Celtic Week Classes – July 11-16, 2021


In this class for intermediate players we will cover the basics of Irish fiddle technique: bowing, ornamentation and tempo, rhythm and tone. We will be learning new tunes, taught simply, phrase by phrase, before demonstrating how to incorporate various techniques into the tune. We will also take some standard session tunes and look at adding variations and different ornamentations. We will also be listening to recordings of fiddle players and studying the different styles and techniques. Tunes will be taught by ear, but sheet music will be provided for those who need it.

The bowing and articulation of bow patterns in the playing of jigs and other familiar dance rhythms introduced in the early part of the class will provide the basis for a systematic approach to a generic playing of Irish fiddle music suitable for intermediate/advanced fiddlers. This will enable the student to identify some repetitive patterns of bowing which, although non-specific, will aid the student in understanding the non-random activity of bow movement in Irish fiddle playing. While some experience in learning by ear would be an advantage, a positive approach to attempting to learn by watching and listening is essential. The notation of the workshop tunes with some typical bowing motifs indicated will be forwarded in .pdf format by email after the class.

Are you searching for your authentic Scottish voice? Looking for more sparkle in your playing? Want to get grooving with a real Scottish fiddle accent? This class is a fun, yet intensive odyssey that delves into creating a believable stylistic Scottish feel. We’ll learn many traditional tunes: driving reels and jigs, stately marches, mighty strathspeys (the signature Scottish tune type!), and haunting slow airs. We’ll discover how to capture the stylistic essence of each tune type through good choices in bowing, ornamentation, phrasing, and rhythmic groove. We’ll polish up your dance feel so you know how to get everyone’s feet tapping, and we’ll put together complete ‘MSR’ sets that you could use for a traditional Scottish performance or competition. All tunes will be taught by ear, but don’t worry – notated sheet music for all tunes we learn will be given out at the end of the week to help you keep practicing once you get home!

This course explores the diverse repertoire and playing styles of Scottish fiddling. We’ll learn tunes and work on ornamentation and bowing, phrasing and expression, and playing “in the groove.” We’ll also discuss Scotland’s fiddling history and listen to recordings of players from different styles. Technique and theory topics – tone, practice methods, simple chord theory, playing with speed and precision – will be included as appropriate. All tunes, including strathspeys, reels, jigs, marches, and slow airs, will be taught by ear.

INTRO TO IRISH FIDDLE (Andrew Finn Magill)
If you’ve learned the basics for violin and/or fiddle, but are just getting started on playing reels and jigs, this class is for you. Mastering the Irish fiddle is about so much more than just playing the notes. In this class we’ll put together a toolbox of basic skills (tune types, basic ornamentation, basic bowing, session etiquette, learning by ear, practice strategies, etc.) that you can use to start building a foundation for fiddle mastery. We’ll work on a few tunes throughout the week and recordings of each will be sent in advance. You are encouraged to listen to the tunes as much as you can but please do not learn them before class. Please bring your questions and topics of interest! This class is geared towards those who already play at an advanced beginner/intermediate level, but are new to Irish music.

(NOTE: This class for intermediate to advanced fiddlers is offered once in the morning and repeated in the afternoon) We’ll look at what makes Cape Breton music different from other music. We’ll talk a lot about bowing and how this gives the fiddle style its ‘accent,’ as well as common fingered embellishments that you’ll hear in the style. Listening to recordings will also be a part of the class. We’ll use this as part of our ear training to identify common stylistic features and apply them in our own music. The class will be taught mostly by ear and we’ll talk about ways to improve your ear training. We’ll learn jigs and reels, and march, strathspey & reel sets, as the class desires.

Learn the fiddle from scratch in a week! This class offers complete beginners an introduction to playing Irish traditional music on the fiddle. You will learn how to hold the fiddle, good bow-hold, left-hand position, notation and the basic scales. We will learn some simple tunes by ear. Bring a violin and a desire to learn.

FIDDLE TECHNIQUE A (Andrew Finn Magill)
This class will be a mechanics class for Irish fiddling: What’s that bowing? What finger do you use? When do you ornament? We will go through each ornament and bowing pattern fiddle style by fiddle style and even fiddler by fiddler. We will also discuss the technique of the fiddle/violin itself and how to reduce risk of injury and adapt classical violin technique to a fiddle context. We will discuss how to practice traditional Irish music and how to maximize one’s practice time. This class is best suited for fiddlers who have some facility with the instrument and who are willing to be challenged. The class will be taught entirely by ear, however sheet music and other resources will be shared via a Dropbox folder.

