Politics at the Fleadh

Politics at the Fleadh

Is it not true that the comhaltas ethos is to promote music amongst youngsters and to encourage us to play music? Why then do competitions constantly get won on the basis of not how u have played sang or danced but who u know, what your connections are ,or where u come from. For example, one judge said to a friend of mine about her singing, shes from britain, "in order to sing about the country u need to be from the country". What sort of attitude is that and what is the point of having Comhaltas branches in Britain? Comhaltas needs a re-jig because whilst its ideas are good there are some judges who will give 1st place not to the best player but to the best politician and brown noser!

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Definitely - Who the "Adjudicator" knows is the most important factor in winning some competitions at these Fleadhs. Sometimes - I feel that the "Adjudicator" may not even be a qualified adjudicator - just someone put sitting at the table at the top of the room - with his/her hands behind his/her head, bored, waiting for the competition to end before they give the pre-decided result.

I reckon there was at least one of these at the All Britain Fleadh in Scotland at the weekend.

How do you become an official Adjudicator? I presume one would have to be fairly well up in the instrument or voice of the competition that they are adjudicating. Maybe not……….

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Once, in my U15 Banjo competition, the judge was asked to tune a Banjo, but he was completely incapable of doing so. He spent ten minutes not tuning it, before another banjo was offered. He said at the end that we should all be able to tune our instruments. That pretty much summed competitions up for me, along with a few other atrocious decisions over the past few years.

I think that judges have all done a course organized by comhaltas?

The best session at Glasgow was in the adjudicators room- but how many were adjudicators? Its a shame we got kicked out at 12. A bunch of us sat on the steps opposite the building for an hour or so…

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So …. the adjudicator could not tune the banjo ……. which MUST IMPLY
He couldn’t play the banjo …… so
WHY THE HECK WAS HE ADJUDICATING THE BANJO?

I AM TOTALLY MIFFED BY ALL THIS!

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I dont know, I had a music teacher who was a royals and trinity examiner. She often examined strings and brass, but couldnt play either. She however, knew music.
As for politics, it happens everywhere. Always one person who dislikes another and so it snowballs. You think this is bad, you should see the equestrian world, it rivals pageant mothers for rivalry, politics and dirty tricks.

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In my experiance, you have a very good chance of geting an unfair judge, but there are good ones too. It is a complete gamble, however, not hopeless.

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Yeah Joze I know what you mean! I am a horse person to, and used to compete. But I got tired of the politics of the whole thing and stopped competitions. It was all about who you knew and what you owned. Now I just have fun with my horses!

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Hmmmm……..
I agree with Red Crow.

I went to the All Ireland Fleadh a few years ago.
I attended two competitions where I witnessed the winner.

In both cases I agreed with the judges, the 1st prize winners were ( in my opinion ) also the best.

In the case of the flute competition ( I play the flute ) the judge did a good and sincere job of acknowledging the difficulty in seperating the candidates.

Pat Higgins

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I USED to compete regularly at the fleadh. The only time I ever got anywhere was when I had a young adjudicator. I remember competing in the 15-18 All-Britain, which I had won the previous year (young adjudicator). I was about 16 at the time, and so all the competitors from the previous year were now competing in the over 18s. Basically I was competing with a lot younger, less competent players, although they were obviously all good. I wasn’t complacent, and practiced hard for the competition. Didn’t even place. Just find that a wee bit unusual dontcha think?

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That’s cos you are sh*t, ginge!…..He he he!

No but… yeah but….

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Basically, Imahappycamper has ‘a nice Scottish style’ !!!!!! heh heh heh!!!

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One has heard stories too, including thegamesmanship of hanging around outside the door, entering just before the end, so that you’re the last the judges hear, etc..
Also of a talented child, who worked up through the ranks and should have been a medal-winner, but their parent saw the judge being paid off outside by someone else, ( although this is a second-hand story, and not evidence ).
The year I went to the Fleadh ( 30 years ago ) I couldn’t have seperated the top fiddlers, and thought the judges did as well as could be expected; flute and whistle were, I felt, easier to seperate and judged and commented well, by a fine and mature musician.
Of course these tales are one reason why many fine musicians hold themselves apart from the competitions, going to hear them and for the craic and the sessions as well.

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I had to laugh when our kids were in the Leinster Fleadh last year. We were scanning down the programme to see when other people they knew were playing. Took several minutes to find them, because they suddenly had their names ‘as Gaeilge’!!! Now, I’m as supportive of the Gaeilge as any other good citizen but these families do not use the Irish forms of their name in everyday life - we know them well. But suddenly for the Fleadh they change perhaps in the hope of a few extra marks - makes you wonder!!!

