“… and you better be you, and do what you can do…..”

Above is a video of one of my very favorite songs of all time and I share it with you here because there was some serious gold…. and silver and bronze…. brought back home to Cincinnati from the Fleadh in Chicago this weekend.
Here’s what went down. We arrived friday to get the lay of the land at this year’s Fleadh which was to be held at Chicago’s Irish American Heritage Center. I can’t say enough about how amazing this place was. Although it was a bit of a pain to have the hotel a number of miles from the competition venue, we loved being at this center for the weekend. It is my hope that someday Cincinnati’s newly developed Irish Heritage Center can become a smaller version of Chicago’s; a place where musicians, artists, historians and fans of all things Irish can gather and feel a sense of place. It was wonderful.

Angels hold up this building and you can feel it.  Friday’s event was a huge ceili where the reigning champs in last year’s all-Ireland ceili band competition played for dancers who knew the steps so well that no one even called them.  It was awesome!  It was great to just sit and soak up the wonderful music and watch the dancers.  Saturday was to be a full day.

There were many competitions going on throughout the day on Saturday.  My dear friend Kathy got the silver medal in both the English singing and New Song competitions.  Another Riley School family member Patrick threw his hat into the ring in the Sr. Fiddle competition and received a bronze.  Quite a feat!  But the big one of the day for me was the 15-18 fiddle competition where Jack and his long time friend Hannah participated in this adjudicated event.  The two love playing music together and are often among the top seeded in their division.  It was delightful to get the results of this competition…. (look at level ‘c’ which denotes the 15-18 age group)

Here they are with their medals.  I have watched these kids grow up playing music together even though they hail from different cities.  At these events kids from all over the country get together and bond over common tunes.   Later this summer it looks like these two old friends will be going to Ireland to compete in the mac-daddy of all Irish music competitions, the All-Ireland’s in Cavan.  I am thrilled for them!!!

Hannah also took the singing competition in her age group and Jack won the top mandolin prize.  But the day was not over….

Later in the evening, the group competitions were held.  Jack and I, along with 8 other intrepid musicians from the Riley School of Irish Music went up against 3 other bands competing in the Groupa Cheoil.  Plenty of talented musicians from Chicago, St. Louis and Akron put their arrangements to the test along with ours.  At the end of it all…. we won.  I can’t begin to communicate to you how amazing this is.  In the world of traditional Irish music, Cincinnati is small potatoes.  And yet, the judges, most of whom were from Ireland, liked our take on things.  When asked who arranged our routine, we told them – we did it as a group.  Together.  I love playing music with this group of people.  They are the smartest and funniest and ‘funnest’ people I know and I cherish them.  Receiving gold medals as a group was so gratifying.

After our competition, we watched the ceili bands duke it out (congrats to ‘The Broken Pledge’ ceili band on their win!) and then played tunes at sessions til the wee hours.  I am exhausted and apologize for the lack of artful writing here.  But I wanted to get it down here.  This weekend reminds me why I play Irish music.  It’s enhanced my parenthood, my creativity and given me friends both from my own city and from places like St. Louis, Chicago and Detroit that I will hopefully cherish for the rest of my life.



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