A History of Music in Sligo

Sligo and Music

As well as an idiomatic style of traditional music, examples of which are regularly to be heard at Sligo’s Feis Ceoil & Feis Shligigh, Sligo boasts a long interest in music performance of different types. Jazz, Classical and Traditional Music have strong followings in Sligo with regular concerts taking place of the highest quality. Musical theatre and choral performances play an important role in Sligo’s cultural life, and experimental, world and electronic music have grown greatly in recent years. When you add to this the constantly evolving contemporary rock, folk and indie music scene it’s clear there is something for everyone in Sligo’s live music events.

“The population of Sligo town is on a par with towns such as Nass, Tralee, Ennis and Clonmel. Yet few of these similar sized towns can boast anything close to the range of music provision currently on offer in Sligo. Sligo can legitimately present itself as a centre of excellence for music, although its population remains small to support such a diverse range of cultural organisations. Continued investment from the local authority, The Arts Council and other organisations will be necessary to underpin and sustain developments in the years ahead.” Fergus Sheil, Arts Consultant, March 2009.

Music Festivals

Sligo has a whole host of excellent music festivals, in the 1980’s the Sligo International Choral Festival was founded, bringing a particular focus to choral singing. In the 1990’s two very different classical music festivals emerged – the Sligo Baroque Festival and the Sligo New Music Festival - which were joined in 2000 by Chamber music festival Music in Drumcliff Festival  (previously the Vogler Spring Festival 2000-2009).

In the past eight years Sligo Live has established itself as one of Ireland’s leading roots festivals, and Sligo Jazz has been firmly established on the Jazz calendar as a leading school and festival project. The multi-disciplinary Cairde Festival has a strong world and alternative music programme.

Sligo has a strong traditional music heritage which continues to play an important role particularly through the Coleman Traditional Irish Music Centre  in Gurteen and the many annual traditional music festivals which receive grant-aid from Sligo County Council such as the County Fleadh, the South Sligo Summer School in Tubbercurry, the James Morrison Festival in Riverstown, the John Egan Festival in Ballintogher, the Traditional Singing Festival,  the Carmel Gunning International Summer School Festival of Irish music, Coleman Country Bodhran School, Cos Cos Sean Nos Festival and many more.


There are a host of venues in Sligo town and county, from large full time music venues to small session rooms in traditional bars.  In Sligo town the large venues are The Hawk’s Well Theatre and The Model, which has a newly developed purpose built music venue, and numerous pub/cafe venues, The Clarence and McGarrigles are known nationally for attracting high profile musicians (Mark Ronson, Kila, David Kitt, Brendan Benson). Sligo is full of cosy pubs such as Fureys, Swagman, Shoot The Crows & The Harp who host live original music. Larger pubs such as Mc Hughs, Fiddlers, Belfry are home to cover bands. Such is the appetite for live music that Sligo Institute of Technology uses Knocknarea Arena for large scale music events such as Elvis Costello or the RTÉ Symphony Orchestra.

In Sligo county The Coleman Centre for Traditional Music  in Gurteen has a wonderful theatre for staging musical performances throughout the year, and Barry’s Live Music Venue in Grange village hosts traditional, folk and acoustic music in a wonderfully intimate venue.

Concert Series and Promoters

Sligo has a vibrant concert scene thanks to some excellent promoters, most of whom do so on a voluntary basis. Sligo Jazz Project runs concerts during the year, outside of the summer Jazz Festival, and Itchy Feet Promotions  run contemporary and world music concerts in various venues during the year. Con Brio  is an exceptional classical music promoter, putting on a season of classical music from September – April every year.

Sligo has a rich tradition of amateur music making in many areas with groups such as The Orpheus Choir, the Strandhill-based 4 Bars Later Barbershop Chorus and Sligo Concert Band.

Learning Music

Whether you are an adult or a child there are plenty of opportunities to learn how to play music in Sligo. The Sligo Academy of Music is a private school that teaches all instruments in the classical tradition, the Sligo Contemporary Music School teaches more contemporary/rock instruments and The Coleman Centre for Traditional Music is a great place to start for traditional tuition. For lively drumming workshops for groups or individuals there is itchy feet.

Sligo Arts Service, through Music Generation Sligo, supports Discovering Music, an introductory music programme, which is to be offered to every child and young person of school-going age in County Sligo between 2011 and 2014, in collaboration with musicians, the music sector, the education sector and local communities. For a national listing of music teachers you can access Music Network's Learn Music database which is searchable by county.