FIDDLE TECHNIQUE B (Caitlin Warbelow)
Oftentimes, technique becomes a limiting factor on the journey to fiddle mastery. This often-neglected topic is well worth studying if you want to improve your sound quality, increase your speed while keeping a clean tone, expand your technical ability, and prevent unnecessary aches and pains. This class is for those who already play fiddle at an intermediate level, but wish to improve their technical skills. Over the week, we’ll put together a toolbox of technical skills (bowings and bow technique, ornamentation and left-hand technique, string crossings, a discussion of lilt, basic music theory, posture, troubleshooting strategies for common issues, etc.) that you can use in pursuit of good tone and ease of playing. While discussing technique, we’ll learn a few tunes by ear. The class will be customized to the needs of the students, so feel free to bring questions of interest! All tunes will be taught by ear; some handouts will be distributed as well.



Flute and Tinwhistle

This class is designed for those who have just started playing Irish music on the flute. It will cover the basics of ornamentation and phrasing. Some time will be spent on tone production and the mechanics of playing a flute. Players coming from the tinwhistle or from another flute discipline will find this class particularly useful. The class is taught by ear but sheet music is available for those that need it.

In this one-size-fits-all flute series we’ll cover the fundamentals of playing alongside a ‘how-to-practice’ method with insight into how to approach session playing. We’ll learn a few tunes but the emphasis will be on establishing foundations for you to take home and apply throughout your own learning as well as answering any questions you may have. Students will learn how to ornament tunes with rolls, cuts, taps, smears and tongue-ing. Where appropriate and where requested, we can take a deep dive into these skills and topics to a more advanced level with more attention given to ornamentation, breathing, style and repertoire, while continuing to emphasize rhythm and phrasing in the music. Tunes will be taught by ear but ABC notation will be provided for those who need it.

This class covers all of the aspects of Irish flute playing – ornamentation, phrasing, breathing and rhythm. Some time will also be spent on repertoire and in developing a personal style. We will learn a few tunes and then ‘de-construct’ those tunes to help us understand different styles. Students should be proficient in playing tunes at a moderate tempo. The class is taught by ear but sheet music is available for those that need it.

This class is for students with no prior experience of the tinwhistle. Instruction will start with the most fundamental techniques and a few very simple tunes. By the end of the week, you’ll be well on your way to playing. Please have a tinwhistle in the key of D.

In this class, we will fine-tune basic ornaments (the rolls and cuts that are built into tunes). Music will be taught slowly and clearly by ear. Participants will have an opportunity to become stronger aural learners, and to tap into a suitable group rhythm. We will also listen to classic recordings and discuss what we like about each player. Bring along a tinwhistle in the key of D, and one tune you feel comfortable sharing.

This class will give advancing players a chance to examine style and repertoire. We will work on rhythmic feel, ornamentation and breathing/phrasing. We will practice switching from one tune to another, and we will talk about effective, efficient ways to learn by ear, and to expand repertoire. We will also listen to classic recordings and discuss what we like about each player. Bring along a tinwhistle in the key of D, and a list of all the tunes you feel comfortable playing by yourself.




INTRO TO CELTIC HARP (Billy Jackson & Gráinne Hambly)
The beginning student (players with some basic playing experience and upwards) will be introduced to the fundamentals of this grand and ancient instrument, including basic harp technique (e.g. hand position, posture etc). Arrangements of simple Scottish and Irish melodies will be taught by ear, with written music provided as back-up. Billy and Gráinne will each lead the class at various times during the week. Students are kindly requested to be tuned and prepared in advance.

Class topics will include arranging and ornamentation taught in the context of specific tunes, and the accompaniment of voice and other instruments. A selection of Scottish and Irish material will be taught at a more advanced level and individual interests of participants will be taken into account where possible. Billy and Gráinne will each lead the class at various times during the week. Students are kindly requested to be tuned and prepared in advance of the class. Teaching will be by ear with written music provided as back up.



Fretted Instruments

This class will explore the world of possibilities presented by traditional Irish, Scottish and Breton repertoire arranged for solo fingerstyle guitar. Some tablature will be offered, but students will also create their own individual settings of airs, jigs, reels and the 18th-century harp music of Turlough O’Carolan, sharing arrangement ideas in an informal, hands-on environment. Alternate tunings such as DADGAD, “Canine” tuning (CGCGCD) and “Werewolf” tuning (CGDGAD) will be used extensively to open up the instrument’s full sonic potential. A good time will be had by all.

This class is for newer guitarists and those new to Irish traditional music. Students will learn chord shapes and patterns for DADGAD guitar tuning and strumming patterns for jigs, reels and other melodies. We will focus on common keys within Irish traditional music, how to be creative with your own playing, and also discuss the ‘ins and outs’ of playing with others. Chord charts will be provided.

In this class for advanced students, players will further master different strumming techniques to a variety of types of tunes, add dynamics to their playing through syncopation and emphasis, confident chord substitutions, fingerpicking techniques, tips and tricks for playing in sessions, how to work out the right chords for tunes and alternate tunings for the guitar. Students should be familiar and comfortable with strumming, have a good working knowledge of Irish music and of music theory. Chord sheets in dropped-D tuning will be provided. Students should bring a capo.

