Companion To Irish Traditional Music, 3rd edition

The third edition of the Companion will be launched on June 5th

Unique in Irish music, this encyclopedia was first published in 1999, with a major updated edition in both book and digital form in 2011. In 2013 it achieved No. 11 in the Choice Reviews rankings, an academic library listing chosen from some 7,000 titles.

The ultimate reference for all players, devotees and students of Irish traditional music, this book is the indispensable guide to and detailed summary of Ireland’s internationally-celebrated and performed traditional music, song and dance. As a comprehensive resource it is now substantially revised, expanded and re-focused on contemporary issues and practices, making it 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 more thatn 600,000 words, 400 images and 80 music transcriptions in 1800 entries covering:

  • All Tune Types
  • Music style and ornamentation
  • Composition and arrangement
  • English-language ballads, Sean-Nós and Irish-language song
  • Dance, all forms of traditional dance—step & sean-nós dance, céilí and sets
  • Solo playing and sessions
  • Competitions and Awards
  • Céılí bands, Groups and Professionalism
  • Instruments and Technology
  • Organisations, Media & Promotion
  • Teaching, learning and research
  • Collectors, collections and archives
  • History and revival
  • Performers, stylists, educators and commentators
  • Transmission, broadcasting and recording
  • Women in traditional music
  • Irish music in all Irish counties and in Europe, USA, Australia, Canada and worldwide
  • Among the more important features is that the Companion has a complete bibliography of most Irish music, song and dance literature and tutors. And, too, the book is unique for having an analysis of All-Ireland fleadh cheoil results for the seventy-two years from 1951–2023, and a listing  too of the All-Ireland senior winners in the major music and song categories from the beginning

The quarter-century since the book’s inception has been a period of great technological and social changes for the music scene, particularly in communications, and the thirteen years since the much-developed second edition have also been marked by transformations, particularly by the on-line teaching-and-learning and, notably, by the challenges that 2020-22 covid crisis created. And, not least, 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 have 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’ and Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann 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 is 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 advances in and the practicalities of teaching and learning of and about the music. Each county on the island, Irish communities in major cities abroad, and Irish music in various other countries, are now covered with regard to instrumental song, dance, music style and promotion. 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; because of its coming dramatically to the fore in the twenties, it now demands deeper consideration, and key commentators contribute both historical findings and sociological thinking.

73 years of Fleadh cheoil first-place winners listing in main competitions

A major dimension of transformation is in analysis of the profound roll-of-honour that are the Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann competitions over the last 72 years since the organisation’s founding in 1951. This not only lists all senior instrumental, céilí band and singing winners 1952-2023, but also analyses national, regional, gender and instrument trends—tendencies in the selection of the music’s top players.

Related to this is looking at the blossoming of non-competitive awards, which now challenge the long-standing, public, open adjudicator-panel assessment system. Among these, the TG4 Gradam, Oireachtas na Gaeilge and fiddle awards will be reviewed, with winners since their inception listed. The Companion’s listings coverage is also expanded to cover many local publications, with summaries of major work relevant to the needs of a collective information pool, and seasonal schools, organisations, media and instruments. So too new directions and regrouping in the music are included – such as the formation of Cruit Éireann in 2016 for the harp – as well as the consolidation of third-level education structures in music and dance led by IWAMD in Limerick, the national public-broadcaster’s assignment of Traditional music to the Irish-language domains of Radio na Gaeltachta and TG4, and the expansion of Arts Council, Culture Ireland and other funding for creativity and touring.
This edition also meshes with the performance initiative which grew out of the 2011 volume – the Compánach and Turas audio-visual concerts and their 2-CD album which have 1/ all tune-types and 2/ county-by-county music as described in the Companion, much of which is given in notation in the pages of the Companion. The book will also link to the DVD – Turas, Virtual Ireland in Music – in which the Turas and Compánach music is copiously illustrated with 700 images that give the book a third dimension, but which it cannot carry. These images in the digital format of the DVD can be paused and replayed for contemplation and discussion, illumination of the book’s text, altogether a versatile education tool.

BOOK LAUNCH JUNE 5th, 2024; kindle version available thereafter. In-house, library editions are available by negotiation with the publishers.

The Companion Album download

Click on this link for download album and abum sleeve notes information