Belfast Tradfest launches winter weekend festival

The recent lifting of many Covid restrictions has prompted the team behind Belfast TradFest to stage a special winter weekend of traditional music, song and dance – having lost its usual summer slot to the pandemic for the last two years.

The weekend on February 18-20 will see an excellent series of concerts as well as sessions, festival club, céili and workshops with some of the festival stars.

Among the guests appearing in a packed programme are Iarla Ó Lionáird and Steve Cooney, Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh and Gerry O’Beirne, Zoë Conway and John McIntyre, Cathal and Stevie Hayden with Séamie O’Dowd, Brìghde Chaimbeul, TRIP, Niall Hanna, Diane Cannon, Jack Warnock and Méabh Smyth.

As well as a whistle and sing workshop aimed primarily at children – a number of workshops will be presented by master musicians:


  • Craig Baxter (bodhrán)
  • Conor Caldwell (Donegal fiddle music)
  • Isla Callister (fiddle)
  • Brìghde Chaimbeul (small pipes and bagpipes)
  • Zoë Conway (advanced fiddle)
  • Edwina Guckian (dance)
  • Cathal Hayden (banjo)
  • Stevie Hayden (intermediate fiddle)
  • Elaine Hogan (harp)
  • Sam Mabbett (button accordion)
  • Alasdair MacKenzie (guitar/voice)
  • Rory Matheson (piano
  • Martin Meehan (flute)
  • Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh (traditional singing)
  • Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh amhránaiocht ar an sean nós))
  • Gerry O’Beirne (guitar accompaniment)
  • Séamie O’Dowd (guitar accompaniiment)
  • Padraig Rynne (concertina)
Iarla Ó Lionáird
Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh

All of the workshops are aimed at intermediate players and above, except for the traditional singing classes (no experience required) and the whistle and sing workshop.

Details of the concerts and sessions are available on the Belfast Tradfest website:

Ashling Murphy RIP

The traditional arts community has been shocked by the horrific murder of Ashling Murphy, an emerging musical talent on fiddle, concertina and whistle, as well as a dedicated teacher and sportswoman.

After completing her day’s work with her young first class pupils in Durrow National School, the 23-year-old Offaly primary school teacher had gone for a run along a popular canal walkway in Tullamore when she was attacked.

Since an individual held for questioning in connection with the murder has now been eliminated from the Garda investigation, detectives have appealed to the public with any information of events on the walkway on Wednesday afternoon to come forward. A particular line of inquiry is focused on a mountain bike with distinctive green and yellow front forks.

Amid the national outpouring of grief and expressions of solidarity with Aisling’s family, colleagues and pupils, there has been a deep and heartfelt response from the traditional arts community in Offaly and right around the country and beyond

Ashling was a member of Ballyboy Comhaltas Branch and had participated in Fleadhanna Cheoil at County, Provincial and All Ireland competitions with great success. She comes from a very musical family, her father is a  well known banjo player and her sister, Amy, is a talented concertina and button accordion player.


