TRADITIONAL musician Ashling Murphy was commemorated as thousands of festival-goers returned to Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann in the wake of the pandemic.
he week-long festival returns for the first time since Drogheda in 2019. Around 500,000 festival-goers from Ireland and abroad are expected this week, making it the largest music gathering in the country.
Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann was formed in Mullingar in 1951, where the very first Fleadh was held after its formation. In its 70th edition, this year’s festival was dubbed “The Homecoming” by organizers.
President Michael D. Higgins paid tribute to the volunteers who make the festival possible and to Ashling Murphy, who was a very active violinist in the Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann community.
“Volunteerism and generosity are the cornerstones of Comhaltas, and such values are manifested in the Fleadh. Its network of branches and events is underpinned by a core of over 50,000 volunteers.
“Each of these individuals helps ensure the vibrancy of traditional living arts and share their appreciation with the next generation of artists.
“We also remember Ashling Murphy, the young Irish primary school teacher and traditional Irish musician who was so tragically taken from us earlier this year.”
In his speech, the President described the fleadh as a means of connecting to the larger world.
“As a nation with a particularly rich artistic and cultural heritage, we in Ireland seek live music, and indeed the arts more broadly, for personal and social fulfilment. It is a source of ancient wisdom and understanding and a means to resonate with each other and with the world itself.
He further referenced the difficulties musicians have faced in recent years due to Covid-19 restrictions.
“In Covid times, performing artists have been among the hardest hit by the pandemic and the restrictions imposed, more than almost anyone else in Irish society.
“The truth is that it was a terrible time for our musicians who were suffocated, cut off from their audience, unable to fulfill their creative ambitions or make a living by performing their music live to the people of the world.” An enthusiastic audience played on stage.”
Among the other speeches to a crowd of some 3,000 people at Mullingar’s Blackhall Car Park were words from Fleadh Committee Chair Joe Conniare, Bishop of Meath Tom Deenihan and Cathaoirleach of Westmeath County Council Aengus O’Rourke.
“There has never been an event as eagerly awaited as Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann 2022,” said the Cathaoirleach.
“I just want to say to everyone from dancers to singers, storytellers, vendors, locals and of course international guests – I hope you enjoy every moment and have a great time here in Mullingar!”
Fleadh leader Mr Connaire said it had been “six years in the making to get the Fleadh to come to Mullingar”, adding it was “unreal” to see his plans finally materialize became.
Over 160 competitions will take place throughout the week as contestants from Asia, Australia, Europe, the US and the UK will compete for glory.
https://www.independent.ie/news/tribute-to-ashling-murphy-as-thousands-head-to-mullingars-homecoming-fleadh-41880574.html Tribute to Ashling Murphy as thousands head out for Mullingar’s ‘homecoming’ Fleadh