Irish Traditional Music: Festivals, CDs and Online Resources
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Irish Traditional Music: Festivals, CDs and Online Resources:

On this page, I list my favourite festivals and CDs:


There are a large number of Irish music and dance festivals throughout Ireland each year.

These are the festivals I'm attending in 2018 - every other year, the list is much the same:

  • Armada Set Dancing Week: 6-15 July 2018, Armada Hotel, Spanish Point, Co. Clare:

    Runs in parallel with the Willie Clancy Summer School.
    Dancing in The Armada is always the highlight of the year for me, I never miss it.

    The 2018 Armada Set Dancing Week was, as always, a brilliant success. I attended every ceili, afternoon and evening, except for two, which I, reluctantly, had to miss, due to medical appointments. I danced every set at every ceili and enjoyed minute and every second of it.

    In addition to having a great week of dancing in the Armada, I got really great news regarding my Health Issues
    I had an 8am appointment for cancer treatment in Dublin on the Friday morning, so we travelled home the night before, reluctantly missing the Thursday night ceili. At the hospital, the Oncology Professor said scans show that my cancer has "shrunk significantly", which is really great news. It was 11:30am by the time I left the hospital and, after calling out home and collecting two grandchildren along the way, we headed back to Miltown. I had the 2nd Set of the afternoon ceili pre-booked from the day before and I was back just in time to dance it, and every set thereafter.

  • Willie Clancy Summer School: 7-15 July 2018, Miltown Malbay, Co. Clare:
    The Willie Clancy Summer School starts of the first Saturday of July each year and runs all through the following week. The Armada Set Dancing Week runs in parallel with the Willie Clancy Summer School and, between the two, there is a choice of workshops every morning, ceilis every afternoon and a choice of ceilis every night. You can dance morning, noon and night for 10 days in a row! There are workshops in a wide range of instruments, as well as set dancing and step dancing. Note that registration for workshops is on a weekly basis only, the cost is 140 euro for the week, which also includes free admission to the nightly concerts in the Commumnity Hall (except Saturday night), lectures and ceilis in the marquee - it does not include admission to ceilis in The Armada. In any case, tickets are available at the door at for the ceilis in the Armada and the marquee (typically 10 euro) and for the nightly concerts in the Community Hall.

    • Accommodation in Miltown Malbay:
      The biggest issue for newcomers to the festival is finding accommodation - most people book the same accommodation from one year to the next. The Scoil Samhraidh Willie Clancy Website has contact details for accommodation queries.

  • New (for me) in 2018: Munster Fleadh, Cois na hAbhna, Ennis, Co. Clare:
    While dancing in The Armada, I heard about two ceilis taking place in Cois na hAbhna in Ennis, during the Munster Fleadh, so I changed my plans and attended these two wonderful ceilis in Cois na hAbhna, and danced every set at each one - many thanks to Evelyn for the information:

  • Tubbercurry 2018:
    I was in Tubbercurry on Sat. 21st July for Rise The Dust at 15:00 and The Glenide at 20:30, and danced every set at these two fantastic ceilis.

  • Le Grand Bal De L'Europe: 20 July - 3 August 2018, Gennetines, France:
    Maureen and I attended Gennetines 2018 and we had an absolute ball - literally, there was a "Bal" (similar to a ceili) twice a day, much like in Miltown Malbay during Willie Clancy Week. This was our first year at the festival and we enjoyed every minute and second of it!

    It's a festival on a phenomenal scale, all held on one family's farm, way out in the countryside. There are 10 large marquees, each at least as big as "The Mill" in Miltown Malbay, with back-to-back events scheduled in each one of them from 10am each morning, until 4am the next morning. The fun doesn't even stop then - in some marquees, when the amplification is turned off at 4am, the musicians come down off the stage, to sit in a circle in the middle of the floor and continue to play acoustically, with 60 or more dancers dancing around them, until it's time for breakfast at 8am!

    We brought our camper, via the Rosslare-Cherbourg route - it was a long trip, but well worth it. Camping and caravanning is free to registered attendees.

    It was a eye-opener for us, we had no idea that so many other countries around Europe have music and dance traditions which are alive and thriving, every bit as good as our own, with many, many, young people involved in both the music and the dance.

