For the second consecutive year Fleadh Cheoil na Éireann was a monumental triumph for the town of Ennis, Comhaltas Ceoltoiri Eireann, the very many talented musicians and Irish traditional music.
Michael Flatley at the official opening of Fleadh Cheoil na hEireann. Photo by Chris Copley.
Not even Hurricane Gert, sweeping in torrential rain from the Atlantic, failed to dampen the spirits of all those who had come to County Clare from near and far.
In all, 450,000 people attended over nine days of the greatest feast of Irish traditional music held anywhere in the world. Among them, more than 3,000 competitors, with their families and friends, to take part in over 180 competitions.
Fleadh Cheoil generated €38 million for the local economy and was officially opened by Lord of the Dance, Michael Flatley, who recalled competing in Ennis as an 18-year-old during the 1977 Fleadh Cheoil.
In a refreshingly honest comment, Flatley told how he was persuaded by his parents to play Irish music. “I didn’t want to play music, and now I am so honoured and delighted that I do,” he said.
What a week it was – competitions, concerts and céilithe galore, plus the craic in the pubs and the brilliant young musicians and dancers entertaining on every street.
As a venue, Ennis is right for Fleadh Cheoil na hEireann. The narrow streets and open squares make it just the perfect fit.
After a week of celebration, Saturday was the busiest day with numbers peaking at 100,000 as the crowds ebbed and flowed from the gig rig, along O’Connell Street to the Market.
Scoil Eigse, the official summer school under the direction of Stockton’s Wing and RTE’s Kieran Hanrahan, attracted 900 students from Ireland and overseas for masterclasses and workshops on music, song, dance and the Irish language.
Concert audiences broke all records while Legacy, Comhaltas Ceoltoirí Éireann’s flagship orchestral performance, premiered in a packed 2,000 seater auditorium.
For those who couldn’t be there in person, FleadhTV brought all the excitement into their homes right across the globe with 9 hours of exhilarating TV.
Catherine Delaney from Chicago entertaining passersby
An inaugural Legacy Colloquium featured a programme of presentations by eminent scholars and speakers.
The colloquium was facilitated by Professor Emeritus, Gearóid Ó Tuathaigh of NUIG. In her opening address, Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald mentioned a reel, ‘Aggie Whyte’s Chattering Magpie’, that was written for her aunt, a stalwart of the Fleadh.
Recalling the late great Robbie McMahon’s signature ballad ‘The Fleadh Down in Ennis’, the Tánaiste said she was fortunate “to grow up in a household where those who attended this Fleadh and who featured on the recordings and radio broadcasts of the 50s and 60s were familiar and revered.”
Frances Fitzgerald paid tribute to the contribution made to Irish music and dance by Michael Flatley describing him as the son of Irish emigrants to America who brought Irish dance and music to a global audience.
Legacy was also the name of one of the main events, a specially commissioned concert directed by Ray Conway featuring the Comhaltas National Folk Orchestra with guests including Joanie Madden, Shauna McGarrigle, Sibéal Davitt, Nell Ní Chroinín and Tadhg Maher.
An outstanding success, the concert journeyed through Ireland’s cultural landscape to honour the men and women who have shaped and defined the tradition down through the generations.
The Byrne Brothers and their father Tommy, all the way from Donegal.
Fleadh goers were enthusiastic in their appreciation of the scale and professionalism of the event organisation in Ennis.
The use of two large domes with a capacity for 3,500 people ensured maximum attendance for many of the events and competitions. Other large venues such as glór also contributed to the enjoyment.
Local businesses indicated a significant increase in footfall while 1,500 Fleadh volunteers, Clare County Council, Gardaí and other first responders made the Fleadh an exceptionally safe and positive experience for everyone.
4th Ennis Fleadh
Sessiún in full swing in Ciarán’s Bar, Ennis.
Ennis has now hosted Fleadh Cheoil na hEireann four times, 1956, 1977, 2016 and this year. Each time the town has provided a cultural meeting place for those who continue to light the flame for Irish traditional music, song and dance.
Summing up, Frank Whelan, chairman of the Fleadh Executive Committee, commented, “It has been a great privilege and an even greater responsibility to host this fantastic event.
“We thank all the visitors to Ennis and sincerely hope that everybody had a wonderful, safe and happy time in our town and county.”
“We hope that Ennis, Clare and the Fleadh will live on in the memories of the 450,000 people who attended this year’s Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann or watched it on FleadhTV.
“We hope that people will return again and again to our town and county for the welcome, the music and the hospitality.”
Next year Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann will take place in Drogheda from 12th – 19th August.