The Gathering Traditional Music Festival is regarded as being one of the best traditional events in Ireland - one review said it was "like The Willie Clancy Summer school under one roof!"
The five day events includes concerts, céilí, instrument masterclasses, set dance & sean nos workshops, numerous free music sessions, a full education programme and much more.
The concerts have included the very best of local and international traditional performers. Some of the highlights over the years include performances by - Altan, Dervish, Martin Hayes, Dennis Cahill, Joe Burke & Anne Conroy, Teada, Begginish, Seamus Beagly & Jim Murrey, Jackie Daly, Seamus Creagh, Martin O'Connor, Danú, Noel Hill, Sean Keane & Liam O'Flynn and many more great musicians. Céilí Highlights have included the likes of Johnny Reidy, The Allow Ceili Band, Tim Joe & Anne O'Riordan just to mention a few.
The festival was started in 2000 after the demise of the Killarney Folk Festival, by the initiative of Maurice O'Donoghue, John O'Shea & John O'Donoghue.
Anne Keane came on board to run the set dancing part of the programme and after the success of the first year with the help of Guinness it was decided to make the festival an annual event. Following the response from those who attended the first year, the event was able to grow due to the opening if the INEC for Céilís and concerts.
After the first two years a new direction was taken with the development of the Education part of the festival - which includes the schools Outreach Programme. This involves a group of musicians and dancers visiting local primary schools and promoting the local Sliambh Luachra tradition. 12 - 14 schools are visited every year. We are able to undertake this ambitious project due to the sponsorship of the Killarney Credit Union, The Art Department in Kerry County Council and the Arts Council.
Another aspect of the Education programme is the lectures that happen over the weekend. The traditional instrument Masterclasses take place over one day on the Saturday of the festival with tuition by some of the best local musicians available. The singers Masterclass is a day long which is given by Sean Garvey & Tim Dennehy - this is followed by a singers session on the Saturday evening.
Since 2000, the set dance part of the festival has taken a life of its own with over 100 sets recorded at the INEC. Not many festivals can boast of 5 sessions going on in one venue at the same time, all within a very short walk of each other, where musicians play until 6am in the morning!
The Gathering stands out as a great festival and the variety of concerts, céilís, free sessions bring people from all over the world to Killarney each year. The festival would not be possible without the involvement of the Gleneagle Hotel, the O'Donoghue Family and also the backroom team in the Gleneagle Hotel & the volunteer team, who work all year round to ensure a great festival for the attendees.