Trad beat welcomes 200,000 to the fleadh
THE thump of the bodhran and the plaintive sound of the tin whistle drowned out the traffic in Cavan town as the first of an expected 200,000 people began to arrive for the All-Ireland Fleadh Cheoil.
The 60th annual All-Ireland Fleadh was last held in Cavan in 1954. This year, the event will last a full week and showcases traditional music, concerts, ceilithe, parades, pageants, pub and street music sessions.
Apart from the fleadh itself, some 800 participants are currently attending Scoil Eigse -- a major summer college of Irish traditional music and dance run by the festival organisers Comhaltas Ceoltoiri Eireann-- which will run in tandem with the festival until Friday.
The best of the action takes place this weekend, when the town's population is expected to swell to 250,000. The huge economic impact from the event was emphasised by Agriculture Minister Brendan Smith at the official opening event.
"Apart from its major cultural importance, the fleadh is of huge economic benefit to the wider Cavan business sector," he said.
Senator Labhras O Murchu, Ardstiurthoir of Comhaltas, said this year's fleadh was "a further milestone in the positive saga of our cultural traditions".
Cavan county manager Jack Keyes, chairman of the fleadh committee, said he was delighted to see the expansion of interest in traditional music and culture in the area.
While every available bed in the town has been booked, fleadh organisers were yesterday still arranging to get "latecomers" accommodated at locations "a few miles away".
Top traditional acts from around the world will also make an appearance, giving the fleadh an all-new international flavour.
WilloS from Italy, Nustalgic Folk from Cadenazzo in Switzerland, Rí Ra from the Czech Republic, and Folk from Orkney, will add to the worldwide touch. Other long-distance travellers include fiddle-playing virtuoso Marco Fabbri from Italy, and mouth-organ expert Don Meade from the USA, who fell in love with Irish tunes as a young man in southern California.
Also, trad veterans De Danann and newbies NicGaviskey will feature in a special online concert, broadcast from Cavan Town Hall this Friday between 10pm and 2am.
It will be streamed from 11pm on www.LiveTrad.com, traditional Irish music's answer to YouTube, where anyone, anywhere, can log on and view the concert for free.
Extra gardai are being deployed in Cavan to cope with the huge crowds over the week ahead.