Records broken at fleadh cheoil in Co Clare

After 39 years, the traditional music festival returns to Ennis for ‘phenomenal’ event

Mike Mahony and Marion Casey make the most of the sunshine between the showers on O’Connell Square in Ennis at the Fleadh. Photograph: Eamon Ward

Mike Mahony and Marion Casey make the most of the sunshine between the showers on O’Connell Square in Ennis at the Fleadh. Photograph: Eamon Ward

 

Ennis has responded to a four-decade gap in hosting Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann by delivering “a phenomenal” event.

That is according to John O’Connor of Custy’s traditional music shop in the Co Clare town who was speaking yesterday on the final day of the festival. It attracted hundreds of thousands of music enthusiasts to the town over nine days.

The fleadh had not taken place in Ennis since 1977 and, after the gap of 39 years, it felt the weight of history and of past music greats such as the late P Joe Hayes, Paddy Canny and Bobby Casey on its shoulders, Mr O’Connor said.

“There was a lovely atmosphere in Ennis during the week and you could feel the presence of these musicians on the streets – no more so than when seeing young kids everywhere playing on the streets to a ferociously high standard. There was a bridge between the living and the dead who gave so much to the music,” he said.

Cool kids

When the fleadh was last staged in Ennis, playing traditional Irish music was not fashionable, he said. However, this has changed and “now you have the ‘cool kids’ sharing tunes left, right and centre,” he said.“I think that the fleadh will have a great nurturing effect on the next generation and I hope that will be its legacy,” he said. The musical extravaganza promised a €38 million dividend to the local economy. Chief executive of the Ennis Chamber of Commerce Rita McInerney said that some businesses fared better than others and described the fleadh as “a resounding success” for the town.

Appalling weather

The appalling weather over the weekend reduced the throngs on the streets but failed to dampen the spirits of music enthusiasts. Huge numbers of young people attended masterclasses at Scoil Éigse, concert audiences broke records, while the numbers of competitors were up due to increased entries from overseas including two Japanese ceilí bands. It was local acts, Stockton’s Wing, Maura O’Connell and the Kilfenora Céilí Band that packed sell-out gigs at the weekend.

Locals look forward to doing it all again next year when the fleadh returns to Ennis once more.