Comhaltas is a cultural movement concerned with the promotion and preservation of the music, dance and language of Ireland. As the world grows more complex, it seems to us more important than ever that we take a strong stand in maintaining a living folk tradition.
Our Bunreacht (Constitution) defines the aims and objectives of our movement as follows:
- To promote Irish Traditional Music in all its forms;
- To restore the playing of the Harp and Uilleann Pipes in the National life of Ireland;
- To promote Irish Traditional Dancing;
- To foster and promote Traditional singing in both Irish and English;
- To foster and promote the Irish language at all times;
- To create a closer bond among all lovers of Irish music;
- To co-operate with all bodies working for the restoration or Irish Culture;
- To establish Branches throughout the country and abroad to achieve the foregoing aims and objects.
These goals are not the work of a day to accomplish, or even a lifetime. Nor are they the work of a person or handful of people. It is our thousands of volunteers and teachers who live these goals day by day, week by week and year by year. To them we owe an enormous debt of gratitude.
Irish traditional culture has become more popular in recent years, and the Uilleann Pipes and Harp no longer appear to be on the verge of extinction. We have a healthy network of Branches, and we maintain close links with other guardians of Irish culture. To the extent that these goals have been accomplished over the years, we extend a very hearty thanks to the volunteers, teachers and leaders both within and outside the movement who have made these successes possible. However, knowing the magnitude of our task, we pledge to keep these goals foremost in our minds as we march into the uncharted territory of the 21st century.
The mission statement embodied in the new Comhaltas Development Programme summarises our ambitions for the future as follows:Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann is the largest group involved in the
preservation and promotion of Irish traditional music. We’re a non-profit
cultural movement with hundreds of local branches around the world, and as you
can read in our history we’ve been working for the cause of Irish music since the middle of the last
century (1951 to be precise). Our efforts continue with increasing zeal as the
movement launches itself into the 21st century.
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What We Do
Because we’re so many different things to different people, it can be hard to
keep track of the true scope of our activities! You might have been involved
with a Comhaltas event and not even known it.
If you’re a student of Irish music, you might know about the music, dance and
language classes that we teach through our network of branches. If you’re interested in learning the
music, you might want to find which one of our 1,000 weekly classes is
closest to you.
For musicians who like to play socially, you might be interested in finding a
local Comhaltas music session. And if you’re not sure, how about just going
along to listen?
Audiences around the world have seen our touring groups bringing Irish music, dance and
storytelling on annual tours.
We also run the definitive system of competitions for Irish music, called the
“Fleadh Cheoil” (literally “feast of music”).
Musicians compete in a series of qualifying rounds, culminating in the annual
All-Ireland Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann.
We’ve collected an archive of thousands of hours of Irish music recordings, a
large print library and a growing collection of videos. You can get a sample of
some of this material in the Music section of our website.
In an effort to promote the music of Ireland, we publish recordings, books and tutorials of Irish traditional music.
You might want to take a listen over in our shop.
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Where We Are
We’re an international movement with our headquarters in Dublin, Ireland. You
would be more than welcome to stop by for a visit to our home base, Cultúrlann na hÉireann, or to visit a local Comhaltas
branch close to where you live.
Comhaltas also reaches into local communities around Ireland with our Regional Centres.
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Get in touch!
Of course, we’d love to hear from you if you have any questions about what it
is that we do. So please feel free to contact us and we’ll be happy to help. If you are
a member of the press, you might find our Press Room to be a good start.
You would hardly think that Irish traditional music was ever in trouble. Walk
into an Irish pub anywhere in the world today and you might well be treated to
an informal “session”— musicians playing for their own pleasure and that of
their listeners. It might start with a fiddle player pulling an instrument from
a battered case. Maybe a button accordion emerges from under a chair. A flute is
pulled from a bag, and the music continues with the haunting sounds that were
once the preserve of the rural country kitchen. But it was not always that
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There was a time when the mere survival of Irish traditional music was not at
all a sure thing.
In January 1951, representatives of the Thomas Street (Dublin) Pipers’ Club
went to Mullingar for a meeting with traditional music enthusiasts from County
Westmeath. Two ideas which had already been mentioned amongst traditional
musicians were discussed at this meeting; the first was the founding of an
organisation to promote Irish traditional music while the second was the
organising of a great annual festival of Irish traditional music, song and
dance. A further meeting was held in February, and at this meeting it was
decided that, in conjunction with Feis Lár na hÉireann (a Gaelic League Feis
which had been held in Mullingar for many years), a Fleadh
Cheoil would be organised in the town in May over the Whit weekend.
In the years before the Fleadh, although the ordinary people of Ireland loved
traditional music, the hundreds of traditional musicians in the country were
largely unappreciated in popular social and intellectual circles. The aim of the
Fleadh was to promote traditional music and to arrest the decline in its
popularity. The cream of traditional Irish musicians attending the Fleadh played
a major role in furthering this aim.
