Companion to Irish Traditional Music – Second Edition

Companion to Irish Traditional Music – Hardback, 245 x 175mm, 880pp – ISBN: 978 1 85918 4509

This book is the ultimate reference for all players, devotees and students of Irish Traditional Music. It is an indispensable reference guide to Ireland’s universally-recognised Traditional music, song and dance. This comprehensive resource – now revised and greatly expanded – is the largest single collection of such diverse, essential data. It brings together the knowledge of two hundred contributors in an easy-to-use A-Z format with entries on:

  • Song in Irish and English
  • Dance – Step Dance, Céilí and Sets
  • Solo and Group Playing
  • Céilí Bands and Professionalism
  • Storytelling
  • Instruments and Technology
  • Tune Types and Composition
  • Styles and Ornamentation
  • Organisations and Promotion
  • Education and Transmission
  • Collectors and Archives
  • History and Revival
  • Performers, Stylists, Commentators
  • Broadcasting and Recording
  • English, Scottish, Welsh music and song
  • Music in all Irish Counties, Europe & USA
  • Timeline – 1100 BC – 2011 AD
  • Irish Music Books 1724 – 2011

These topics are addressed in the book by a total of c. 1800 individual articles, all of which are listed on this website:

For a full list of all A-Z entries and word-counts see Entries

For a list of major topics to which these articles relate see  Topics

For a full list of referenced people and bands see Index

Major Topics underlying the A-Z entries

The Companion topics can be reduced to the following major topics. Each of these has many sub-sections, within which are further ‘boxes-inside-boxes’ sub sections, into which all of the book’s articles can be categorised. They are numbered to facilitate searching and  note-taking:

01 – Vocal: Song in English, song in Irish, structure, styles, types, function, practices, singers, ballads, storytelling

02 – Instrumental music: tune types, instruments, transcription, style, ornamentation, composition, arrangement, classification, playing formats, regional styles

03 – Dance: Dance metres, artistic (display) dance, social dance, history, styles, ideology, competition, organisation

04 – Organisation: Fleadh, session, festival, events, organisation, promotion, education, performance, funding, buildings, policies, institutions, spaces, web, international, awards

05 – Transmission: Oral, broadcasting, recording, digital, teaching and learning, schools, collection, notation, tune books, song collections, audiovisual, Diaspora, migration

06 – People: Singers, dancers, musicians, storytellers, instrument makers, organisers, promoters, broadcasters, teachers, collectors, analysts, journalists, bands

07 – Analysis: Bibliography, information, archiving, academic, research, literature, history


Each of these topics will be developed with appropriate extra material – music, images and web links – in time. Many of the individual articles have connections with a number of the major sections outlined. For instance, an individual like the uilleann piper Willie Clancy comes under the category of ‘People’ (as a performer, stylist, authority, singer and personality). But he also comes in under ‘Social Customs’ (which includes ‘regional styles’), under ‘Transmission’ (as he was an influential teacher), under ‘Song’ (he was a recorded singer),  and under ‘Instrumental’ (his music has been notated and his style analysed). So too Seamus Ennis will cross categories as an authority, stylist, singer, storyteller, collector, performer, teacher, professional, researcher and broadcaster; Josephine Keegan can be seen as having cross links as performer, fiddler, composer, personality and publisher, as well as being associated with recording, broadcasting, collecting, Co. Armagh and with England. While the A-Z Articles page will eventually carry references to such cross-links, these can never be complete, for it is the reader will best make connections in the reading of the whole text.

Web Links: These will be added gradually in order to expand the knowledge potential of The Companion out beyond what is in the printed articles to the broader world of the music. Contributions and links are welcomed and should be sent to the editor, Dr. Fintan Vallely ( using ‘companion links’ in the subject line.