McNeela’s Guide to the Best Irish Music Events on St Patrick’s Day 2021
This St. Patrick’s Day may not be the one we were expecting, but every cloud has a silver lining. In this new era of online events, every Saint Patrick’s Day event is now a global one!
In the absence of live parades and live music performances, we’ve instead rounded up our pick of traditional Irish music events happening online this March 17th.
Such is the popularity of our national holiday, both at home in Ireland and around the globe, the events now spill over into the days preceding and following, St. Patrick’s Day itself. So we’re spoiled for choice!
And remember, these events can be accessed from anywhere in the world, making this the most accessible global celebration Saint Patrick’s Day has ever seen.
More people than ever can now become Irish for the day and join us in celebrating the patron saint of Ireland and his famous banishment of the snakes. Just be sure to check what time zone events are streaming in (though most online performances can be accessed for about a week after they first air), so you don’t miss out!
So here are my top celebrations of Irish culture this Saint Patrick’s Day, featuring the very best in Irish music, song and dance. Let’s get started…
RTÉ Virtual St Patrick’s Day Parade
Unfortunately Ireland’s national St Patrick’s Day Parade which is held in Dublin annually won’t be going ahead this year.
Sadly, a similar fate has befallen the world’s biggest and brightest celebrations including the parades in London, Boston, Chicago, Sydney and Toronto, to name but a few. (The New York parade is yet to confirm whether or not it’s cancelled, but it’s unlikely that any large scale event will take place.)
RTÉ, Ireland’s national broadcaster, has fully prepared for this eventuality however, so this year the parade is going virtual.
Have you always wanted to march in the official St. Patrick’s Day Parade? Well, now’s your chance! This year, distance is no obstacle.
People all over the world are invited to join the celebration by sharing a video of your home-parade with the world on your preferred social media, using the hashtag #RTEVirtualParade.
So why not pick up your instrument, head outside and get creative? I’d love to see your McNeela Instruments in action, celebrating this special day with us from every part of the globe. You might even get yourself featured on national TV (or international as the case may be)!
Ireland – Irish Online Events
St Patrick’s Festival TV
The Saint Patrick’s Day parade isn’t the only event to move online this year. Ireland’s St. Patrick’s Festival has organised six days and nights of events, running from March 12th – 17th.
These events will be broadcast on a special platform, St. Patrick’s Festival TV (SPFTV) which can be accessed from anywhere in the world.
While we cannot gather on the streets for the Saint Patrick’s Festival Parade this March 17th, we are reimagining how we bring to life the heart and soul of the national Parade, through spectacle, marching bands, pageantry and ceremony, inviting our audiences to participate virtually and enjoy safely from their homes until we can come together again.
– St. Patrick’s Festival
St Patrick’s Festival TV will stream live, globally, from the festival’s official website and you can rewatch any of the events until March 21st. With a brilliant mix of music, song, dance, poetry and more, there’s plenty to choose from and definitely something to keep everyone entertained.
Here are some of my top picks:
Barróg Lá Fhéile Phádraig
Barróg Lá Fhéile Phádraig translates as a St. Patrick’s Day hug. Who wouldn’t want one of those?
Barróg is the closing event of the whole festival. A traditional Irish music extravaganza pre-recorded at the legendary Whelan’s venue in Dublin.
Featuring in this brilliant lineup is none other than my dear friend, bodhrán legend Rónán Ó Snodaigh! Though, for this event he’s put down the bodhrán and will instead be highlighting his songwriting skills as part of his new musical project with Myles O’Reilly.
The pair will be joined on the night by a host of other talented musicians – the best of the best – including Lisa O’Neill, Colm Mac Con Iomaire, Cormac Begley, Doireann and Siún Glackin and Mohammad Syfkhan.
You can catch Barróg on SPF TV at 8pm GMT on Wednesday 17th March or watch it back in your own time, at your leisure.
Either way, make sure not to miss out. Check out the trailer below:
Speaking of Rónán Ó Snodaigh, his legendary Irish supergroup Kíla are also gracing SPF TV with a pre-recorded live performance.
I highly recommend this for anyone in need of a dance. Kíla’s electrifying music will have your toes tapping in no time. Before you know it you’ll be moving and shaking in a euphoric state as their contagious energy takes control.
So tune in at 9pm GMT on Friday 12th March and shake off those lockdown blues!
To see what I’m on about, check out this video of on of their live performances in Wicklow a few years ago:
Abair – The West’s Awake
The West’s Awake is one of of Ireland’s most famous rebel songs. So it will come as no surprise to learn that this particular performance is based on the theme of revolution.
For anyone with and interest in traditional Irish singing and the songs, stories and poetry of Ireland, The West’s Awake is a St. Patrick’s festival event not to be missed.
The West’s Awake features a beautiful collaboration of poetry and traditional singing on the theme of revolution with Donegal poet Annemarie Ní Churreáin and traditional Irish sean nós singer Nell Ní Chróinín.
