What We Do
Our music is the old instrumental dance melodies of Ireland: jigs, reels, hornpipes, polkas, and the occasional song. We also play walking marches, slow airs, set dances, and the harp music of Turlough O’Carolan and others.
Our concerts are in keeping with the old tradition—music in a relaxed, intimate atmosphere, and tunes offered as they were handed down from generation to generation in Ireland.
The heart of Irish music is the session, where tunes are played and traded, and conversation about music is the central theme. Sessions can be held anywhere, but are usually the best—and most relaxed—in a small, intimate place like the kitchen of a house or a small pub. The music we present onstage comes from that tradition.
Together we have almost 70 years of experience performing at community fairs and festivals, colleges and universities, folk clubs, and a variety of other venues—doing concerts, workshops, dances, and school residencies all over the United States.
Chulrua has performed at many Irish festivals, folk festivals, and community celebrations around the United States and in Canada. We often combine concert appearances with workshops at festivals, and are happy to play for dancers and appear at demonstration booths to talk with festival-goers about our instruments and the music we play.
Chulrua concerts are generally at least two full 50-minute sets. We try to make our concerts more than just a healthy dose of Irish traditional music; we also talk a bit about our instruments and the different types of tunes played in the tradition, tell a few stories about how particular tunes got their names, and about the musicians who composed or handed down the tunes and songs we play.
Every member of the band offers instrumental workshops. Paddy also offers a workshop he calls Reaching for the Draíocht: Exploring Irish Traditional Music, which presents his own unique historical perspective on the essence of Irish music.
All our workshops can be customized to the needs and interests of local players.
We sometimes sit in at sessions as well, and really enjoy this way of getting to know fellow Irish musicians in the communities we visit.
Originally just a general term for a party, a céilí (pronounced KAY-lee) is now the term used for an Irish dance, where people do jigs, reels, polkas, usually in groups of four to eight, or in long lines. We generally play two or three one-hour sets for céilís, with breaks of 15-20 minutes between.
We usually find it’s best to start with about 30 minutes of instruction for people unfamiliar with the dances, and to have someone call dances during the course of the evening, and may occasionally be able to recommend a dance instructor if no local teacher is available.
Education is really a part of everything we do in sharing our love of Irish traditional music. Chulrua band members have done numerous school programs, including all-school assemblies, and smaller-scale classroom visits, talking about our instruments, the music we play, and the cultural traditions of Ireland. We’ve developed an original handout, “What Is Irish Traditional Music?” that talks about the history and origins of traditional music in Ireland, and shows pictures and talks about the various instruments used in the tradition.