Companion to Irish Traditional Music 3rd Edition, 2023

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The ultimate reference for all players, devotees and students of Irish traditional music. An indispensable reference guide to Ireland’s internationally-celebrated and performed traditional music, song and dance.

This comprehensive resource—substantially revised, expanded and re-focused on contemporary issues and practices—is 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 600,000 words, 250 images and 100 music transcriptions in 1800 entries covering:

  • All Tune Types
  • Style and Ornamentation
  • Composition and arrangement
  • Ballads, Sean-Nós and Irish-language song
  • Dance—Step & Sean-Nós dance, Céilí and Sets
  • Solo Playing and Sessions
  • Competitions and Awards
  • Céılí bands, Groups and Professionalism
  • Storytelling
  • Instruments and Technology
  • Organisations, Media & Promotion
  • Teaching and Learning
  • Education and Transmission
  • Collectors and Archives
  • History and Revival
  • Performers, Stylists, Commentators
  • Broadcasting and Recording
  • Women in Traditional Music
  • Irish Music in all Irish Counties, Europe, USA, Australia, Canada & worldwide


  • Bibliography of Irish music, song and dance literature and tutors
  • All-Ireland Fleadh Cheoil Analysis and Winners 1952-2023
  • Companion Music & Song CD & DVD available

Unique in Irish music, this encyclopedia was first published in 1999, with a major updated edition in both book and digital form in 2011. The twenty-four years since the book’s inception have been a period of great technological changes for the music scene, particularly in communications, and the twelve 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 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 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’ 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 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. Each county on the island, and Irish communities in cities abroad, will be covered with regard to instrumental song, dance and 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. With its coming dramatically to the fore in the twenties, it now demands deeper consideration, and key commentators will contribute both historical findings and sociological thinking. 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 72 years since the the organisation’s founding in 1951. This will not only list all senior instrumental, céilí band and singing winners 1952-2023, but will also illustrate national, regional, gender and instrument trends—tendencies in the selection of the top players. Related to this is looking at the blossoming of non-competitive,flhich challenge the public, open adjudicator-panel; Oireachtas na Gaeilge will be reviewed for song in this context also. The books listings will be expanded, including local publications, with summaries of major work relevant to the needs of a collective information pool, and seasonal schools, organisations, media and instruments will be covered. So too new directions and regrouping in the music – such as the formation of Cruit Éireann in 2016 for the harp – including the consolidation of third-level education structures in music and dance led by IWAMD in Limerick, the 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 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  books, pamphlets and other printed data are welcome for potential inclusion.