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Welcome - Failte Romhat!

When the translation is provided submissions to the blog will be published in both English and Irish. Please send submissions to the webmaster address shown at the very top of the blog. Please visit us often. This blog is the companion of the Ottawa Comhaltas website:

Beidh poist a fhoilsiú i mBéarla agus i nGaeilge nuair is féidir. Tabhair cuairt orainn go minic. Is é seo an blag an compánach an láithreán gréasáin Comhaltas Ottawa:

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

A celebration of Ireland in Canada as part of Ottawa 2017: Press Release


( Visit the Ottawa Irish Arts Booth at this spectacular event! )

A celebration of Ireland in Canada as part of Ottawa 2017

Ottawa Welcomes the World: Ireland

Friday, 16 June 2017; Horticulture Building, Lansdowne Park, Ottawa; 10:00 am to 10:00 pm

In this landmark year for Canada, the Embassy of Ireland, together with Irish community organisations across Canada, is proud to present a celebration of the deep and strong bonds of friendship that Ireland and Canada have long enjoyed as part of the "Ottawa Welcomes the World" series of free events at Lansdowne Park.

Ireland is delighted to showcase a day-long programme of Irish music, dance, and theatre. A warm Irish welcome awaits visitors as they take an exciting journey through Ireland's stunning scenery, and explore the vibrancy of the Irish community in Canada, taking in Gaelic sports, film, and crafts along the way. 

June 16 is Bloomsday, the day on which James Joyce's celebrated novel Ulysses is set and which is observed annually around the world. Visitors are invited to meet some of his characters, find out more about Joyce and his work, and enjoy some Joycean music and excerpts.

The children's programme includes a wide range of interactive activities for all ages. Families will have the opportunity to listen to our resident story‑tellers, learn about some traditional crafts, and try some Gaelic football and hurling, as well as to learn some phrases in Irish and some dance steps, or how to play some Irish music.

Embassies and high commissions will showcase their country's culture in a series of world‑class free events at Lansdowne Park. As part of the Ottawa 2017 signature event series, more than 75 countries and international partners will celebrate their culture through food tasting, musical celebrations, artistic performances and more! This celebration of Canada's diversity and rich multicultural heritage will promote and strengthen ties between nations on the occasion of Canada's 150th anniversary. For more information, visit

Follow us @IrlEmbCanada, #Ottawa2017
Contact: Elizabeth.Keogh @

Monday, 22 May 2017

May Ceili at St. Mark's Parish, Aylmer, Saturday 27 May

Ottawa Irish Arts is not holding the usual May ceili in Ottawa this year.

Instead one of our intrepid dance callers, Carol Ann Bowers, will call a May ceili on this coming Saturday (May 27, 2017) at 7:30pm, at St. Mark's Parish, 160 rue Principale, Aylmer, QC.

The Ottawa Irish Arts award winning céilí band will take to the stage for your dancing pleasure.  A dance performance featuring the Ottawa Irish Arts' solo dancers, capably lead by our branch secretary (and solo dance instructor) Caitlin Crockard, will also be presented.

This is a fundraiser!

Proceeds from tickets ($10 adults, $5 youth aged 12-18, free under 12) will go to the St. Mark's reparations fund and the St. Mark's refugee sponsorship scheme.

This is a family friendly event, suitable for all ages and no dance experience is necessary.

For the adults, bring your own beverages (there will be a liquor licence but no alcohol for sale).

Contact Carol Ann (819-595-1094) or Esperanza (819-695-0391) for more information.

Parish webpage link

Lots of free parking. 

Saturday, 15 April 2017

Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann - 2016 Canada East Region Music Hall of Fame Honours

In Sudbury, on 22 October 2016, our past Ottawa Branch Chairperson (Síle Scot) was introduced into the CCÉ Canada East Region Music Hall of Fame Honours.

Sheila (Síle) Anne Scott

Courtesy of Oireachtas Gaeilge Cheanada

Síle was born in 1960 in Ottawa to Deidre (née Mulrennan) and Pádraig Scott. Her childhood home was a major hub of all aspects of Irish Culture.

