Community Cast

Siamsa Tire logo icon

Our community cast remains at the heart of Siamsa Tíre, with over one hundred local performers coming together each year to sing, dance and play music.

We are a community here at Siamsa Tíre. At the heart of everything we do is our Community Cast, a group of performers who have been drawn from the Kerry area and trained in the unique Siamsa performing style and idiom. They are supported by our professional core group of full-time players that make up a cast of over 100 performers every year. Together, they develop and perform the shows that form the basis of our annual Festival of Folk.

They have always been at the heart of what we do, dating right back to our earliest days.

The history of Siamsa Tíre begins in 1957 when a young curate called Father Pat Ahern was sent to Kerry to establish a new choir in St John’s Church in Tralee. That choir proved to be so successful that it eventually transformed into a performing group called Siamsóirí na Ríochta.

That group laid the foundation for what Siamsa Tíre still does to this day. They realised the unique value of the traditional music, song, and dance of North Kerry and dedicated themselves to preserving it for future generations.

They were particularly interested in the North Kerry ‘Munnix’ style of dancing. Centuries ago, dance masters used to tour the land, teaching people jigs, reels, and hornpipes. In North Kerry in the early 1700s, James Molyneaux was one such dancer. Locally known as Munnix, his style of dancing passed down through the generations to the dancers of Siamsóirí na Ríochta. They then passed it on to others and it continues to live on in Siamsa Tíre today.

In the early years, Siamsóirí na Ríochta performed in a variety of venues in Ireland and abroad (including The Abbey Theatre) and were also invited to perform on a number of Radio Teilifís Éireann productions. In 1968, Michael Maye, a Bord Fáilte representative in Tralee, suggested that the group stage a season of productions in the summer. That was to be Siamsa Tíre’s first summer season.

In the early 1970s, the National Folk Training Academy was born. Folk academies were set up in Finuge, North Kerry, and in Carraig in West Kerry. Here, training in music, song, dance, and movement was delivered to selected students from the local community over a period of three years. The students who showed promise then graduated to advanced classes in Siamsa Tíre in Tralee and from there to the company’s Community Cast.

While most of the training now happens in Siamsa Tíre in Tralee, that same system of selecting and training local people is still in place today. It’s how Siamsa Tíre continues to preserve the folk traditions of the past and to pass them on to the generations of the future.

In 2015, a new strand was added to the training on offer at Siamsa Tíre, one that once again contained echoes of the past. The National Folk Theatre Choir was formed from members of the local community. Just as Father Ahern’s original choir did all those years go, it has since performed at many events throughout Kerry and beyond.

At Siamsa Tíre, we live by Father Ahern’s words. “There is a sense in which we do not own our culture, we are only its trustees. The treasure is only on loan and we must take it, refurbish it in the light of our experience, and hand it on”.