2018 Traditional Irish Music and Dance Summer Schools and Festivals

THERE’S NO BETTER PLACE in the world than Ireland in the summer, especially when the weather obliges. But whether the sun shines or not, I guarantee that the music, song, dance and craic will lift your spirit to the very best Ireland has to offer.

This year, I have included MAY in the summer listing, because there are too many gems not to be missed, including all the county fleadhanna that begin towards the end of the month. This leads into the four provincial fleadhanna in July and the the All-Ireland Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann  being hosted this year by Drogheda, Co.Louth in August.

You can find your way around all 53 festivals and summer schools listed here by either using the interactive map OR by scrolling the date listing below, which also includes a brief description.


(If you don’t see your festival here, please let me know)

Festivals in May 2018

Festivals in June 2018

Festivals in July 2018

Festivals in August  2018

MAY 2018

Friday 4th – Monday 7th May 2018
Feile Chois Cuain
Louisburg, Co.Mayo
A traditional festival celebrating traditional music, song and dance.

Friday 4th – Sunday 6th May 2018
Portmagee Set Dancing Weekend
Portmagee, Co Kerry, Ireland
Traditional music, set dancing and singing in the Bridge Bar, Portmagee.

Friday 4th – Sunday 7th May 2018
Half Door Club Castletown TradFest
Castletown, Co Laois,
County Laois’s biggest dance festival offers plenty of great music and dancing over the four-day May bank holiday weekend.

Friday 11th -Sunday 13th May 2018
Sweets of May
Tralee, Co Kerry
The weekend celebrates set dancing with workshops and céilís by top teachers and bands in a lovely setting outside the town of Tralee.

Friday 11th- Sunday13th May 2018
Féile Chnoc na Gaoithe
Tulla, Co.Clare
Cnoc na Gaoithe (Windswept Hill), the Tulla Comhaltas Cultural Centre’s mission is to promote, preserve and showcase the rich Irish traditions and culture of Tulla and the East Clare area.

Monday 7th -Thursday 13th May 2018
CosCos Sean Nós Festival
Rathcormac, Co Sligo,
A weekend dedicated to sean nós music, song and dance, packed with workshops, céilís, sessions and concerts.

Thursday 17th – Sunday 20th May 2018
Féile Damhsa Gaelach
Gortahork, Co Donegal

Saturday 19th May- Sunday 20th May 2018
Skerries Traditional Music Weekend
Traditional music weekend in a beautiful location just North of Dublin – big line-up of well-known artists.

Thursday 24th – Monday 28th May 2018
Fleadh Nua
Ennis, Co Clare, Ireland
2018 Fleadh Nua in Ennis promises to be an exciting and innovative festival, full to the brim with concerts, céilís, sessions, CD launches, recitals, Irish dance competitions and street entertainment.

Tuesday 29th May – Monday 4th June 2018
Limerick Fleadh
Kilfinane, Co. Limerick
Fleadh Cheoil Luimnigh will host around 1,000 competitors on the June bank holiday weekend, all wishing to progress from Limerick for Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann.

Thursday 31st May – Sunday 3rd June 2018
Monaghan Fleadh
Ballybay, Co. Monaghan
County-level competition for traditional Irish arts of playing music, singing and dancing, at the Ballybay Community College (Tullycorbet CCÉ).

JUNE 2018

Friday 1st – Monday 4th June 2018
Cavan Fleadh
Kilnaleck, Co. Cavan
County-level competition for traditional Irish arts of playing music, singing and dancing at Kilnaleck, County Cavan.

Friday 1st – Monday 4th June 2018
Laois Fleadh
Mountmellick, Co. Laois
County-level competition for traditional Irish arts of playing music, singing and dancing at Mount Mellick, County Laois.

Saturday 2nd – Sunday 3rd June 2018
Sligo Fleadh
Sligo Town, Co. Sligo
County-level competition for traditional Irish arts of playing music, singing and dancing, jointly hosted by Fred Finn CCÉ and Sligo Town CCÉ.

