Companion to Irish Traditional Music, 3rd edition 2024

The third edition of the Companion is upcoming in 2024

Citm 24 cover try 2.001

Unique in Irish music, this encyclopedia was first published in 1999, with a major updated edition in both book and digital form in 2011. The twenty-three years since the book's inception have been a period of great technological changes for the music scene, particularly in communications, and the eleven years since the much-developed second edition have also been marked by transformations, particularly by the on-line teaching-and-learning and performance which the 2020-22 covid crisis has created. The continuing outside-Ireland interest in the music in both performance and learning, has created a new cultural diaspora which presents fresh challenges.

The profusion of published local and major studies related to the music, the explosion of web-based information, and the normalisation of Irish-traditional music within popular musics which are consumed world-wide has also created high-profile players: the trail blazed by The Chieftains has been widened, heightened and advanced beyond what could not have been imagined by those whose commitment forged the 'revival' through the 1960s, let alone those who formed the lodestone Cork and Dublin pipers' clubs 1898 and 1900, or the ground-breaking Seán Ó Riada himself. Not least, there have been the deaths of many, many formative stylists whose artistic talent has shaped and energised the music we know and play today.

Thus the third edition will not only be a thorough update, but will include new topics which involve and are of interest to all who play and listen to the music. Among those is not only consideration of the issues mentioned above, but also a look at the economics of teaching and learning - what it costs to learn the music, how well are those who teach it rewarded. Such information has been generously given by those involved, in summary form, and - with regard to ethics and privacy - with no indication as to 'who' or 'where', but nevertheless opening up a previously silent and even mysterious key, modern-day dimension of passing on the music.

Each county on the island, and Irish communities abroad, will be covered with regard to instrumental song, dance and music style and promotion, as will Irish music in Scotland, England, European cities, and the USA.
Ever since the first edition, gender has been dealt with as an important issue in opportunity, visibility and commendation, a subject which was expanded in 2011. With its coming dramatically to the fore in 2020 it now demands deeper consideration in historical findings and sociological thinking on women in traditional music.

Another dimension of transformations will be given in analysis of the profound roll-of-honour that are the Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann competitions over the last 71 years since the the organisation's founding in 1951. This will illustrate national, regional, gender and instrument trends, and tendencies in the selection of the top players. First-place winners in all music and song competitions for all of the 71 years are listed.

Related to this is looking at the blossoming of non-competitive, merit awards such as TG4's Gradam, and CCÉ's and SSWC's awards, commercially- and culturally- impelled 'oscars' systems which challenge the public, open adjudicator-panel. The books listings will be expanded, including local publications. So too new directions and regrouping in the music - such as the formation of Cruit Éireann in 2016 for the harp - including organisational developments, the consolidation of third-level education structures in music and dance led by IWAMD in Limerick. RTÉ, Radio na Gaeltachta and TG4, and the expansion of Arts Council, Culture Ireland and other funding are also discussed.

This edition will also be meshed with the performance initiative which grew out of the 2011 volume - the Compánach audio-visual concert and its 2-CD album which have all tune-types and county-by-county music as described in that book. It will also link to the DVD and online video - Turas, Virtual Ireland in Music - in which the Compánach music is copiously illustrated with 700 images that the book cannot carry, and which in the digital formats can be paused and replayed for contemplation and discussion, intended as a versatile education tool.

This is the ultimate reference for all players, devotees and students of Irish traditional music. An indispensable reference guide to Ireland’s internationally-celebrated and performed traditional music, song and dance.

