Generally, workshops at our music camp are led by our students who bring a level of expertise to their subjects that is truly remarkable. Some are professional in their areas that they teach while others share their “tried and true” experiences. The variety of workshops that have been offered attest to the varied interests of those who come to the retreat. Our thanks to all of those who have prepared these workshops with such care.
ABC Tune Notation and Tools — Rick Roberts
ABC music notation has become the internet standard for sharing Irish tunes around the world. Using ABC notation, Irish tunes can be represented in a few lines of text that anyone can type at computer keyboard. For those that don’t read music, it is often easier to learn than standard music notation. For those that do read music, software is readily available to print high quality sheet music from tunes in ABC format. In this workshop, students will learn how to read and write ABC notation, how to print sheet music from ABC notation on your PC, how to play ABC tunes on your PC, and where and how to download Irish tunes from the internet.
Anything BUT Jigs & Reels — Multiple Presenters
Are you in a musical rut? Are jigs and reels the only tunes played at your local sessions? Open yourself up to the many other forms of Irish music and set yourself free! Our instructors will take you on a musical journey into slides, polkas, barn dances, hornpipes, mazurkas and more as time allows. Bring your instrument and a recording device. They will provide music notation.
Arrangement as It Applies to Irish Tunes Sets and Songs — 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.
Arranging for Irish Music Ensembles — Kevin Alewine
This workshop will explore ways to blend instruments and vocals to create a pleasing presentation of traditional Irish music. Variations, tempos, interludes, rhythms, counter melodies and more will be addressed.
Basic Sound System Operation — Travis Ener and Russ Alvey
This three-part workshop will examine mixers, processors, power amps, microphones, and speakers and discuss ways to improve your sound individually or for an entire ensemble and how to interface with sound engineers.
Basic Sound Systems — Travis Ener
The class will examine mixers, processors, power amps, and speakers and discuss ways to improve your sound individually or for an entire ensemble.
Bodhran Friendly Session — 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 and how to use them? — 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 at Another Level — Susan & Michael Harrison
This class will feature more advanced ceili dances seldom danced at area ceilis. Each class will focus on a different dance or dances.
Ceili Dance Workshops — Susan & Michael Harrison, 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 — 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.
Field Guide to Irish Tune Types — Clare Cason
Have you ever heard people talking about “that great jig So-and-So played at last night’s concert”, and you weren’t sure which of the tunes WERE the jigs? Or maybe you can tell jigs and reels apart when you hear them, but feel fuzzy on the difference between a jig and a slide, or a reel and a hornpipe. Not to mention spotting rarer birds like barndances or mazurkas! Learning to know what kind of tune we are hearing can really deepen our understanding of different tune types’ rhythmic characteristics, and improve our listening and playing. Join us for a class where we’ll talk about the differences and practice listening to and identifying them. We’ll cover as many kinds of tunes as we can in 90 minutes!
Flat Picking Irish Tunes on Guitar — John Burleson
For those who enjoy playing melodies on guitar or want to learn, this class will focus on flat picking techniques and ornamentation.
Gaelic Singing Workshops — Denice Brown, Karen Ballew, Alli Johnson
Enjoy this ancient style of unaccompanied singing in the Gaelic language. These two workshops are for singers and listeners alike. A discussion of the technique of sean-nos singing, learning the language and sources of music will be held.
Gearing Up for Sessions — Daniel Lowery
This class will cover the basics (and some of the finer points) of playing in sessions. No matter how long ago — or how recently — you’ve come to Irish traditional music, we’ll make sure you’ve got the customs down, we’ll make sure you have a good hit parade list of session tunes, and we’ll make sure you get the most out of this time-honored tradition!
