The James Byrne Fiddle Summer School – Ceol sa Ghleann is a traditional arts project based in Glencolmcille, in South West County Donegal. It was set up over 20 years ago by the late Donegal fiddler James Byrne with the specific aim of preserving, promoting and developing the unique and rich heritage of traditional music, song and dance of south west Donegal.
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The Ceol sa Ghleann project has a particular emphasis on Glencolmcille’s longstanding fiddle tradition. Over the years it has set out to fulfill its mission through a wide and varied programme of classes, concerts, seminars and workshops throughout the year. The group also organise two annual events that have a growing reputation and have firmly established themselves on the festival calendar. These two festivals are:-
- Glencolmcille Festival of Traditional Arts (Feile Ealaion Traidisiunta Ghleann Cholm Cille)
- James Byrne Fiddle Summer School (Scoil Samraidh Fidilereacht)
Glencolmcille Festival of Traditional Arts
The Glencolmcille Festival of Traditional Arts is held annually during the Easter Holidays. This wonderful event brings together some of Ireland s finest singers, musicians, storytellers and inimitable characters for a celebration of Donegal music, song and dance. Typically the festival programme will include
- A series of concerts and recitals,
- Classes in traditional fiddle and box playing
- Irish and English singing plus
- Workshops for Donegal Two Hand, Celi and Seanos Step dancing.
The 2010 festival got off to a wonderful yet somewhat poignant start with the opening of an exhibition in The Gallery dedicated to the memory of James Byrne himself. Musicians from near and far gathered during the festival week to share songs, stories and, indeed memories of the Meenacross native who touched the hearts of people all over the world with his music, genuine friendliness and warm personality.
The James Byrne Fiddle Summer School
The James Byrne Fiddle Summer School is held annually in late July. The week long school commemorates the legendary Donegal fiddler from Meenacross, Glencolmcille who kept the local music, style and technique alive. His legacy is being continued by his family and friends and the many young players he taught and inspired.
The school is held in Meenacross – a townland in Glencolmcille. This townland is renowned for generations as a place for great musicians and where every house was said to have a fiddle. The Fiddle Summer School has graded classes for all levels focusing on local style and repertoire from the Glencolmcille area are taught by members of the Byrne family and other well-known players in the Donegal tradition. Throughout the week there are concerts, recitals and sessions.
The Summer School which is supported by Ealaion na Gaeltachta and Donegal County Council is a great opportunity for fiddle enthusiasts to spend some time in one of the strongholds of Donegal fiddling.
James Byrne was one of Irelands most well known and loved musicians. He dedicated his life to playing the tunes and telling the stories passed down to him by the older generation of musicians – including this father John and the many great musicians from Glencolmcille and beyond. “James Byrne was one of the great heroes of Irish traditional music. He embodied the values of his art, passing music and culture onto future generations and inspired many players”. James rarely left Ireland yet touched the hearts of people all over the world with this music, genuine friendliness and warm personality: ‘He didn,t feel the need to travel – the world travelled to him’. James’ legacy is being carried on by his family and friends and the many young players he inspired.
Glencolmcille, County Donegal, Ireland