Saturday 9th – Sunday 10th June 2018
Fermanagh Fleadh
Derrygonnelly, Fermanagh
County-level competition for traditional Irish arts of playing music, singing and dancing hosted by the Fermanagh Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann,

Sunday 10th June- Friday 15th June 2018     
Welcome to Enniscrone Irish & Country Music Festival      
Enniscrone, Co.Sligo
Classes will begin each morning at 11am in céili, Fior céili & sean nós. Plus ballroom, jive & salsa with piret also beginning each morning at 11am.Great Irish céilí bands including the Duntally,Foot Tappers, Salamanca, Longnote and Matt Cunningham.

Friday 15th – Sunday 17th June, 2018
Doolin Folk Festival
Doolin, Co.Clare
Taking inspiration from the great festivals of the 70’s and 80’s such as Lisdoonvarna down the road and from the deep musical roots of the county, The Doolin Folk Festival presents powerful music in an intimate setting and ensures that audiences & musicians can feel at one and just enjoy the communal spirit

Sunday 17th – Sunday 24th June 2018
Tyrone Fleadh
Dungannon, Co. Tyrone
County-level competition for traditional Irish arts of playing music, singing and dancing, hosted by Craobh Úi Néill CCÉ, Dún Geanainn.

Sunday 17th-Sunday 24th June 2018
Galway Sessions
Galway city, Co.Galway
The annual Galway Sessions Festival, celebrates Irish folk and traditional music and the music Irish emigrants brought with them across the world. The festival has a variety of events including gigs in theatres and pubs throughout Galway City from 1pm-1am.

Wednesday 20th –Sunday 24th June 2018
Clare Fleadh
Ennis, Co. Clare
County-level competition for traditional Irish arts of playing music, singing and dancing in Ennis, County Clare.

Thursday 21st – Sunday 24th June 2018
Jim Dowling Uillean Pipe & Traditional Music Festival
Glengarriff, Co.Cork
Fabulous line-up this year including Sharon Shannon, Steve Cooney and many more.

Friday 22nd June – Saturday 23rd June 2018         
All-Ireland Sean Nós Dance Festival          
Athboy, Co Meath, Ireland          
A summer sean nós festival with workshops, sessions, céilís and a competition with a top prize of €500.

Saturday 23rd –Sunday 24th June 2018
Down Fleadh
Portaferry/Castlewellan, Co. Down
County-level competition for traditional Irish arts of playing music, singing and dancing in Portaferry and Castlewellan, Co. Down.

Monday 25th – Friday 29th June 2018
Craiceann International Bodhrán Summer School 
Inis Oirr, Co.Galway (Aran Islands)
Love the rhythm? The festival focusing on the bodhran drum will satisfy your need to listen and learn, in a most beautiful setting steeped in traditional Irish music.

Monday 25th June – Friday 6th July 2018         
Limerick, Co.Limerick     
Intensive “deep dive” workshops and master classes for experienced singers, dancers and musicians with a focus on collaborative integration of understanding between the disciplines. A residential program at the University of Limerick including international accreditation.

JULY 2018

Sunday 1st July – Friday 6th July 2018
Seaosamh Macghabhan Summer School
Kilmovee, Co.Mayo.
Full summer school with individual and group tuition in a wide range of instruments, dancing and singing.

Sunday 1st July – Friday 6th July 2018
Cairde na Cruite, An Chúirt Chruitireachta
Termonfeckin, Co. Meath
Friends of the Harp – an international festival for Irish harp.

Monday 2nd – Sunday 8th July 2018
Fleadh Cheoil Connaght 2018
Ballinamore, Co. Leitrim       

Connacht Province Fleadh, which is primarily provincial competitions for traditional musicians, dancers & other artists, organised by the local Comhaltas Cheoltóirí Éireann (CCE).        

Monday 2nd – Friday 6th July  2018
Westport Schoil Cheoil
Westport, Co.Mayo
Full summer school with tuition, concerts and recitals.

Friday 6th- Sunday 8th July  2018
Spiddal, Co.Galway
A taste of local traditional music, arts and culture in Spiddal.

