Fleadh Nua is Tops

The Toast of Clare and the Pride of Ireland

Fleadh Nua 2005 celebrated the cultural traditions of the world. The comprehensive programme over 9 days had 75 events. This unique festival was spectacular, emotional and nostalgic.

A preview of what was in store was revealed some weeks before the Fleadh date. In association with Shannon Developement, the organising committee, under the chairmanship of the tireless and effervescent Dónal Ó Loingsigh, immersed every corner of Bunratty Folk Village in music, song and dance. Here was a Fleadh within a Fleadh.

On this first Sunday of the Fleadh, the musicians of Kilfenora (past and present) and, indeed, Co Clare, were recalled with pride when a specially commissioned plaque was unveiled by Senator Labhrás Ó Murchú in the beautiful Burren Centre. The ‘Keepers of the Flame’ were represented by the only surviving member of the early Kilfenora Céilí Band, Gerry Lynch. He spoke with palpable pride and thanked those who remembered them on that night.

The Kilfenora theme was continued later in the week when the current Kilfenora Céilí Band treated a capacity audience in Glór to a heart-boggling, super-emotional, pre-eminent extravaganza (where are the superlatives to describe it!). The three in a row All-Ireland champions captivated their audience as they brought them down memory lane from the first days of the band to the present.

Aos Óg in the Holy Family Hall, under the expert guidance of musician-broadcaster Joan Hanrahan, showed once again that the indigenous cultural traditions of Ireland are in safe hands. Each item - rooted, evocative and innovative - had the patrons on the edge of their seats. Mol an Óige …

The Tuesday night show celebrating the multi-cultural talents, now interacting comfortably in Ireland, was a delight from start to finish. The atmosphere was alive with national pride and camaraderie.

The Templegate Hotel witnessed one of the largest and most exciting sessions ever. The occasion was the launch of the second Comhaltas Foinn Seisiúin CD (preceded by 2 books and another CD), the work of Brian Prior who is now a strong contender for the ‘King of the Sessions’ title! Look in some Tuesday or Wednesday night to his sessions at Cultúrlann na hÉireann in Monkstown, Co. Dublin, and you will understand why.

Minister Síle De Valera again did the honours in the Old Ground Hotel when she launched the 2005 SEISIÚN music trail through Ireland which will have over 40 venue nights each week.

Cois na hAbhna, the traditional music centre of Clare, was host to several Céilithe, with top bands and capacity attendances, throughout the Fleadh Nua. This centre, which has its own distinctive atmosphere, also hosted the Set Dance Championship under the tested stewardship of Billy Boylan and Pádraig Mac Mathúna.

Cois na hAbhna also houses the Clare Regional Archive which has been diligently nurtured by the amiable Frank Whelan who was also at the heart of the Fleadh Nua.

The cultural parade and Tóstal Sráide, including the Munster Pipe Band Championship, brought the crowds out in large numbers.

The Fleadh Mass, celebrated by Fleadh Nua advocate Fr Joe McMahon, had a distinctive traditional ambience with appropriate music rendered by the young musicians of Clare.

Such is the extent and variety of the Fleadh Nua programme that it is not possible to do justice to all the events, the participants and the organisers. It is an amazing fete of talent and organisation which has a proud 33-year history since the Fleadh was first held in Dublin.

Local solicitor Rory Casey, one of the Fleadh Nua stalwarts, remarked on the organic growth of the festival since its arrival in Ennid. Volunteerism is alive and well.

It was great to see the ‘Big Three’ of other years enjoying the Fleadh this year and keeping an expert eye on proceedings. Séamus Ó Lideadha, Seán Mac Diarmada and Séamus Ó Ruadháin are now synonymous with the Fleadh.

The ‘Chief of Hospitality’ Mary Finnegan, was ever attentive in ensuring that the Banner County would maintain its céad míle fáilte reputation. A visionary and effective organising committee; dance supremo Padraig Ó Lideadha; the iconic Séamus Mac Mathuna who gave the Sean Reid lecture; the man of record photographer Liam Jones; the throng of performers; the wonderful workshops; the impromptu sessions; the supportive audiences; Treoir chronicler Ena Doocey; the lunch time concerts; the dedicated stewards; Bernard O’Sullivan, Gary Lynch, John Prior; these, and so many more, are the elements which make up the fabric of the Fleadh Nua - the toast of Clare and the pride of Ireland.