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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:

Tuesday, 6 November 2018

Keep in touch with the branch!

Aside from our excellent newsletter, kept up to date and sent monthly by email (to members) by our public relations officer, Oscar Mou, there are several ways to keep in touch with the branch and its activities:

Webpage  (typically updated once a month depending on activities and events)

Facebook  (frequent updates)

Instagram  (photos)

Twitter (original and Irish culture and history related 're-Tweets')

YouTube  (Lots of videos from the Branch and Playlists for various interests)

Believe it or not, you can still GO to an Irish dance and speak with people, in person!! I know, hard to believe, but I have seen it with my own eyes.
(schedule here:

Monday, 5 November 2018

Ottawa Branch set dancing classes on hiatus

The set dance classes held on Monday nights have suffered from a dwindling number of students extending back several years. It has been difficult to get one full set (8 people) to class on a regular basis. Often half sets were taught. Speaking with Comhaltas members from other branches the problem is not confined to Ottawa. Therefore, the executive decided that it was best to suspend the set dance classes until such time as sufficient demand presents itself. We wish to thank the set dance instructors that have donated so much of their time and talent and passion to our set dance classes of the last many years: Sheila Scott, Carol Ann Bowers, and Danny Doyle.

The branch is always open to this possibility to teach an enthusiastic group of dancers. Please contact the Chair if you wish to form a group of set dancers and desire instruction.

Craig Hamm
Chair, Ottawa Branch

Thursday, 18 October 2018

Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann Canada East Music Hall of Fame 2018 Inductees

On Saturday 13 October 2018 in Hamilton was the Canada East Region AGM. After all meetings were done, there was a dinner-ceremony to award the CCE Canada East Region Musical Hall of Fame inductees, the Quinn Family. After the ceremony, there was a ceili and much dancing.

The Quinn Family 

(Desmond Quinn, Bonnie White, Geraldine Quinn-MacWilliams, Emily Quinn, Matthew Quinn, Kira MacWilliams, Riely MacWilliams and Connor MacWilliams)

The award was presented by the outgoing CCE Canada East Region, Ena O'Brian and His Excellency Jim Kelly, Ambassador of Ireland in Canada, in Hamilton on 13 October 2018.

Desmond Quinn, born in Belfast, Ireland. He grew up playing guitar, vocals and whistles. He and his first wife moved to Saskatoon in the mid 1970s and brought up their children (Geraldine, Emily and Matthew) with the same passion for music that he received growing up.  In 1981 with his wife and other Irish expats founded the Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann Saskatoon branch.

By 1989 Desmond and his children moved to Hamilton and founded the first Irish session at the Lionhead Pub, and weekly ran successfully to a packed house for twelve years. Years later he was recipient of the Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann Canada East Regional Service Award for his dedication to the promotion of Irish culture in Hamilton.

Bonnie White, grew up in Newfoundland and Nova Scotia, immersed in both Scottish and Irish music and traditions, competing in highland dancing and playing in ceilidhs. She was one of the founding members of “The Scotia Highland Dancers” troupe that toured in Canada and the British Isles during the 1980s. She plays guitar, mandolin, fiddle, banjo and does vocals.

Along friends, which included Geraldine Quinn, formed a Celtic Band in 2006; her interest in learning the timing of Irish jigs and reels that let to Desmond becoming her mentor and later her husband and joined the weekly sessions at the Lionhead Pub.

Around 2008, the sessions moved to the Irish Canadian Club and the Hamilton Branch of Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann, the Hamilton Irish Arts, had been founded and Desmond, Bonnie and the family became members. In May 2011 the Hamilton Irish Arts weekly music sessions moved to the Corktown Pub. That same year Bonnie was inducted into the Antigonish (Nova Scotia) Highland Society’s Hall of Fame for her dedication to her Scottish heritage.

Geraldine Quinn-MacWilliams, born in Belfast, Ireland and moved with her parents to Saskatoon. She took Irish step dance with her mother as instructor, performing in festivals and concerts and competed in western Canada where she received awards. By age 11 she picked up the piano accordion and focused on Irish traditional music. When she and her family moved to Hamilton, her brother Matthew took up the fiddle so they both competed in North America in Irish traditional music, winning awards and qualified for the All-Ireland Fleadh.

Emily Quinn, she began playing traditional tin whistle at the age of 10, and then piano. She attended the Ontario Conservatory to improve her piano playing where she performed and competed. By age 14, began playing the piano accordion. Currently studies Social Sciences at the University of Ottawa.

