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Comhaltas Ceoltoiri Eireann Congress celebrates growth - with 415 branches in 15 countries

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The weekend kicks off with a ceili mor with the Shannon Vale Ceili Band on Friday at 8 p.m. featuring the All-Ireland Senior Ceili Band champions of 2011 in a visit from Ireland. They will perform as part of the Hall of Fame ceili on Saturday at the gala. 

Competitions are the order of the day on Saturday and Sunday featuring solo, duet, trio, grupa cheoil and ceili band, and also some dance and Irish language competitions.

This column often writes about the thriving music standard among the younger generation inside the New York area and beyond, and it is very much in evidence all weekend at the fleadh.

Since moving the fleadh to the Parsippany Hilton two years ago, one of the jewels in the weekend’s crown is the Hall of Fame induction as the centerpiece of the Saturday banquet.

This year the Honorees are Rose Conway Flanagan and Patricia Conway Furlong (no relation), two Bronx-born gals who have been instrumental as both teachers and musicians in putting Pearl River (their adopted hometown) on the traditional music map. 

With last year’s inductee Margie Mulvihill, another partner in the Pearl River School of Music, they celebrated the fruits of their labor when their under-12 ceili band won the prestigious All-Ireland ceili band competition last summer in Cavan. 

In keeping with the custom also of recognizing a venerable senior musician, the late Gerry Lynch from Kilfenora will also be inducted in acknowledgement of his contributions when he lived in New York for many years.

You can attend fleadh events by paying at the door, but room reservations and banquets seats need to be booked in advance. Visit www.cce-ma.com or call 201-705-8948 or 201-965-6598.  (Information about the fleadh in St. Louis is at midwestfleadh.org.)

The North American convention hosted by the O’Neill-Malcom branch entitled “Ireland Over Here” in April was an exceptional gathering of people from all over Canada and the United States. 

Chairs Jesse Winch and Maddy O’Neill-Dean and their team did Comhaltas proud in putting on a wonderful display of Irish music and dance featuring many of the very talented musicians and dancers who have toiled in the Capitol District of D.C., Virginia and Maryland. 

The dance floor was crowded all weekend and the committee set up three performances stages around the pub and corridors which made for crossroads-type performances all weekend. 

There were also some literary events and a series of great films with Irish music as subject matter curated by the Irish Film Institute based in Dublin which was a marvelous adjunct to the weekend’s activities.

Indicative of the very strong connections between the Irish government and Comhaltas, the Irish Embassy threw a welcoming reception on Thursday night for the visiting delegates and special guests from Ireland with performance from a troupe of young musicians and dancers from Co. Clare who are part of a developing Irish center called Cnoic na Gaoithe in Tulla.

The Saturday gala was attended by Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley, an Irish musician himself, as he welcomed everyone to his state.   There was a two-tiered reunion of two bands that played seminal roles in getting trad Irish music going in the 1970s down in Washington D.C. area.

First was Celtic Thunder featuring founding members Jesse and Terry Winch, Dominick Murray, Linda Hickman and Tony DeMarco. Sean nos dancer Siobhan Butler joined them for some steps.  

The Irish Tradition with Brendan Mulvihill, Billy McComiskey and Andy O’Brien followed and gave us many of the standout chunes which inspired many folks back in the days when they were a force at the Dubliner pub and around D.C. It was a memorable weekend for all.

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