Since its inception in 1951 in Ireland, Comhaltas Ceoltoiri Eireann
has been on a mission to preserve and promote traditional Irish music as a valuable aspect of our Irish heritage.
Two of the major tenets of the cultural movement have been to venerate those older musicians who carried the love of the music in their hearts and generously shared it and kept it alive and then passed it onto the younger generation who accepted it willingly through music classes and Fleadh competitions.
Those dual objectives were very important back in the 1950s when a relatively new Irish republic sought its place in the post-World War II modernity march when music associated with rural society in Ireland was denigrated and in danger of dying out. Thankfully the movement took hold, stopping the slide and making CCE into one of the essential building blocks for seeing trad music advance over the next six decades to a world prominence.
And those principles were advanced as well to North America 40 years ago as we were reminded recently at the CCE Mid-Atlantic Regional Fleadh Cheoil held in April in Parsippany, New Jersey.
For the second year in a row, provincial chair Tom Vesey and Mid-Atlantic chairman Frank McCormick led a dedicated task force organizing a great weekend.
The region currently enjoys another golden age in America of Irish music education thanks to a number of talented and committed teachers. They also benefit from large numbers of parents infused with Irish pride who want to instill that in their children. Vesey and McCormick engineered the daring move of bringing the Fleadh to a more social and decorous environment like the Hilton to signal how far CCE has come in 40 years of operation in the greater New York area. They also included the Hall of Fame as a Saturday banquet centerpiece which inducted Jerry O’Sullivan, Jesse Winch and the late Johnny Cronin.
Hundreds of competitors came along to the two-day event vying for placements that would qualify them to go to Ireland this August for Fleadh Cheoil na hEireann in Cavan (www.fleadhcheoil.ie) for a chance at All-Ireland glory.
To help adjudicate the large number of contestants in recent years, the region has reached back to Ireland for judges more familiar with the current rigorous standards across the provincial fleadhs that you might expect to find where traditional music is second nature to so many reared with it.
So the inclusion for five members of the Dartry Ceili Band, who won All-Ireland senior gold in 2009, were invited over to preside over many competitions and to work alongside a number of knowledgeable U.S. judges.
It also gave them the opportunity to display their prize-winning musical form in one of the most coveted competitions at the annual fleadh as they gave us beautiful dance music at both the Friday and Saturday night ceilithe.
The task of the adjudicators is to decide on the day who played music closest to the traditional standards as interpreted by the judges. So there are decided winners and losers in the competitions, and first and second choices can advance on to the All-Ireland and also obtain a scholarship to the Scoil Eigse (summer school) held in the week leading up to the fleadh competitions.
But really, all the competitors are winners in our book for doing their part in keeping the tradition alive and healthy thanks to their hard work.
For those who do place, however, the task ahead is that much greater, and we’re not just talking about the stiff competition they will face in Cavan halls this August.
Traveling to Ireland in the summer high season is a daunting expense for not only the student competitors, but family members who may accompany them.
So as a measure of solidarity and support for the young people who work so hard with their music, the community has always rallied around them in New York with a series of fundraisers to offset those travel expenses over three different weekends in the past at Rory Dolan’s in Yonkers.
This year three of the major schools (Pearl River, Woodlawn House and the Acosta School of Music and Dance) who have hosted separate events in the past, have pooled their resources and will put on a major display of local talent over the upcoming Father’s Day Weekend of June 15-17 at Rory Dolan’s in Yonkers.
Many musicians have donated their services to help raise funds for the children committed to going to Ireland.
Among the entertainers slated to perform as we are going to press are Jameson’s Revenge, Shilelagh Law, Celtic Cross, Eire Og (from Boston), Girsa, Ceol Milis, Joanie Madden, Donie Carroll, Erin Loughran, Sean Tierney, Billy Keenan, John Nolan, Margie Mulvihill, John Reynolds, Rose Flanagan, Paddy Furlong, Annemarie Acosta, Michelle Bergin McLoughlin, Desi Groarke, Marie Barrett, Keith O’Neill, Mary Courtney, John Redmond, Padraig Allen and many more as time unfolds.
Rory Dolan’s (890 McLean Avenue) and its tented carpark will be action central all weekend Friday night (7-11 p.m.), Saturday and Sunday (1-11 p.m.). Donations ($20 suggested) at the front and back doors will allow access to all the fun.
There will also be a bevy of wonderful raffle baskets on display with all kinds of gifts, and a 50/50 raffle each day to help raise as much as possible for the youngsters making their way to Ireland.
There will be barbeque grills going in the carpark area and tended bars inside and outside all weekend. For more information contact 917-292-7036, 845-735-1204 or 973-977-8863 or email email@example.com