This intermediate-level class will focus on making traditional Celtic tunes come to life, flatpicked on steel-string guitar. We’ll discuss technique, lift, ornamentation, and other facets of making Irish, Scottish and Breton tunes sound authentic on guitar, as well as alternate tunings, capo techniques and methods for picking up tunes by ear. Sheet music and tab will be available if required. Students should bring a capo.

This class will focus on approaches to song accompaniment using the unique DADGAD tuning. We’ll start with an introduction to the tuning, so no previous experience is necessary, and then we’ll explore the different rhythmic and harmonic possibilities that it affords. Particular emphasis will be placed on chord voicings and rhythm-hand techniques. Participants need not be singers and most of what we cover will also be applicable to ‘tune’ accompaniment.

(Will MacMorran)
In this intermediate/advanced level class, we will strengthen our knowledge of the guitar’s fretboard while building an array of right-hand rhythmic possibilities. We will also learn to use the Nashville Number System as it pertains to chording traditional music. Using DADGAD tuning for counter-melodies, syncopation, and reharmonization, we will explore ways to be an invaluable addition to any musical setting. By the end of class, we will have explored techniques to accompany tunes on the fly, and given new life to the music you already play.

In this class we will explore the first basic chord structures for backing tunes and songs, rhythmic patterns in Celtic music, and then explore further into counter-melodies, hammer-ons, and other techniques used to make bouzouki accompaniment dynamic and unique. Students should bring a bouzouki, pick, and capo.

MANDOLIN I (Dave Cory)
This will be a primer for Irish music on the mandolin. We’ll learn about tune types, navigating the fretboard in GDAE tuning, building fundamental ergonomics and picking mechanics, and work on a balanced selection of basic easy-to-learn tunes. I’ll provide notation for everything we learn, but will emphasize playing by ear throughout the week, while incorporating enough music theory to give a solid technical context.

In this class, we will focus on more complex playing aspects. We will work on advanced repertoire, develop a wider range of ornamentation and tonal control, approach quicker tempos, using double stops and harmony in ornamentation, adapting to the dynamics of other instruments, and a lot more.

TENOR BANJO (Eamon O’Leary)
In this course for banjoists of all levels, Eamon will cover right- and left-hand technique, ornamentation, tune settings, and different banjo styles. Tunes that are particularly well-suited to the banjo will also be incorporated into the class.




UILLEANN PIPES (Cillian Vallely)
This class will focus on tunes from the standard piping repertoire and their associated piping techniques. Through the teaching of new tunes, we will examine standard piping elements such as rolls, crans and triplets, and also look at how to get the best sound from the instrument in terms of tone and tuning. We will spend some time looking at the various styles of playing and how to develop the music from the basic melody through the use of ornamentation and melodic and rhythmic variation. We will also look at regulator accompaniment for those with full sets and we will try to cover the various tune types associated with traditional music. A device to record the classes will be essential as the class will be taught by ear and it is expected that a lot of what you learn at the class will be of use between classes. For those who require it, musical notation can be made available at the end to take home. Intermediate and advanced players will benefit the most from this class.

In this class for B/C accordion, a specific tune will be assigned to the class each day, and learned by ear. Attention will be paid to posture in general, fingering technique, hand position, air button control, the understanding/internalizing of a tune, phrasing and ornamentation. Different playing styles will be demonstrated and discussed, along with listening recommendations for representative box-players. Students will also be encouraged to showcase their progress to their classmates. Classes will be taught by ear. Students are encouraged to bring pen and paper, and to ask as many questions as possible.

Have you ever wondered whether you are adding or detracting from a session? Have you even wondered about session etiquette? Or how to manage in a session with beginners, intermediate and advanced players? What do you do when you have twenty-five people or more? This class for all instruments will help you with all these questions and more, including: what session tunes to play; which tunes you need to learn; understanding how your session is effected by social, economic and demographic locations. Whether you have two or twenty people, you can have a wonderful session if you approach it in the right way. Remember that Irish music is inclusive not exclusive. Now go build your session!

This class is intended for students playing Anglo C/G concertinas, and is open to all levels, from beginners with some basic playing experience upwards. It is not suitable for complete beginners, however, and all participants should be familiar with their instrument (location of the notes, etc). Basics of technique and style (e.g. bellows control, phrasing, alternative fingerings) will be covered, as well as ornamentation in the context of Irish traditional dance tunes. Written music will also be provided.



