Celtic Classic Youth Fiddle Competition

Charles A. Brown Ice House on the Celtic Classic Grounds
September 23, 2017 9:00 a.m. to approx. 12:30 p.m.

All contestants are invited and strongly encouraged to attend a FREE FIDDLE WORKSHOP being offered on Sunday, September 25th at Noon at Foy Hall.  Receive additional feedback from the contest judges, learn some new tunes, and gain insights into ornamentation, phrasing and bowing to enhance your fiddle style.
Note: This free workshop is open to any violin or fiddle student or player who attends the festival, but you must pre-register separately for the workshop with the correct form from this Web Page.


The Celtic Classic Fiddle Competition takes place in the Charles A. Brown Ice House, a historic indoor venue on the grounds of the Celtic Classic. This is a unique contest focused specifically on Celtic fiddling styles, including Irish, Scottish, Cape Breton, Shetland, and Galician. For participants and audience members alike, it is an educational and entertaining event. Young fiddlers of all playing levels and from different backgrounds will perform both traditional dance tunes and slow airs from the Celtic lands. The contest is segmented into two divisions, depending on age. Three cash prizes with medals are awarded in each age division.


Most fiddle competitions that take place in the U.S. focus on traditional American styles such as Bluegrass, Texas Swing, Cajun, New England and Appalachian. While some of these playing styles evolved from the original Irish and Scottish, this contest celebrates a Celtic music tradition that pre-dates the American fiddle tradition. Traditional dance tunes such as jigs, reels, hornpipes, slip jigs, slides, mazurkas, polkas, strathspeys and schottishes are all appropriate, as are listening tunes such as O’Carolan compositions and slow airs. Each contestant should choose three tunes of varying form and tempo to perform. (Example: a slow aire, a slip jig and a reel, or a jig, a march, and a strathspey, etc.) The total playing time should not exceed 6 minutes. You may perform your three tunes as a “set” to make the best use of the time allotted each contestant, but it is not required. If you exceed the playing time, the judges will stop judging and deduct points from your total score. A fiddler is encouraged to use an accompanist such as piano or guitar, but it is not required, and the accompanist must not double the melody line. (Keyboard can be provided if requested ahead of time).


First, the judges will be looking for basic playing technique such as quality of tone, accuracy in intonation, bowing, rhythm and tempo.  Secondly, they will be looking at the choice of tunes and the level of difficulty. Thirdly, the judges will be assessing the player’s interpretation of that fiddling style and the use of bowing and ornamentation to convey the character of the tunes.  Fourthly, they will be considering the overall performance and stage presence of the player. The judges are professional fiddlers or traditional Celtic musicians, performers and recording artists.


Print out the competition REGISTRATION FORM. Mail the completed form and a check for $10 made out to Celtic Cultural Alliance by September 4th to the address on the registration form. This year the deadline will be strictly enforced. Late registrations must be accompanied by a fee of $20 and might not be accepted depending on space availability. Check this website for directions to the festival and plan to SIGN IN no later than one half-hour before the start of your competition. There is no designated parking for contestants. If you are running late that morning, get dropped off and walk in while someone else parks the car. After the competition, plan to take advantage of the parking space you grabbed that morning and enjoy the rest of this FREE festival!

Registering after Sept. 7th: If you are late to register, please e-mail me to find out if there is still space in your division as the number of contestants will be limited due to time constraints in the Ice House. E-mail: Alison Gillespie at Tafga@rcn.com, and include your name and age. Thank you.

Registering after Sept. 4th : If you are late to register, please e-mail me to find out if there is still space in your division as the number of contestants will be limited due to time constraints in the Ice House. E-mail: Alison Gillespie at Tafga@rcn.com, and include your name and age. Thank you.


  • The Novice Division is for a junior competitor age 13 or under. Starting time: 9 a.m. sharp
  • The Open Division is for competitors from age 14 to 18. Starting time: Approximately 10:30 a.m.
    • (NOTE: Age is determined as of September 1, 2017)

Three cash prizes and medals will be awarded at the end of the contest in each age division. Checks will be mailed to winners within 10 days of competition day.

