Saturday, January 28, 2023

Will Mullingar ever play host to another All-Ireland Fleadh?

Mullingar and Westmeath still remain in the dark about whether or not the county capital where the first All Ireland Fleadh Cheoil originated seventy years ago, in 1951 will ever see the two All Ireland Fleadhanna due to be held in Mullingar in 2020 and 2021, until the coronavirus pandemic forced the abandonment of all such gatherings.

This week, Comhaltas Ceoltóiri Eireann announced details of what is termed FleadhFest Sligo 2021 from August 1 to August 9 this year, following the  announcement several months ago, that the All Ireland Fleadh could not go ahead in 2021. Whether there can be a real Fleadh Cheoil na hEireann in 2022 remains to be seen, but decisions will soon have to be made.

Given the great amount of advance work, planning and preparations for All Ireland Fleadhanna, the continuing widespread uncertainty about the pandemic situation, and the vaccination campaign, and its likely side effects, it looks as if Mullingar’s plans for the next actual All Ireland Fleadh could yet be remembered as the great “might have been and should have been” in a worst case scenario.

Across Ireland, Majella Bartley, the competitions officer with Comhaltas, told Topic this week that the deadline for receipt of competition entries for Fleadhfest 2021 has now passed, with a total of 577 entries from around the world.  All musicians who competed in the 2019 Fleadh Cheoil na hEireann were eligible to enter the 2021 Fleadhfest contest, which is limited to solo competitions due to the social distancing challenges posed by the pandemic.


The entries received will be categorised into competitions and these will be streamed on August 6-8 via the Fleadhfest and TG4 social media platforms.

“We cannot accept more entries to the competitions but are more than happy to receive recordings from individual musicians and groups (who use social distancing) who would like to record music and songs for their county Fleadhfest” Majella said, adding that the best of these “will be streamed on our social media platforms and the Fleadhfest website.”

Comhaltas also states that across Irish counties, musicians are busy recording Irish music, songs and stories, using their smart phones and the best of these will be used for each county Fleadhfest, with these preceding the national Fleadhfest in Sligo in August. Comhaltas states that Fleadh will feature superb musicians, singers and bands, and be a mixture of the virtual and the actual. “We will have concerts sessions, competitions and many of the other elements  normally enjoyed at the All Ireland Fleadh – but only to be enjoyed this year online.

On a hopeful note, the CCE statement adds: “Closer to the event we will be able to let you know whether we can welcome audience members to attend events, or you’ll just be able to enjoy them via online streaming.”

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