Matthew Quinn, began playing music at age eight with the tin whistle and then by age 10 moved to classical violin. He has won the Greater Hamilton Royal Conservatory Music Festival Grade 8 competition, placed 1stin the 2017 and 2018 Provincial Musical Festival with the Hamilton East Chamber Ensemble. In the summer 2018 he enrolled in the Scoil Éigse at Fleadh Cheoil in Drogheda. 

Kira MacWilliams(Geraldine’s daughter), began competing in Irish dancing at the age of seven, achieving Preliminary Championship and winning numerous awards before she decided to focus on music. She played piano since she was seven and then changed to violin at 11; currently working on her Royal Conservatory levels.

Riely MacWilliams(Geraldine’s daughter), she began singing when she was five years-old and won several competitions including the Greater Hamilton Music Festival and the Rotary Burlington Festival. In traditional Irish singing she won 1stplace in the O’Donnell Feis, Roseland Feis and Forest City Feis. Also by age 12 she began to play guitar and now participates in the weekly sessions. 

Connor MacWilliams(Geraldine’s son), started playing the violin when he was five  years-old and he is working on his Royal Conservatory levels. He has won awards in the Hamilton Music Festival and Kiwanis Music Festival. He has participated in the Mid-Atlantic Fleadh Cheoild, Tir na Nóg. He also participates in ceili dances.

The Quinn Family performs after the induction to the Musical Hall of Fame

Ceili dancing

Ena O'Brien and Jim Magee

Wednesday, 9 May 2018

Recognition - Ottawa Ceili Band

Alf and Elizabeth 

On Saturday 17 March 2017 at our St. Patrick's Day event, we recognized and celebrated the leads of our céilí band, Alf Warnock and Elizabeth Scarlett.

The chair of Ottawa Irish Arts presented to Alf and Elizabeth this appreciation award on behalf of Ottawa Irish Arts for more than 20 years service and dedication to the traditional music community.

Alf Warnock and Elizabeth Scarlett have been involved in local traditional music since at least the 1980s when there was a traditional session at Rasputin’s.  By about 1997 Alf and Elizabeth ran the Rasputin’s session until Rasputin’s was destroyed by fire in 2008. By Elizabeth’s estimate, they played one or two sessions a week from 1984 to 2008.

Elizabeth taught fiddle at the Ottawa Folklore Centre in the 1990s, and had started some Celtic groups that formed the roots of what later became some of the local slow jams. 

Alf and Elizabeth have also been involved in the Ottawa Fiddle Club, and probably any other fiddle group that’s come and gone.

Alf, juggling his schedule, continues to play traditional Irish music with us, while also performing in local jazz ensembles.

For as long as I’ve been involved with this branch of Comhaltas, Alf and Elizabeth have ably and consistently served as leaders of the Comhaltas (now Ottawa Irish Arts) ceili band, more than 10 years, and they rarely, and I mean rarely, miss a gig.

Thank you Alf and Elizabeth!
Go raibh míle maith agat!

C. Hamm
Ottawa Irish Arts, Chairperson || Cathaoirleach 

Tuesday, 27 March 2018

Toronto - Dance Weekend (with a twist!)

25-27 May 2018, Dance all Weekend!

Our friends in the Irish community in Toronto will be having a whole weekend of dancing, and great craic to be had!

Where: Royal Canadian Legion, Todmorden Branch 10,   1083 Pape Ave, East York, ON M4K 3W7
  • The venue has wooden floor, 
  • air conditioning, 
  • separate bar and lounge, 
  • easy parking, 
  • TTC accessible.
The dance teachers will be Kevin and Carol Monahan ("SetsMad"), who will be in Toronto for the first time. They have been set dancing for more than 20 years.They teach all over Europe, and as on occasion in the US as guest of the Milwaukee Set dancers.

The bands playing at the event are Cabbagetown Ceili Band and North Atlantic Drift with Ena O'Brien. 

Weekend Schedule
Friday 25 May:
8PM - Midnight, Welcome ceili

Saturday 26 May:
Morning workshop, 10AM - 12PM
Afternoon Workshop, 2PM - 4PM
Ceili, 8PM - Midnight

Sunday 27 May:
Workshop, 1PM - 2PM
Farewell Ceili, 2PM - 5PM  
(a Sunday night seisiun at a local pub after the ceili)

Event Costs:
Whole weekend package, Can$110

Individual Events:
Friday welcome ceili, Can$25
Saturday morning workshop, Can$20
Saturday afternoon workshop, Can$20
Saturday ceili, Can$25
Sunday mini package, Can$25
Sunday workshop, Can$15
Sunday farewell ceili, Can$15

Registration available online: 

Contact Geraldine at 416.573.1205 or Mary 905.330.7972 or at

This even is made possible in part with a grant for the Irish Cultural Society of Toronto.

