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.
Armada Set Dancing Festival, during the Willie Clancy Week
at The Armada Hotel, Spanish Point, Co. Clare:, clare.ie has this list of the bands who played in The Armada in 2019 - the 2020 list is not yet available.
I've been attending the set dancing festival in The Armada for about 30 years now and, in all that time, I've never once been disappointed.
On the way down each year, I "it couldn't be as good as last year", yet every year seems even better than the previous one!
In my opinion, set dancing in The Armada is as good as it gets - nowhere else comes comes close to the atmosphere in The Armada.
The Armada was the only festival I attended in 2019 and it was amazing fun, as always!
It was really great to see so many dancers from all three of our set dancing classes in The Armada this year. We had many sets together and I enjoyed every minute and every second of it - we had a ball!
The Armada set dancing festival runs in parallel with
Scoil Samhraidh Willie Clancy, which has separate ceilis in The Marquee in Miltown Malbay
Accommodation in Miltown Malbay:
The biggest issue facing newcomers to the festival is finding accommodation - most people book the same accommodation for the following year, before they leave
each year, so it can be difficult to get into the loop if you're attending for the first time.
One option might be to try booking a room in The Armada, for the first few days at least. This is not cheap and, like other accommodation, people generally book
for the next year before they leave each year, so, if you are planning to book into the hotel, book early.
The Armada also has a group of cottages to rent, next door to the hotel, but these are also booked for the following year by the same
people, before they leave each year.
There is usually a board with accomodation offers in The Community Centre in Miltown Malbay.
Also, the Willie Clancy Summer School festival website generally has details
of available accommudation and/or a phone number to to call about accomodation.
There are plenty of other festivals around Ireland during the year, but, to my mind, none of them come anywhere close to matching the fun and liveliness of The Armada.
Best Regards and Happy Dancing,
I used to publish a long list of festivals around the country, but I don't do that any more, because it's too difficult to keep the list up to date and sometines
the event organisers can change dates and details at short notice - I wouldn't want to be responsible for sending anyone to a festival which wasn't taking place!
In any case, there are usually leaflets for other festivals inside the door in The Armada and in the Miltown Malbay Community Centre.
Since Miltown Malbay is one of the first festivals of the Summer (it starts on the first Saturday in July each year), you'll get leaflets in good time for the other festivals.
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.
- Bruach an tSuláin, The Abbey Ceili Band: music for The Ballyvourney Jig Set, The Borlin, The Caledonian and The Corofin Plain
- Béal a' Ghleanna, The Abbey Ceili Band: music for The Plain Set, The Sliabh Luachra, The West Kerry and The Connemara
- Bóthar na Réidhe, The Abbey Ceili Band: music for The Moycullen Set, The Antrim Square, The Skibereen and The Sliabh Fraoch
- Michael Sexton Ceili Band, The Michael Sexton Ceili Band: music for The Plain Set, The Caledonian, The Connemara and The Newport
- Mad to Dance, The Michael Sexton Ceili Band: music for The Labasheeda, The Clare Orange and Green, The Clare Lancers and The Cashel
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.
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:
Laughter Yoga: My sister's LaughterYogaClasses.com 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.