Saturday 7th- Sunday 15th July 2018       
Willie Clancy Summer Schoo
Miltown Malbay, Co.Clare  
Affectionately known as Willie Week, this festival is held in traditional music heartland that calls music and dance lovers back year after year. There’s a great atmosphere in the town and surrounds, with plenty of sessions, céilis and busking to complement the official program of classes and recitals. An addtional program of dancing is also held at the Armada Hotel.

Sunday 8th – Sunday 15th July 2018
Leinster Fleadh 2018
Muine Bheag (Bagenalstown), Co. Carlow

Leinster Province Fleadh, which is primarily provincial competitions for traditional musicians and dancers and other artists, organised by the local Comhaltas Cheoltóirí Éireann (CCE).  

Monday 9th– Friday 13th July  2018
Ceol na Coille Summer School of Irish Traditional Music
Letterkenny, Co.Donegal
Full summer school with traditional music and singing for all,  and special Gaeltacht experience for young people.

Sunday 15th- Saturday 21st July 2018         
South Sligo Summer School  
Tubbercurry, Co.Sligo
This has become my favorite festival for it’s laid back nature but also the learning to dance program is excellent. Different energy to Willie Clancy, it’s more intimate, gentler and very enjoyable in this beautiful part of Co.Sligo, with very deep music & dance tradition. Set dancing and music classes are in the morning 10am-1pm, a sean nós dance program in the afternoon from 4-6pm, and a range of concerts in the afternoons, and set dancing céilís in the evenings, with sessions in the pubs to follow.         

Sunday 15th – Sunday 22nd July  2018      
Munster Fleadh 2018          
Ennis Co.Clare
Munster Provincial Fleadh, which is primarily provincial competitions for traditional musicians and dancers and other artists, organised by the local Comhaltas Cheoltóirí Éireann (CCE).

Sunday 15th – Sunday 22nd July 2018        
Céilí at the Crossroads Festival 
Annual céilí at the Crossroads  has expanded to a whole week – an opportunity to dance outside!         

Saturday 21st – Saturday 28th July 2018
Joe Mooney Summer School    
Drumshanbo Co. Leitrim
Drumshanbo is delightful – a similar format to South Sligo Summer School, the difference here is the focus is very much around the unusual main street, which has a pedestrian mezzanine above the lane of traffic, where you can sit out in the sun, dance, listen to music & enjoy the people going by and enjoy a number of excellent evening céilís.

Monday 23rd – Friday 27th July 2018
Meitheal Residential Summer School
Villiers School, Limerick City, Ireland
Residential summer school for young traditional musicians.

Monday 23rd -Sunday 29th July 2018         
Ulster Fleadh 2018   
Ulster Province Fleadh, which is primarily provincial competitions for traditional musicians and dancers and other artists, organised by the local Comhaltas Cheoltóirí Éireann (CCE).

Saturday 28th July  – Saturday 4th August 2018
Scoil Acla Summer School
Achill Island, Co.Mayo
Traditional music courses, art workshops, sean nós singing, writers workshop, dance workshop, sean nós dancing,  basket weaving workshops in a most unique location.


Monday 30th July – Friday 3rd August 2018
Belfast Summer School of Traditional Music
Belfast, Co.Antrim
Full programme of classes, sessions, talks, concerts, workshops, launches and more.

Monday 30th July – Saturday 4th August 2018
Sean nós dancing residency for adults, with Edwina Guckian
Carrick on Shannon, Co. Leitrim
An intensive course in sean nós dance from 11-2pm daily, with sessions and ceilíthe running throughout the week.

Monday 30th July – Saturday 4th August 2018
The Irish Dance Festival         
Carlingford, Co.Louth   
Spend a week learning from some of the world’s best Irish dance masters of three styles – step, set and sean nós – and connect with fellow lovers of Irish dance by immersing yourself in Irish culture and heritage.      

Monday 30th July – Sunday 6th August 2018
Summer Festival of Dance          
Ballyfin, Co Laois
Maureen Culleton is an expert dancer, teacher and supporter of all forms of Irish traditional dance, with strong followings among dancers in Europe, Japan and across Ireland. She calls the sets at the céilíthe running through out the week, teaches the workshops and leads the sessions.
EMAIL MAUREEN for more information.

