CCE to host their North American convention in April

If Easter has come and gone, then one of the harbingers of spring in the Irish traditional music scene is the annual North American convention of Comhaltas Ceoltoiri Eireann, a four day celebration of music and dance under one roof usually at a posh suburban hotel. 

Doing the honors this year as the host branch is the O’Neill-Malcom CCE centered around Washington, D.C.  They’ve taken on the sizeable chore of organizing the massive entertainment and workshop weekend as well as the business sessions slotted for the first full day of activity on Friday.

For two years the O’Neill-Malcom branch (founded in 1994) under the direction of co-chairs Maddy O’Neill Dean and Jesse Winch have prepared a very attractive and varied event schedule enticing people down to North Bethesda (formerly Rockville) Maryland for what they call “Ireland Over Here,” taking place this week from Thursday to Sunday.

Delegates from all across the U.S. and Canada and Comhaltas officials from Ireland will be gathering on Thursday evening for a reception at the Irish Embassy in recognition of the prodigious work Comhaltas North America and the O’Neill-Malcom branch do all year as a cultural movement. 

Back at the North Bethesda Marriott Hotel, avid dancers will be gearing up for the first of four weekend ceilithe unveiling a novel group of musicians calling themselves the “New Century Ceili Band” on Thursday night. 

On Friday night, the Ramblers will play for the dancers and the Old Bay Ceili Band at the ceili mor on Saturday night, with the Bogwanderers Ceili Band handling the Sunday farewell ceili. Set dance master Tony Ryan is coming from Galway to lead the dancing workshops along with locals Sean Culkin and Shannon Dunne.

Special concerts throughout the weekend will feature a young troupe from Tulla, Co. Clare called the Cnoc na Gaoithe Band who are fundraising to refurbish a convent into an East Clare cultural center. 

The premier concerts of the weekend occur at the banquet on Saturday night when two very
important bands in the D.C. Irish music scene historically reunite when the Irish Tradition (Billy McComiskey, Brendan Mulvihill and Andy O’Brien) and Celtic Thunder (the original one starring Jesse and Terry Winch, Linda Hickman, Dominick Murray and Tony DeMarco) take the stage. 

Smaller showcases will feature many local and visiting performers who are offering over 25 workshops mostly on Saturday.

Of special note over the weekend are eight films being screened by the Irish Film Institute with Irish music themes and featuring folks like Martin Hayes, the Kilfenora Ceili Band, Dubliners, Clannad, Jean Carrignan and the D.C. launch of The Keymaster, a documentary about the U.S.-based flute maker Patrick Olwell from Virginia.

There is also a terrific writer’s panel led by poet Terry Winch and novelist Alice McDermott offering readings over the weekend, and a look at the Irish and Irish American material contained in the Library of Congress. 

Up to 2,000 people are anticipated visiting the Bethesda North Marriott Hotel (5701 Marinelli Road) over the weekend.  More information can be obtained at