[Harp-L] Elitism and the SPAH Convention

At my age and from this side of the Atlantic I am unlikely to make it to a
SPAH convention in this lifetime. However I may, one of these years, try to
take in the NHL event in Bristol or the Seydel bash in Klingenthal or
Hohner's one in Trossingen.

The debate on alleged elitism at SPAH  conventions does strike a chord with
me, because it reminds me that there used to be similar feelings expressed
in these parts about Fleadh Ceoil na hEireann - the annual traditional Irish
music festival which runs every year for the best part of a week in some
selected Irish provincial town. The format of the festival is competitions
for the full range of traditional Irish instruments including  pipes, flute,
tin whistle, fiddle, box, unaccompanied sean nos singing and even harmonica.
There are also some formal concerts held in various venues about the
selected town for the duration of the Fleadh.

In the early days of the Fleadh about fifty years ago the great feature of
the festival was its informality with impromptu music sessions in every pub
in the chosen town and sometimes - subject to Irish weather - even in the
streets. Then for a few years the "Elite" musicians decide to remove
themselves from the presence of the "Rabble" and organise their sessions in
the secret back rooms of certain pubs whose identity was revealed only to
the chosen few. When this attitude prevailed, I for one stopped attending
the annual Fleadh. Now I am glad to say - judging from TV coverage of the
Fleadh in recent years that some of the original ethos of the festival seems
to be returning. Maybe I shall attend again one of these years.

It should be noted that Comhaltas Ceoltoiri Eireann organisers of the Fleadh
have done Trojan and successful work over the years in reviving interest and
participation in Irish traditional music, which was almost dead and held in
contempt as the culture of "bog trotters" before they arrived on the scene.

Dare I suggest that SPAH might take a look at the history and organisation
of the Comhaltas and see whether there are any lessons which could be
usefully applied to the promotion of our beloved mouth organ.


Aongus Mac Cana

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