Wednesday 1st- Monday 6th August 2018
Kilrush Trad Music & Set Dancing Festival
Kilrush Traditional Music & Set Dancing Festival is a 6 day festival of music & set dancing including open air céilis in Kilrush Square on Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday.
Music sessions, singers club, sean nós & set dancing workshops will also take place throughout the festival.

Friday 3rd  – Sunday 5th August 2018
Ballyshannon Folk Festival
Ballyshannon, County Donegal
The 41st annual Ballyshannon Folk and Traditional Music Fesitval is the place to be this August Bank Holiday Weekend as the sounds of traditional and folk music echo from the streets, pubs and Marquee concerts along Donegal’s Wild Atlantic Way.

Saturday 4th – Sunday 5th August 2018 (TBA)         
James Morrison Traditional Music Festival         
Riverstown, Co Sligo.    
A full trad festival with open air céilís, concerts, sessions and more in the home village of a fiddler who became famous in the USA.

Friday 4th – Monday  7th August 2018
O’Carolan Summer School and Harp Festival 2018         
Keadue, Co Roscommon         
The Irish composer Turlough O’Carolan is the inspiration for this summer school and festival in this gorgeous town. Plenty of dancing including the famous Annual Door Dancing Competition on Monday 7th August  at 7pm.

Tuesday 7th- Tuesday 13th August 2018  (TBC)      
Kilcar Fleadh          
Kilcar, Co Donegal
A 7 day festival of traditional music, songs and dance, celebrating the living heritage of traditional music in South West Donegal.      

Wednesday 8th- Monday 13th August 2018          
Feakle International Festival of Traditional Music          
Feakle, Co Clare  
For a few days each August, Feakle village becomes a very special place where the best in traditional music can be heard, songs sung, dances danced and friends meet up again for another Feakle Festival.      

Sunday12th – Friday 17th August 2018
Fleadh Cheoil na h’Eireann & Scoil Éigse 2018
Drogheda, Co.Louth

The best kind of celebration and competition, with provincial finalist musicians, dancers and artists competing to win their All-Ireland categories. Comhaltas Ceolteoiri Eireann (CCE) showcase fabulous music, dance and a wide range of concerts and other events celebrating Irish culture. Don’t miss it!

Wednesday 22nd – Sunday 26th August 2018       
Masters of Tradition         
Bantry, Cork
Celebrating traditional music in its’ purest form through a series of concerts and performances, directed by Martin Hayes.

Enjoy the craic and I hope the sun shines strong for you.
Nora Stewart

Links reviewed 13 Sept 2021


From Clare to Canberra: The Jack Canny Story Part 2-About Jack

Jack Canny would have been just over 3 years of age when the Easter Rising of 1916 took place in Dublin a hundred years ago, miles and worlds away from his home in the small townland of Glendree, two miles West of Feakle, Parish of Tulla in County Clare.

Maghera Mountain, close to Jack’s home in Co.Clare, where Jack’s friend fell down a peat hole one foggy night coming home in the dark from dancing.                                     Image: www.ClareBirdWatching.com

The eldest of three sons of Patrick Canny and Catherine MacNamara, Jack was active,  and lively – “happy as a sand boy”, as he recounted, and was a natural sportsman including regular games of hurling, and later, cycling.

And, of course, there was music. His father, Pat Canny, was a noted local whistle and fiddle player “It was their main hobby when their day’s work was done in the farms. We had no radios or televisions at that time. We had to make our own enjoyment and our main enjoyment was music.”

“My Dad played, he was a great inspiration to all of us. He used often take down the fiddle on the long winter evenings and he’d play there for half an hour, just to keep on practising. He used to do that once a week…sometimes once a fortnight.”

Jack Canny and Mark Tandy. Image: M.Tandy

Continue reading

From Clare to Canberra: The Jack Canny Story Part 1-Threads

I used to think that a 100 years was a long time – ancient history. Now that I have just passed my own half century, I see it differently – close, not that far away, with threads that weave my own history into that time.

