Fleadh Cheoil na hEireann 2011 was officially over last Monday night. But as I left it on Tuesday trad music still twirled on the night air. Die hard revellers determined to drain every last drop hovered round pub doorways as the odd player with giddy gait hustled by them music case in hand still hungry for tunes. Time may have been called Fleadh 2011 but it wasn’t buried just yet.
The annual Fleadh Cheoil is organised by Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann, an organisation established to promote Irish music, culture and language. For ten days during the Fleadh there are workshops, performances, concerts and competitions.
Cavan has been its home for the last two years and is bidding to host it for a third time in 2012. In its’ 60 year existence the Fleadh has travelled all over the country from Listowel to Letterkenny. It is estimated it will generate over €30 million for the local economy as over a quarter of a million people poured into Cavan last weekend.
The pubs were so crammed on Saturday night you couldn’t turn a sweet in your mouth. Hordes of people took to the streets for a breath of fresh air and an earful of tunes. Trad heads mad for music flitted round the town as texts told of a session flying in this pub or the next. Newcomers caught the Fleadh bug. Regular Fleadh goers caught some tunes eventually by playing the waiting game and staying for Sunday and Monday night. Stories were told of the drunkest/most obnoxious/ broadest/ prettiest person in the pub stunning everyone into silence with some of the most beautiful music and/or singing you’ve ever heard.
The Fleadh has its share of Aran sweaters and purists but banish any ideas you may have of a staid scene. There were plays, pageants, art exhibitions, storytelling and quirky asides like (I kid you not) the West Cavan Trad/Samba band. Cavan Obscura by local artist Siobhan Harton was another highlight. She transformed a double decker bus into a camera obscura. It was a feast for the senses as the blacked out bus provided wonderfully warped views and sounds of Cavan travelling through the town and its environs.
Boats ferried people across a lake to an island with castle ruins to listen to ghost stories. There were walking tours, flash mobs, lectures, lilting. But the Fleadh’s ultimate Father Ted moment occurred when hundreds of people took part in a Guinness Record attempt for brush dancing- worth checking out http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h4nZykWks7s
When you wake up at six in the morning on a campsite at other festivals it’s cos someone is havin a whizz on and/or setting fire to your tent. At the Fleadh it’s cos some loon Scot is belting out the bagpipes. With the session at full tilt as other musicians join in you may decide to get up to check it out- but bewarned even if diddly-ei isn’t your scene don’t expect to get back to bed for a few days. Fleadh 2011 is dead, long live the Fleadh.