FOR 36 years (save for 2001), Comhaltas Ceoltoiri Eireann has sent a performing troupe gathered from all over Ireland and Britain to the American missions where the seeds were planted for many a North American branch of the traditional music organization founded back in 1951 when things were at a low ebb for its native music and dance.
In recent years the production has been called "Echoes of Erin," and it features some of the finest of the young musicians who have risen through the ranks of the Fleadhanna (music competitions) propagated by CCE.
As in 2007, the tour group is led by the legendary Cork singer and Fear A Ti (emcee), Sean O'Se, who can be counted on to perform some of his well-known songs from the days of his work with Sean O'Riada.
Joining him on the 2008 edition are 16 other traditional musicians, singers and dancers - singers Bruce Scott (Liverpool), Joe and Eimear Arkins (Clare); dancers Teresa Donohoe (Westmeath), Aidan McLoughlin (Leitrim) and James Mounsey (Tipperary); accordionists Peter Staunton (Dublin) and Mary O'Reilly (Laois); fiddlers Eibhlin Healy (Limerick) and Niamh Varian Barry (Cork); flute player Ryan Murphy (Cork); Harpist Cathy Potter (Antrim); uilleann piper James Mahon (Dublin) and concertina player Kylie Moynagh (Dublin).
The two week tour plays nine venues in the Northeast and Midwest this year, sporting around the country in a coach colorfully wrapped by Tourism Ireland, a sponsor along with Culture Ireland and Waterford Crystal.
The first leg of the tour travels from Long Island to Massachusetts for five shows starting with the U.S. opening night at the Mineola Irish American Center (297 Willis Avenue) on Wednesday, October 8 at 8 p.m. (631-698-3305).
Then it's up to Rockland County for the show on the 9th at 7:30 p.m. at the Pearl River High School (275 East Central Avenue; 845-735-1204) and on Friday in Milford, Connecticut at 8 p.m. at the Veterans Memorial Auditorium (203-281-3563).
There are two shows in Massachusetts on the 11th at 8 p.m. at Waltham High School (781-899-0911) and Sunday afternoon at 2 p.m. in North Andover at the Rogers Center of Merrimack College (978-683-9007).
Full details on the tour and Comhaltas Ceoltoiri Eireann can be found at their revamped website at www.comhaltas.ie under the October events where you can also visit their trove of musicians recorded at various CCE events at the archival link ComhaltasLive.