Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann (The Music Festival of Ireland) is coming to Sligo in 2014 and will be held in Sligo again in 2015. The Fleadh, as it is usually called, is the largest single festival of Irish Music any where in the world and can reach attendances of 400,000 over the course of nine eventful days.
The Fleadh is a competition for amateur musicians and entrants travel from every corner of the globe. Few places in the western world have managed to maintain their musical traditions as successfully as Ireland has and the festivities over the course of the 9 day is a celebration of that fact. The aim of the Fleadh is to showcase this tradition and celebrate the individual skills of the competitors. It’s a valuable testament to creativity and is a celebration of the new ways for doing the old things and for anyone who hasn’t attended this annual event, it is a guaranteed fun week with lots of activities and open air events.
The Fleadh means many things to different people. The first half of the week is taken up by Scoil Éigse. Classes are held for people of all ages and abilities in traditional Irish music. Walking and historical tours are held for visitors along with films, seminars, street performances and markets. The evening is usually spent crammed into a nice cosy little pub for a hearty sing-along, a seisiún and a ‘quiet’ drink!
As a folk festival you do not need to be an expert on music to enjoy the Fleadh. Audiences are welcome at the competitions where they will be delighted by the amazing skills of the (mostly) young competitors. There are adult competitions but these only make up a quarter of the bouts. Other competitions are held at u12, 12-15 and u18 levels. There are competitions for all the traditional instruments but also whistling, lilting, singing and dancing. The competitors have all won their right to participate at regional heats so every bout is a guaranteed concert.
The heart of the festival is the enjoyment of music. This is found in the lively street sessions and late-night seisiúns (same word different language) that the competitors and other musicians spin out in an unending offering of top-quality live music.