by Ken Fleming
Back in early March, most of the work on the retreat that I normally do as director was already done. Classes and instructors were finalized. Concerts were scheduled. Camp Hoblitzelle was booked. All that was left was registration and smooth sailing until October. HOW THINGS CAN CHANGE! The COVID-19 pandemic came out of nowhere and rocked the world, and it upended our plans for the retreat.
As have many other music camps, schools and group events throughout the world, we began to explore virtual options. We still held onto the hope that the virus would somehow go away by October, and that we would be able to gather in person as planned. But, it became clear as summer approached, that this stubborn virus wasn’t going to disappear anytime soon. On July 6th, we announced that we would create a virtual O’Flaherty Irish Music Retreat, and we began assembling teams of volunteers to make that happen. In many ways, we had to start from scratch.
A little over a month later now, it seems like many months have passed. So much is happening, so many pieces to put together, and yet, the structure of something quite special is emerging. A lot of skilled, enthusiastic folks are working tirelessly to make it happen, and I can’t thank them enough.
So, we are off on this wild journey into the virtual! We’re not certain where the virtual O’Flaherty Irish Music Retreat will end up, but it will be memorable, that’s for sure. The website is stocked with the details, but you’ll also want to join our Facebook group to track our progress. Online registration begins at 9 a.m. (CDT) on August 22nd. The camp will start on Sunday, October 18th and run through November 8th. Yes, that’s three whole weeks — a little longer than our normal three-day camp. By going virtual, we can space out the lessons, enrichment classes, workshops, informances, concerts and sessions and give you more time to absorb all that the Retreat offers. In fact, students will be able to access all of the virtual Retreat’s content for one month after it ends: until December 8th. You can even study multiple instruments at the same time this year!
We hope you’ll check out our virtual Retreat and decide to join us. One thing is for certain: you will be treated to a learning experience unlike any other.