Comholtas makes rare appearance in Shannon Sept. 30

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Photo: courtesy of Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann

[zoom photo] Members of Comholtas Group who will be performing September 30th at the Shannon Community Centre. The appearance will be the groups fi rst ever show in Shannon which marks the opening of their 2009 North American Tour.

Local Irish folk will receive a rare treat Sept. 30, when the traditional Celtic folk ensemble Comholtas opens its 2009 North American tour at the Shannon Community Centre. The show represents the group's first-ever appearance in Shannon.

"Shannon has a very big tradition of Irish dancing and Irish music," said Patrick McSweeney, an Irish immigrant and member of the committee of volunteers working in conjunction with the Catholic Women's that is responsible for bringing the show to fruition.

"It will be mainly a Comholtas (pronounced Coal-tas) show, but they may invite one or two of the Shannon Irish Dancers after the (main) show."

Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann is the world's largest non-profit organisation devoted to preserving and promoting traditional Irish music, song and dance, according to a statement issued by the group. The organisation was created in Ireland in 1951, at a time when many feared that Irish traditional music was in danger of dying.

"(Comholtas) is a well known organization in traditional Irish music circles and they would probably be the organization that saved Irish music," McSweeney said.

Comhaltas has hundreds of branches in cities around the world, including Montreal, Ottawa and Toronto.

Its activities include organising classes, competitions and concerts of Irish traditional music, song and dance. For many years, Comhaltas has selected the cream of up-and-coming Irish musicians, singers and dancers, many of whom are current or past All Ireland champions, to form the North American Concert Tour.

The group tours North America every two years. Following the Shannon performance, Comholtas will play in Montreal; Ottawa; Sudbury, North Barrie and Manitou, Ontario; Saskatoon and Regina, Saskatchewan, and Winnipeg, Manitoba.

Shannon's many historical and cultural ties with Ireland are what attracted the group to perform there and, according to Shannon Irish Dancers Co-ordinator Kerry Ann King, Comholtas' appearance here has been several years in the making.

"Four years ago, (former Shannon Mayor) Maureen Maher asked if we would be interested," said King, who has been with the Shannon Irish Dancers since 1996. At the time, however, King said that the kind of work involved would have been a little overwhelming given the magnitude of Comholtas in the Irish community.

"I wanted to be able to put on the show of a lifetime."

This year, her plate isn't quite as full and with the assistance of community members like McSweeney, and her contacts with Maher, the prospects for a performance this year improved dramatically.

"In the spring, she called again," said King of the former mayor, who now lives in Ottawa, "and asked me and I decided that maybe this would be the year to do it."

King said that interest in the show has not been confined to Shannon itself. Irish music aficionados from all over the region have expressed interest in seeing the "once in a lifetime" performance.

Shannon is home to a large number of descendants from Irish immigrants who originally settled there during the early part of the 19th century. More recently, Shannon has become famous for the Shannon Irish Show and the Shannon Irish Dancers.

The 14-membre troupe, which includes four dancers, a fiddle player, a harper, a piper, possibly a flutist and two singers in the ensemble, will arrive in Quebec City Sept. 29 and stay with local families. They are expected to see the sights of Old Quebec that day.

"We wanted to show them our our roots in that part of the Old City," said James Donovan, of Cap Rouge, who has been active for many years in promoting Irish heritage in the city.

The concert will be followed by a music session at the Community Centre during which local musicians will have the opportunity to meet and play with the Comhaltas performers.


More information on the concert tour and the group itself can be obtained by visiting