Student or guest-led workshops are an important part of the retreat targeting your musical interests such as learning tips, arranging, dance steps, tunes, sound production and much more. See SCHEDULE for the times, days and locations of these workshops.
Arrangement as It Applies to Irish Tune Sets and Songs
Presenter: Mike Dugger
This workshop will discuss how to enhance your performances for live or recorded efforts in arranging Irish tune sets and songs. The instructor will discuss the concepts of variation in how the tune is played melodically, where the use of grace notes, rolls and triplets add to the arrangement process, how key changes from one tune to the next in a set provide the energy level you seek, and the instrumentation used if your group has multiple melody players. We will also discuss chord choices for backing instruments like guitar, bouzouki and piano. These concepts will also help the solo Irish musician who is thinking of doing a recording with other players in the future. Song arrangements will also be discussed as to hooks, melodic lines, harmonies and where to place them in the verse structure of the song you wish to sing.
Bodhran Friendly Session
Presenter: Cara Wildman
Yes, you read it right. We take session etiquette and toss it out the window (just for today). Bodhran players are invited to gather together with a few well-miked melody players for a session without the normal constraints of multiple bodhrans at a session. This is your chance to enjoy 90 minutes of solid drumming, whether it is your main instrument or not come join us. Musicians of all flavors and levels are welcome as well for yet another chance to get in some session time during the retreat. All types of tunes will be played and Cara will available for guidance and assistance when needed.
Bunting’s “Graces”: What are they? How can I use them in my playing?
Presenter: Cindy Schaufenbuel
You’ve heard of the famous Belfast Harp Festival of 1792, and of the 19-year-old prodigy, Edward Bunting, who was asked to notate the playing of the traveling harpers there. But did you know that in later life, Bunting and his colleagues spent countless hours recording how the dying breed of itinerant harpers played the beautiful and haunting old Irish melodies? Most harpers today are not taught these techniques, which include the execution of ornaments, or “graces,” even though they were a crucial feature of the harpers’ music. Several of the “graces” are playable on modern harps with nylon/gut stings, not just on wire strings. In this workshop, we will learn how to execute a few of them, and try them out with a Carolan melody.
Ceili Dance Workshops
Presenter: Emily Furillo
Whether you are completely new to Irish social dancing or you’re one who never passes up an opportunity to dance, these workshops are for you. Experience how Irish tunes and dances fit together like a match made in heaven. Do you need to energize for your next music class? Come learn a set dance or two! With this under your belt you’ll be ready to join in the big Saturday night ceili.
Celtic Radio in the Digital Age
Presenter: Susan Ritta
The era of bespoke radio programming – where one sets their clock to a specific program they tune into each week – seems to be dwindling in popularity in favor of the increased ease and access of on-demand streaming and podcasting services. Even so, there are benefits to radio broadcasting that on-demand content cannot necessarily supply. Sit down with Thunder on the Plains host Susan J. E. Ritta, as she explores Celtic radio’s evolution and unique relevance to local and regional communities, music lovers, and musicians alike – as well as how and why you should continue to support local Celtic radio shows.
Gaelic Singing Workshops
Presenter: Karen Ballew
Enjoy the ancient style of unaccompanied singing in the Irish language. There will be a brief overview of the Irish language (Gaelic) and its pronunciation rules, while the rest of the time will be spent learning and singing songs together! This workshop will be held over two days with different material covered during each session.
Guerilla Harp Tactics – How to Play the Harp in a Traditional Irish Session
Presenter: Therese Honey
Do you want to play in a session with other instruments but don’t know all of the tunes or can’t play at the same speed as everyone else? There are strategies to help! We will have a melody instrument play tunes for us as we experiment with different ways to accompany traditional tunes in a session.
How to Run a (Friendly) Session?
Presenter: Ian Varley
Do you know the secret to a good session? (No, it’s not giving all the banjo players the wrong address.) In this talk, veteran O’Flaherty’s presenter Ian Varley will cover the ins and outs of running a killer session, based on his experience running a popular session in Austin for several years. We’ll share specific techniques for how to make your session a FRIENDLY one: welcoming for newcomers, but without annoying the experienced players. We’ll cover the venue relationship, how to institute good policies and traditions, and how to (kindly) convey proper session etiquette when things aren’t going smoothly (i.e. when the guy with the spoons won’t stop). Whether you’ve already got a thriving session, or you’re looking to reinvigorate one or start something new, this talk will give you concrete takeaways on how to grow a world-class session that stands the test of time.
Instrument Petting Zoo
Presenter: John Liestman
Of all the O’Flaherty instruments, about the only ones you can find in music stores are fiddles and guitars. If you have ever thought that someday you might want to take up the pipes or the harp or the box or whatever, this is for you. Come to the Petting Zoo where skilled and friendly musicians will let you try out all the classic Irish traditional instruments and give you your first mini-lesson for free. Cuddle a concertina, befriend a button accordion, pet the pipes, flirt with a flute, beat a bodhran, wield a whistle, brandish a bouzouki, and hug a harp today! This is your best opportunity to see what it feels like to play these things and get first hand advice on how to get started. The workshop will be run concurrently and in the same general space as the Mandolin and Banjo Tasting workshop.
