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.

  • I won't be Drumshanbo this year.

  • .

    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.

    So, as soon as registration opens, for courses in September, at Alliance Francaise I will be registering for a Beginner's French Language Course - while the language is not essential, I feel it's polite to make an effort to learn to speak at least a few words of French. And, since we have French language speakers at our Set Dancing Classes, Northside and the Southside, I will have a chance to try out a few words of French, once in a while, after I've got some basics. But, I'd aim to use this facility sparingly, so as not to be too much of a nuisance to Stephanie, Doireann, and any other French speakers, in the three classes.

  • 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 be in Keadue this year, as we were away in France.

  • 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. We'll be back from France in time for Feakle.

    • Annual Charity Ceili in aid of Irish Cancer Society: Fri. 10th Aug. 9:30pm-1am, Knockaderry, withStriolán Ceili Band :
      This year, I plan to take 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 Lenihan, who, like myself, dance in in The Armada in Spanish Point during the first week of July every year. Music by the wonderful Striolán Ceili Band, who always play absolutely amazing dance music. I'll then return to Feakle for the rest of the Feakle Festival.

  • 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.

    I have the camper booked in to the Rugby Club in Drogheda, from Thursday to Monday and I hope to attend all 4 set dancing ceilis.

  • 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: Thursday, 16th August 2018

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