Category Archives: Trip to Ireland

Sessions from the Shop

While looking up a few items for friends who are traveling to Ireland this summer, I stumbled upon this YouTube channel with several recordings from the inside of Mazz O’Flaherty’s record shop in Dingle. If you’ve been insider her shop you might wonder how she managed to fit 2 or 3 musicians in there… I did!

I’ve stopped by there several times in my trips to Ireland and have always asked for a local music recommendation from Mazz and I have yet to be disappointed in the CDs she’s chosen.

So please take a listen at sessions in the shop channel. Unfortunately, I now have a craving to have a Guinness down at her brother’s pub, and can’t do a darn thing about it.

Connie O’Connell

We had a wonderful workshop with Connie O’Connell not too far from Balleyvourney. Connie not only played and taught many tunes, but also provided some good tips on our technique as well as a few oft quoted gems like, “Stu, you don’t practice very much, do you?” (quite true for fiddle) So, without further ado, here are the tunes from Connie’s workshop. Sorry that there aren’t many names, but if you happen to know the name, please let me know and I’ll update the site.

Tune 1
Tune 2
Tune 3 (The Cobbler)
Tune 4
Tune 5
Tune 6
Tune 7 (Little House with Chimney on Top)
Last Tune

Geraldine, Maeve and Cillian Cotter

Our first workshop was with the Cotters at the Micho Russell center in Doolin. I have a bunch of Irish language WMA files, but there’s not much rhyme or reason to them, so just pop me an email if you’d like them and I’ll send them on in a zip file. Also, I don’t have any recordings from Cillian’s class, so if anyone has those, please send them on and I’ll post asap!

Here are the tunes from the workshops and from when they just played for us.

Listen to Maeve playing Rolling Wave. Note that this is the same tune from Alex’s class called Humours of Trim, so you can find the notation for the tune under that earlier post

Listen to Maeve playing set of reels backed by Geraldine on piano.

Listen to Maeve and Cillian playing Home Ruler and Kitty’s Wedding hornpipes backed by Geraldine on piano. The notation for these tunes is provided in one of my earlier posts.

Listen to Maeve and Cillian playing set of jigs backed by Geraldine on piano.

Listen to the advanced fiddle class playing an unnamed slide which was later dubbed “Goats in the Hostel” by our group.

Listen to the advanced fiddle class playing Drops of Brandy.

Listen to Geraldine playing a beautiful air on tin whistle.

The Cotters were a great way to start our musical workshops!

Tommy Keane, Jacqueline McCarthy, Mairead Casey, and Charlie Harris

Here are two recordings from when Tommy Keane, Jacqueline McCarthy, Breda and Claire Keville, and Charlie Harris, played after the workshops. I’m afraid I didn’t get Mairead Casey doing any of her wonderful dance steps, but Karen and Katherine have some great video footage of her classes.

Listen to First Set of Tunes

Listen to Second Set of Tunes

Also, I was fortunate to catch most of Tommy’s amazing clear explanation of the Uilleann Pipes, so I thought I’d post that as well. Guy will certainly appreciate this.

Listen to Tommy Keane explaining the pipes

Here is a link featuring Mairead Casey dancing to a reel played by John Wynne (who taught us in a later workshop).

Here is a link to more background on Tommy Keane and a list of recordings where his piping is featured.

Here is a link to more background on Jacqueline McCarthy and a list of recordings where she is featured.

Here is a link to more background on Charlie Harris.

I can’t say enough about what a wonderful day this was!

Breda and Claire Keville’s Repertoire Class

Here are four tunes we learned from Breda and Claire Keville at Tommy Keane and Jacqueline McCarthy’s beautiful home in Oranmore. These tunes were from the repertoire class, so if anyone has any recordings from the other classes, please email them on to me!

Listen to Mulhaire’s Jig

Listen to O’Connell’s Trip to Parliament

Listen to Bag of Spuds

Listen to Fowler on the Moor

In case you’re interested, they each have a wonderful CD out that are heartily recommended. Here are the covers and links to each.

Last Stop, Ennis

From Galway we traveled to Ennis, conveniently located about 30 minutes from Shannon Airport. We stayed at the Rowan Tree Hostel, which is right on the Fergus River in downtown Ennis. It was probably the nicest accommodations on our trip. Unlike all the other hostels, the Rowan Tree was quite spacious. It also had a wonderful kitchen and bathrooms and the owner/managers obviously paid great attention to detail. Rowan Tree and Aille River in Doolin were definitely the top two hostels in my opinion. Though I’m probably getting a little too old for hostels (and have always been a bit too tall for the beds), there’s a wonderful sense of “gathering” that you just don’t get at hotels. And, of course, they are very affordable!

