What makes Fleadh Nua so special ?


Donal Lunny, musician:

`I think that competitions are an important element of the music for kids, who get a certain amount of incentive from them. But I think also that it's really important to have music being played purely for its own sake - though the idea of a fleadh that is just for the music is great.

"My memories of fleadhs in years gone by was that you went for the music. I was never even present for a competition at a fleadh. I just headed to where the music was happening, and that could just be a tiny pub somewhere, crammed full of musicians and people trying to drink pints. Sessions would go on all day, and into the night. And when the pub shut people would just go out onto the street, or play somewhere else. You'd go home after three days with your head ringing with tunes. They had an important impact on me in my development as a musician."

Micheal O Suilleabhain, Professor of Music at the University of Limerick and director of the Irish World Music Centre:

`The Fleadh Nua is an admirable part of what Comhaltas Ceoltoiri Eireann ireann continue to do for the Irish musical tradition. Now that it's in its third decade, it has also proven that a fleadh cheoil, which shifts the emphasis from competition and onto other areas, such as workshops, education and concert presentations, will be the way of the future for this kind of festival.

"The nature of competition is that it almost by definition has to act as a streamlining process, whereby the authority of the tradition moves from its original location within the music community itself, into the hands of individual adjudicators. It's well proven that levels of virtuosity increase through the competitive structure, and competition culture has served that well. However, there are deep aspects of the tradition that exist outside the fashions of competition culture. There's an inverse ratio between the increase in technical virtuosity encouraged by competition culture, and a decrease in improvisation. Comhaltas is to be applauded for the Fleadh Nua."

Nicholas Carolan, Irish Traditional Music

`As I understand the theory, it's that it's a non-competitive fleadh, and I would approve of that. But it is a hard one to call, because competition has always been a vital part of any musical activity. But the distinguishing mark of the Fleadh Nua is that it is mostly non-competitive, there isn't that element of parents pushing on children. I haven't been for some years, but as I remember it, it was a very exuberant festival. It was like street carnival before street carnival became popular, with mummers and face painting and the like."

Tommy Hayes, musician:

`I played there when I was younger, it's a great weekend, really good craic. You'd have tons of musicians there. It focuses on the informal aspect of people just playing together, the social aspect. You get to meet musicians there your own age that you wouldn't normally meet. I was at a session there a couple of years ago and there were about 16 or 17 people playing, three or four of them were in their 80s, and the rest of them were 15 or 16, which was really lovely."