All three members of Chulrua offer workshops on their respective instruments. 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. This workshop is suitable for players of any instrument and music fans alike. Paddy can also offer a repertoire workshop for experienced players of all different instruments.
Reaching for the Draíocht:
Exploring Irish Traditional Music with Paddy O’Brien
Draíocht is a Gaelic word meaning ‘spiritual power’ or ‘soul.’ This class will give valuable insight into the essence of Irish music. Students will learn to develop listening skills, and recognize melodic structures within stylistic interpretations and embellishments. They will learn to recognize regional styles such as those of West Clare, East Galway, Kerry, and Donegal. Paddy will discuss how different methods of transmission, and even the instruments they are played on, influence the character of a tune. Students will be encouraged to recognize their own unique styles and preferences, and to choose repertoire that suits them.
An older generation of musicians, including piper Willie Clancy, accordionist Joe Cooley, whistle player Micho Russell, and fiddlers Michael Coleman and John Doherty had a profound influence on the character of Irish traditional music. Paddy will talk about the legacy of these legendary musicians, some of whom he learned from firsthand. He will discuss some brilliant individualists, such as fiddlers Tommy Potts, Paddy Canny, and Paddy Fahy. Increasing commercial influences in Irish music have tended to emphasize speed and technical ability at the expense of expressive feeling, phrasing, and melodic creativity. Paddy will suggest some alternative sources to commercial recordings for learning tunes.
Paddy O’Brien: Button Accordion Workshops
Available for beginning, intermediate, and advanced players of B/C, C#/D, and D/D# button accordion.
One-session workshops are generally one hour for 1-2 students; two hours for 3 or more students. Multi-session workshops available for weekend or week-long festival settings. Ideal enrollment would be 3-6 students; maximum enrollment 10-12; individual lessons also available. Paddy’s button accordion workshop offers students both encouragement and concrete tools for improving their understanding and interpretation of Irish traditional music. Technical instruction focuses knowledge of keyboard, bellows control, fingering, ornamentation, phrasing, dynamics. The workshop also includes a strong emphasis on listening, interpretation, and feeling, the thing called ‘blas’ in Irish, which means ‘taste’ or ‘flavor.’ Students will also receive information and advice on good non-commercial recorded sources for learning tunes. Music will be learned by ear, so students are encouraged to bring tape recorders and notebooks. All students receive individual attention.
“A workshop should have an informal environment, an emphasis on trust and encouragement. I like my students to come away with the realization that they can enjoy the process of learning; and with the right tools, they can learn a lot by working on their own. I don’t teach flashy new compositions that show off a player’s technical ability; I like to focus on the older traditional tunes, particularly the old West Clare fiddle and concertina music that’s got real feeling and lift for dancing. I always place a clear emphasis on melody rather than speed, and talk a lot about the appreciation of melody and the importance of individual interpretation in Irish music.” — Paddy O’Brien
Sample one-session accordion workshop:
- Students each play so Paddy can assess their skill levels.
- Paddy selects 4-5 new tunes (jigs, reels, and hornpipes, etc.) appropriate to students’ abilities. Tunes should help increase students’ repertoire and knowledge of traditional music while providing a basic grounding in good playing habits and solid technique.Paddy records tunes on tape twice: once at regular tempo and once at a slower ‘learning’ tempo. Students spend some time familiarizing themselves with the new tunes.
- Paddy plays tunes through with students individually, working on technique, fingering, ornamentation, keyboard/finger positions, dynamics, and phrasing.
- Paddy talks about the importance of careful listening, interpretation in Irish music, how to select keys that best reflect the shape and feeling of a tune. Paddy will also recommend good non-commercial sources for learning tunes. Students have the opportunity to request particular tunes, ask questions, and gain individual advice.
- Students are asked to bring their instruments and a recording device.