If longevity and popularity are worth anything at all then Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann, which continues at a breakneck pace over this weekend in Ennis, Co Clare, long ago secured its place as a — if not the — defining cultural event in Irish traditional music.
Last year, when the national festival was also held in the Clare capital, more than 400,000 people attended justifying the huge cross-community effort required to stage such a
gargantuan, good-hearted celebration.
The “fleadh” is the reliable annual platform that has launched hundreds of musicians’ careers over the decades. It has also offered the peer group encouragement that reseeds, year after year, the kind of empathy — a life-long love, really — that sustains all oral traditions.
The festival, even in this digital age, combines traditional music with the kind of warmth and exuberance that goes a long way to ensuring its survival. Like a respected but ignored prophet in his own land, it is just possible that we underestimate the impact and importance of this celebration of one strand of Irish life.
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