Category Archives: Uncategorized

Theresa O’Grady

Really enjoyable interview with banjo player Theresa O’Grady on the Blarney Pilgrim. Lots of little teaching / learning tips. I was fortunate to meet and have a quick lesson with Theresa over in Ennis a few years back. She gave us a bunch of good tunes – and there are a few good ones in this interview. And hint, the first 6 minutes or so have nothing to do with the actual interview. Kind of threw me off. Enjoy!

Sessions in the DC / Baltimore Area

If you are visiting or live in the Washington DC / Baltimore metro area, check out this list of local sessions in the link below:

Traditional Irish Session Guide for Maryland and Virginia and note one that was missed in the article from my friend Tim:
Monday night Irish session @ Ireland’s Four Provinces 105 West Broadway Street Falls Church, Va. 8:00 pm. Intermediate to advanced players, beginners welcome. Parking behind the pub. Contact

And don’t forget our local Charlottesville sessions on Tuesday nights at the Tin Whistle Pub (led by Augie and Alex) and on 1st Thursdays (usually) at C’ville Coffee (led by Wally, Julie, and John). If you come, ask to be put on the email list to receive a list of tunes played that evening.

Finally – just updated the tune list for the Tuesday Session from last year or so.    Tin Whistle Session Tune List

Liz Carroll Interview

If you play Irish fiddle, it is likely that one of your influences is Liz Carroll. Liz is one of the reasons my daughter and I are playing Irish music as she and John Doyle were one of the first Irish music performances we saw (back in the days of the old Prism in Charlottesville). The energy and enthusiasm she brings to the stage is staggering. And more and more, the tunes she has written are making it into session repertoire. Finally, she is a total hoot. She was also my first fiddle teacher at Swannanoa – truly a fabulous teacher and person and always had made time for the younger musicians. Anyway, it always comes back to the people in the Irish music community, and Liz is and has always been a gracious, kind, and incredibly talented force in the Irish Trad scene. Here’s a wonderful interview with her from the Chicago Tribune.

Tribune Interview with Liz

It’s Never Too Late

Nice little article that discusses some of the advantages of learning to play an instrument as an adult. One thing is sure, we certainly have so many more resources available to us than we did when I was growing up thanks to the Internet. It is good to also mention, that whether you are young or old, learning an instrument does take time, passion, and perseverance. But, at least in my opinion, it is well worth it!

4 myths about learning an instrument as an adult

The Session as Antidote

During this past year especially, I’ve found myself gravitating to sessions and playing more music with friends. I think one reason is that somewhere deep down, my body and soul know it is good for me, that it provides a better model for life than most of the other ones we’re presented with on a daily basis. Let me propose that for a small group of us, the session may represent an antidote for the challenges of modern life. I think there are other antidotes out there, and my hope is that each of you will find the antidote that works for you. However, since this blog is about Irish music, let me put forward a few of the reasons that I think the the best sessions have many elements that our souls crave.

  • We’re present
  • We’re in a circle, face to face
  • We listen to each other
  • We coordinate with others
  • We share what we know and lead when we can, but it’s more enjoyable when we’re not playing solo
  • We find common ground and a way to contribute
  • More do, less talk (but some talk is important)
  • We learn from history and the songs we sing speak of the human condition (love, war, loss)
  • Sessions improve with diversity of instruments and influences
  • We invite people in from outside our community and welcome their new tunes
  • We play quietly and try to learn when we don’t the tune

London Sessions

Some great footage from the 80s scene in London in this mini-documentary. Gotta love the hair too!

Also a short interview with Brendan Mulkere in part 2, who I recall seeing at last year’s Ennis Trad Fest when Claire Egan had her CD release show.

And here are some clips from 2013-2014 sessions. Maybe the more things change, the more they stay the same. Well, except for the hair.

Connie O’Connell

This fabulous resource just showed up in my Facebook feed today and wanted to share it with folks. Connie is regarded as one of the finest present-day exponents of Sliabh Luachra style of playing and his teaching has been at the heart of traditional music studies at University College Cork for nearly forty years. In his acknowledgements on the project, Connie states, “Composing tunes is one thing, but without a listening audience and a community of musicians to ‘adopt’ the tunes the practice of composing is pointless.” So, with those words in mind, please spend some time exploring his website / project via the link below.

Connie O’Connell’s UCC Project – “Original Compositions from a Master Fiddle Player”

The first thing that jumped out at me was that he had composed one of my favorite reels – Torn Jacket. I’ve been playing it for years and had no idea it was his composition. My guess is that Tes brought it back from one of her trips to Ireland and it snuck into our local repertoire. It was, I believe, one of the first reels that Sophie and I taught in our inaugural Session Class at BRIMS.

Personal note: I had the pleasure of meeting Connie on one of the BRIMS trips years ago in Ballyvourney when Sue Tansey and I took a fiddle lesson with him. Connie immediately sensed Sue’s passion for the fiddle, but had little hope for me. I say that with a good deal of respect for his opinion as he could tell I wasn’t playing fiddle much and let me know in no uncertain terms that my approach to learning fiddle would not work. He was kind about it, but clear. He was also right! My on again, off again relationship with the fiddle was not going to work in Trad and he wanted to make sure I knew that. He helped me understand that I had a decision to make – either find the passion for the fiddle or let it go. I can’t help but think of Connie whenever I see Trad musicians who are in that beginner/intermediate stage of learning. Do they (we) have that passion for their instrument and Irish Trad music or not? Because it really takes dedication to get to that next level of playing. To know the tunes and to be able to play them in the style they deserve. I’m still working on getting there, and, if you know me, it isn’t on fiddle. But it is still my favorite instrument to listen to, especially in the hands of people who have the passion to play it.

Paddy Keenan

I had the rare opportunity to back renowned piper, Paddy Keenan, last weekend in Charlottesville. As I’m sure the 5 people who follow this blog know, he was a founding member of the Bothy Band, one of the Irish Trad Supergroups from a few years back now. Definitely one of the musical highlights of my life, and though I would have loved the opportunity to work with the tunes before playing it live in front of an audience, there is something wonderful about being in the moment with Irish trad music. Anyway, here are a couple of videos from the show and thanks again to Paddy for the opportunity to accompany him.


I should also add how much I’m enjoying my new backing instrument of choice – a fabulous bouzouki made by my friend Gil Draper of Knoxville, TN. I’ve been having such fun with it – thanks Gil!!

Trip to Sligo by Bernard Flaherty

When I first joined King Golden Banshee, the guys in the band were kind enough to give me a copy of an out of print book they used as a source of many of their tunes called, Trip to Sligo. Just learned that it has been reissued and is available from Custy’s in Ennis.

Trip to Sligo

Really nice resource (though quite a few tunes are marked “unknown” – then again, tune names don’t seem to be as important in Ireland as in the States). However, found a link to a list of all the corrections / additions thanks to the hard work of Philippe Varlet back in 1999.

Philippe Varlet filling in the gaps