Do you love the sounds of Irish music? Do you dream of playing a reel or dancing a jig? We have some great upcoming classes to immerse you in the spirit of Ireland! Gain confidence to join in the fun of traditional Irish music and dance in your community and abroad. Just in time for St. Patrick’s Day is the wildly fun weekend class, Irish Set Dancing. If you are familiar with American square dancing, Irish set dancing is like the Celtic cousin waving from across the Atlantic. Both Irish set dancing and square dancing are descendants of quadrilles, so they are a little similar. Jim Morrison is an excellent teacher who will break down the moves and figures patiently and clearly. The music is jumpin’ and lively and will keep you in the St. Patty’s spirit for the rest of March.

Anglo concertina (left), bodhrán (right)

Two upcoming music classes,  Get a Good Start on Concertina! and Bodhrán: Intro to Irish Drumming will introduce you to an Irish instrument, even if you are a complete beginner. Like an accordion, a concertina is a bellow-driven, free reed instrument. The Anglo concertina (which is shaped like a hexagonal box with buttons) is the specific instrument Aaron Olwell will be teaching in his class. Students will learn to play melodies and chords and to learn tunes by ear. A bodhrán (pronounced bow-rawn) is a handheld drum beaten with a tipper, a short wooden stick. The bodhrán is always played vertically, resting on the musician’s knee. Instructor Andrew Kruspe will focus on instrument background and practical application, giving student a good balance of historical and cultural, along with lots of playing time. Both classes cover fundamentals, Irish rhythms, and will give you the confidence to join in a beginning Irish music session in your town.

Fiddling in the Music Studio

Already play the fiddle and looking to expand your repertoire to include Irish tunes and rhythms? Tom Morley’s intermediate weekend class, Irish Fiddle: Intro to Fun Irish Trad Tunes, will provide the tools, skills, and tip to play Irish-style music. We also have a Folk Harp Gathering week-long class led by Lorinda Jones & Sue Richards geared toward continuing and intermediate harpists who want to gather, share, play and learn together. This class is during Scottish Heritage Week, but this beautiful, fairytale-like sounding instrument has its roots in ancient Celtic culture, trickling down to both Scottish and Irish cultures.

Playing folk harp in the Music Studio

Emolyn clogs on the Fall Festival Stage with Jamie Laval

If you’ve taken beginning clogging and are eager for more, the intermediate weekend class, Clogging 102 – The Next Step!, with Emolyn Liden is the class for you. Old time clogging is a great example of how cultures blended in Southern Appalachia, creating a unique dance form. While not specifically Irish, clogging has been influenced by Irish step dancing and Sean nós solo dancing (in addition to English, Scottish, German, and Cherokee step dances, as well as African rhythms and movement). Expand your “dance step vocabulary” and have a fun time dancing the weekend away at the Folk School. Enjoy videos of each instructor and see full class descriptions below:

Irish Set Dancing

March 8–10 (Weekend) • Jim & Owen Morrison The border between counties Cork and Kerry witnessed the rise of a unique style of Irish music and dance. Here polkas and slides still dominate the dance tune repertoire, and musicians trace their roots to music masters Padraig O’Keefe or Tom Billy Murphy, active a century ago. The dances are descendants of the 19th-century polka quadrille. They are fast-paced, exciting, and so easy to pick up that you’ll leave the weekend able to show a set to an unsuspecting group of friends. Prior experience is not needed, but a little endurance and good physical conditioning will help. Register.

Get a Good Start on Concertina!

April 14–20 • Aaron Olwell What is that fascinating hexagonal box with the buttons, and how does it work? Learn the basics of the Anglo concertina (the type most commonly associated with Irish music), including how to play melodies & chords, and how to best use the bellows for that elusive rhythm that makes Irish music so compelling! Gain skills for learning tunes by ear and explore how to creatively interpret the music without sacrificing its essential qualities. (Level 1 – no experience required, just bring an instrument.) Register.

Irish Fiddle: Intro to Fun Irish Trad Tunes

May 17–19 (Weekend) • Tom Morley Immerse yourself in a weekend of Irish fiddling! Listen to recordings of historical and contemporary Irish fiddlers, enjoy a documentary on Irish traditional music, and learn a few Irish standards (from written sheet music and by ear). We’ll study the bowing and ornamentation that give that authentic Irish sound. Instrument proficiency is required: ability to play one-octave D, G, and A scales using high & low second fingers; reading music is encouraged, but not necessary. (Intermediate, Level 3) Register.

Clogging 102 – The Next Step!

May 17–19 (Weekend) • Emolyn Liden Expand your “dance step vocabulary” with an exciting variety of percussive steps and short group routines to wonderful fiddle music. You are guaranteed to leave this class empowered to continue on your clogging journey! If you’ve taken beginning clogging and are eager for more, this is the class. A basic level of fitness to stand and be active for a few hours at a time is needed – it’s great exercise! Register.

Bodhrán: Intro to Irish Drumming

August 4–10 • Andrew Kruspe Bring a bodhrán and learn how to play this uniquely Irish frame drum. We’ll focus on instrument background and practical application. Background will cover history, development, styles of accompaniment, information on players and makers, tuning, and additional resources. The practical application portion is all drumming – fundamentals, stroke types, basic patterns, and rhythms for reels and jigs. Depart with skills to participate in beginning Irish music sessions. (Level 1 – no experience needed.) Register.

Folk Harp Gathering (Scottish Heritage Week)

August 25–31 • Lorinda Jones & Sue Richards This class encourages harp players to come together and share that history, learn tunes of the ancient harpers, and play songs and dances from Celtic lands. It is also a time to rekindle the friendships from past harp gatherings and play together in ensemble. Don’t miss this opportunity, guided by two experts! Beyond-beginning playing skills are needed, with a basic ability to read music. (Levels 2 & 3 – Continuing & Intermediate) Register.

Cory Marie Podielski
About Cory Marie Podielski

Cory Marie Podielski is a freelance graphic designer, photographer, and writer for the John C. Campbell Folk School. She has been writing for the Folk School Blog since 2012 and enjoys interviewing artists, musicians, and craftspeople. In her spare time, she enjoys playing the banjo, dancing, printmaking, playing in clay, and assisting in Folk School bread baking classes.