Nell is the granddaughter of Elizabeth ‘Bess’ Cronin one of the most iconic and historically significant sean nós singers to ever grace the shores of the Emerald Isle. Have a listen to her phenomenal voice:
The Cobblestone Sessions
The Cobblestone pub in Smithfield in the heart of Dublin city is an institution of the Dublin Irish music scene.
Synonymous with the best of traditional Irish music, song and dance, this small pub is most often found full to the brim with the best of Ireland’s musicians, bursting at its seems with music. I’ve spent many a great night there – pints and tunes flowing.
If you’ve never been, you’re missing out. A visit to The Cobblestone should be top of anyone’s list when visiting the fair city of Dublin! It’s a spot that’s sorely missed by traditional Irish musicians all over the city and I’m sure we’re all longing for the day we can return.
Until then, The Cobblestone has recorded a brilliant set of Irish music performances to tide us over. So if like me you’re missing your Saint Patrick’s Day fix of live tunes, tune into The Cobblestone Sessions for a little taster.
Presented by fiddle player Doireann Glackin, the lineup includes some of the Dublin’s finest musicians, singers and dancers: The Rowsome Family, The McBride Family, Michelle O’Brien, Sean Ó Broin and Mary Beth Taylor.
Of course no lineup for The Cobblestone would be complete without The Mulligans themselves! (The Cobblestone is owned by Tom Mulligan.) Here’s just two of them – Tadhg and Sárán – in action:
These intimate sessions take place at varying times and dates throughout the festival so it’s probably best to check in on the timetable yourself on the St. Patrick’s Festival official website.
Another institution of Irish Music that has moved online this year is the festival formerly known as Temple Bar Tradfest. However it’s now known simply as the shorter, snappier Tradfest.
Tradfest is also streaming a series of performances to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, however, unlike SPF TV, these are paid, ticketed events. The ticket prices won’t break the bank though.
Tickets cost around €5 per event and they don’t just give you access to the livestream. Performances will be available to ticket holders to watch on demand for 7 days after the release time & date.
So which event is worth paying for? Well, all of them. With a lineup featuring the legendary Frankie Gavin and rising concertina star Edel Fox, as well as Dervish, Altan, Hothouse Flowers, and Mairéad and Tríona Ní Dhomhnaill, how could you go wrong?
One performance really stands out to me however: Phelim & The Drew House Band Remember Ronnie and The Dubliners
Remembering The Dubliners
Phelim Drew will be joined by Anto Drennan on guitar, Bernard Kavanagh on bass and Myles Drennan on drums in a night of song, story, and reminiscing, inspired by the Dubliners.
If the name Phelim Drew sounds familiar, it should. Phelim’s father was the legendary Ronnie Drew of The Dubliners. This exploration of his father’s music promises to be something truly special.
Growing up I was always struck by the electricity generated by a concert given by The Dubliners. Looking back, I can see clearly that the group was exceptional not only because of the individual strength of the performers but that combined they were a force of nature.
That energy and excitement coupled with the unbridled joy of a Dubliner’s audience made for a night’s entertainment that felt more like a party in full swing where the hosts and guests were in perfect harmony.
– Phelim Drew
A talented actor in his own right, Phelim has in more recent years begun to explore his father’s music more fully, developing a newfound sense of admiration and appreciation.
This truly special, personal musical exploration will be broadcast from the stunning Newbridge House in North County Dublin at 8pm GMT on Saturday 20th March.
I highly recommend tuning in as a post-Patrick’s celebration!
Sharon Shannon & Friends
The legendary Irish button accordion player Sharon Shannon will perform in an exclusive global livestream from the National Concert Hall, Dublin on Saturday 20th March at 8pm GMT.
This is another ticketed event, but one that promises to be well worth the price!
Sharon will be joined on the night be an exciting lineup of musicians, including vocalist extraordinaire Lucia Evans, fiddle player Niall Murphy, the brilliant young hammond organ whizz Luke Dunford, and legendary guitar player Jim Murray, to name but a few.
As well as all the old favourites, Sharon will be playing tunes from her new album The Reckoning which was written and recorded in its entirety during lockdown. So it’s a great opportunity to hear something new and exciting this St. Patrick’s Day (well, a few days afterwards at least).
You can find more information about the concert and how to buy tickets on the National Concert Hall’s official website.
This legendary Irish ensemble usually takes off on a US tour around this time each year, to truly celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in style. This year however, Danú are missing life on the road and the excitement that is celebrating Paddy’s Day all across the USA.
As a little something special for any fans who may also be missing them, the band has put together a virtual performance which will be available to watch for free on their youtube channel:
This one hour concert features live video footage one of Danú’s last live performances in March 2020, filmed in Kansas, USA. There will also be some messages from the band members themselves, filmed from their homes specially for this St. Patrick’s Day 20201 celebration.
The lineup of Danú has changed a bit over the years. But while musicians may come and go, the quality of the music never drops!
This concert features the band’s most recent stellar lineup of Nell Ní Chróinín, Benny McCarthy, Oisin McAuley, Tony Byrne, Eamon Doorley, Ivan Goff and Billy Sutton.
