St. Cecilia's Ceili Band performing at CCE Parsippany Convention in April as part of the new wave of young musicians in the greater New York area (photo credit Sean McPhail)

With the encouragement of many people from Mike Rafferty’s generation the New York Fleadh Cheoil began its life in the 1970s as the Comhaltas movement was manifesting itself in North America. The timing was ripe given the outstanding teaching corps in town then with Martin Mulvihill, Pete Kelly, John and Maureen Glynn leading the way through their schools in what I considered the first golden age in the evolution of Irish Music in America. Martin, Pete and John represented the generation of Irish-born masters while Maureen presaged the arrival of the American-born teacher which is the norm today.

No where is that more apparent than in Pearl River, New York, the Irish-American enclave in Rockland County and if you need further convincing, then show up this weekend at the CCE Mid-Atlantic Region Fleadh Cheoil at the Pearl River Middle School. If there was one very strong theme to come out of the recent CCE Convention and weekend in Parsippany, New Jersey in April, the traditional music scene in the greater New York area is second to none on either side of the Atlantic.

And once again that will be in evidence this spring weekend May 21-23 starting with the “youngsters” who were part and parcel of that first golden age in New York in the 1970s now grouped under the name The Pride of New York Quartet featuring Joanie Madden, Brian Conway, Billy McComiskey and Brendan Dolan. They will play for a ceili on Friday night, May 21 at 8 p.m. at Clarkstown Reformed Church on Strawtown Road in West Nyack (for info phone 845-359-6047).

On Saturday night, the venerable Mike Rafferty once again will lead a session with his New Broom-mate, Willie Kelly at the Orangeburgh Holiday Inn which serves as the Fleadh hotel starting at 8 p.m. The second golden age has been well under-way for about a decade or so as younger Irish-American teachers from the 1970s took up the mantle of keepers of the flame. That many of them live in Pearl River is, in part, coincidental but since moving the NY Fleadh there six years ago, there is no doubt that the area and the wider region has blossomed with Irish traditional music.

The music competitions get underway on Saturday morning at 9:30 a.m. (doors open to the public beginning at 9 a.m.) at the Pearl River Middle School ( 520 Gilbert Avenue, Pearl River) when all the solo competitions will take place as well as the Grupai Cheoil (Music Group) contests. On Sunday the day begins with a Catholic Mass at 10 a.m. followed by the duet, trio and ceili band competitions starting at 11 a.m. Admission is $10 (free to competitors and children under 12) and it is good way to support the wonderful work of the Fleadh in keeping the standard of music high and encouraging music education.

It is anticipated that T.D. Pat Carey, Minister for Community, Equality and Gaeltacht Affairs will stop by for a while on a tour of the Pearl River area on Saturday afternoon during his upcoming New York visit. For more information check out and click on the Fleadh links or call 201-288-4267.