Fleadh organisers are celebrating a major coup after securing global dance superstar Michael Flately to perform the official opening of Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann in Ennis next month.
The man who revolutionised Irish dancing will take to the Fly Shannon stage in Abbey Street car park on Sunday, August 13.
The 59-year-old dancer, choreographer and musician will briefly address the gathering, before taking up the flute with uilleann piper and composer, Gerard Fahy, from Ballinakill in County Galway.
“It is a great honour to be asked to open this year’s Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann in Ennis. It is such a great home of traditional music and a place I have very fond memories of, including winning the All-Ireland there many years ago.
“It is vitally important for all of us to nurture young talent and to encourage young people today to play Irish music. I’m really looking forward to it and am sure it will be a huge success,” said Mr Flatley.
Fleadh chairman Frank Whelan said the executive committee is hugely indebted and greatly privileged that Michael has accepted their invitation to open this year’s event.
“The fact that the best-known figure in the world of Irish dancing over many decades is taking time out of his busy schedule to come to join us for the opening is no doubt going to make the occasion truly special,” he said.
The Clare Champion has learned that Gerard Fahy, who has toured extensively with Michael and his Lord of the Dance troupe and is the composer of his recent hit show, Dangerous Games, played a major role in securing his appearance at the Fleadh.
Mr Fahy, who has won five All-Ireland fleadh titles himself in pipes, whistle and newly-composed tune, first saw Mr Flatley dance in an Irish club in Chicago many years ago. It made a lasting impression on him and years later, he was invited to record pipes and whistle on the original Lord of the Dance soundtrack. He subsequently toured with the show for four years and, over this time, they shared many tunes and stories.
In 1999, Michael asked him to compose the main musical sequences in his Feet of Flames show. Mr Fahy encouraged him to record his album, On Another Note and was delighted to arrange and record it.
“Michael’s flute playing was most impressive and it was a comprehensive task to accompany and arrange the tracks,” he recalled.
In 2012, Mr Fahy was asked to compose the soundtrack for Lord of the Dance: Dangerous Games. It involved many months of composing and recording.
“Working with Michael was a privilege and a joy. His boundless energy is hypnotic and his creativity and enthusiasm is palpable.
“Coming from a traditional musical background, I would focus on the melody originally to compose the main line. In my opinion, if the melody is strong, it can only be enhanced with accompaniment and production.
“In preparation for the new show, Michael and I would meet in London or Castlehyde to discuss ideas and themes and moods. Over the many phonecalls, I would lilt some melody lines and Michael would tap out a beat so, in many ways, we were on the same wave length and it was very easy to communicate quickly. All of this work culminated in a wonderful opening night at The Palladium London and, since then, the show has toured the globe. Probably the highlight was performing in Broadway,” he said.
For many years, the duo were unavailable to visit the Fleadh due to touring commitments but they would often chat about and even reminisce on past events.
“Having Michael come to the Fleadh this year is very special. Even after his great accomplishments, he has taken great pride in being part of this wonderful event. I am personally honoured and I’m sure Michael is too to be involved in this year’s proceedings. We look forward to another wonderful Fleadh Down in Ennis,” Mr Fahy concluded.
By Dan Danaher