Everyone is welcome!!!

Tuesday, 13 March 2018

St. Patrick's Day 2018 Céili Dance List and Schedule

Ottawa Irish Arts 
Elaíona Gaelacha Ottabha

St. Patrick's Day Céili Dance List and Schedule, 17 March  2018

(Remember, you do not need to know how to dance nor need to have a dancing partner. Everyone is welcome!)

Click on a dance title for videos to see how it is danced.

7:20 - 7:30PM      Workshop
                               Join us in the first half hour of the evening for a short 
                               tutorial on steps, holds, and terminology that will have 
                               you dancing your way through the evening with  
                                Gay Gordon (March)

7:30 - 8:15PM       Antrim Square (Set dance)
                                  Figure 1: Wheel and turn
                                  Figure 2: House and slide
                                  Figure 3: Slide and change

                             Free Waltz (Waltz)   
8:15 - 8:45PM       Entertainment and 1st Intermission
                              Trillium School of Irish Dance
                               Students from Trillium will perform.   

8:45 - 9:30PM       Haymaker's Jig (Jig)
                             Aran (Set Dance)
                                 Figure 1: Grand Chain
                                 Figure 2: Dance around opposites
                                 Figure 3: Gents change over
                            Waltz Cotillion

                            2-Hand Reel (Reel)
9:30 - 10:00         2nd Intermission 
                             Join us for a cup of tea and freshly baked Irish Soda bread. 
                             Be sure to have your admission ticket handy for the Door 
                             Prize draw. There will be a 50/50 Draw.

10:00 - 10:30PM  Bonfire Dance (Reel) 

                            Clare Lancers (Set Dance)
                            Each figure starts with a two-handed lead around, 
                            turning the lady under to swing.
                            Each figure ends with a full around-the-house.
                                  Figure 1: Square the House
                                  Figure 2: House and Turn the Lady
                                  Figure 3: Big Wheels and Big Christmas Tree
                                  Figure 4: Small Wheels and Small Christmas Tree
                                  Figure 5: Long Chain and Line Ups

Note: As the final dance of the evening, the Clare Lancers will not be called. Given that this dance is not called and that all figures will, as it is traditional, be danced consecutively, more experienced dancers will be invited to form a set and show off their steps, but as always, all dancers are welcome to the floor.

Here are some helpful dance guidelines:Irish Set (and Ceili) Dance Etiquette
Check our dance page for more information on the dances called at our céilis.

Sunday, 11 March 2018

Rhythm of the Dance - Irish month

Irish Month in Ottawa!

We hope you’ve all been enjoying Irish Week in Ottawa! There are still a number of exciting events coming up but if you’re not quite ready for it to end this coming weekend, there’s one more event on Wednesday, 21 March, that you won’t want to miss! 

Rhythm of the Dance celebrates the rich cultural history of Ireland – its traditions of music, dance, and song – in a live show that brings together on stage world champion dancers, a traditional Irish band, and the Young Irish Tenors. 

–– “What sets Rhythm of the Dance apart from Riverdance is that we tend to be a bit more traditional and purist and we rely less on the technical support than other shows do, although we do carry quite a lavish production.” – Kieran Cavanagh, Rhythm of the Dance Producer. 

This two-hour incredible live show tells the story of the Irish throughout history and blends contemporary technology with traditional music and dance. Cavanagh promises audience members that they “will leave the theatre feeling that they have been on a trip around Ireland and [with] a strong impression of our culture and our music.” 

The show is produced by the National Dance Company of Ireland and is internationally rated as one of the most popular and busiest Irish step dance shows in the world. Important traditional elements of Irish culture and music like stepdance, the male tenor voice, and the blend of instruments from an Irish band will feature throughout the telling of this epic tale. 

Rhythm of the Dance will be in Ottawa for one night only at Centrepointe Theatre – don’t miss your chance to enjoy the passion, energy, and rhythm on Wednesday, 21 March, at 8pm! There are still tickets available to purchase online. Don’t miss out – we’ll see you there!

Until next time / Go dtí an chéad uair eile!