Both Ashling and Amy taught music to many young students in Ballyboy. Ashling was selected to take part in the Comhaltas fourteen-day concert tour of Ireland in 2017 and the ten-day Echoes of Erin  tour of Britain in 2018, She had also been a member of the Comhaltas National Folk Orchestra of Ireland since 2017.
In a moving statement Ballyboy Comhaltas Branch said that it was”truly devastated by the tragic passing of our amazing friend and musician Ashling Murphy. Words cannot describe how heartbroken we are to lose such a special young lady, far too early in her life.”
“We are privileged,” the statement continued, “to have had Ashling as a fiddle and tin whistle tutor within our branch. She had a warm and caring approach with her pupils and she inspired them to be the best they could be. Ashling was also involved in organising and training our Grúpaí Ceoil and Céilí Bands. A highly accomplished performer, she enjoyed many successes in solo, duet, and trio competitions at county, provincial, and All Ireland Fleadhanna  Ceoil from under 12 to Senior level. She was selected for the Macalla na hÉireann Comhaltas Tour of Ireland and Britain in 2017 and was a member of the Comhaltas National Folk Orchestra. Ashling’s talent, radiant smile and elegance was always evident both on and off the stage. We send our deepest sympathies to Ashling’s parents Ray and Kathleen, brother Cathal and sister Amy, extended family and friends.”
Similar sentiments were expressed by many other local organisations, including Tullamore Tradfest:
“The members of Tullamore TradFest and the wider community have been deeply shocked and saddened by the tragic loss of Ashling Murphy. Ashling was an excellent musician and a beautiful person who provided happiness to many through her music and her outgoing personality. Ashling had been a great supporter of Tullamore TradFest and was enthusiastic, dedicated and the consummate professional in her support of living Irish culture. At this point our thoughts, prayers and support are offered to Ashling’s family, her colleagues and students in Durrow NS, and her extended circle of friends in Ballyboy Comhaltas. May her gentle soul rest in peace. Suaimhneas síoraí dá h-anam óg.”


The candleit vigil for Ashling at Kilclonfert in Co. Offaly
Musicians play tribute at the vigil for Ashling in Portrush, Co. Antrim
Traditional band JIgJam were among the many local musicians who took part in a vigil for Ashling in Tullamore on Friday. Similar vigils were being held in cities and towns throughout Ireland on Friday with more planned for Saturday and Sunday, January 15-16 – including major events in Dublin, Belfast and London and a special online livestream organised by the National Deaf Women of Ireland – with an array of traditional musicians appearing in solidarity with Ashling’s family and friends.
Exceptionially talented – Comhaltas
From its national headquarters in Monkstown, Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann issued the following statement:
“All of us in Comhaltas and the world of Irish traditional music are shocked at the untimely death of Ashling Murphy. She was an exceptionally talented young lady who made an unforgettable impression on all who had the good fortune to know her. Ashling was among the finest exponents of the concertina and fiddle and was also learning the uilleann pipes. She has featured in our Comhaltas Concert Tours and was also a valued member of the Comhaltas National Folk Orchestra of Ireland. We know that she and her family are at the heart of her local community. She was a much-loved school teacher and had so much to offer in so many ways.
“The brutal manner of her death – in the middle of the day – as she jogged by the banks of the peaceful canal in Tullamore has left us numbed and bewildered. The suffering of her family at the loss of such a young and beautiful person is beyond understanding. We share their grief with them and we will always remember Ashling as one who enriched our lives with her warm personality; uplifting musicmaking; compassionate, outgoing and generous friendship

Ashling, you will always be in our thoughts and prayers as we cherish the memories and friendship of your short but exceptional life. Ar dheis Dé go raibh do anam uasal ceolmhar. From all your musical colleagues and friends in Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann.”

The Irish Traditional Music Archive has expressed its deepest sympathies and condolences to the family and friends of “the gifted young musician and teacher Ashling Murphy whose life was so cruelly taken from her in Tullamore on Wednesday. Suaimhneas síoraí dá hanam uasal.”

Na Píobairí Uilleann extended its sympathies to Ashling’s family and friends noting that the talented musician was a member of Na Píobairí Uilleann and “a keen student of the uilleann pipes.” “Her passing leaves us shocked, saddened and heartbroken for all of those who were fortunate enough to have met her,” the NPU added.

She was going for a run
Similar messages  were forthcoming from Comhaltas Branches around Ireland as well as in Britain. Dublin Comhaltas described Ashling as “a bright young woman and a gifted musician with her whole life ahead of her,” while the Irish Australian Support Association of Queensland made a lengthy statement on gender violence accompanied by the meme: “SHE WAS GOING FOR A RUN. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a hanam. May she rest in peace.”