She began Irish dancing with Peggy Kendellen when she was in primary school. By the time she had completed high school, she was already teaching. She established a dance in school in Brockville in 198, and began teaching with Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann in Ottawa in the same year. Her dance teams have taken first place in Oireachtas Gaeilge Cheanada four times since 2011, and have given many performances at other events.

As head instructor for the Ottawa Comhaltas Branch, she was also responsible for calling monthly céilís, and acting as "Bean an Tí" (headmistress). In addition to céilí and set dancing, she also reached sean-nós dancing and placed first int he open event at the Oireachtas Gaeilge Cheanada  in 2012. Other Oireachtas awards include 2nd place in Irish language singing (style other than sean-nós -old style) in 2014, and 2nd place in poetry recitation in 2015.

She was a founding executive member of Cumann na Gaeltachta (2002) along with her husband Aralt Mac Giolla Chainnigh and others of the North American Gaeltacht (Gaeltacht Thuaisceart on Oileáin Úir, 2007) and Oireachtas Gaeilge Cheanada (2011).

Síle has been an inspirational Comhaltas figure in Canada, and in the Irish language and cultural community, for more than 20 years. Her enthusiasm is infectious. Her generosity, patience, and genuine interest in people, are immediately in evidence. Her leadership, Intelligence, vision, skills, and talents are legend.

It is with great pride that we induct Síle Scot in the Comhaltas Music Hall of Fame.

Ena O'Brien
Canada East Regional Board

Sunday, 2 April 2017

Name change for Ottawa CCE Branch to "Ottawa Irish Arts"

Why have we changed our public-facing name?

Dear Members, a chairde, 

This is a note to let you know that the public name for CCE Ottawa is changed to “Ottawa Irish Arts.” Our legal name, and our affiliation with Comhaltas, will not change. Why are we doing this? Read on to find out.

Since its inception in 1975 our branch has been named “Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann Ottawa Branch.” This name served us well for many years, but as time moves on, so have many of our founding and long- time members. Many of those members were first and second generation Irish, and had first-hand knowledge of the Comhaltas organization.

Using the branch's legal name, which is in the Irish language, for public outreach is becoming increasingly difficult as it is difficult to pronounce (for non-Irish), and literally has no meaning to non-Irish. 
It is after all in another language. Changing our public facing name allows us to reach out to the broader Ottawa community in order to maintain, and hopefully grow, our activities of preserving traditional Irish culture.

By changing our name to “Ottawa Irish Arts” we tell people where we are, the culture we represent, and the types of activities we pursue. It is easy to spell, pronounce, and is consistent with many other Comhaltas branches. 

Over time we will migrate the website and other media to the new name.

We are still a Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann branch. From here on, I strongly encourage all members to consciously use the name Ottawa Irish Arts, particularly when reaching out to new people or groups.

Thank you, Le meas,

Craig Hamm
Chair/ Cathaoirleach,
Ottawa Irish Arts (Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann Ottawa Branch)
On behalf of the Executive

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Ottawa Irish Film Festival 

Ottawa Irish Film Festival

Next weekend is the 3rd annual Irish film festival. Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann is very proud to be one of the associated sponsors of the festival.

This year with visiting actor/singer-songwriter Tara Lee on the opening night.  This year the films showcased cover drama, comedies, children's films, documentaries, something for everybody! 

Tickets: $10 in advance
            $25 for transferable 4 pack
            $45 for transferable festival pass for all six films!

Go to for more details about our program and to purchase tickeets.

We hope to see everyone there supporting Irish culture and films.


Sunday, 15 January 2017

Donal Kavanagh

by Jerome Quinn    

Donald (Don) Kavanagh

January 7, 1928 - December 25, 2016

It is with great sadness that we reported that Don died on 25 December. See his full obituary here.

Don, a native of Dublin, grew up with traditional Irish music, he was a well-known musician renown for his slow airs, hornpipes, and waltzes played on his trusty harmonicas (an Hohner Chrometta and Chinese Lark chromatics, but more as solo-tuned diatonics than as true chromatics), but he always kept the ornamentation to a minimum.

He arrived in Canada in 1954, and along with other Irish-born musicians founded CCÉ Ottawa Branch in 1975. In 2002 he was introduced to the CCÉ Canada East Region Music Hall of Fame.