Getting Comfortable Playing Music Around Others — Michelle Feldman
Not every player wants to be a pro, but most people hope to play around others, such as family members, friends, or at church. And yet for many musicians, especially beginners and intermediate players, self consciousness and nerves can spoil the experience. But it doesn’t have to be that way. This workshop will cover how performance anxiety shares important elements in common with other phobias and anxieties. These responses are a combination of mental, emotional and physiological reactions–learned responses that can be modified through a gradual process of relearning and reconditioning. We will focus on how the mechanics of proper practice can be used to build confidence–such as metronome practice, playing for line vs. correcting mistakes, and memorization. In addition, the emphasis will be on learning to play with good form, including proper breathing and posture and enough muscle relaxation to avoid pain and tension.
Guerilla Harp Tactics – How to Play the Harp in a
Trad Irish Session — 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.
Harp Circle — Therese Honey
Essentially, a session for harpists.
Home and Small Studio Recording for Irish Musicians — Gordon McLeod
Advances in technology have made it possible and affordable for musicians to produce their own recordings at home. However, a basic technical understanding of the technology and a clear aesthetic vision are also needed to create a successful recording. This workshop will provide an introduction to the techniques and artistic considerations involved in recording in a home or small project studio.
How to Run a (Friendly) Session — 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.
Interfacing with Your Sound System & Sound Engineer — Travis Ener
Learn how to get your music successfully into the system via microphones and DIs. Communicating with the sound engineer: stage plots, pre-show preparation, during the performance adjustments, post-show tips.
Introduction to Irish Fiddle for Classical Violinists — Heather Gilmer, David Mehalko, Kiana June Weber
This class will cover the fundamentals of learning Irish fiddle for those who already play classical violin, based on the instructor’s own background in classical music. She will dispel many of the myths surrounding Irish fiddle music and cover several of the skills it takes to develop the style. Topics covered will include learning by ear, bowing, vibrato, ornamentation, and more. The goal of this workshop is to give students a foundational skill set for developing an authentic style of Irish fiddle playing.
Instrument Petting Zoo — John Liestman
Of all the O’Flaherty instruments, about the one 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 Modes Made Easy — Tenesa Rasmussen
There are easier ways to learn the four basic modes used in Irish Music, how to hear them, how to play them. Stop the confusion! Bring your instrument (if it’s portable!) and we will unravel the not-so-mysterious secrets of recognizing and playing along with modal tunes. What are modes, where did they come from, why do I need to understand them? Beginners and advanced musicians alike will find answers to these questions and more. Discover the natural simplicity of modes and how they relate to major keys.
Irish Music 101 — Clare Cason
What is traditional Irish music, and what are its many forms? If you are just beginning your journey into Irish music, or you already are a player but want to expand your knowledge of the music, this class will give you a more complete understanding of what constitutes Irish music. The presenter will demonstrate on fiddle the different types of tunes that represent well the tradition, and shed some light on what sets them apart from one another.
Irish Tunes Played Slow — Multiple Presenters
These sessions are designed to teach new tunes and to cover some of the tunes students have already learned at the retreat. The tunes will be played many times at a slow tempo and then faster so all levels of players can participate.
Irish Tunes Played Up to Speed — Multiple Presenters
These instructor-led sessions are designed for students who are very familiar with traditional Irish music and can play tunes up to dance speeds.
Keys, Modes and Scales – Intro to Music Theory for Irish Players — Rick Roberts
Using a combination of visual patterns and ear training exercises, you will learn the basic skills to recognize and understand the keys and modes commonly used in Irish traditional music. The simple relationships between keys will be explained. We will not be reading music notation. This class does not cover harmony.
Learning by Ear — Kevin Alewine, 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 Basic Ceili Steps and Dances — Susan & Michael Harrison
Here is a class for people who have never danced ceili or need a refresher. Students will learn basic ceili steps and dances.
Learning Dance to Understand Traditional Irish Music — Máirtín de Cógáin
Nearly all of traditional Irish music is dance music. It makes good sense to learn something about Irish dance to understand why tunes are played certain ways and what tunes fit with certain dances. There is a reason why there is a lilt to tunes, phrases, turns and set number of measures. Join Máirtín for a “feet-on” experience that will give you important insight into dance music and get yourself ready for the Saturday night ceili.
