in hand, and participated in a supervised session that eventually gave way to card games and charades.  My 12-year-old son went and had a great time – he played a bunch of tunes, played some games, and made a few new friends, which was perfect.  It was miles of smiles all around and a great success for the weekend.

 Special credit for all this is due to to Ann Marie Acosta, the Region’s new chairperson, who ushered in a new leadership era and did a very fine job in her first year on the job. Congrats Ann Marie for your hard work and leadership!

 Best of luck to everyone who qualified to travel to Ireland for the Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann!  As a reminder, it will take place in Mullingar, Aug. 6-14.  If you’re planning on going, don’t sleep on finding accommodation – it’s always a challenge, so best to get started looking early!

 Now I’ll talk about this more in the coming weeks, but next up on the Comhaltas calendar is the North American Province Convention, which will take place at the Bethesda North Marriott in North Bethesda, Maryland, June 29-July 2.

 The convention has more to offer than mere competition and will have a more “festival-like” feeling than the Fleadh.  There, attendees will be able to avail themselves of music and dance workshops (it’s a long list of instructors, but a few names that stand out include Angelina Carberry, Brian Conway, Donna Long, Brendan Mulvihill, Larry Nugent, and John Whelan), roundtable discussions, history and language lectures, a Mick Moloney tribute, a Saturday evening banquet,  four céilís (each with different céilí band), and more.

 Again, I will give this event a bit more shine in an upcoming column, but it promises to be a major (and majorly fun) weekend of music and craic – make an effort to be there.  To book your reservation for Convention 2023, visit here – it should be a great time.