Fleadhanna Cheoil gave traditional musicians a
platform where they could play to an appreciative audience and where traditional
style was the criterion. That first Fleadh Cheoil in 1951 attracted only a few
hundred patrons - a small but enthusiastic crowd. Within five years, however,
this annual gathering had grown to become a great National Festival attended by
traditional musicians, singers, and dancers from all parts of Ireland and
On October 14th, 1951, at Árus Ceannt, Thomas Street, Dublin, the first
standing Committee of Cumann Ceoltóirí na hÉireann was elected. At a meeting
in St. Mary’s Hall, Mullingar, on January 6th, 1952, the title of the
organisation was changed from Cumann Ceoltóirí na hÉireann to Comhaltas
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Comhaltas has grown with the times, and today we’re proud to be the foremost
movement preserving and promoting Irish traditional music. We love what we
Branches of Comhaltas have formed in every county in Ireland and also abroad,
organising classes, concerts, and sessions in local communities. Now there are
County and Provincial Fleadhanna, and also the Fleadh Nua, the Tionól
Leo Rowsome, Seisiún, and the Scoil Éigse, and active branches in the United
States, Britain, Canada, Japan and elsewhere. In fact, there are hundreds of
branches in 15 countries on 4 continents.
As the President of Ireland, Mary McAleese, said,
Take Comhaltas out of the equation, turn back the clock and contemplate
Ireland without Comhaltas and the sheer scale of what we owe you is
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We’re not resting on our laurels. In 2001 Comhaltas announced an ambitious
plan to partner even more closely with local communities through our “Meitheal”
initiative. Now in 2006, we’re happy to report that we’re ahead of schedule,
developing over 50 active projects through our network of regional Meitheal
Guided by our Development Programme we’re also busy opening Regional
Centres and Outreach Centres, taking on exciting new projects
in Education, expanding our Archive and producing the popular ComhaltasLive weekly video programme.
All of this exciting work, though, rests squarely on the shoulders of our
local volunteers. If you think you might want to be involved, find your local
branch and see what we’re all about!
Gael Linn was founded in 1953 and has been known since
then as an entrepreneurial organisation. The main aim of the organisation is to
foster and promote the Irish language and its heritage throughout Ireland as a
living language and as an expression of identity at policy and at community
It is well known for the enterprises it founded in Gaeltacht
areas. Gael Linn continues to implement its entrepreneurial philosophy through
the broad range of activites and projects which it engages in from year to
year. The Gael Linn programme can be divided into three broad categories;
education, language promotional schemes and business. SIANSA GAEL LINN is one of
the country’s most prestigious competitions for young traditional Irish
music and singing groups. Organised by Gael Linn with support from Foras na
Gaeilge, RTÉ Raidió na Gaeltachta and Irish Music Magazine, Siansa provides a
platform for talented teenage groups who aim to emulate groups such as Téada,
Altan, Danú, Dervish etc. While Siansa is essentially a competition, the groups
are helped and encouraged along the way by highly regarded traditional
Groups enter a 10 to 12 minute continous programme of
traditional music, together with one song in Irish in the traditional style,
recorded on Audio CD or Minidisk.
Emphasis should be on
producing a programme of music with new and imaginative arrangements. (See
videos of SIANSA GAEL LINN 2012 prizewinners above ).
When putting the
programme together groups are advised to incorporate all the various elements
of music i.e. rhythm, phrasing, notes, etc. to create
imaginative links between the tunes/song.
All types of music are
accepted once played in the traditional style - newly-composed music or new
arrangements of traditional tunes. Care should be taken, however, to
strike a balance between tradition and innovation in the choice of
Newly-composed Irish songs in the traditional
style or old Irish traditional songs are acceptable. Songs translated into
Irish are not allowed, however, and the groups choice of music and song should
complement each other.
Dancing is not permitted as part of the
performance – only music and singing will be considered. Groups are
advised not to copy/imitate the musical arrangements of well known traditional
It is important that the recording be of a high standard.
Groups should ensure that:
(a) every instrument is in tune
consistency of sound levels exists between the different instruments and
every instrument and every voice is
Each group's entry is
listened to by an adjudicator. The adjudicator writes a critique for each
group to which (s)he has listened and this is forwarded to the group. The
adjudicator also chooses a certain number of groups whom (s)he believes to be
of a sufficiently high standard to benefit from participation in a workshop
with some of Ireland's top traditional musicians.
The workshops are
organised during February of each year (over four days during the period
Thursday 21 – Tuesday 26 2013 ) and in venues as central as
possible to the participating groups. They are conducted through Irish by
well-known musicians/singers who offer help and advice to all the groups on
different aspects of their performance, having first listened to them perform
The adjudicators, who have attended all of the workshops, then
choose their top 8 groups to go forward to the All-Ireland Final of
The SIANSA GAEL LINN
2013 Final will be held in the National Concert Hall, Dublin on Sunday 14
April 2013. RTÉ Raidió na Gaeltachta will broadcast the concert live.