FairPlé, the advocacy group challenging gender discrimination within traditional and folk music in Ireland, expressed its “deepest condolences to the family and friends of Ashling Murphy” – offering “love and strength to those feeling loss and pain today.”

Describing Ashling as “a bright soul and an exceptional talent, guilty only of going for a run,” Mise Fosta, the campaign to highlight the abuse of women in traditional music, said that “the tradition has lost another woman whose gifts will cease to flourish and brighten the lives of those around her. Our thoughts and prayers are with Ashling’s family, friends and musical circle,” – adding: “Mise Fosta stand with every woman going about their day today with an ill feeling in their stomach and Ashling Murphy on their mind.”

Expressing her condolences to Ashling’s family and friends, musician and senator, Frances Black said: “there are no words to express the shock and sadness of the horrific murder of the beautiful and talented Ashling Murphy,” while Templebar Tradfest recalled that Ashling had performed with the National Folk Orchestra of Ireland at the last live edition of the festival in January 2020. Among the many other musicians to express their condolences publicly were Sharon Shannon,  Kevin Crawford, Ger O’Donnell, Mirella Murray, Josephine Marsh, Deirbhile Ní Brolchaáin and Elle Marie O’Dwyer.

President Higgins in tribute to Ashling Murphy

“People throughout Ireland, in every generation, have been expressing their shock, grief, anger and upset at the horrific murder of Ashling Murphy,” said President Michael D. Higgins.

“This morning I spoke to Ashling’s family to convey, as President on behalf of the people of Ireland, and on behalf of Sabina and myself as parents, my profound sympathy and sorrow and sense of loss that her tragic death has meant to so many, but what in particular it must mean to her mother Kathleen, father Raymond, sister Amy and brother Cathal.

“I sought to convey a sense of how so many parents, families, indeed all of the people of Ireland are thinking of the Murphy family at this very sad time. The loss of Ashling is a loss to all of us, but to her family it is beyond description.

“The outpouring of grief at the death of Ashling shows how we have all been very touched, and it is so exemplary for young and old, to read of all Ashling’s accomplishments during her short but brilliant and generous life.

“Those who knew, studied with her, or as we have heard, loved her as a young gifted teacher, all have borne witness to a life of generous commitment to her local community and to her creativity.

 As a young, talented and enthusiastic teacher she had already made such a positive impact on her young students and colleagues at school.  To hear them speak of her is such a testament to the joy of sharing, be it in teaching, music or sport, that she conveyed in a way which must have brought much joy to all. She represented the best of her generation, in a life they will recall as inspirational.

It is of crucial importance that we take this opportunity, as so many people have already done in the short time since Ashling’s death, to reflect on what needs to be done to eliminate violence against women in all its aspects from our society, and how that work can neither be postponed nor begin too early. 

“May I suggest to all our people to reflect on all of our actions and attitudes – and indeed those we may have been leaving unchallenged amongst those whom we know – and do all we can to ensure that the society we live in is one where all of our citizens are free to live their lives, participate fully, in an atmosphere that is unencumbered by risks for their safety.  Let us respond to this moment of Ashling’s death by committing to the creation of a kinder, more compassionate and empathetic society for all, one that will seek to eliminate all threats of violence against any of our citizens, and commit in particular to bringing an end, at home and abroad, to violence against women in any of
its forms.  

“Suaimhneas síoraí dá hanam uasal dílis, Ashling.”

Star-studded line-up for Féile na Tána online

Above: Sean nós dancer, Edwina Guckian, who will be one of the tutors at Féile na Tána in February

Féile na Tána, the annual traditional music weekend in Carlingford, has returned to an online format for the second year in a row as a result of the ongoing difficulties of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Despite this – or perhaps in some cases because of this, the event has managed to secure an illustrious panel of tutors – all ranked among the leading exponents in their respective disciplines – to lead the online workshops which will take place on February 5 and 6.

