Companion To Irish Traditional Music, 3rd edition, 2024

The third edition of the Companion is upcoming in Spring 2024

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 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.

Questions, ideas, comments and critique are welcome from those involved in the field. Notices and review copies of  new books, pamphlets and other printed data are welcome for potential inclusion.