The Connacht Fleadh takes place throughout the weekend in Sligo, and will feature names such as Hothouse Flowers, Téada and the Blackwater Céilí Band, who will be among the bands to play at the outdoor gig rig in Stephen’s Street in the centre of town.
This is the first Connacht Fleadh to have taken place in three years, and, speaking as she officially launched the event in Sligo, Catherine Martin TD, Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media, said:
“It is symbolic that this year’s Connacht Fleadh is taking place here in Sligo where there is such a uniquely rich musical heritage. It is the home to the South Sligo Style and the iconic New York Irish emigrant traditional musicians – Coleman, Morrison and Killoran. This is the first Sligo traditional festival since the onset of COVID more than 2 years ago. I hope this Fleadh, amid other festivals now returning this year, will invoke a new era in our music, in our arts and performances.”
Opening night of the Connacht Fleadh gig rig saw a host of home grown talent take to the stage, including names like singer Cathy Jordan of Dervish and guitarist Séamie O’Dowd, who along with a number of other talented musicians, form The Sligo Song Sessions, an ensemble who have come together for opening night. These, along with some of Sligo’s best known traditional players, took to the stage for a rousing night of music, which concluded with a wonderful performance by Westport-based group CODA.
Recently appointed Cathaoirleach of Sligo County Council Cllr. Michael Clarke made reference to the fact that Sligo has a long history of running traditional music events, having hosted Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann twice in the past decade, events that will live long in the memory.
“At a personal level, I welcome the opportunity to pay a public thanks to an organisation that has contributed so much to our community over many years.
Due to your efforts, Sligo is synonymous with traditional Irish music, an accolade that was copper-fastened with the hugely successful Fleadhanna Cheoil in 2014 and 2015.
The various Comhaltas Branches around the county have carried out exemplary work in preserving, promoting and fostering Irish Traditional music, culture and the Irish language.”
Since Monday last, many events have taken place as part of the broader festival programme, including recitals featuring the music of fiddle player Ben Lennon, an exploration of the music of Sligo composer Josie McDermott as well as lectures on many of the diverse topics that draw on Sligo’s rich history and heritage.
Labhrás Ó Murchu, Ard Stiúrthóir of Comhaltas highlighted that with such a rich tapestry of culture to draw on, Sligo is the ideal place to host the first provincial Fleadh of the year.
“Sligo has shown us again and again how much our branches and teachers instil that love of music in our young musicians. Many elements of our culture are represented in this Connacht Fleadh programme. Over more than seventy years, Comhaltas and the Fleadh Cheoil have been the cornerstone of the development of young musicians. Times may be changing, and we’ve all had to deal with many challenges over the past years. But the one constant source of encouragement to me is that people pass on the tunes from one generation to the next, that no matter what the challenges, we can find a way to play our music. I’m delighted that at last we can welcome back all of the musicians who will take part in competitions and take to the stage here in Sligo this weekend.”
Michael Cusack, Chair of the Connacht Council of Comhaltas, added that he wanted “to thank all of the many volunteers who have made this Connacht Fleadh possible. The local committee have done wonderful work assembling a great programme of events. Backed by support from the Minister’s department, as well as additional LLPPS funding made available through the Sligo Leader programme, underpinned by great cooperation from Sligo County Council, this is a great way to return to live music.”
The Connacht Fleadh will continue throughout the weekend and into next week. On Saturday and Sunday, hundreds of musicians, dancers and singers will participate in competitions, with a view to booking qualification for Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann, which will take place in Mullingar in August. For details on these, and on the other events that form part of the Connacht Fleadh programme, pick up a copy of the Fleadh Clár, or visit www.connachtfleadh.ie.