The performance premieres at 12pm GMT on March 17th but will also be available to enjoy in the days following.
Citizens of Song
Citizens of Song is an Irish arts organisation committed to uniting the world through music, and making music together from afar.
This Saint Patrick’s Day, or Saturday 20th March to be exact, they’re streaming an online gala concert featuring over 25 talented Irish acts, from choirs, to orchestras, dance troupes, to bands, and soloists.
This celebration of Irish music, song, dance, culture and heritage promises to take you on a journey throughout Ireland. It’s perfect for those longing to travel to our green shores.
The concert features performances from Anúna (of Riverdance fame), RTÉ Concert Orchestra (Ireland’s most beloved national orchestra), and Sibéal Ní Chasaide (the latest generation of the famous Na Casaidigh) to name but a few.
It’s worth tuning into for these three acts alone to be honest, never mind the host of other brilliant Irish acts taking part.
Anúna performs one of the finest renditions of Danny Boy I’ve ever heard. Why not have a listen for yourself?
UK – Online Events
London St. Patrick’s Day Festival
St. Patrick’s Day celebrations in London would usually rival our own back home in Ireland and this year is no exception.
Yes, they’ve moved online too (are you noticing a trend?) but that won’t stop the London Irish Centre from providing some brilliant entertainment on the day.
They’re yet to announce many of the details, but here’s what we know so far:
The London Irish Centre will stream a special St. Patrick’s Day event to celebrate the very best of Irish culture and community in London. The event is free and will be broadcast on the LIC’s website and social media.
The stream starts at 4pm GMT on March 17th with three hours of storytelling, music, song and dance, exploring and celebrating Irish culture and heritage.
From 7pm the event goes fully live with presenter Angela Scanlon, who will host conversations with a host of Irish names including the brilliant Imelda May. If you’re not familiar with her, have a listen to this moving performance with the legendary Finbar Furey:
London Le Chéile
This year’s festival theme is London Le Chéile or London Together. A sentiment I’m sure St. Patrick himself would approve of. The event strives to capture the spirit of collaboration, creativity and community shown by the Irish in London during these challenging times.
The event will also feature a tribute to Irish frontline workers, greetings from the Mayor of London and Irish Ambassador, and a unique broadcast from Trafalgar Square, where the festival would usually take place.
USA – Online Events
Forty Shades of Green
Nowhere in the world celebrates St. Patrick’s Day like the USA. Even as a proud Irishman, I’m willing to concede that one.
I’m definitely going to miss seeing the elaborate US celebrations in all their glory – the parades, the pageantry. It’s always so wonderful to see people in America celebrating their Irish heritage with such unbridled enthusiasm.
I love to see the Chicago River dyed green and the streets of New York City full of people donning their shamrock and best forty shades! So what will we do this year in place of the iconic parades and thronged pavements?
Well, the Embassy of Ireland in Washington is planning an event, aptly titled Forty Shades of Green (yes, like the Johny Cash song).
With a lineup featuring Rosanne Cash, Eimear Noone, We Banjo 3, Kíla, Jerron ‘‘Blind Boy’’ Paxton, Patrick Dexter and the Arturo O’Farrill Quartet, it’s definitely the most prominent Irish embassy event taking place in celebration of Ireland’s national holiday.
The event will be broadcast for free on www.ireland.ie/usa at 7.30PM EST on Wednesday 17 March. If you’d like a reminder, you can register in advance using Eventbrite.
Don’t worry if the website above isn’t working for you just yet. It won’t go live until a few days before the event. It’s a handy domain to know though, because it’s the one every Irish embassy in the world will be using to host their St. Patrick’s Day celebrations.
So, wherever you are in the world, you can simply add your country’s name to the URL and away you go. Though it might be worth checking in with your local embassy first to see what time they go live! (You could make a day of it – see if you can attend every official event around the world.)
So whether you’re in the USA or Malawi (where you might hear yet another song by Rónán Ó Snodaigh) your local embassy has your St. Patrick’s Day celebrations sorted.
Global Celtic Rock
For those looking for something a little less traditional, but who still want to celebrate their Irish pride, two of America’s favourite Celtic punk bands, Dropkick Murphys and Flogging Molly, are both offering online performances for St. Patrick’s Day.
Flogging Molly will livestream their performance from Whelan’s in Dublin at 7pm GMT, while Dropkick Murphys will be streaming from their local Boston area at 7pm EST on Wednesday 17th March so there’s nothing stopping you from releasing your inner green punk and catching both shows!
Keep up to Date
We’ll keep updating with events throughout the week as the Saint Patrick’s Day Festival progresses, so make sure to check back in with us to see what other events make our list!
[Images: Kíla, St. Patrick’s Festival, The Cobblestone by William Murphy – CC BY-SA 2.0, London Festival Flute by Garry Knight – CC BY 2.0]
Toledo, Ohio, USA Extra Stout and Toraigh.
Ancient Order Of Hibernians St Patricks Day Festival March 16 Noon on. Blessed Sacrament parish hall.