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 attend each year:

  • Armada Set Dancing Week: 6-15 July 2018, Armada Hotel, Spanish Point, Co. Clare:
    Runs in parallel with the Willie Clancy Summer School. The Armada Set Dancing Week is the highlight of the year for me, I never miss it. I generally dance every set in The Armada, afternoon and evening, for 10 days, hope to see you there.

  • 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
  • Festival Website has contact details for accommodation queries.

  • South Sligo Summer School: 15-21 July 2018, 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: 21-28 July 2018, Drumshanbo, Co. Leitrim:
    Takes place the week after Tubbercurry. Workshops during the day and ceilis most evenings.

  • Le Grand Bal De L'Europe: 20 July - 3 August 2018, Gennetines, France:
    This is a new festival for us in 2108. Maureen and I are heading off in our camper to France, to join Michael Tubridy and others, as part of the "Irish Team" presenting Irish music and dance to attendees at this International festival. We'll be there for most, but not all, of the festival - we are booked to travel out to France by Ferry on August 28th, which means that I'll still get all of the ceilis at the Joe Mooney Summer School in Drumshanbo, except for the last one on Saturday 28th. We plan to remain at the festival until it finishes on August 3rd and then drop in our good friend Emmanuel Pariselle.

  • 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 won't be at Keadue in 2018, as away at that time.

  • Feakle Festival: 8-13 Aug 2018 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. *1

  • Scoil Éigse and Fleadh Cheoil: 12-19 Aug 2018 Drogheda, Co. Louth:
    The Fleadh Cheoil is a weekend festival, which includes All Ireland competitions in music and dance. The Scoil Éigse takes place in the same town during the week before the Fleadh. The event is organised and run by Comhaltas "Head Office" and towns throughout the country put in bids to host the Fleadh. It typically moves to a different town every two years or so, with the local Comhaltas organisation doing the organising work.

    In 2016 and 2017 ther Fleadh was held in Ennis, Co. Clare and, in my opinion, the two Ennis Fleadhs were the best ever - they had a ceili every night for the whole week of the Scoil Eigse and Fleadh. Each and every ceili in Ennis was full to capacity, lively and full of enjoyment. Drogheda 2018 returns to a more typical Fleadh ceili pattern: -there's a nightly Set Dancing Ceili from Thursday to Sunday, as well as a separate Fíor Ceili on Friday and Saturday nights. *1

  • Dan Furey Weekend: 24-26 Aug 2018 Labasheeda, Co. Clare:
    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 Dancing Festival: 16-18 Nov 2018, Longford Arms, Longford Town:
    A weekend festival, which takes place in The Longford Arms, in the latter part of November. Usually a great weekend, well worth a visit.

  • 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: 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:
    • 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:

    Up-to-date, as of: Sunday, 24th June 2018

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