Ever since notice was first taken of the music, groups of interested people have combined to collect, preserve or disseminate it. These include: the Belfast gentlemen who arranged a gathering of harpists in that city in 1792; the Society for the Preservation of the Ancient Music of Ireland (1851); the Feis Ceoil Association (1897); and the Irish Folk Song Society (1904). These efforts were led by people who did not themselves play traditional music, and it was only in 1898, with the foundation of the Cork Pipers' Club, that the first such initiative came from tradition-bearers themselves. Cork's example was followed within a year or so by Dublin, whose pipers' club endured, albeit with periods of quiescence, until the 1950s, when it was instrumental in founding Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann (CCÉ), after which it became a branch of that body. CCÉ is the largest organisation working in the field of traditional music. It aims to be a mass-membership body, and welcomes members, musicians and non-musicians alike. Through its regional and local network of branches it organises and runs a countrywide series of fleadhanna cheoil (music festivals) that are a combination of competitive event and social occasion. Its branches perform an important function in providing tuition for aspiring young musicians.
Pipe, fiddle and harp players, as well as singers and dancers, are serviced by dedicated organisations. The earliest of these was Cairdeas na Cruite ("Friends of the Harp") which was founded in 1960. The pipers' association Na Píobairí Uilleann, was founded in 1968. Its focus is solely on the arts of piping and pipe & reed-making, and pipers alone are admitted as full members. Cairdeas na bhFidléirí was founded in the early 1980s and promotes fiddle playing, the Donegal style in particular.
The art of singing has faced the greatest struggle to re-establish itself. It was once considered an integral part of a night's entertainment. During the revival, young musicians learned their craft in the mono-cultural surroundings of the fiddle (or flute, or pipes, or box etc) class (their seniors would more likely have learned theirs at house dances and similar gatherings). This system has had the side-effect of producing players with a taste for extended sessions devoted solely to dance tunes, to the exclusion of everything else. The variety that marked earlier musical occasions is now rarely encountered. Singers, finding it difficult to get a reasonable hearing, have increasingly resorted to arranging song-only occasions. These can be casual, one-off events or, increasingly, established singing clubs. The oldest and best known of these is Dublin's Góilín Singers' Club, which has been meeting continuously since 1979, and has played an important part in providing an audience for singers old and young. They have also published recordings and song collections. Following their model, many similar clubs have been established around the country.
The social dances known as quadrilles, which came into Ireland around 1816 and were still proliferating a century later, underwent a revival of interest starting in the 1970s and 1980s. To some extent this was caused by their incorporation into cabaret-style entertainments by contestants in the Scór talent competitions run by the GAA. The Irish Countrywomen's Association used them in the same way. The trigger for the massive resurgence of interest was provided by two factors. One consisted of the activities of the late Connie Ryan, a dance enthusiast from county Tipperary who taught céilí and set-dances in Dublin. His infectious enthusiasm won many converts and his regular workshops (by the time of his death these were weekly, throughout Ireland and abroad) spread the knowledge of the dances to a large audience. The other factor was the introduction of a set-dance class, taught by Cork dancing-master Joe O'Donovan, to the Willie Clancy Summer School in 1982. Many of those who first learned to dance on that occasion went on to become dance teachers themselves and started set-dance clubs. The most significant were Cork dancer Timmy "The Brit" McCarthy, who researched and revived many dances from Cork and Kerry; and members of Na Píobairí Uilleann, who, as "Brooks Academy", did similar work throughout Ireland, and who also provided the tools for the revival by publishing the first collections of instructions for the sets, and the first recordings of music appropriately arranged for their performance.
A development of the late twentieth century has been the foundation of resource organisations devoted to traditional music. The most significant of these is the Irish Traditional Music Archive, based in Dublin. This body was founded in 1986 and has accumulated the largest collection ever assembled of material relating to traditional music in Ireland. This collection comprises all kinds of material, including, but not limited to, books, manuscripts, recordings, pictures, artefacts etc. The Director, Nicholas Carolan, researches and presents the long-running TV programmes "Come West Along the Road" and "Siar an Bóthar" which present archive recordings of traditional music. The Archive is open to the public.
Traditional music summer schools have also become a very significant factor in the invigoration and transmission of the music. The longest established of these, and the model upon which subsequent schools were based, is the Willie Clancy Summer School, which takes place in early July each year in Miltown Malbay, county Clare. It provides a programme of activities over nine days with classes, recitals and lectures provided by the foremost names in the world of traditional music, song and dance.
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