There is a reverberation, an echo from down the years, a depth of influence that County Clare has had, and is still having on, Canberra Irish musicians and dancers, like myself.

I was first alerted to this connection in 2004, when my husband Martin and I stepped into a King O’Malleys pub music session in Canberra on a Sunday night, for the first time. We looked at each other in surprise “Sounds just like the Tulla” we said, almost in unison. It was like an instant trip back to Clare – eerie and beautiful.

Pete Hobson, Sue Hobson and Mark Tandy at King O’Malleys session. Photo: N.Stewart

Continue reading

Your Top 5 Céilí Bands for 2016

The Dartry Céilí Band from Ireland got the most votes this year in our popular poll, closely chased by bands from the USA and the UK – see full results in the table below.

A fantastic response from all over the world with just over 4,000 votes and 175 bands listed. I thank everyone who took the time to vote.

Special mention goes to a very late entrant, the Tanzanian Céil Band – I suspect this  might be our most exotic entry to date. They are raising funds for the Tanzanian Children’s Project and the band’s slogan is:

Traditional Irish Music for A Better World

My sentiments exactly. Congratulations to all the céilí bands for your dedication and all the enjoyment you bring, no matter how many votes you got-more power to you all.

Happy St.Patrick’s Day and enjoy the music and dance wherever you are in the world.