Confirmed are:

Fiddle advanced   Bríd Harper
Fiddle intermediate   Zoë Conway
Whistle advanced   Mary Bergin
Whistle intermediate   Des Cafferkey
Uilleann Pipes   Mick O Brien
Harp   Cormac De Barra
Flute   Kevin Crawford
Accordian [C#/D Box]   Máirtín Ó Connor
Concertina   Caitlín Nic Gabhann
Singing   Julie Fowlis
Banjo   Gerry ‘Banjo’ O’Connor
Bodhrán    Jim Higgins
Guitar    John Mc Intyre
Bouzouki    Éamon Doorley
Sean nós dancing   Edwina Guckian

Zoe Conway
Máirtín O'Connor
Mary Bergin
Julie Fowlis

Each tutor has prepared a video workshop specially for Féile na Tána with a mix of chat about technique, ornamentation, and some tunes. The workshops are 30-45 minutes long and have been pre-recorded and edited. For a €20 fee, students will have access to the video for one month, and can start and stop the video at the touch of a button. Students can also use the slower speed button in YouTube to assist learning if required.

And if you were thinking that the tutors would make a great line-up for a concert,  Féile Director Zoë Conway has already had the same thought. So on Saturday February 5 at 7pm, a specially curated and pre-recorded video featuring all of the tutors.will be streamed online on the Féile na Tána Facebook page and YouTube channel.

On Sunday February 6 a special festival concert featuring pre-recorded footage of outstanding young musicians from the local area and further afield will be streamed  at 4pm on the Féile na Tána Facebook page and YouTube channel.
at 4pm which will be shared live online on the Féile na Tána Facebook and YouTube channel.

More information – including booking forms – is available at

New album imminent from Navá

Above: Navá (from left) Shayan Coohe, Niall Hughes, Shahab Coohe and Paddy Kiernan

The Irish-Persian quartet, Navá, whose music draws on two venerable musical traditions, have availed of the pandemic-induced dearth of live engagements to work on their third album, Toranj, which is due for release in the coming weeks.

Following the critical acclaim that greeted their debut album, Tapestry, in 2017 and their subsequent release, Sojourns, in 2019, as well as their nomination in the Best Folk Group category at the 2020 RTE Radio Folk Awards, the new album is eagerly awaited.


Arts Council Bursary for Traditional Arts

The closing date for applications for the Arts Council’s Traditional Arts Bursary is Thursday, February 3. The award – which is worth up to €20,000 – is designed to support professional artists to develop their art practice. It provides artists with the time and resources to think, research, reflect and critically engage with their art.

The award is intended to enable practising artists to do one or more of the following:

  • Spend focused time working at their practice
  • Spend time researching/thinking about/developing a new idea for future dissemination
  • Spend time developing their technical skills in a particular area
  • Spend time developing/learning new skills related to their practice or area of interest
  • Spend time working with a mentor, or collaborator(s) to develop an idea, or to assist in developing or upskilling within a particular area of their practice, or an area related to their practice
  • Spend time developing an idea in collaboration with a potential production partner(s)
  • Undertake a short period of training by way of master classes or other professional training opportunities (whether national or international)
  • Purchase a limited amount of equipment and materials to assist with the development of their practice (Note: this can be no more than 15% of the value of the overall request for support)
  • Spend time undertaking a combination of the above activities.

The award emphasises the value and benefit to an artist’s development derived from an extended process of engagement with their practice. The award, therefore, provides artists with the time and resources to think, research, reflect and engage with their art practice. Potential proposals could be those that support the applicant to:

  • Compose a piece of work in the tradition or in collaboration with musicians in other genres
  • Choreograph a piece of dance within the tradition or in collaboration with dance artists in other genres
  • Explore traditional style and repertoire in the fields of music, song, dance or storytelling, including informal mentorship programmes with established individuals or masters in these areas
  • Develop a body of work from the tradition and/or in collaboration with other artforms.
  • All awards are informed by the Arts Council’s ten-year strategy (201625), Making Great Art Work: Leading the Development of the Arts in Ireland.