After a quick lunch at Brogan’s pub, the next stop for me was a visit to Custy’s Music Shop. They had expanded some since the last time I was there (I think… or maybe my brain contracted… also a distinct possibility). Picked up several CDs there and drooled over some bouzoukis. Theresa drooled even more though… and came very close to bringing one of those home to keep her 5-String banjo company.

In the evening, we had a full gathering of the group at the restaurant connected with the hostel which was a great celebration of a wonderful trip. I can’t believe how much we managed to do in two short weeks. Our trip leaders, Lori, Alex and Sophie, did a fantastic job connecting with all the amazing musicians, and arranging all the logistics. Far more goes into planning a trip like this than any one person realizes. Lori deserves a special thanks as our Executive Director who oversaw the entire planning process and was ultimately responsible for the huge success of the trip. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

I’ll be compiling the recordings of tunes over the next week and post them as I get them organized, so keep a look out for some wonderful new tunes from our instructors!

Galway and Aran Islands

Our last main stop was in Galway. The first day was an early morning jaunt from Dingle to Galway for a series of workshops with John Wynne, Paul Brady and Angelina Carberry at the famous Crane Bar. We all learned a tune together from John before breaking into various groups depending on our instrument of interest. The advanced fiddle players had a great workshop with Paul, who later wowed us with some masterful playing.

While the fiddle students were working with Paul and the Flute/Whistle players were with John, Eddie and I worked with Angelina on a 4 part reel which was quite a workout. I’d had the pleasure of taking a class with Angelina at Celtic Week at Swannanoa last year, so it was great to reconnect with her. She brought a tenor guitar which had a lovely sound. Just wish I had been a little more with it. The short sleep the night before coupled with the drive to Galway left too few brain cells. Fortunately, she taught us a couple of flings after the reel. While she was teaching us, her daughter Shaunagh taught Tristan on fiddle. I think they had a great time. Here’s a picture of Angelina and Shaunagh out in front of the Crane.

Later in the day we checked in at the SleepZone hostel which was conveniently located a few blocks from city center. We spent most of the rest of the day exploring Galway and listening to some tunes at Cooley’s Pub right in the city center.

On Day two, most folks took the ferry out to the Aran Islands which was apparently quite the adventure due to high winds and challenging conditions. However, since Karen and Katherine still weren’t at 100%, we decided to wait a day on the islands. Katherine explored the city more while Karen and I headed off to Connemara which was absolutely stunning.

On Day 3, roles reversed and we headed out to Innis Mor, the largest of the Aran Islands, by ferry. You don’t bring your car over on the ferry, so upon arrival, the options for getting around are walking, tour bus, horse cart, or bikes. Since the weather seemed to be cooperating, we decided on the bikes. We biked out the coastal route where the seal colony suns itself and then headed up to Dun Aengus fort, which was spectacular. We had a great tour guide who gave us some of the history of the Island and Fort. She worked on the site as an archeologist, so it was an especially insightful presentation.

We arrived back at the main town in time for a bowl of chowder and apple rhubarb pie before taking the ferry back to Galway. Yum!

On the last morning, before heading down to Ennis, I ducked into Four Corners Music Shop which had an excellent selection of CDs, instruments, resources and accessories. I only had about 30 minutes, but could have easily spent about two hours in there. I’ll just have to come back to Galway, I guess!

Dingle and the Attack of the Sheep

We arrived in Dingle late at night after a long drive from Michelle and Tom’s home… to find… a fire in the fireplace and a hostel that was completely reserved for us. It was wonderful to have a place to ourselves, and it truly felt like home for a couple of days.

Our first day in Dingle we explored the town a bit, and a few folks went horseback riding. On my quick walk around town, I stopped by to see if Mazz O’Flaherty’s small, but excellent music shop was still there. As I walked up the hill toward the church, I could hear the welcoming flute playing on the speakers outside.

In the afternoon we practiced a bit for the concert in Listowel (see Tralee and Listowel post for pictures). On the way to Listowel, we stopped for Pizza in downtown Tralee which was promptly gobbled down.

On Day two, Karen and I learned a bit about the Irish medicine system as Karen’s cold had developed into a full-blown nfection with fever. Antibiotics, an inhaler, and codeine and she was feeling much better within a few hours. After getting her on the mend, Katherine, Sean and Pam and I took a quick spin out to Slea Head, the westernmost point in Europe, and Katherine and I retraced the hike we took the last time we were in Dingle. It was just as beautiful as we remembered.