    We'll be back! In fact, before the ferry had even docked in Rosslare, I had done an online search to get recommendatiions on where was the best place in Dublin to learn French and I've documented my experience with learning French on my Health Update page.

  • Keadue Summer School 30 July - 3 Aug 2018, Keadue, Co. Roscommon:
    Takes place at the end of July / early August. Workshops during the day and ceilis on Tuesday and Friday nights. - I wasn't in Keadue this year, as we were away in France.

  • Feakle Festival: 8-13 Aug 2018 Feakle, Co. Clare:
    Another great year in Feakle. I attended the Sunday night ceili with The Tulla Ceili Band and the Monday Night "Crossroads Dance", with the magical Sliabh Aughty Ceili Band, made up of Mark Donnelan, Charlie Harris and Jim Corry - dancing to these three guys is as good as it gets, I sometimes travel all the way from Dublin to Kilbeacanty, just outside Gort, and back again the same night, just to dance to their beautiful music.

  • Annual Charity Ceili, in aid of Irish Cancer Society: Friday, 10th August, Knockaderry:
    This year, I took temporary leave from the Feakle Festival on Friday evening to make a detour to Knockaderry, in West Limerick, to attend the Annual Charity Ceili, in aid of The Irish Cancer Society. This fundraising ceili is organised every year by two wonderful ladies, Teresa and Deidre, who, like myself, dance in in The Armada in Spanish Point during the first week of July every year. It was a great night, with mighty music by the wonderful Striolán Ceili Band, who always play absolutely amazing dance music.

  • The Fleadh Cheoil:

    The Fleadh takes place in August each year. It moves from place to place, with towns competing with each other to host it.

    In 2016 and 2017, The Fleadh was in Ennis, Co. Clare, which was, in my opinion, the best Fleadh town in many, many, years - I think Listowel (1985-1987) came the nearest to matching Ennis as a Fleadh venue.

    In Ennis, there was a ceili every night for 8 nights in a row, and I attended every one of them, cycling from Clarecastle to Cois na hAbhna, and back, every night.

    Fleadh 2018, was in Drogheda, Co Louth, and I attended just one ceili, on Friday night, with The Abbey Ceili Band.

    I was surprised that all the sets were called in Drogheda - there was no calling at all at any of the Fleadh ceilis in Ennis for the last two years.

  • Dan Furey Weekend: 24-26 Aug 2018 Labasheeda, Co. Clare:
    A brilliant festival, dedicated to the memory of Dan Furey and James Keane, in the quiet and picturesque village of Labasheeda.

    Typically, there's a ceili on Friday night, Saturday night and Sunday afternoon. This year, we got just the Friday night ceili, with the wonderful Tulla Ceili Band. We had to leave on Saturday afternoon, so that Maureen could attend the funeral of a friend, hence we missed the Saturday night (Striolán) and Sunday afternoon (Johnny Reidy) ceilis.

    This year, 2018, the festival had a beautiful 74-page colour booklet, which contained a lovely tribute by Michael Tubridy to his late wife Celine,

    Dan Furey was responsible for passing on the Labasheeda Set and the Paris Set, as well as a large number of Traditional Irish Step Dances, such as The Priest and his Boots, Single Time and many more. Dan, and later James Keane, passed these dances on to Celine and Michael Tubridy, who documented them in the book "A Selection of Irish Traditional Step dances" and recorded an accompanying CD and DVD.

    At the 2013 festival, a plaque was unveiled, thanking Michael and Celine for the work they had done in carrying on Dan's work and preserving the dances for everyone to enjoy. The festival committee really appreciate the work that Celine and Michael did, and which Michael continues to do, in preserving and passing on Dan's dances. At this year's official opening, Michael was described as "a National Treeasure" and he was thanked for his continued commitment to the festival.

    Also, this year, the local primary school launched their own lovely CD, costing just 5 euro, which they called "Finnegan's Wake".

  • Labasheeda was our last festival this Summer. I feel like I've been dancing all Summer and I enjoyed every minute and every second of it!
    It's almost worth getting ill, just to appreciate the great joy of being alive and well and able to dance!

    I look forward to seeing you all when classes resume, in September.
    Best regards,

    Dance Music:

    I often get asked about music. A good place to look for music is Claddagh Records, you can buy online or in one of their shops, details of which you will find on the Claddagh Records About Us page.

