TRADITIONAL musician Ashling Murphy has been remembered as thousands of festival-goers return to Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann after the pandemic.
he week-long festival is back for the first time since Drogheda in 2019. Some 500,000 festival-goers from Ireland and abroad are expected this week, making it the biggest music gathering in the country.
Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann was formed in Mullingar in 1951 where the very first Fleadh took place after its formation. Now in its 70th year, this year’s festival has been dubbed “The Homecoming” by organizers.
President Michael D Higgins paid tribute to the volunteers who make the festival happen and to Ashling Murphy, who was a very active fiddler in the Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann community.
“Volunteering and generosity of spirit are cornerstones of Comhaltas, and these values are evident at Fleadh. Its network of branches and events relies on a core of more than 50,000 volunteers.
“Each of these people contributes to ensuring the dynamism of traditional performing arts and to sharing their appreciation with the new generation of performers.
“We also remember Ashling Murphy, the young Irish schoolteacher and traditional Irish musician who was so tragically taken from us earlier this year.”
In his speech, the president described the Fleadh as a way to connect with the wider world.
“As a nation with a particularly rich artistic and cultural tradition, we in Ireland look to live music, and even the arts more broadly, for personal and social fulfilment. It is a source of age-old wisdom and understanding, and a way to resonate with each other and with the world itself.
He went on to reference the tribulations musicians have faced over the past two years due to Covid-19 restrictions.
“In the time of Covid, more than almost anyone else in Irish society, performing artists were among the hardest hit by the pandemic and the restrictions imposed.
“The truth is, it has been a terrible time for our musicians who have been suffocated, cut off from their audiences, unable to fulfill their creative aspirations, or make a living performing their music live for people on stage to an audience. delighted.
Other speeches to a crowd of around 3,000 in Mullingar’s Blackhall car park included words from Fleadh Committee Chairman Joe Conniare, Bishop of Meath Tom Deenihan and Cathaoirleach of Westmeath Aengus County Council O’Rourke.
“There has never been an event as anticipated as Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann 2022,” said the Cathaoirleach.
“I would just like to say to everyone from dancers to singers, storytellers, vendors, locals and of course international guests – I hope you enjoy every moment and have an amazing time here at Mullingar!”
Fleadh chairman Mr Connaire said it had taken ‘six years of trying to bring the Fleadh to Mullingar’ and added that it was ‘surreal’ to see his plans finally come to fruition.
Over 160 competitions will take place over the week as competitors from Asia, Australia, Europe, USA and UK will battle it out for glory.