Bodhrán Competitions


Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Èireann, the international association of Irish traditional musicians, runs annual competitions on many instruments, in singing, dancing, and Irish language. A competition is called a fleadh cheoil (flah kyol), or fleadh for short. Competitions start at the level of regional chapters, and culminate in the All-Ireland competitions, the Fleadh Cheoil na hEireann. Bodhrán is one of the instruments for which competitions are held.

Typically, a fleadh is an occasion for hearing the best musicians play their best pieces, and for meeting other musicians to play together and trade tunes and techniques. The June 1995 fleadh in the Bronx, NYC, was accompanied by ceilis and performances by top bands. Perhaps because of inclement weather, there was less of the normal socializing and sessions during the day.

Here's an outline of the fleadh rules as they apply to the bodhrán; the full rules for the Midwest Regional Fleadh are available on-line.

Bodhrán competition is divided into four age categories: under 12, 12 to 15, 15 to 18, and over 18 (senior). Each competitor must play a tune of his own choice from four of these categories: Air (slow or lively), Jig (double, single, slip), Slide, Reel, Polka, Hornpipe, March, Set Dance. The competitor is accompanied by a single musician, who may be chosen by the competitor.

I attended the senior bodhrán competition at the Bronx fleadh, and I'm glad I did: I always enjoy watching other bodhránaí at work, and it was most interesting to hear the judges' comments. Afterward, I asked one of the judges what he thought was the right balance between providing a regular beat to support the music and adding ornamentation. He admitted that this was largely a matter of opinion: Different judges have different standards, ranging from those who expect a very straight accompaniment with minimal ornamentation, to those who prefer a virtuoso solo performance.


1995 Bodhrán Results at the Fleadh Cheoil na hEireann

Bodhrán - Under 12
  1. Shane Fahy, Corofin CCE, Co. na Gaillimhe
  2. Derek Ryan, Mhuine Beag CCE, Carlow
  3. Sean O'Neill, Cr. Newcastle, An Duin
Bodhrán - 12-15
  1. Colin Hogg, Castletowngeoghegan CCE, Westmeath
  2. Fergal Scahill, Corofin CCE, Co. na Gaillimhe
  3. Brian Gavin, Clontarf CCE, Dublin
Bodhrán - 15-18
  1. Joseph Morran, Nth. London CCE
  2. Shane Dowling, Firoda Upper, Castlecomer, Kilkenny
  3. Dean Doherty, Castlebar CCE, Co. Mhaigh Eo
Bodhrán - Over 18
  1. Mark Maguire, Irish Minstrels CCE, Glasgow
  2. Junior Davey, Coleman Traditional Society CCE, Co. Shlighigh
  3. Caroline Deane, Iorrais CCE, Co. Mhaigh Eo



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Josh Mittleman

Last updated 30 Mar 1999