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definitely agree. i am a seasoned fleadh goer and have seen it all. our greatest competition the All-Ireland Senior Ceili Bands has become a joke. i am willing to bet that the Meath band last year who won the senior bands for the second year in a row will win it this year. they were not the best band last year which was agreed by nearly everyone i talked to. how many bands have failed to win a three in a row?? they have it in the bag this coming year regardless of who is there.
i once refused to enter the connaught fleadh in an indivivdual competition because i knew the ajudacator was not fair. another time a guy played kerry tunes in a competition when he saw the ajudacator was from kerry. he won. a result based on one persons opinion is not a true result. im giving up on competitions

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For most competitions if your style is anything slightly other than purist then the odds are stacked against you - eg box competitions - almost a pre-requisite is 4V Paolo Soprani with a Joe Burke sound and bass style or you’re not going to do very well usually…that’s changing a bit as 4V Paolo have got scarce - it’s good encouragement for kids of a certain age up to a point nonetheless but it’s a clique at the end of the day……
As far as I’m aware ajudicators are asked more or less at random - I know people who have been asked in this manner - they may often be Scoil Eigse teachers at the All-Ireland fleadh……some may have very blinkered vision in terms of what they’re prepared to consider although they aren’t actually that good themselves and may be limited technically but they’ve been asked because they’ve hung around the scene for long enough and maybe nobody else wants to do it…..others may be great musicians….eg Martin Hayes has adjudicated competitions…..very fairly too….
Kerry music seems to have no place in the fleadh or any competition that I’m aware of - especially in a box competition - probably because of the difficulty in playing bass to a polka or slide in any kind of a regimental manner and if you’re not playin bass then you’re probably not going to be considered in any case…..
Ceili band comp can be all about snobbery I get the impression and there’s this 3 in a row rubbish - win once & then move out of the way….

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it wasn’t polkas and slides he played. it was reels and jigs commonly associated with Kerry.
Ceili Band competition is definitely about snobbery. if this meath band wins this year again in an undeserving manner then it’l prove what’s going on. very sad

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My daughter did a fantastic job of playing "I Buried My Wife and Danced on Top of Her" on her fiddle, but lost out to a girl tonguing Danny Boy on a metal flute. THe judge was a jazz pianist. Oh, and he was her uncle.

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B Lane — Was your daughter in a real fleadh, or in a music "competition" scheduled as an afterthought in conjunction with a dance competition? Since your profile shows you live in Georgia, you might consider the Atlanta Irish Music Competition, which is more fleadh-style — fiddles compete with fiddles, concertinas with concertinas (and harps with guitars and bouzoukis, unless they get an influx of harps next year) in the standard age groups.
http://www.iafatlanta.com/calendar.htm

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An occasional contributer to this site told me years ago that in the early days of the Fleadh competitions, Sean Maguire [ RIP ]was asked to judge the fiddle competition, and gave nobody any marks at all ! Does anybody know whether or not that’s true ? Wouldn’t surprise me with the good Sean - I’d have loved to have seen that.

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An heretical thought: why do we have to have competitions, anyway? Why can’t we just enjoy the music?

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There are competing ideas about the value of competition. :-)

Actually, there’s an interesting body of research on the value of competition in various situations*. It can be useful and it can be destructive. In that regard, I think music competitions are a mixed bag and have to be judged individually and within their own context.


*I became familiar with this research when I worked on a task force considering new ideas about organizing and managing the workplace. Some of the members thought the solution to every performance issue was competition. I didn’t think it was that simple, so I looked for the research.

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well seeing as i started this convo i think i shud take part. True the younger judges are better i think, theres a good singing one in the london region. Th older judges are quite frankly ignorant backward snobs who are disregarding young people in Britain, and young people who it doesnt suit them to place, in order to give it to those who have had the luxury of living in Ireland for their entire lives or have sucked up enough to "win" first place…A certain singing ajudicator comes to mind!!

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About the banjo tuning, and possibly in defence of the judge:

Many tenor banjo players don’t bother to set the bridge in its proper position and play on strings that first saw daylight when the Flannagan Brothers were big. You can’t accurately tune instruments like that.

MYBC

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"or have sucked up enough to "win" first place"…im in total agreement with that iv seen it so many times the competitors kinda know their adjudicator n get a higher place…tisnt fair :(

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Kenny said:

"…in the early days of the Fleadh competitions, Sean Maguire [ RIP ] was asked to judge the fiddle competition, and gave nobody any marks at all ! …. "

I wish I’d seen that!

Didn’t hear about that Kenny, but I did see two lads going in for the Duet competition at an Antrim Fleadh one time. Now they were the only competitors in that class so were real cocky & thought they would automatically go on to the Ulster Fleadh.
However, the adjudicator basically said they were crap, & marked them down to third place so that they did in fact ‘NOT’ qualify for the Ulster Fleadh after all!

- oh the shame of it, to be third in a class of one!

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There’s a well-known story in songwriter circles about the late, great Townes van Zandt judging a contest. The other two judges had fairly normal scoring systems and were making notes, while Townes was just writing a single number that nobody could make sense of. Like 367 for one contestant, 28 for the next, 892 for the next, etc. When asked what the numbers meant, he said it was how many songs they would have to write before writing a good one.

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I have to say, in my experience, that I have definitely seen some unfair judging at the fleadhs. I played in the 15-18 flute slow airs comp at the all ireland this last year (let me point out that I did not expect to stand a chance myself), I agreed that the girl who won was very good but there was a lad from Boston who played some of the most beautiful airs I have ever heard- and he didnt even get a look in. Instead a lad from Mayo and one from Waterford got 2nd and 3rd. Very suspect in my opinion. Ive also noticed that being a lad can help in these comps! When you’re playing at the regional and All Britain levels they cant pick on you for not being from Ireland (even if you’re only 2nd generation) some of them will pick on you for being a girl. Ive been in competitions where a lad who could hardly play a note of an air without stopping to take a big breath won! That cant be right.