Irish Tunes on Harmonica
Presenter: Paul Dryer
Harmonica has a long history in traditional Irish music. Though not as common in session play as other traditional instruments, harmonica is gaining in popularity. Like the penny whistle, harmonicas are generally inexpensive and a pure joy to play! This workshop will introduce you to the various types of instruments, and how to get started. Jig, reel, polka and waltz playing styles will be demonstrated along with ornamentation techniques. Feel free to bring your harmonica — keys of D and G are suggested. Also, a session just for harmonica players will be held at a separate time.
Learning by Ear
Presenter: Janis Deane
This class is offered for players of all instruments. The class will explore ear training and memorization tools to enhance the student’s ability to learn and retain tunes without the aid of written music or tablature.
Learning Irish tunes as an older person: Why it’s possible, and how!
Presenter: Tom Lockney
This workshop is led by a senior player who started playing Irish music in his 50s, and now, in his 70s, plays both banjo and fiddle regularly at sessions and in dance bands. The workshop will share learning techniques he has used himself and also with students: those that seem to work, and those that seem to be common but unhelpful. The workshop is non-instrument specific and will draw from the workshop presented in 2018 on how to practice. Topics to be covered include reasons to learn as an (older?) adult, encouragement (you’re seldom “too old”), reasonable goal setting, practice techniques, finding teachers, playing with others, using technology, and more.
Methods to Ease the Pains of Irish Music
Presenter: Heather Carmichael
This is a workshop teaching various methods of self-massage to help ease the pain that can happen when playing your instrument. Using different modalities of massage, such as stretching, trigger point, hydrotherapy, and lymphatic drainage, Heather will guide you through creating a self-care plan that can help you play pain-free.”
Next Level Irish Music Theory
Presenter: Ian Varley
Last year, Ian Varley gave a popular talk on the basics of Music Theory, with an introductory analysis of how it functions in traditional Irish music. This year, he’ll dive head-first into the next chapter: an analysis of what actually makes the Irish style of music so unique and compelling, at a deep melodic and harmonic level. Be prepared to see and hear this music in a whole new way, through a mathematical analysis of traditional tune structure. We’ll investigate the results of using data mining techniques against the entire corpus of Irish tunes, and try to understand the way that difference, variation and evolution form the living heart of this style. Basic understanding of music theory (such as last year’s class, viewable at http://bit.ly/trad-irish-music-theory) is strongly recommended.
Piano Accompaniment of Irish Music
Presenter: Kendall Rogers
This workshop will offer interested students a chance to see, hear and learn how to be a little bit less dangerous with a keyboard at sessions and ceilis. As this is a standalone workshop, we will briefly touch on several topics, with short demonstrations along the way. Some topics may assume some familiarity with the keyboard, scales and chords, but the workshop will generally explore the rhythms and harmonies of Irish accompaniment. We’ll also mention some of the “hows” and “whys” and a few basic rules of thumb (and fingers) to keep in mind when starting out.
Playing Tunes with…
A number of our instructors choose to co-lead sessions for our students from 3:45-5 p.m. each day. Check the class schedule for who is playing when, and come play some tunes with these great players. As with the other workshops, sign up is required.
Reed Making for Uilleann Pipes
Presenter: Dirk Mewes
The reed-making workshop will include a short hour demonstration of constructing an uilleann pipe concert-pitch chanter reed in the style that I was taught by Cillian O’Briain. Then, we should have time for discussions, questions, and some hands-on learning in the workshop. During the weekend, I will also be available to discuss various aspects of reed-making, and to answer any questions I can about my experiences with reeds. For students who need tools for reed making, contact me before class starts at email@example.com, and I will assist you with obtaining some of the tools that are harder to find, such as the in cannel gouge, used for the initial shaping of the cane for the reed.
Retreat Tunes Played Slowly
Each year, a number of tunes are designated as “Retreat Tunes” and published in advance of the retreat. Two times during the weekend, an instructor will lead students in the playing of these tunes at a slower tempo. For a listing of the tunes and music notation, go to RESOURCES.
Small Format Digital Mixers – Taking Your Live Performances to the Next Level
Presenter: Tim Kennedy
Tim Kennedy runs a band booking agency called Erin Shore Productions for up and coming ensembles in Texas and he does sound for over 200 live performances a year. In this seminar, he will describe the different types of small format digital mixers that have been revolutionizing live sound over the past three years. For $400 you can have a digital mixer that provides the same capabilities as $10,000 in mixing equipment just five years ago. Get some hands on experience with the Behringer XAir 16, XAir 18, X32 Rack, and X32 console mixers, and learn how to mix your band entirely off an iPad and cut your set-up time in half.
Stringing Tunes Together: Creating Sets
Presenter: Angela Botzer
Why do some tunes go so well together in some sets, and not work so well in other sets? We will examine what works well and what doesn’t, which key progressions fit better than others, and take a look at some classic recorded examples of tune sets. We will explore how to create sets of tunes for performance, ceilis, and sessions on the fly, and how to reach that “nyah’ as it is called, the lift, that drive in music when really connecting and playing with others.
Vocal Health for Singers
Presenter: Janis Deane
Singing is an athletic activity and many singers lack true understanding of how their instrument works and how to care for it. This class will focus on the anatomy and physiology of the voice, voice function during speech and singing, and proper care of the singing voice including toning and flexibility exercises, warm-up and cool down of the voice, and when to seek medical care for voice problems.