This comprehensive resource—substantially revised, expanded and re-focused on contemporary issues and practices—is the largest single collection of such diverse, essential data. It brings together the knowledge of 200 contributors in an easy-to-use A—Z format with 600,000 words, 400 images and 50 music transcriptions in 1800 entries covering:

  • All Tune Types
  • Style and Ornamentation
  • Composition and arrangement
  • Ballads, Sean-Nós and Irish-language song
  • Dance—Step & Sean-Nós dance, Céilí and Sets
  • Solo Playing and Sessions
  • Competitions and Awards
  • Céılí bands, Groups and Professionalism
  • Storytelling
  • Instruments and Technology
  • Organisations, Media & Promotion
  • Teaching and Learning
  • Education and Transmission
  • Collectors and Archives
  • History and Revival
  • Performers, Stylists, Commentators
  • Broadcasting and Recording
  • Women in Traditional Music
  • Irish Music in all Irish Counties, Europe, USA, Australia, Canada & worldwide
  • Bibliography of Irish music, song and dance literature and tutors
  • All-Ireland Fleadh Cheoil Analysis and Winners 1952-2023

In addition, a companion Music & Song CD & DVD, linked to the material in the book, are also available.

Companion to Irish Traditional Music - the second edition of the book

To date, 'The Companion' is the largest single collection of diverse, essential data in Irish Traditional music. It's earlier editions have brought together the knowledge of c. two hundred contributors in an easy-to-use A-Z format. The topics are addressed in the book by a total of c. 1800 individual articles, by 200 different witers, all of which are listed on this website:

  • For a full list of all A-Z entries and word-counts see Entries
  • For a list of major topics to which these articles relate see  Topics
  • For a full list of referenced people and bands see Index
  • For text of the addresses at the book's launch on November 24, 2011, see Companion Launch information and images
  • The Companion is now represented in a concert – Companach – which has toured in Ireland, England, Europe and Australia.
  • The sound-track of Compánach is now released as a 2-CD album with 8 songs (ballads, sean-nós & song in Irish) and 22 tracks of music
  • In December, 2021, arising from the Covid-era ceasing of live performance opportunities, this concert performance was extended and made available in digital format for viewing as Turas - Virtual Ireland in Music,  an on-line video (Vimeo) and as a DVD, each designed for viewing by private, organisation and community recreation and culture initiatives. (available for purchase online)
  • Song in Irish and English
  • Dance – Step Dance, Céilí and Sets
  • Solo and Group Playing
  • Céilí Bands and Professionalism
  • Storytelling
  • Instruments and Technology
  • Tune Types and Composition
  • Styles and Ornamentation
  • Organisations and Promotion
  • Education and Transmission
  • Collectors and Archives
  • History and Revival
  • Performers, Stylists, Commentators
  • Broadcasting and Recording
  • English, Scottish, Welsh music and song
  • Music in all Irish Counties, Europe & USA
  • Timeline - 1100 BC – 2011 AD
  • Irish Music Books 1724 – 2011
Book sections
  • Introduction
  • Acknowledgements
  • Using the Volume
  • Contributors
  • The Companion to Irish Traditional Music – A- Z articles
  • Chronology: A Timeline of Irish Music in History
  • Published Material Relating to Traditional Music
  • Index of names referenced in the text
Cataloguing and Publication Data
  • A CIP catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library.
  • ISBN-13: 978-1859184509
  • Typeset by Dominic Carroll, Co. Cork
  • Printed by MPG, UK
Cover painting:

This 1833 work is 'Snap Apple Night' by by Daniel Maclise, the earliest painting of indigenous Irish music in context, the earliest of a traditional-music ensemble and also of a tambourine in Ireland. Aspects of the picture are acknowledged as intentionally playful, making it possible that the depiction of fiddle, flute and pipes together may be fanciful - as may be the inclusion of a perfect, hand-struck tambourine, an instrument which was common in 18th-19th century art as an evocative symbol.

Reproduction is courtesy Bonhams, London, The Bridgeman Art Library. For a full, measured web account of Daniel Maclise see  ‘Ask About Ireland’.  Print information on Daniel Maclise can be found in nancy Weston’s 2000 Four Courts Press book ‘Daniel Maclise  - An Irish artist in Victorian London’