An exploration of traditional music song and dance

Offering an introduction to traditional music and dance in Ireland and nods to the northern part of the island. It deals with history, style and structure, and takes a look at the main instruments.

We also have an opportunity to see and hear some of the leading performers, both past and present.

Violin top image


Given that traditional music is an oral and aural tradition, in most cases we can not say when or where the music was written or who the composer was. The music has flourished with the ebb and flow of time and has been subjected toits players’ ever- changeing interpretations. Major historial, potical and socail events have shaped its destiny too.

The Music Playing & Singing

The execution of mustic and song is very much an individual thing it is down to the performer who, once he or shehas spent sufficient time learning and developing his or her own craft, can hopefully put their unigue stamp ommn it.
Of course certain rules must be observed, but with in that, the scope is limitless. In many ways the challenge for the competent performer is that very thing - to make it your own, to explore new avenues and bring the idiosyncraticpart of your own personality to the music.

The Music



Dance has been around in Ireland probably as long as
there have been people

It is likely that many influences from various epochs have left their mark on dance today.
Dance would have been cebtral to Pegan, Celtic, early Christian, Viking and Anglo-Norman
customs. Indeed, the Normans are credited with the introduction of ‘round dancers’ to
Ireland in the 12th century.

Useful Links

Arts Council of Northern Ireland:

More Live Links:

Contact us

If you have any questions or indeed comments about this resource and its contents, please contact:

Arts Council of Northern Ireland
77 Malone Road
BT9  6AQ

Telephone: + 44 (0) 28 9038 5200


Thanks to the steering group, especially Robbie Hannan for his generosity, help and guidance; Nicholas Carolan for his invaluable work and for making available the archives at the ITMA; Sam Bailie for so freely sharing his knowledge on bagpiping; Mary Fox for her counsel on dance; all those who contributed to the bagpiping, drumming and dance shoots; the Irene McCann Dancers, Portadown; and all those musicians who so readily agreed to their music being included; Martin Dowling for initiating the project; Fabrica and Credo for allowing us to use their photographs.

Thanks to BBC NI, especially Ian Kirk Smith and the late Tony McAuley; RTE; TG4; Philip King and Hummingbird Productions; Davey Hammond and Flying Fox Films; the following record labels - Claddagh; Gael Linn; Clo Iar-Chonnachta; Topic; Proper; Blackbox Music; Globestyle Irish; Green Trax; Lughnasa Music; Mulligan; Old Bridge Music; Peer Music; Maurice Cassidy; Lunar Music; Tara; Virgin; Emerald; Watershed; Wren.


Paul Flynn
Traditional Arts Officer
Arts Council of Northern Ireland

Neil Martin

CCEA | Multimedia:
Ciara Rogers, Neil Davey, Christine McCarron, Brian McAleese, Alan Nesbitt, Jim Smyth, Shelly Wilson, Andrew McAfee, Jenny Scharf