Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann is the largest group involved in the preservation and promotion of Irish traditional music, song and dance and all aspects of Irish culture, affording the language special status. We’re a non-profit cultural movement with hundreds of local branches around the world, we’ve been promoting Irish music since 1951. Our efforts continue with increasing zeal as the movement launches itself into 2012.
The Comhaltas vision for our Irish cultural traditions is central to the continued work of the movement, a vision as follows: “The Irish cultural traditions should be an enriching part of the lives of Irish people everywhere, particularly our young people; they should be a living, highly visible and vibrant part of society; they should be easily accessible to all; and their unique social, cultural and economic benefits should be fully realised by communities and individuals throughout the country and in Irish communities abroad”.
The local unit (the branch) is the foundation stone of the organisation. The work of the branch is to promote our traditional music, song and dance through regular classes, informal sessions and more formal events such as concerts, etc. Such work creates a climate and awareness within the community which is conducive to the well being of our native cultural identity.
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, this year in Cavan.
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 by visiting www.comhaltasarchive.ie
We’re an international movement with our headquarters in Dublin, Cultúrlann na hÉireann. We also have a number of Regional Resource Centres, the Ulster office is based at Dún Uladh Cultural Heritage Centre; Omagh, you would be more than welcome to stop by for a visit, or to visit a local Comhaltas branch close to where you live. A definitive list can be found at; http://comhaltas.ie/locations/
History of Ards CCÉ
Ards CCÉ are delighted to have been selected to host the Ulster Fleadh 2016 in Bangor, Co. Down…..a first time ever for the branch and town!
The branch was established 1st July 1976, so this year they celebrate their 40th anniversary of promoting and fostering the love of Irish traditional music, song and dance to people from all backgrounds in the North Down / Ards areas and further a field. Currently, Ards CCÉ offers lessons for all traditional instruments on Saturday mornings at St. Columbanus College, Bangor for both children and adults. All classes are overseen by Niall & Bronagh McClean. Niall is an All Ireland Fiddle Champion and has played all over the world (including the USA) with other famous musicians, in particular, “The Irish Tenors”. Bronagh is an incredible musician/director with a 1st Class Honours Degree in music and is currently teaching at a local secondary school.
Ards CCÉ was formed all those years ago with eight members present in the home of Denis Calvert. The first Chairman was Joe Mullan, who, until his death, was an active member of the Traditional Music scene. By the time of the second AGM there were 30 members….and this has now grown throughout the years to over 200 members! Christmas 1983 saw the Branch start The “Ards Rhymers”, who took to the road with their first performance in the Tavern Bar, Carrowdore and in 2008 a book was published on the history of the “Ards Rhymers”. After over 40 years the Branch continues to promote Irish culture throughout the local area and, due to the incredible successes of their recent Fleadhs, many more young musicians have taken up an traditional instrument, which is what it’s all about. March 2011 saw the release of Ards CCÉ’s first CD, Shores of Strangford, which due to its popularity led to the release, in June 2013, of a second CD, The White Dove, and a Christmas CD, Home for Christmas, in December 2014.
The first of the County Down Fleadhs hosted by the Branch was held in 1978 in Portaferry and many more memorable Fleadhs were to follow. In 2012 and 2013 Ards CCÉ hosted the most succesful Fleadhs ever seen in Bangor with thousands of spectators in attendance. Local winners have also gone on to win at Ulster / All Ireland levels and many of their young members, through their Entertainment Group, have had the amazing opportunity to perform all over Ireland, UK, Europe and the USA. Furthermore a DVD of the Entertainment Group’s Award Winning Show was also professionally recorded in 2013, due to its acclaimed recognition on Irish TV Station TG4 and being described by local Irish media as “The Best of Irish Culture”.
Ards CCÉ Entertainment Group was established in 2012 by Niall and Bronagh McClean (Ards CCÉ music tutors) in an attempt to bring all their young talented artists together, as a team, to promote Irish Music, Song and Dance in the form of a Stage Show. Since then the show has gone from strength to strength and the group has performed at many celebrated music festivals and events, including several All Ireland Fleadhs, The International Music Festival in Rouen (France), Nottingham Irish Fest (England), Dunfanaghy Irish Festival (Ireland), Interceltic Festival of Avilés (Spain), Copenhagen Irish Festival (Denmark), International Pan Celtic Festival, Carlow (Ireland), Cup of Tae Festival, Donegal (Ireland), Bath Irish Festival (England), Liverpool Irish Festival (England), St Columbanus commemorations in Bobbio (Italy), and St Patrick’s Day parade and celebrations in New York (USA). Within the past number of years the Entertainment Group have also been supporting acts for Sean Keane, Beoga, Sharon Shannon, Lúnasa, Dervish, Frankie Gavin, 4 men and a Dog, the world famous ensemble The Priests and have had the amazing pleasure to play alongside legendary fiddle player Liz Carroll from Chicago. Furthermore, the group has been booked by many cruise liner companies to do local shows on board their ships when docked in Belfast and Dublin harbours. Local Councils have also asked them to perform at major tourist attractions such as The Giants Causeway Centre and Titanic Quarter. In 2015 the group made history by being the first Irish traditional band to perform for the Royal Family at their private residence in Hillsborough Castle.
There are many other renowned festivals planned for Ards CCÉ Entertainment Group and they hope to bring their Award Winning Show back to the USA for the Milwaukee Irish Festival.
Dún Uladh is Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann’s Regional Resource Centre for the Meitheal Uladh Region. This region incorporates Counties Antrim, Derry, Donegal, Down & Tyrone. Dún Uladh, along with the 6 other Meitheal Regional Centres across Ireland, makes the Comhaltas vision to “give people genuine access to the traditional arts” a reality. This is a unique centre for authentic Irish traditions, promoting Irish music, song, dance, drama and other native art forms, situated in the heart of Ulster. The centre provides facilities for Comhaltas members from across the region and across the Country. It hosts performances ranging from professionally produced concerts to informal sessions. The Centre also hosts music classes, Seminars and workshops for musicians and office bearers as part of the Comhaltas development plan.