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Fleadh Nua off but past glories set to go online

FOR the second year running Fleadh Nua will not be taking place in Ennis due to Covid 19 restrictions, organisers have confirmed.
But Fleadh Nua chairman Frank Whelan is looking forward to the return of the festival in 2022, when he promises it will be bigger and better than ever.
In the meantime, he hopes that memories of the great Fleadhannas down through the years will sustain the many lovers of traditional music, song and dance for whom the Fleadh Nua has become a much anticipated annual event.
“Those of us who are old enough remember the ‘70s and ‘80s when the Fair Green became a tent village for the last week in May,” said Frank.
“Then there were the huge parades and colorful floats winding their way through the narrow streets of the town, with set dancers batterin’ away on the back of a moving truck, and no one ever fell off! But sadly Health and Safety regulations did away with all that!”
Frank also recalled some memorable Fleadh concerts like the one in 2006 at Cois na hAbhna where all the surviving musicians and singers named in Robbie McMahon’s famous song “The Fleadh Down in Ennis” came together to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann held in Ennis for the first time in 1956.
“And who can forget that great night in 2009 when the Chieftains came to the Cathedral and over 900 people packed the pews for an incredible performance from the world’s finest?
“Fleadh Nua has always welcomed the best of Irish Traditional Musical talent to the town. The great Joe Burke, who passed away recently, graced the stage with his wife Anne Conroy on more than one occasion.
“Then there was Tony McMahon and Steve Cooney, Noel Hill, Martin Hayes, Eoin Ó Riabhaigh and Jimmy Crowley, The Begleys and the Mulcahys, not forgetting the Hanrahans and Paul Roche from Stockton’s Wing, bringing it all back home!” he recalled.
“Down from Belharbour would come the late great Chris Droney who headed many a celebrity concert, joined by his musical family.
“Then there was that other great musical family from Crusheen, The Mulkeres or Vincent Griffin in from Feakle, and the great pipers who would travel from west Clare, the Taltys and Michael Falsey, not to mention the Tulla and the Kilfenora Céilí Bands and the set dancers from all over the county, each with their own unique style, keeping the tradition alive.”
In the absence of a Fleadh to organise, Frank has been busy going through hours of video from past Fleadhanna in the Cois na hAbhna Archive, which he hopes, in time, to upload to the Archive’s YouTube channel. In the meantime, he has a special treat for Fleadh Nua fans.
“I came across some video of the Fleadh Nua from 1985, it was amazing to see how much the town, and the Fleadh has changed since then.
“There’s some familiar faces and lots of young musicians in the Aos Óg concert, who are maybe not so young anymore!
“It will be up on the Fleadh Nua Facebook page and the Cois na hAbhna Archive Youtube Channel from Saturday next, so have a look, you never know who you might spot!”

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