An oversized fiddle, bodhrán and concertina will bring some creative imagination and innovation to the Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann float which will be a significant focus of this year’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Ennis.
The parade celebrates the return of the All-Ireland Fleadh Cheoil to the County Clare town which will be held from August 14th – 22nd and it will also be marked by local Comhaltas branches in parades in Kilrush, Ennistymon, Tulla and Miltown Malbay.
The national event, organised by Comhaltas Ceoltóiri Éireann and expected to attract 400,000 this year, was last held in Ennis in 1977.
A cavalcade of musicians, dancers and Fleadh Volunteers dressed in their distinctive green t-shirts will follow the float of prop musical instruments. The musicians and dancers will also perform at the reviewing stand. Tommy Casby, a skilled prop maker based in the west of Ireland was commissioned by the Fleadh Committee to design and construct the float. Tommy produces props for the Street Spectacle Company, Macnas and this March his giant props will bring entertaining chaos onto the streets of Austin, Texas in an epic outdoor adventure about a boy entitled ‘The Wild Hunt and the Sleepwalker’.
Ennis Fleadh Cathaoirleach Mícheál O Riabhaigh said that on two previous occasions, the All-Ireland Fleadh has been held in Ennis, in 1956 and 1977, and both were landmark events in the history of Irish traditional music. “ Now Ennis and Co. Clare prepare to host Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann once again through a co-operative effort involving Sponsors, Comhaltas branches, Clare County Council, business people, sporting organisations and local volunteers. We will work hard to ensure that The Fleadh Down In Ennis 2016 is the best Fleadh ever,” he said.
As part of the Fleadh entourage, legendary concertina master Chris Droney from Bellharbour will travel in an open top Mercedes Automatic. Chris was a competitor at Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann in Ennis in 1956, attended the 1977 Fleadh and plans to be at this year’s All Ireland in August. He was nine time Senior All-Ireland Concertina Champion and played with the Ballinakill, Aughrim Slopes, Kincora, Kilfenora and Four Courts Ceili Bands. He toured with Comhaltas Ceolteoiri Eireann in Canada, England, Scotland, Wales, The Isle of Man and Newfoundland. And he once performed for the Emperor and Empress of Japan!
Hell for Leather Set Dancers from Kilrush under the direction of John Fennell walk in costume in the parade and will perform a choreographed sequence at the Reviewing Stand. Step dancers from the Croghan Greene Academy of Dance will walk behind the set dancers and perform a routine in a horse-shoe shape around them at the Square. Music will be provided by Clarecastle/Ballyea Comhaltas organised by Colm Nestor.
Representatives of the Clare Volunteer Centre will also be on the streets to facilitate people to register to become one of the 1,500 volunteers required for the Fleadh. Recruiting the volunteers is a mammoth task spearheaded by Sharon Meaney, Manager of the Clare Volunteer Centre but she added that work is well underway. She said the volunteer roles at the Fleadh Cheoil are many and extremely varied.
“They include meeting and greeting visitors, assisting at venues and concerts, working with the Green Fleadh Team to keep environment clean and tidy, supporting the Clare Volunteer Centre, tweeting as part of the Twitter team and marshalling the streets. There are roles for every age and ability, with inclusion being an important concern. You name it, we have a job,” she added.
The St. Patrick’s Day Parade Volunteer team will be on the streets to highlight volunteer opportunities and to encourage people to sign up and be part of the Fleadh. Prospective volunteers can also sign up through the website www.fleadhcheoil.ie or www.volunteerclare.ie