Eamonn Costello

DSC_4288 The working title of my thesis is “Singing Mountains and Valleys”: an Investigation into the Impact the Oireachtas Singing Competition has on the Aesthetics and Ethics of Sean-nós Song in Ireland. The Oireachtas Sean-nós singing competition has for many years been the main platform in Ireland for the performance of Sean-nós song. It is essentially an Irish language revival movement which employs Sean-nós song, because of its language content, as a vehicle for language revival. Sean-nós is generally defined as unaccompanied solo singing in the Irish language and as such it has become an aural metaphor for the Gaeltacht (the Irish speaking districts of Ireland). Numerous commentators have shown that the Gaeltacht is widely imagined by Romantic cultural nationalists as being a spatial metaphor for authentic Irishness.

From the Romantic cultural nationalist perspective authentic Irishness equates to pre-colonial Irishness, in other words the past. Connecting with this ‘imagined’ past is, for the revivalist, a means of returning to the pre-colonial sense of self. Sean-nós is an index for authentic Irishness, therefore it too is widely seen as being of the distant past. Since the past in question is regarded as being stable and unchanging, Sean-nós song is also viewed as being an unchanging idiom. My thesis is concerned with highlighting the effect ideology and cultural politics can have on cultural practice, in this instance Sean-nós singing.


Éamonn is from An Cheathrú Rua in the Conamara Gaeltacht. He plays button accordion and uilleann pipes. He holds a B.A in Irish Music and Dance from the University of Limerick and an M.A in Ethnomusicology from University College Cork. His PhD topic is concerned with the relationship between Sean-nós song and the Oireachtas na Gaeilge festival.


Website: boscaceoilandfiddle.com

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