Music & dance
Turn up the decibels with passion-fuelled music festivals in a land where music is part of the culture
I want to see something unique and traditional?
Traditional Irish music is celebrated with passion and energy right throughout the year. One of the biggest events is the World Fleadh in August, when the best national and international performers descend on Portlaoise. The largest festival of Irish music is undoubtedly All Ireland Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann – a whopping 250,000 people from all over the world hit Ireland in August and over 10,000 performers take part in concerts, céilithe (Irish dancing sessions), parades and pageants. The Feakle International Music Festival celebrates the rich tradition of music over five days in the beautifully scenic area of East Clare. And don’t forget to hit Limerick for the Sionna Music Festival featuring traditional music, song and dance from Ireland and around the world.
What other traditional music festivals would be good to catch?
The Fleadh by the Feale in Abbeyfeale, County Limerick, brings together top traditional musicians from Ireland, Europe and America; while the Cup of Tae Festival in Ardara, County Donegal, is also renowned for its cracking atmosphere and exceptional music. The William Kennedy Piping Festival in Armagh has a worldwide reputation for the diversity and quality of its musical programme; while another musical legend enjoys a festival named after him – the Johnny Keenan Banjo Festival celebrates Irish and American bluegrass music in County Longford. And if you like your bluegrass, then make sure not to miss the annual Appalachian & Bluegrass Music Festival at the Ulster American Folk Park
What about big music festivals?
Ireland’s getting quite a reputation in Europe as one of the leading summer destinations for rock festivals. One of the best known is Oxegen, with dance acts, music legends and super-hot newcomers. And the jazz is good, too. The Guinness Cork Jazz Festival is an award-winning event and attracts the cream of jazz musicians from around the world. The City of Derry Jazz & Big Band Festival, meanwhile, is legendary for putting on a sizzling show with acclaimed performers and an atmosphere that’s second to none.
I prefer something classical…
Sophisticated, refined and elegant, a classical music festival in Ireland is something to be savoured. What’s more, there’s a real buzz to the country’s top events including Summer Music on the Shannon – with young performers and renowned professionals; the Ardee Baroque with the Irish Baroque Orchestra; and the Carrick Water Music Festival. Chamber music aficionados will delight at the quality of the music at the West Cork Chamber Music Festival and the Kerry International Chamber Music Festival, both of which take place in beautiful and scenic locations. The New Ross Piano Festival aims to celebrate the versatility, virtuosity and variety of music and emotions associated with the piano; and, finally, it would be crazy to miss out on the Sligo International Choral Festival, an exciting competition featuring choirs from all over the world.
So what’s on for opera buffs?
A truly magical atmosphere captivates Wexford during the celebrated Wexford Festival Opera. Now regarded as one of the premier opera events in Europe, the festival attracts a glittering selection of performers with impressive venues and an innovative programme. When Autumn settles in, the Waterford International Festival of Light Opera gathers together performers and devotees for 14 nights of competitive Light Opera and Modern Musicals.