Song and Folklore

From the earliest stories in the Irish Gaelic language – some written down first in the 7th or 8th century – right up to lore current in Ireland, the Otherworld has felt close to Irish people. We see this not just in myths and folktales, but in the lore about tunes and songs, and in stories told of even recent occurrences of music learnt from the Otherworld people or fairies. Dáithí looks forward to sharing some of this with you and to showing that Otherworld beliefs reveal a coherent and meaningful view of reality!

The Irish Gaelic song tradition is one of incredible richness and beauty – both in melody and poetry. In fact, all the great instrumental players agree that Irish language song is the heart of the music. Dáithí has been singing songs in Irish all his life, even before he knew the language, and they can be learned phonetically and enjoyed by non-Irish speakers. We’ll learn a variety of songs, and Dáithí will share background and stories about them.

Each day will focus on two or three songs, learning them by hearing and singing them over several times. We’ll also listen to recordings by a variety of singers to hear how they present, express and decorate a song. Songbooks will be used and the language and social context of the songs will be explained. Emphasis will be on learning a selection of traditional and more recent songs aurally and orally by repetition.

The songs of the Scottish folk revival of the past 50 years cover everything from politics and social change to urban renewal and personal experience. In this class, we’ll listen to, talk about and SING serious and humorous songs by Adam McNaughtan, Ewan MacColl, Alan Reid, Hamish Henderson, Robin Laing, Andy M. Stewart, Karine Polwart and others, all of whom are keeping the Scottish song repertoire refreshed, vibrant and relevant. Songbooks will be used.

Love songs come in many forms; requited and unrequited, broken promises and ‘happy ever afters’ (they’re a bit rare but they do exist), personified songs of love for the homeland and arduous journeys to prove dedication. Jovial and energetic or sombre and bittersweet, Love songs can encompass it all. We will learn by ear with the aid of lyrics.

We’ll look at working songs and songs that chronicle the journey of the Irish people looking for a better chance at life. Most laboured and toiled, many didn’t survive and some made it to the height of power all over the world. Mines, railroads, skyscrapers, ditches, politics, military, servants, – the Irish have left a strong legacy in the physical and political landscapes of many countries. We will learn by ear with the aid of lyrics.


Percussion and Dance

BODHRAN I (Anna Colliton)
In this class, we’ll cover basic position and technique for playing the bodhrán. Students will learn several “no fail” approaches to accompanying jigs and reels, as well as a basic understanding of how to use tonal variation, syncopation, and ornaments to enhance their playing. The goal of this class is to help students to become versatile, creative, and sensitive musicians who are able to accompany tastefully in whatever style they choose. Students are strongly encouraged to bring questions, ideas, and topics of discussion to class!

BODHRAN II (Anna Colliton)
We’ll learn to further enhance our jigs and reels with ornamentation, tonal variation, and syncopation, and work on various approaches to other types of tunes including hornpipes, slip jigs, slides, and polkas. Students should be comfortable with both jigs and reels and be able to play with consistent timing. We’ll examine ways to accent rhythmic elements in different types of tunes, make smooth and interesting transitions within sets, and work well with other rhythm players. The class will explore elements of “top end” style bodhrán playing according to the wishes of the class. The goal of the class is to help students become versatile and sensitive players who are able to accompany tastefully in whatever style they choose, and students are strongly encouraged to bring questions, ideas, a list of favorite recordings, and topics of discussion to class – we’re going to have fun!

Ten Grammy nominations in eight different categories. Three Grammys, in three different categories, almost forty years apart. What does that mean? “Either I don’t do anything well for very long, or I bore easily.” Janis Ian wrote her first song at 12, was published at 13, made a record at 14, had a hit at 15, and was a has-been at 16. It’s been uphill ever since. Her writer’s catalogue includes “Stars”, recorded by artists as diverse as Mel Torme, Glen Campbell, and Nina Simone; “Society’s Child,” which provoked the burning of a radio station and the firing of DJs who played it, “Jesse”, and the seminal “At Seventeen”, recorded most recently by Celine Dion. The musical guest on the very first Saturday Night Live, her list of interests includes technology (her article “The Internet Debacle” was cited in the Grokster and Napster cases), science fiction (nine short stories published in the field, with “Prayerville” adapted for theatre by Sci-Fest LA), children’s books (The Tiny Mouse was a Kirkus Children’s Book of the Year), and her own life (her autobiography, Society’s Child, was starred by Publisher’s Weekly and her narration of it won her another Grammy, for “Best Spoken Word”). A favorite guitarist of the late Chet Atkins, she was also the first female player to have a signature acoustic guitar by a major company (Santa Cruz.) She truly believes artists should know about everything, without limitation, and she hopes passing on some of her own hard-earned knowledge will help others avoid her mistakes – or at least, not care as much about them. We are delighted to welcome Janis back for her fifth Swannanoa Gathering.



Other Events

Each evening, various staff members will lead virtual ‘sessions’, where students can gather in an online community to socialize and swap tunes and songs.