Nora Stewart
Irish Bliss



1 Dartry Céilí Band (IRL) 463
2 Pride of Patuxent Pond/ Southern Maryland Pond Scum Céilí Band (USA) 399
3 Ceol na hÉireann Céilí Band (UK) 351
4 Kilfenora Céilí Band (IRL) 275
5 Abbey Céilí Band (IRL) 259
6 Beartla Ui Flatharta Céilí Band (IRL) 251
7 Full House Céilí Band (IRL) 187
8 Long Note Céilí Band (IRL) 110
9 Four Provinces Céilí Band (SCOT) 91
10 Johnny Reidy Céilí Band (IRL) 82
11 Swallow’s Tail Céilí Band (IRL) 76
12 Rhine Valley Céilí Band (DEU) 74
13 Tulla Céilí Band (IRL) 69
14 Awbeg Céilí Band/ Five Counties (IRL) 48
15= Rise the Dust Céilí Band (IRL) 37
15= Salamanca Céilí Band (IRL) 37
16 Bridge Céilí Band (IRL) 36
17= Inishbofin Céilí Band (IRL) 34
17= Matt Cunningham Céilí Band (IRL) 34
18 Coast Céilí Band (AUS) 33
19 Moylurg Céilí Band (IRL) 32
20= Rambling House Céilí Band (USA) 26
20= Striolán Céilí Band (IRL) 26
21 Ceoltóirí Chicago Céilí Band (USA) 25
22= Knockmore Céilí Band (IRL) 24
Old Bay Céilí Band (USA) 24
Trinity College Céilí Band (IRL) 24
23= Four Courts Céilí Band (IRL) 23
Star of Munster Céilí Band (IRL) 23
24= Glenside Céilí Band (IRL) 22
Innisfree Céilí Band (IRL) 22
Triskell Céilí Band (IRL) 22
25= Bogwanderers Céilí Band (USA) 21
Uí Bhríain Céilí Band (IRL) 21
26= Cape May Céilí Band (USA) 20
Ger Murphy & Ken Cotter (IRL) 20
Taylor’s Cross Céilí Band (IRL) 20
27 Copperplate Céilí Band (NIRL) 19
28= Brian Ború Céilí Band (IRL) 18
28= Michael Sexton Céilí Band (IRL) 18
Templehouse Céilí Band (IRL) 18
29 Shaskeen Céilí Band (IRL) 17
30= Allow Céilí Band (IRL) 16
Ennis Céilí Band (IRL) 16
Gallowglass Céilí Band (IRL) 16
Jimmy Mullarkey Céilí Band (AUS) 16
31 St. Rochs Céilí Band (Scotland) 15
32= Lough Oughter Céilí Band 13
Pride of Erin Céilí Band (IRL) 13
Tim Joe and Anne O’Riordan (IRL) 13
33= Annaly Céilí Band (IRL) 12
Emerald Céilí Band (IRL) 12
J Patrick’s All-Stars (USA) 12
Kilmovee Céilí Band (IRL) 12
Shannonvale Céilí Band (IRL) 12
Táin Céilí Band (IRL) 12
Waterford Comhaltas Céilí Band (IRL) 12
34= Neily O’Connor Céilí Band (IRL) 11
Temple Michael Céilí Band (IRL) 11
35= Ceol na gCroí Céilí Band (USA) 10
Davey Céilí Band (IRL) 10
Heather Breeze Céilí Band (IRL) 10
Turloughmore Céilí Band (Irl) 10
36= Green Gates Céilí Band (USA) 9
Pride of Moyvane Céilí Band (USA) 9
37= Brosna Céilí Band (IRL) 8
Deenagh Céilí Band (IRL) 8
38= Burrishoole Céilí Band (IRL) 7
Céilí Time Céilí Band (NIRL) 7
John Whelan Band (USA) 7
Leitrim Céilí Band (IRL) 7
Liverpool Céilí Band (UK) 7
Micheál Sexton & Pat Walsh (IRL) 7
Roisín Dubh Céilí Band (IRL) 7
Tara Céilí Band (IRL) 7
39= Corner House Canberra Céilí Band (AUS) 6
Ilen Céilí Band (IRL) 6
Laochtain Naofa Céilí Band (IRL) 6
40= Aughrim Slopes Céilí Band (IRL) 5
Carousel Céilí Band (IRL) 5
Eska Riada Céilí Band (IRL) 5
Inishowen Céilí Band (CAN) 5
Jamaica Plain Céilí Band (USA) 5
Knocknagow Céilí Band 5
O’Carolan Country Céilí Band (IRL) 5
Parasol Duo (FRA) 5
Pipers Club Céilí Band (IRL) 5
Tempeall an Gleanntáin Céilí Band (IRL) 5
Thatch Céilí Band (UK) 5
Tipsy House Céilí Band (USA) 5
41= Cabbagetown Céilí Band (CAN) 4
Copenhagen Céilí Band (DNK) 4
Duntally Céilí Band (IRL) 4
Foot Tappers Céilí Band (IRL) 4
Ken Kelleher Céilí Band (IRL) 4
Kilina Céilí Band (IRL) 4
Kincora Céilí Band (IRL) 4
Lynch Family (IRL) 4
Moorings Céilí Band (IRL) 4
Naomh Padraig Céilí Band (IRL) 4
Roazhon Céilí Band (FRA) 4
Siamsa Céilí Band (IRL) 4
Toe for Toe Céilí Band (CHE) 4
42= Barefield Céilí Band (IRL) 3
Castle Céilí Band (IRL) 3
Cogar Céilí Band (IRL) 3
Doon Céilí Band (USA) 3
Fódhla Céilí Band (IRL) 3
Green Jacket Céilí Band (BEL) 3
Leeds Céilí Band (UK) 3
Loughmore Céilí Band 3
Munich Céilí Band (DEU) 3
Ormonde Céilí Band (IRL) 3
Shannon Céilí Band (USA) 3
Swaree Céilí Bandy (DEU) 3
Tangambalanga Céilí Band (AUS) 3
Traditional Irish Musicians Céilí Band 3
Twin Cities Céilí Band (USA) 3
43= All-Star Céilí Band (USA) 2
Blackwater Ceili band (IRL) 2
Broken Pledge Ceili Band 2
Ceoltóirí Mancúin Céilí Band (UK) 2
Crumac Céilí Band (USA) 2
Curragh Céilí Band/ Jerry McCarthy (IRL) 2
Devine’s Diner Céilí Band (USA) 2
Hamilton Céilí Band (CAN) 2
Herschel Arms Céilí Band (UK) 2
Lansdowne Céilí Band (CAN) 2
Living Bridge Céilí Band (IRL) 2
Longridge Céilí Band (IRL) 2
Lough Na Gower Céilí Band 2
Naomh Íde Céilí Band 2
Newborough Céilí Band (IRL) 2
Pete Kelly Céilí Band (USA) 2
Philadelphia Ceili Band 2
Richard Fitzgerald Céilí Band (IRL) 2
Sainak Céilí Band (JPN) 2
Sean Norman Céilí Band (IRL) 2
Slievenamon Group (IRL) 2
St Colmcilles Céilí Band (UK) 2
St.Albans Céilí Band (UK) 2
St.James The Great Céilí Band 2
St.Malachy’s Céilí Band (UK) 2
Tanzania Céilí Band 2
44= Athas- Milwaukee USA 1
Bofield Céilí band 1
Boston CCE Ceili Band 1
Bush Céilí Band (IRL) 1
Cathal McAnulty Céilí Band (NIRL) 1
Ceilidh Rogues Australia 1
Corofin Ceili Band 1
Cúpla Céilí Band (IRL) 1
Donal Ring Céilí Band 1
Green Linnet Céilí Band (IRL) 1
Lone Star Céilí Band (USA) 1
Loughree Céilí Band (IRL) 1
McIlroy Céilí Band (IRL) 1
Na Comharhsanna Ceilí Band 1
Northeast Céilí Band (USA) 1
Ottawa Céilí Band (CAN) 1
Portersharks (USA) 1
Reel Note Ceili Band (UK) 1
Reilly Clan 1
Rosclare Céilí Band (USA) 1
Seacoast Céilí Band (USA) 1
South Jersey Céilí Band (USA) 1

