Monday, August 26, 2013

The Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann in Derry

Last weekend I got to do something I've always wanted to do: go to the Fleadh Cheoil. The Fleadh Cheoil (Flah Key-ole) is kind of like the Olympics of Irish Music. Competitors come from all over the world to compete for the title of "All Ireland Champion" in music, song, old style dancing, and others forms of traditional Irish culture. It's also a huge, week long music festival and celebration of Irish culture.

For those of you new to the blog, I'm of Irish descent and grew up playing Irish music with my mom and brother. I'm from Savannah, GA, which is known for its Irish community, and I've been playing in bands, competing, and doing the whole Irish thing for years. I have always wanted to go to the Fleadh Cheoil, and was elated when I got the chance this year (it helps that Germany is way closer to Ireland than Georgia!)

Girl performing the broom dance...yep, you dance with a broom :)

Friday, I flew into Dublin and took the 4 hour bus up to Derry. We visited Derry at Christmastime last year, and you may remember me mentioning its troubled past. This was actually the first Fleadh Cheoil held in Northern Ireland instead of the Republic of Ireland, and everyone said this year had a different vibe to it. I'll just use that as an excuse to go again next year ;) Despite the difference, I had a blast!

As soon as I arrived, I felt like I had walked into Irish music land. Everywhere you turned you found people playing Irish music. All ages, all skill levels, all instruments. It was such a treat watching these phenomenal musicians busking on the street.

The Fleadh had been going on for nearly a week, but it was really heating up for the weekend. I was so excited to find out one of my favorite Irish bands, Dervish, was holding a FREE concert that night!!

*cue hysterical fangirl squealing*

It started raining halfway through but I didn't even care. A guy came up from the audience and even danced while they were playing!

Of course the highlight of the night was getting to meet the front woman, Cathy Jordan, after the show. She is one of the best and most entertaining singers I've ever heard, and I've been a huge fan of hers since I was 13. I was shaking I was so nervous to meet her in person! Luckily, I'd befriended two guys from Seattle and they very kindly took some pictures for me. Thanks, guys!!

Me, being a starstruck goober... :)

Seriously, if you like Irish music, heck, if you like MUSIC, go and google Dervish right now. I mean, RIGHT NOW. They will not disappoint.

Things only got better from there. The Fleadh basically turns a city in Irish music paradise. You can watch competitions (I saw some amazingly talented youngsters who gave me chills their music was so beautiful), check out the many musician-centered shops that pop up, and eat lots of tasty things. Honestly, I had the best time just roaming around the city, feeling like I was in music paradise.

My second night I checked out a concert called Transatlantic Fleadh, a concert dedicated to Irish music and its influences through the world (Scottish, Bluegrass, etc). They brought together some famous Irish names like John Doyle, Arty McGlynn, and Declan O'Rourke, along with some bluegrass greats like the guys from Union Station and Tim O'Brien. Mind blown.

I had my competition (I didn't place in the top 3, but I had a great time anyway!) and then tried to soak up as much Fleadh atmosphere before it all ended!

I was staying in a hostel and had planned on staying in that night, but I ended up meeting 5 really nice girls from County Monaghan. When they found out I was alone they insisted I come out with them, and I am SO glad that I did. We had the best time!

We ended up checking out one of the Fleadh bars for a Fleadh after party. Holy cow. We walked in, and all I can say is, it was the exact definition of a hootenany. A band was tearing it up with some awesome traditional tunes, and almost everyone was dancing in some shape or form. Some people were step dancing, some were ceili dancing, some were sean nos dancing, some were just doing their own thang, but everyone was dancing and having the time of their lives. The whole atmosphere just felt joyful.

Pretty soon the girls and I were dancing, and we stayed there until the security guards closed it down for the night and told everyone to leave. Then we sat in the courtyard of our hostel and talked about life. It was such a fantastic ending to a fantastic weekend!

I had such a good time at this year's Fleadh and I'd love to go back next year. It was such a dream come true to get to go, I only wish I could've stayed longer...

So, any Irish music lovers out there wanna come with next year? :)


  1. The atmosphere seems so tangible in these photos, incredible! :) and thanks for clearing up the pronunciation of the title - I would've been stumped!

    1. My mom still calls it the "Fleedy Chole" cause she's so hi-larious like that ;)

    2. Haha :) By the way, I posted a link to your blog today, just so you know :)

    3. Aww thanks! I'm glad I inspired someone to check out Romania ;)

  2. Derry is a fantastic city! I should know cos I'm from just over the border! ;-)) Looks like you had a great time!