The best way to remember his music legacy is by the memories people have of Don’s life and their experiences of meeting him:

Sheila Scott, former CCÉ Ottawa Chairperson || Cathaoirleach:
It is with great sadness that CCÉ Ottawa announced the death of one of the leading Ottawa branch's founding members. Don Kavanagh passed away on 25 December 2016. A gifted musician and story-teller, he gave so much of his time and energy to the promotion and continuation of Irish traditional music in the Greater Ottawa and Outaouais regions.

The hornpipes he played were legendary, but with any reel, jig and slides, he had your toes tapping as well. They will be having some great ceilis in heaven these days. You were the best Don! Glad you are reunited with your darling Celie!

James Stephen (local musician):
I remember first meeting Don in the mid 1980's when I was playing an outdoor gig in Aylmer with Nathan Curry and John Wood. While I had been playing violin for a long time at that point, I was relatively new to playing Irish traditional music. Nathan got Don up to play a couple of tunes on stage with us, and I remember thinking that this was something I'd never heard before, harmonica playing this kind of music. What I remember the most was the depth of feeling in his playing and the nimbleness of his ornamentation and the overall energy that came out of this spry little man.

I guess I was a bit intimidated, realizing that I knew next to nothing compared to this guy. But when I talked with him after the show he completely put me at my ease with his hallmark social ease and welcoming, almost conspiratorial manner. Here was a man that loved music and being with fellow musicians and he was entirely supportive of my efforts, as inadequate as I felt they were. I asked him about the pieces he had played. Not only was he more than willing to tell me about them (in great detail and with great humour), but he generously offered to record them for me; which he did on a cassette player and I went to his house and collected the cassette days later. From then on, at varying intervals he would call me up and discuss not only Irish music and new developments therein, but also history and politics and people that he had known, who were legion in number. It seemed as if he remembered everyone he had ever met and all the salient details of their lives and their challenges, victories and failures. He was a very empathetic person and I often told him he should write down he impressions of the world. I hope he did. I have still some of the cassettes Don gave me with a full set of liner notes and credits written by him in tiny handwriting that I would struggle to make out without a magnifying glass. He made sure that I also was informed about the social milieu from which these Irish tunes arose, and gave me books to read on Irish history which he felt was important to understand to give the music a context to be placed in.

Recent Irish history was nothing academic for Don, as the Irish Civil War was not long over at the time of his birth, and which had ripped his family apart; uncles and cousins finding themselves on opposite sides of the conflict. His identity was formed by his upbringing in Dublin, but his family mostly all moved away from there to far flung parts of the world, some spending most of their lives on the African continent, helping the least fortunate people there, work that Don wholeheartedly supported.

Dublin in the Great Depression and World War II must have been a hard place for most people, with much poverty and great suffering, and Don was very attuned to this all his life, and was angered by social injustice wherever he detected it. Don had many stories about different jobs he had had, but my favourite ones were from his "Sweety Man" era. He delivered candy to stores across the length and breadth of Ireland as young man, maybe as a 19 or 20 year-old, and discovered the beauty of his country outside of Dublin. I often heard Don talking to visiting Irish musicians about where they were from and more often than not, he could describe the town they came from and local landmarks. What a memory!

Frank Cassidy, Nathan Curry and myself decided that Don's music should be recorded back in the 1990's. Don had already had triple bypass surgery and survived cancer, and he had issues with angina that he was worried would end his ability to play and possibly to live. Happily for everyone, Don far outlived his own predicted life expectancy, but at the time we didn't want to take any chances. So, we gathered a team of local friends and musicians and proceeded to record Don over a year's time, and were able to capture some sense of his musical identity, which was so unique. Harmonica players in Irish traditional music are as rare as a hen's teeth as they say. It gave us all a lot of satisfaction to be able to give back to Don some of what he had given to us, and I know Don was very pleased and proud of is achievement, and I think the CD allowed him to have a wider recognition outside of the Ottawa/Gatineau area. We all were happy and proud to see Don welcomed by the Goodrich Celtic Festival and honoured with their Tradition Bearer Award in 2004. This was a great opportunity for Don to meet players from Ireland such as Peter Horan, and from Newfoundland such as Frank Maher, Jean Hewson and Christina Smith, who all were to become great friends of Don's and warmed to him immediately, which gave him a great deal of pleasure in their friendship. It was to all a mutual love in that was beautiful to see.

