Philadelphia festival celebrates 49 years of Irish music and dance


The Philadelphia Ceili Group will host its 49th Annual Traditional Irish Music and Dance Festival from Oct. 12-14, marking nearly five decades of celebrating Irish culture. The three-day festival features concerts, dances, workshops, family activities and more, all honoring the rich traditions of Ireland.

Headlining this year’s festival is acclaimed Irish singer Niamh Parsons, known for her “gorgeous voice,” which has been described as “drop-dead” and “stops-you-in-your-tracks.” Parsons’ performance on Saturday, Oct. 14, will be accompanied by her husband, guitarist Graham Dunne, another stellar performer. 

Joining them is the brand new supergroup Reverie Road, featuring two founding members of the Grammy-nominated Irish band Solas.

The festival kicks off on Thursday, Oct. 12, with Singers Night in the cozy Fireside Room of the Irish Center, where local and national singers will gather in a pub-like setting for a night filled with song. 

On Friday, the Fireside Room becomes a dance hall for a lively Ceili Dance, with live traditional music and instruction for beginners wanting to learn the social dances of Ireland. A costume contest at the Friday Ceili dance will add to the Halloween fun.

Workshops are a highlight of Saturday’s lineup, providing intimate, interactive lessons with the festival headliners. Niamh Parsons will teach a singing workshop, Graham Dunne will lead a guitar workshop, and members of Reverie Road will offer lessons in fiddle, bodhran, accordion, and more.

Additionally, dancers can learn sean nos dancing, a more casual Irish solo style, in a 90-minute class with renowned Boston dance instructor Kieran Jordan. Sean nos involves close-to-the-floor footwork and is an accessible dance for all ages.

Other Saturday activities include a “Rambling House” event with musicians, singers and storytellers gathered around the fireplace, recreating the spirit of Ireland’s traditional house parties. The Next Generation, a youth Irish music group, will also perform.

For families, there will be crafts like pumpkin decorating, Irish ghost stories, and learning how to make St. Brigid’s crosses out of reeds. Face painter Sue Foo will be on hand to paint Celtic designs on faces and bodies. 

The festival also features Irish language workshops for children and adults. The interactive, immersive workshops allow attendees to connect with Gaelic language and culture.

The 3-day, All-Festival tickets are $100, with discounted rates for members. Individual event tickets range in price, with discounts for purchasing tickets in advance and for Ceili group members. Saturday’s concert-only tickets are available for $35 in advance. 

The Philadelphia Ceili Group, a nonprofit dedicated to Irish culture, started the annual festival in 1975. The Irish Center has been the hub for Irish culture in Philadelphia since 1958.

Tickets can be purchased at