Learning Irish tunes as an older person: Why it’s possible, and how! — 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.
Mandolin and Banjo Tasting — John Liestman
This workshop will allow attendees to hear a wide variety of mandolins and tenor banjos played by one player in rapid succession, allowing the listener a unique experience to compare and contrast. After this, the demonstration instruments will be available for attendees to play for themselves. No instruments will be for sale and no instruments will be criticized. This workshop is simply to broaden the attendees experience with instruments that are impossible to find in the same room anywhere else. The instruments will be provided for the workshop by the instructor and any attendees who want to volunteer their own instruments to the mix. Attendees need not volunteer any instruments but must treat all instruments with respect and care. The workshop will be run concurrently and in the same general space as the Instrument Petting Zoo workshop.
Methods to Ease the Pains of Irish Music
— 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.
Microphones & Miking Techniques for Acoustic Music — Travis Ener
A close look at microphones, their types, pickup patterns and more. Travis will explore some of the most favorite makes and models and discuss their uses with different instruments.
Next Level Irish Music Theory — Ian Varley
In 2018, 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 (2019), 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.
O’Carolan Tunes Played Slowly — Therese Honey
For those who love the music of Turlough O’Carolan, harpist of the mid-1600s and one of the most recognized composers of Irish music, this is a workshop just for you. Therese Honey will choose a number of O’Carolan compositions and lead them in a slow pace to permit players to learn them by ear or just enjoy them for the exceptional piecesof music they are.
The Piano Accompaniment of Irish Music — Allison Hicks, 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 Irish Harmonica & Irish Harmonica Session — 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.
Playing Pain Free — How to Keep from Becoming a Musical Martyr — Robert Shaddox
Students will understand how playing their instruments can cause pain and dysfunction in their neck, back, shoulders, elbows, wrist and hands. Students will be taught strategies that they can implement to prevent or decrease these discomforts. The instructor will use demonstration and hands on learning to re-enforce these strategies. The students will learn basic principles of body mechanics, injury prevention and exercises that they can apply to playing their instruments and broaden to other areas of their lives.
Reed Making for Uilleann Pipes — 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 firstname.lastname@example.org, 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 — Multiple Presenters
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.
The Session Ettiquette Debate — Ken Fleming
Sessions come in many varieties and that means players will likely differ on what is considered “proper session ettiquette.” In fact, some people get very emotional about it because of their strong opinions about what instruments are acceptedly “traditional,” how many bodhrans or guitars should play at one time, what songs if any shoud be permitted, who sits in the inner circle, who gets assigned to the outlands, whether or not tunebooks, music stands or recording devices can be used. Are you uncomfortable yet? Come join Ken for a friendly discussion (debate seems too harsh) about one of the most important expressions in Irish music — the session. Are there rules?
Sessions for Playing and Learning — Jim Wells
Jim has been organizing sessions in the North Dallas area for the past six years and recently was tapped by the Traditional Irish Music Education Society (TIMES) to expand sessions into other areas in North Texas. His sessions are not the more common “open sessions” found in many communities because, by design, they take a more educational approach. There are separate sessions offered for beginning, intermediate and advanced levels, each having their own music selections. Many O’Flaherty Retreat students have greatly benefited from the currently existing TIMES sessions which help them to keep practicing and playing the tunes all year-round. Jim will share how he organizes the T.I.M.E.S. sessions and provide information on how to start your own sessions.
Set Dancing — Susan & Michael Harrison
This class will be offered several times during the weekend with a different dance or dances with accompanying steps taught at each class. This class is good for people who have danced ceili but would like to learn something new. Set dancing is most popular today in rural Ireland and appropriate for adults of all ages. Sets tend to be less athletic than many ceili dances.