On our drive back, we rounded a bend in the road and found ourselves face to face with about 300 sheep hauling down the road followed by a 4-wheeler and a couple of dogs. It was an amazing sight. I was barely able to catch most of the “attack” on this video clip

After we returned from our hike, we went down to O’Flaherty’s Pub, where owner Fergus O’Flaherty (brother of Mazz) let us play some tunes and joined in the fun. Joe and I definitely enjoyed O’Flaherty’s most of all the pubs we’d been in thus far on the trip. It is a strictly trad pub, which was a welcome change from most pubs that switch over to non-trad music at 11pm. I still had fond memories of when Fergus had invited Katherine to join in their session for a couple of tunes during our last trip, so it was a delight to share good craic with him.

Tralee and Listowel

Although we aren’t staying in Tralee, we had such an amazing day in Tralee with Michelle O’Sullivan, Michael Murphy, Mairead Curran, and Paul de Grae, that it really does deserve its own post.

We left Killarney around 8:30 and we arrived there pretty much on time, though we had to ad-lib a bit on the directions provided by the hotel. The dancers (and Sean O’Brien’s right foot) spent 4-5 hours with Michael Murphy in a huge room at the Ballyroe Hotel (wouldn’t it be nice to have that space for our dance classes in Charlottesville!). While the dancers were working hard, Eddie and I went upstairs with Paul de Grae, and later were joined by Katherine, Monika, and Alex. Eddie had a great lesson. I have to remember to give him Paul’s book when we get back to Virginia.

Later in the afternoon we met with Mairead who taught us some absolutely gorgeous songs. First we met in the dance room, but later moved to the piano, which was much more intimate and Mairead’s accompaniment added to the beauty of the songs.

After singing class was over, we were invited to have dinner at Michelle and Tom’s beautiful home which was just down the road from the hotel. Tom’s lasagna was superb, so it only seems appropriate to have a picture of him passing out 2nd helpings.

I don’t think I have ever been to a party with more gracious hosts. Not only did they invite our whole group (25), but also many friends and for dessert all of her students. The kids played outside for awhile with Eddie showing them Michael Jordan moves on the basketball court. All of a sudden it was time for the session and Michelle’s students came streaming in. It was an incredible (to me) assemblage of accordions and concertinas. Shaheen counted 26 in all. We practiced some common tunes for the concert the following day. Then the adults joined in for a rousing session with Paul’s amazing guitar for rhythm. Alex wowed them with a couple of old time tunes which our hosts thoroughly enjoyed.

We could have played alot longer, but it was a good hike to Dingle and it was raining fairly hard, so we decided it was best to get started on our next journey. I would have loved to have played another hour, but about halfway to Dingle, it was clear we made the right call leaving when we did.

The following afternoon, we headed off to perform at Michelle’s School concert at the St. John’s Theater for performing arts in Listowel, which is about 30 minutues north of Tralee. The theater is in the town square in a converted church and an absolutely gorgeous location for a concert. We had a great time and were extremely impressed with the students. Here are a few pictures of Michelle getting everyone organized before the concert and our group performing with our new friends from Tralee. Thanks again Michelle for a magical two days with you, your family, and your students!


We arrived in Killarney on the 27th and are staying at the Neptune Hostel which is just off main street and very near the magnificent Cathedral here. Several folks are talking about celebrating mass there tomorrow.

After dropping off our bags and food, we high-tailed it to Ballyvourney where we had a social dance class with Timmy “the Brit” McCarthy at the Mills Inn. It had been four or five years since Timmy had visited us in Charlottesville, but he hasn’t lost any of his energy or quick humor since we’ve seen him.

After we moved outside and finished the last couple of figures, the dance morphed into a session with at least a dozen different musicians and singers from the Ballyvourney area with a few songs from the on-lookers egged on by the session leaders. After we finished our delicious (and huge) meal on the patio, the BRIMS musicians and dancers joined in the craic. It was a lovely, special evening for everyone and we soaked up the hospitality of our hosts from Ballyvourney.

On Day 2, a group visited Cork and Blarney Castle with the requisite kissing of the Blarney Stone. The fiddlers went down past Ballyvourney to take classes with Connie O’Connell. He taught us a good 8-10 tunes including some really cool slip jigs which I’ll post on here when we get back to the States. He also had some really good tips for the beginners and taught the tunes to the advanced class at a mighty rate.

On Day 3, no classes were scheduled so everyone explored the area around Killarney… some by foot, some by bike, some by car. Our group went out a bit past Kenmare (which looked like a lovely town – we snacked in the town square). Kenmare is on the southern side of the Ring of Kerry and our route took us by a number of gorgeous views of Killarney National Park. Here is one of the views along the way.

The full schedule was catching up with all of us, but it’s all just too wonderful not to squeeze it all in. Sometimes you just have to catch a nap wherever you can… preferably in a field of heather.