To enter, print out the registration form and mail and mail with $10 check made out to the Celtic Cultural Alliance, to: Alison Gillespie, Contest coordinator, Celtic Cultural Alliance 532 Main Street, Bethlehem, PA 18018

For more specific questions about the contest, email Alison Gillespie at tafga@rcn.com


Celtic Classic Fiddle Competition Rules

  1. A completed Registration Form is required for each contestant. Please Note: Even if you have pre-registered for the contest, you will still need to sign-in at the Ice House lobby in order to receive a playing order on the day of the competition.
  2. Each fiddler will play three distinct tunes with a total performance time (excluding instrument failure or some other emergency) of no more than 6 minutes. Points will be deducted for playing over the allotted time. The tunes should be varied in tempo. The range of Celtic styles permitted includes Irish, Scottish, Shetland, Orkney, Galician, Breton, Cornish and Cape Breton. Please Note: Cajun, Appalachian, Blues, Swing and Bluegrass tunes are not appropriate.
  3. Contestants will be judged on the following: technical skill on the instrument; style and ornamentation; rhythm, timing and phrasing; and tune selection, memorization and level of difficulty.
  4. No electronic amplification of instruments will be allowed other than through the sound system provided.
  5. Each contestant is limited to one accompanist, but it is not necessary to have an accompanist. Accompanists shall not double the melody line with the fiddler. The accompanying instrument cannot be another fiddle.
  6. Broken performances may be replayed only with the permission of the judge and contest administrator.
  7. Contestants must be ready to play when called. A contestant’s failure to appear within a reasonable time of being called to the stage may, in the discretion of the judge and the contest administrator, result in disqualification.
  8. No sheet music or written scores are permitted on stage; all tunes must be performed from memory.
  9. No contestant shall be disqualified from competition for the reason that he or she earns all or a substantial part of his or her income from playing the fiddle.
  10. Contestants are not permitted to approach the judges at any time during the contest.
  11. The organizers reserve the right to adjust the competition categories based on the number of registered participants. Every contestant must enter in the correct age category. Age is determined as of September 1st of the current year. Any contestant who has placed First or Second place in the younger category in a previous year and whose current age is within one year of qualifying for the older division, is allowed to compete in the older division with the permission of the contest coordinator.
  12. Contestants are responsible for the safekeeping of their own instruments and equipment.
  13. Any matter not expressly covered in the foregoing rules shall be ruled on by the judge and contest administrator, and their decision in such regard shall be final.

The Celtic Classic Fiddle Workshop

Sunday, September 24th, 2017
Foy Hall – Moravian College
12:00 Noon

Click here for Fiddle Workshop Registration form

The Celtic Classic will be offering a FREE fiddle workshop taught by one of the judges of the Fiddle Contest.  This workshop is open to all the fiddle contestants of the previous day’s competition plus any violin or fiddle player who would like to participate—but we ask that you pre-register with the correct form on this web page. The hour-long workshop will begin with some general feedback about the previous day’s contest performances, move on to some specifics about how to turn an ordinary tune into something memorable with the appropriate treatment of bowing, phrasing and ornamentation, and then progress to teaching a few new tunes both by ear and with written music.

D’Arcy Furniss of the Ontario-based Glengarry Bhoys will lead the workshop instruction. Bring your instrument and a recording device such as your phone. Please join us for this insightful sojourn into traditional Celtic Fiddling!

Please note that this Fiddle Workshop is for Advanced Beginners with some fiddling experience and up. This workshop would not be beneficial for any beginner to the instrument.

Please complete the fiddle workshop registration and mail to the CCA office (postmarked by September 6th) to secure your spot in the workshop. After the deadline, please email Administrator, Alison Gillespie, to check availability (tafga@rcn.com).

Mail to:
Alison Gillespie - Celtic Fiddle Workshop
Celtic Cultural Alliance
532 Main Street, Bethlehem, PA 18018