Small Format Digital Mixers – Taking Your Live Performances to the Next Level — 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.
Sound Production Fundamentals — Shaddow Walter
This class will examine the components of a sound reinforcement system from the instrument to the speakers and room and discuss techniques to get quality sound for a solo act or an ensemble.
So You Want to Form a Band? — Panel Discussion
A panel discussion on what things should be considered in forming a band performing Irish music. Panelists will address getting started, getting tight, getting gigs, getting known, getting where you want to be.
Stringing Tunes Together: Creating Sets — 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.
Supercharge Your Tune Learning — Ian Varley
Do you wish you could learn more tunes, faster? In this workshop, we’ll explore ways to organize and learn tunes that’ll boost your learning speed and retention. A few basic building blocks for finding tunes and organizing your list, combined with cutting-edge modern memory research and apps, will have you spouting off tunes by the hundreds in no time. Learn more tunes, have more fun!”
There’s An App for That!: Software Applications and Mobile Apps that Make Learning Tunes Easy — Toar Schell
Various applications that allow learners to find and play tunes (even if they don’t read music), but want help finding those elusive notes! We will cover major Android-Apple-Microsoft platforms that include learning by ear applications, tune finding applications, abc conversion programs that can display not only standard notation, but tablature for those who don’t read music as well. This will include tablature for button accordion and tin whistle! We will also look advanced tune organizing software for performers who want to organize sets. So from beginner to seasoned performers – there’s an app for that!
Tracing Irish Songs in America: Look What We’ve Done with the Songs — Donna Fitch
After becoming a member of the Southwest Celtic Music Association, Dallas, TX in the mid-eighties, Donna became aware of similarities between Irish songs, American folk and country western songs. She has drawn on research done by others as well as her own to develop this class in which she selects Irish songs extant during various historical periods, focusing on adaptations and parodies. As an interactive class, attendees will sing along with her on some songs. Also, attendees will be given handouts to serve as a study guide and listing references and sources for further exploration.
Uilleann Pipe Reed Making — Dirk Mewes
Dirk has been making reeds since 2001, and he just started selling his sets of uilleann pipes this year, having spent the last seven years learning how to make high-quality uilleann pipes. The reed-making method he teaches was taught to him by the well-known Irish pipemaker CIllian O’Brien, though he has also learned from many others, such as David Hegarty, Benedict Keohler, Jim Wenham, Tim Britton, and others. Dirk believes that all uilleann pipers should learn to make and maintain their own reeds. Even clarinet and oboe students are sometimes taught reed making, to help them make a better connection with their instruments, so it follows that serious pipers will benefit from studying at the same level. Besides, they probably don’t sell chanter reeds at your local music store. Students are encouraged to bring reed making tools if they have them. Dirk will bring some tools and reed making supplies, but he most likely does not have enough tools for everyone to use.
Vocal Health for Singers — 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.
Vocal Performance — Melinda Standefer
This class is designed to offer singers an opportunity to perform an Irish song and receive feedback. The feedback will focus on proper breathing technique and support of the voice, tone quality and maximizing vocal range/agility. It is intended for the students to come to this class vocally warmed up and ready to sing the Irish song of their choice. This class will offer 10 slots for “performing singers” and additional slots for auditors of the class who do not wish to perform.
The Woman of the House: Women in Traditional Irish Music — Angela Botzer
This workshop will explore the history of women in traditional Irish music, beginning with music in the pubs (pubs were a man’s world early on), and “women’s instruments”—back then oftentimes it was the concertina, and very rarely the uilleann pipes. In early times, women were often known for keening (caointe, closely related to singing at funerals), and it wasn’t until later years, women entered musical competitions and ceili bands. How frequently we have seen early photos of ceili bands with only one woman in them! We will discuss women who have made musical history such as Elizabeth Crotty, and many more, leading into recent times. There will be photos and musical clips galore!