    These are some of my favourite music CDs:

    For Dancing Sets: The Abbey CDs are available direct from the band at any of their gigs. I don't know if the Michael Sexton CDs are still in print, but, if they are, then you might be able to get them from his son, also called Michael (Mícheál) Sexton, at his gigs.

    For Listening to and/or Steps Practice:
    • Michael Tubridy: The Eagle's Whistle: Recorded long before modern multi-track technology was available, Michael plays all the instruments himself on this recording, including flute, concertina, bombarde, whistle, and bodhran. It's a magical recording, initially released on vinyl, now available on CD at this Claddagh Records link - definitely an absolute classic, which deserves to be in everyone's music collection - order it HERE

    • Mary McNamara and Sorcha Costello: The Lady's Cup of Tea: "The Lady's Cup of Tea" by Mary Mac Namara and her daughter, Sorcha Costello, is one of my all-time-favourite CDs. Mary, from Tulla, Co. Clare, plays concertina at a lovely steady pace, alongside her daughter Sorcha, on fiddle. Mary's other CDs include solo recordings "Note for Note", "Traditional Music from East Clare" and "The Blackberry Blossom", as well as a duet recording, with her brother Andrew Mac Namara, called "Open Hearth" all of which are available in her online shop. They contain lovely Reels, Jigs and Hornpipes, at a lovely steady pace, ideal for practicing steps.

    • Paudie and Aoife O'Connor: lovely slides and polkas from the well known husband and wife team, Paudie and Aoife O'Connor, both of whom are originally from Kerry, now living in Dublin

    • Breanndán Ó Beaglaoich & Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh: A Moment of Madness, Kerry music on fiddle, melodion and accordion from Brendan Begley and Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh: two tracks on this CD were recorded live at a concert in nearby Airfield House, Dundrum, in June 2007. During the concert, a few of us couldn't resist dancing, so we started a set at the back of the hall. Without us realising it and without ever missing a beat, the two musicians left the stage and came down to play alongside us while we danced - a wonderful night and a magic CD!

    • Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh: lots more lovely music from Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh - I feel I should declare an interest here, Caoimhín is my son
    For Dancing Sean Nós Solo Steps:
    For Dancing Two-Hand and Ceili Dances:
    • Popular Irish Ceili Dances, Johnny Connolly: music on melodeon for The Stack of Barley, Shoe the Donkey, The Siege of Ennis, The Walls of Limerick, The High-Cauled Cap and other ceili and two-hand dances. (this CD seems be out of print, but it's available for download on several sites - may also be worth checking with Claddagh Records to see if it's still available)
    Some of these CDs can be ordered online by following the links above. Otherwise, you might try Claddagh Records in Dublin, Custys in Ennis, or any well-stocked traditional Irish music shop.

    Online Resources:

    I would advise caution when searching the internet for information about set dancing - for example, there is a very questionable practice of bringing a video camera to a ceili, filming dancers without their knowledge or consent and then posting video clips online in such a way that they get to the top of search results. People wanting to learn a dance then unwittingly use these clips as a "reference" even though the dancers in the clips were completely unaware that they were being filmed and might even be attempting the dance for the very first time! There is a lot of poor quality material on the internet and this is often what gets to the top of search results.

    The good news is that, if you are willing to dig a bit deeper, there are also some excellent websites, such as The Irish Traditional Music Archive which has some lovely content, such as:

    Other Links:

  • Laughter Yoga: My sister's website, which includes a link to an RTE1 Television broadcast of a class in progress, giving a good idea of what it's all about. I haven't tried it yet, but, while I'm reluctant to suggest that anything could be more fun than Set Dancing, it looks like a lot of fun!

    If the structure of the website looks familiar, that's because I look after the internet side of things for Marion and I use the same basic structure for both sites.

  • Bad Breath: We dance close to our partners, so, anyone with bad breath should try to get it sorted. this Youtube video of an interview with Dr Danielle Colbert, on RTE1 Television, about the causes of breath causes of bad breath, and ways to minimise it. I've also included a link to this video in the hygene section of our FAQ page.

  • Up-to-date, as of: Friday, 23rd August 2019

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    Irish Traditional Music: Festivals, CDs and Online Resources