Vote for Your Top 5 Irish Céilí Bands 2016

It’s on again – the battle of the Irish céilí bands to get a place in the top 5 for 2016. We had a brilliant response last year and looking forward to supporting our old favourites and the newer bands within the ever-expanding stable of wonderful Irish dance musicians.

We dancers are so lucky to have so many talented and energetic musicians to play for us  and giving support  and a vote to our favourite bands is like the least we can do, although you can vote whether you dance or not. You just have to love the music!

Continue reading

Your Top 5 Irish Céilí Bands 2015

What an amazing response we had to this poll – the amount of interest far exceeded my wildest reckoning.

10,030 votes from 40 countries far and wide, with 128 bands on the list which  expanded over the poll week to include 171 bands, suggested by you.

I’m not sure if this is the first poll of Irish céilí bands, but the purpose of holding a popular vote was to try increase the level of interest in Irish dance music.  I can see that it doesn’t need a huge amount of help but I hope it has added something extra. I’d love to see the day where every country in the world has at least one céilí band.

Continue reading

Green Beer and Wigs Are Not Irish

After my blog post a few years ago now, I promised myself that I was going to be as positive as possible leading up to this St.Patrick’s Day but I find myself increasingly dismayed at the lack of thoughtful, intelligent or genuine opportunities to celebrate the best of Irish on this day of days.

Some weeks ago, I received a phone call from a local establishment enquiring if we were interested in “bringing some of our girls to dance on St.Patrick’s Day”. I patiently explained that we are a group of mature adults, not kids and we don’t get dressed up or wear wigs and also that our styles of dance- Irish set dancing & Irish sean nós dancing – were a bit different to the Riverdance style. To his credit, he listened to what I had to say and was open to the idea of our group dance.

However, once I started thinking about performing while surrounded by an audience of very drunk, not very interested people, it turned me right off. And frankly, those young dancers who do perform for those audiences are doing themselves a grave dis-service. So much effort and talent, and so little respect in return.

I think  the sniggering, constant jokes about drinking and being drunk, the colour palette that is stuck on forest green and the frankly ludicrous circus-like approach to St. Patrick’s celebrations has had it’s day.  I saw a frightening program on TV Old Before My Time the other night about under 30’s binge-drinkers in the UK and the terrible damage they are doing to their health. There’s nothing funny about it at all.