The award is open to professional artists working in all genres and at all stages in their professional careers. To be eligible to apply, applicants must:

  • Be resident in the Republic of Ireland. There are certain exceptions where the Arts Council may deem eligible applications made by those based outside the Republic of Ireland. However, before admitting as eligible any such application, the applicant would need to explicitly outline within the application how the outcomes of any such proposal would benefit the arts in the Republic of Ireland, and the Arts Council must be satisfied with same.
  • Be professional practising artists. Although they might not earn income continuously or exclusively from their arts practice, applicants must identify themselves, and be recognised by their peers, as professional practising artists.

Howth Burns Nicht goes online again

Howth Singing Circle has again moved its annual Burns Nicht celebration online this year in light of the continuing public health crisis caused by Covid-19. As was the case last year, the Howth Singing Circle are co-ordinating their efforts with two renowned Edinburgh institutions – the Edinburgh Folk Club and The World’s Room singers’ club..

The event on Saturday January 22 will be run over Zoom from 8pm featuring a combination of live and pre-recorded performances. The concert will also be simultaneously streamed on the HSC’s Facebook page.


Among the performers already lined up for the event are: (from Ireland) Méabh Meir (pictured above), Eoghan Ó Ceannabháin, Francy Devine, John Kelly, Larry Egan and Mick Mullen; (from Scotland) Steve Byrne, George Duff, David Francis, Margaret Bennett and Billy Jolly, (and from both): An Corráiste (The Luck Penny: featuring Jaff Mac Seafraidh and Jackie Jeffries).

The concert will be followed on Sunday afternoon (January 23) by an open singing session from 3pm-6pm on Zoom – which is expected to feature contributions from Ireland and Scotland as well as three songs each from Niamh Parsons and Scott Gardiner.

Niamh Parsons
Steve Byrne

Applications for €15,000 Liam O’Flynn Award close on January 20

Applications for the lucrative Liam O’Flynn Award will close on January 20. The purpose of the Liam O’Flynn Award is to provide a traditional artist with a period of artistic reflection, inspiration and creation in residence in the National Concert Hall and to enhance appreciation, knowledge and enjoyment of the traditional arts across the rich milieu of the National Concert Hall.

In memory of the piper Liam O’Flynn, the award is a joint initiative of the Arts Council/An Chomhairle Ealaíon and the National Concert Hall/An Ceoláras Náisiúnta as part of their partnership for the promotion, appreciation and enjoyment of traditional arts, which also includes the Tradition Now festival of traditional music. It celebrates the role of the individual creative traditional artist in the creation of new works, the inception of unique artistic collaborations and innovations, and in the transmission of traditional arts for future generations to enjoy and practice.

The objectives of the award are:

  • To provide an artistically supportive, stimulating and challenging environment for the selected traditional artist
  • To provide physical work space for their individual reflective and creative artistic work.
  • To support artistic collaboration.
  • To enable a working relationship with the National Concert Hall’s Learning and Participation team.
  • To engage audiences with the traditional arts.

The Liam O’Flynn Award comprises;

  • €10,000 towards fees and living expenses during the period, enabling the artist to spend time focusing on practice-based research and creative work in the National Concert Hall.
  • €5,000 for fees and other expenses relating to collaboration with other artists and the presentation of work.
  • Work space in the National Concert Hall.
  • Professional support and career advice.
Liam O'Flynn

The Liam O’Flynn Award is open to application from traditional artists working in any of the following genres; instrumental music; singing; dance; oral arts such as storytelling, agallamh beirte or lúibíní.

The Liam O’Flynn Award scheme welcomes applications from senior artists, established artists in mid-career, and young and emerging artists.

Previous recipients of the award include Úna Monaghan, Barry Kerr and Jack Talty.

One award will be made in 2022.

More information (including details of the application process) is available from the Arts Council at