Driving the candy truck was a perfect metaphor for this man who everyone was always happy to see and who brought a lot of sweetness into this world wherever he went. I will truly miss him but am forever inspired by his example.

Some years ago Jerome Quinn interviewed Don in downtown Ottawa, hear Don's words here: 

Frank Cassidy (local musician):
In the early 1950s , Don Kavanagh decided to emigrate from his native Dublin to Toronto, Canada. Upon his ship’s arrival in Halifax harbour the party was going strong so Don decided to travel on to the next port of call which was New York. He then travelled back to Canada and his original destination of Toronto. This attitude epitomized Don’s approach to life, life is an adventure, enjoy the party as long as you can. 

Don learned his first Irish traditional tunes on the harmonica from his father Michael who was a fiddle player. His early musical influences, in the late 40s and early 50s came from listening to traditional music on Radio Eireann. One of his favorites was the Austin Stack Ceili Band from Dublin. He was also a big fan of Jimmy Shand’s traditional Scottish dance music.

I first met Don in 1989 in Ottawa at an open air concert outside the National Art Gallery. I was immediately at ease with his conversation and his company, he was like a long lost brother. We discussed the status of Irish traditional music in the city, which at that time included a Comhaltas branch, very well attended weekly sessions and a number of groups playing celtic music, many of which had been either founded or influenced by Don.

For Eileen and I, visiting Don and Cecilia in Aylmer, Quebec was like a mini trip to Ireland. Celie would have prepared her famous Irish soda bread and our chat would include wide ranging discussions of current events, politics, music and many of Don’s stories about his life’s adventures. Don was a great student of Irish history, he enjoyed Irish poetry and himself and Eileen would swap lines from Yeats. The week before he died she read him one of his favorites, Lake Isle of Innisfree.

Don had a great regard for his fellow man especially those less fortunate than himself. He raised money for his church, St. Vincent De Paul and many other worthy causes. Each year Don devoted his considerable energy to raising funds for the Kisumba Foundation in Uganda where his brother Brian lived and worked for over fifty years. I had the privilege of working with Don on two fund raising events for the Steven Lewis Foundation. He was tireless in his support of this type of endeavour.

In 1998 Don recorded Don Kavanagh a Dubliner & his Harmonica. The CD beautifully showcases Don’s mastery of the harmonica. Don’s great love of Irish traditional music found expression in the way he played his instrument. The slow tunes were played with great reverence and the fast ones with twinkling eyes and a joy that inspired others to join in the celebration.

We were the very best of friends until Christmas Day 2016 when he slipped away forever into the slow air to join his Irish sweetheart, Cecilia.

“Fairies, come take me out of this dull world, for I would ride with you upon the wind, 
Run on the top of the dishevelled tide, and dance upon the mountain like a flame.” 
W.B. Yeats, The Land of Heart’s Desire.

Photos by Sue Kavanagh, Frank Cassidy
By Sue Kavanagh

By Frank Cassidy

This was the last time Don performed in public, at the farewell event for Dr. Ray Bassett, outgoing ambassador of Ireland, summer of 2016. 

By Frank Cassidy
God speed Don! You will be missed by all who ever met you.

Saturday, 26 November 2016

"Strike the Harp," Celtic Music for Christmas

Susan Toman has two upcoming Celtic Christmas concerts with her group Hibernia (Susan Toman, harp; Ellen MacIsaac, singer) with special guest piper/whistle Ross Davison. 

Friday December 2, 7:30PM - Metcalfe United Church, 2677 8th Line Rd, Metcalfe ON. Tickets $20 at the door or on Eventbrite here:

Saturday December 3, 7:30 - Knox Presbyterian Church, 120 Lisgar, Ottawa ON. 
Tickets $20 at the door or on Eventbrite here: 

Until next time / Go dtí an chéad uair eile!