Why do Irish people put up with the standard stereotypes that are about a nano-metre deep? C’mon folks, you, me and we the Irish are much better than that and I think the stereotypical drunken lurching with a pint of green beer, Gu*@&#@ess shirt and hat should be consigned to the dustbin of the 1980’s.

Time to sharpen up the act, refresh the image with a celebration of the deep and rich culture that Ireland has brought to the world. Time to include alternatives that include wit, fun, conversation, stories, great energy and creativity as well as a deep soulfulness that is rightly part of a holy day.

How else to celebrate St.Patrick’s Day?

Be activeDance, of course! And if dance isn’t your thing, do our fun fast fitness program and get fit at the same time.  Or do some gentle Tai Chi to Irish music
Be happy Listen to some great Irish music whatever your mood is – soulful, joyful, uplifting.
Be confident – Sing an Irish song or organise a group sing-song.
Be reflective – gaze at a beautiful view or photo, visit a church or holy place for you.
Be generous – Make  a donation or fundraise for an Irish charity doing good work internationally, such as Trócaire or Chernobyl Children International or Save The Children give generously to a friend or neighbour in need.
Be witty – Write a limerick or host a limerick competition- such good fun.
Be hospitable – Host morning tea or a lunch with beautiful Irish food-a gorgeous brack, a dozen scones or bacon, cabbage and potatoes! Check out a few recipes online
Be learned – Celebrate Irish history, Irish writers & poets – seek information online, go out and buy or  borrow books from your local library. Or learn a few words of Irish!
Be funny – Learn 5 new jokes to tell your friends or send them your favourite funniest & uplifting YouTube videos for a laugh- here’s a few of mine.
Be charming – Seek out people you’ve never met before, listen and genuinely engage with them. The Irish are the best people-magnets I know 🙂

And at the end of it all, if you like, a small glass of something you’re having yourself – a hot whiskey, a port or even a pint-would be grand.

Keeping happy and healthy is all part of the day.
Sláinte agus sonas!

Nora Stewart
Irish Bliss

Vote for Your Top 5 Irish Céilí Bands

Great music is the partner to great dancing, and to celebrate the vibrant music we lucky dancers and music fans have available, I thought it was time have a poll to find out what you think.

Putting this list of 157 céilí bands* together has been a real eye-opener, with your suggestion to include bands from as far back at the 1950’s, some I’ve never heard of but have won All-Ireland places in the Fleadh Cheoil  over the years or come from the USA, UK, Canada, Germany, France, Switzerland, Japan and yes, even Australia!

Continue reading

Irish Music: Bet You Can’t Sit Still

FREEDOM is the feeling that Irish music creates for me, and sometimes the trappings of too much information and detail about dance and music can strangle that sense of liberation.

So, I thought I’d share a few of my favorite music dance tracks with you with the minimum amount of fuss.

Continue reading

Irish dance music: It’s child’s play

Great music is the lifeblood of dancing and fortunately, Ireland has it in abundance. One of Ireland’s most beloved musicians and singers, Séamus Begley reveals more (hear audio link below) about the unbreakable bond between Irish music & dance when being interviewed by Joan Armatrading for the BBC.

As he says, his experience of playing music on his accordion was only for dancing and when there was no dancing, he was told to “put it away”.

Seamus Begley and Joan Armatrading. Audio not working? Try another browser if this doesn't play!

So, how do you tell a jig from a reel? Or a polka from a slide?

As with most things Irish, it’s complicated. The intricacies of music mathematics can be a difficult thing to get your head around: even the best musicians seem to struggle to explain how it works mostly because there are style differences in the playing, in some cases. In addition, some of the names sound like musical timings – eg, “treble jig” and  “light jig”, but are actually names of a dance rather than a specific musical timing. So, thinking about all this too much will not help your understanding.

Happily, one of the best ways of learning this difference is by moving or by singing/ humming to each different signature timing, and this also goes for musicians who are learning to play Irish music. And why not try to remember each different type – hornpipes, reels, jigs, waltzes, polkas, slides– by what we did when we were kids?

By having fun – playing, clapping and singing to nursery rhymes, and using pictures and word games to remember the basics.

Continue reading