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The Fleadh Cheoil (Festival of Music) is an Irish music competition run by Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann (CCÉ).

There are various stages to the competition. In Irelandmarker there are county and provincial competitions leading to the All-Ireland Fleadh. In Britainmarker there are regional then national stages of qualification for the All-Ireland. Competitions are divided into the following age categories: under 12, 12-15, 15-18, and over 18 (senior).

The first national festival of Irish traditional music was held in Mullingarmarker in 1951. At its inaugural meeting in September 1951, CCÉ came up with the title of Fleadh Cheoil, aiming to make this a great national festival of traditional music. A complete list of venues where the All Ireland Fleadh has been held can be seen here. The 2008 festival was held in Tullamoremarker, County Offalymarker and attracted an estimated crowd of 250,000 people making it Ireland's largest festival, music or otherwise.

In the years that followed, the number of would-be competitors grew so large that qualifying stages had to be arranged at county and provincial level. Since then, Fleadh Nua (the new fleadh), Fleadh na Breataine (an All-Britainmarker fleadh) and regional fleadhanna in Britain, and two major fleadhanna in the USAmarker have also become annual CCÉ events.

From its beginning, the goal of the Fleadh Cheoil was to establish standards in Irish traditional music through competition. The Fleadh developed as a mainly competitive event, but it also included many concerts, céilíthe, parades, and sessions.

Today, nearly 50 years on, fleadhanna at each level provide a platform and a meeting place for the thousands of musicians (around 20,000 performers compete in fleadhanna each year), singers and dancers who carry on the tradition.

Competition categories

According to CCÉ's official rules for 2005,

Solo competitions shall be held for the following instruments: fiddle; two-row accordion; concert flute; whistle; piano accordion; concertina; uilleann pipes; harp; mouth organ; banjo; mandolin - excluding banjo-mandolin; piano; old-style melodeon; bodhrán; war pipes; miscellaneous such as three and five row button accordion, piccolo, [chromatic] harmonica and other stringed instruments; céilí band drums; accompaniment – confined to piano, harp, guitar and bouzouki-type instruments; solo traditional singing in Irish and English; whistling; lilting; newly composed ballads and amhráin nua-cheaptha (newly composed songs in Irish).


Solo competitions for slow airs shall be held in all age groups for the following instruments: (a) fiddle; (b) concert flute; (c) whistle; (d) uilleann pipes.


There are also competitions for the following ensembles: duet, trio, ceili band, instrumental group (grupai cheoil), accordion band, pipe band, and miscellaneous ensemble.

The full rule set, which may change from year to year, is available from CCÉ.

References

  1. http://www.offalyexpress.ie/fleadh-cheoil-na-heireann/Tullamore39s-Fleadhtrick.4430988.jp


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