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:

Summer Festivals:

There are a large number of Irish music and dance festivals throughout Ireland each year, these are some of the ones that I typically attend:
  • Armada Set Dancing Week, Armada Hotel, Spanish Point, Co. Clare:
    Runs in parallel with the Willie Clancy Summer School. I generally dance every set in The Armada, afternoon and evening, for 10 days, hope to see you there.

  • Willie Clancy Summer School, 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 and, between the two events, there is a choice of workshops every morning, ceilis every afternoon and a choice of ceilis every night, so you can dance morning, noon and night for 10 days!

  • South Sligo Summer School, Tubbercurry, Co. Sligo:
    Takes place the week after Willie Clancy. Workshops during the day and ceilis most evenings. The last ceili in the Armada is on the afternoon of the second Sunday and the first ceili in Tubbercurry starts that night - some people manage to attend both!

  • Joe Mooney Summer School, Drumshanbo, Co. Leitrim:
    Takes place the week after Tubbercurry. Workshops during the day and ceilis most evenings.

  • Feakle Festival Feakle, Co. Clare:
    Takes place around the second week of August each year and has been running for 30 years. From the set dancer's point of view, there is typically one ceili on Friday night, two ceilis on Saturday night, one on Sunday night and a crossroads dance on the Monday night. There is also lots of other activities, including sessions, concerts, outdoor gigs, etc. etc. The atmosphere at this festival is very friendly and, if you stay for the weekend, you will make lots of lifelong friends. They have a great lineup of musicians for the ceilis, the concerts and the sessions.

  • Fleadh Cheoil 2017 Ennis, Co. Clare:
    The All Ireland Fleadh moves to a different town every two years or so. In 2016, it was in Ennis, Co. Clare, and, for the first time ever, they had a ceili every night for 9 nights in a row, with a choice of venues on some nights. It was a great week and I expect that they will do it again in 2017, but please check back nearer the time for confirmation.

  • Dan Furey Weekend Labasheeds, Co. Clare:
    Takes place in late August / early Septemver each year. A great weekend festival in the village of Labasheeda, Co. Clare, devoted to the memory of Dan Furey and James Keane. Typically, there are ceilis on Friday night, Saturday afternoon, Saturday night and Sunday afternoon. Dan was responsible for passing on the Labasheeda Reel 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 James 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.

  • Sean Og Set Dancing Festival, Longford Town, Co. Longford:
    A weekend festival, which takes place in The Longford Arms, Longford Town, Co. Longford, in the latter part of November.

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 their about us page. These are some of my favourite music CDs:

For Dancing Sets:
  • 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 Reel Set, The Clare Orange and Green, The Clare Lancers and The Cashel
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), at his gigs.

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.

For Listening to and/or Steps Practice:
  • Mary McNamara: Reels, Jigs and Hornpipes on concertina at a nice steady pace, ideal for practicing steps.
  • Paudie and Aoife O'Connor: lovely slides and polkas from the well known Kerry musician Paudie O'Connor
  • 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
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 - they have some lovely content, such as this video of Aidan Vaughan dancing Clare battering steps on stage at the Willie Clancy Summer School in Miltown Malbay, with music provided by father and daughter team, Mick and Louise Mulcahy.

Up-to-date, as of: Wednesday, 26th April 2017

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Irish Traditional Music: Festivals, CDs and Online Resources