Some of you have had the opportunity to attend classes/workshops or secure a teacher for learning Sean Nos singing. With many different regional styles to choose from, what have your experiences been like (easy, difficult, limiting, eye opening, fun, etc.). Also, using SKYPE, Mimicry (using CDs or YouTube postings, other Web Sites, etc.). For those of you that have had the fortunate opportunity of direct exposure to the culture and language, please share with us your perspectives and advice.

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Most of my learning has been via recordings, radio, or bandmates. Here are some exceptions; I'd recommend seeking out any or all of them. (Never tried Skype for this purpose, but I don't see why it wouldn't work!)

Dáithí Sproule - termed a "seminal figure in Irish music" by the Rough Guide to Irish Music - regularly offers a couple of excellent classes at the Center for Irish Music in St. Paul, MN. (Disclosure: I'm a teacher there also.) He brings to bear considerable experience as both scholar and singer, and delivers a wealth of knowledge in a personable and down-to-earth manner.   He's also an outstanding guitarist and accompanist (one of the handful who initially popularized DADGAD tuning); he teaches that as well, and has been known to offer workshops on both singing and accompaniment.


Maighread Ní Dhomhnaill does outstanding unaccompanied singing workshops from time to time; her singing, like Dáithí's, is rooted in the local tradition of Rannafast, in Donegal. (Her husband, Irish tradition scholar and lecturer - and past RTÉ Director-General - Cathal Goan, joins her once in awhile.)

Len Graham does workshops centered on the northeastern Ulster tradition, in which the Scots influence can be clearly heard. Also highly recommended.

Áine Meenaghan was born and raised in the heart of the Connemara Gaeltacht; she does separate workshops on that sean-nós tradition for adults and children.

Máirtín de Cógáin is a wild man from Cork and a mighty singer (with and without accompaniment) and storyteller; he's been known to do workshops on both.

American-born Julie Henigan is an authority on sean-nós (and a fine singer in her own right) and does workshops on the subject.

On the Scottish side there are rich resources also. Names that come to mind: Norman Kennedy;
 Fiona Hunter; Steve Byrne.

Thanks, Shawn. Glad to see all the references and resources for members to take advantage of for broadening their horizons. I especially am happy for the variety of styles you referred to.

Wow!!! I forgot about this discussion (over a year old!!!)!!!! How 'bout an update??? Anyone care to chime in??? I'll see what I can do on my end. Slainte,

Danny

Hi,

I do a class at the Joe Mooney week in Drumshambo every year http://joemooneysummerschool.com/ Its a week long school with classes between 10 and 1 every day. I have had pupils from all over the world; from Irish people with just a  "cúpla focal" to students from Japan, Argentina, Italy, Russia...

The exploration of the language is always going to be part of the class even with pretty proficient speakers, but it never is a real problem even with people from outside the indo-european linguistic family. I would always spend a decent bit of time on the phonetics as well as the translations, meanings, and cultural context, and I have found that that is what people appreciate most. I thought in Tocane St. Apre in France to a group of exclusively French students and found that they had no problem with the pronunciation of the language once we went through it with the right approach. They surprised me because I though I would be doing mainly English language songs with them but we ended up doing nearly exclusively songs as Gaeilge because that's what they wanted.

From my own experience off going to classes I don't want to hear seven songs in a day which I will never remember. If I learned one song well and got a really good insight into it in a week I would value that much more.

Anyway what I am suggesting is that if you do travel to these summer schools try and get into a Sean-Nós class. Look up what ones have sean-nós classes and who is teaching them -you will probably be able to research that person very easily on youtube etc- and maybe ask people who have been what they thought of the class.  A week with a good instructor is worth more than all the videos and cds you can get your hand on.

Bua is beannacht,

Lorcán

Hey Lorcan. Thanks for posting your observations in this discussion.

I agree with you on the points and value of having access to a teacher, especially one knowledgeable enough to be able to take the time to explain all the aspects you cited in your comment. Unfortunately, many of us have financial obstacles that force us to use "CD Mimicry" to learn a song (myself included). When I lived in Pennsylvania, I was honoured to have a large group of people that helped me grow as a musician and singer of traditional Irish Music. Now, after relocating to Rhode Island, I find it hard to locate individuals that are pure Trad Irish Musicians and Singers. I had gone to what was called a seisiun, only to find a mixture of Americana, Blues and Country Music with only a smattering of what I was taught as pure Irish Trad. I'm sure they are out there but I still haven't found them. Yes, there are some classes at some Irish Heritage & Language Centres, but they are usually cost prohibitive or at a distance that doesn't work for me.

I was especially interested in your use of phonetics and translations, meanings and cultural context. My own experience in Pennsylvania was with a remarkable woman who took the time to address these issues while encouraging me to persevere. Honestly, I am hoping with each new member we attract to join this group, that someone will step forward to provide that same encouragement to our members. Maybe that might be you. (No pressure, dude!!!) Please continue to add your comments and observations to our comment wall or discussions. Slainte,

Danny

Yeah Domhnaill, cost is the big issue alright, that's why I would reccommend a week long school if you are seriously thinking of attending masterclass sort of sessions. It might be something you would do once in your life -although some people make the Willie Clancy a yearly pilgrimage- and it might include a wider holiday taking in other things as well. The thing is once you start travelling a bit of distance it becomes an expensive trip so you need to get a bit of "economy of scale" so to speak; into the endeavor.

re the phonetics, I think this is really important and it is very hard to do it when you are not in the same space as the pupil. -For are a few reasons; the quality of the aural signal has to be perfect  and that is not often the case on skype or the likes; there is a bit of pointing and hand signalling and phonetic exercises/illustration involved.

I would always teach people to recognise the orthographic patters of the written language so that they can then pronounce lyrics from other songs. Thats very important in my view.

Oh I can empathise re the Irish music sessions, thats a bit of a cod.

beir bua,

Lorcán



Dhomhnaill A. Lopez said:

Hey Lorcan. Thanks for posting your observations in this discussion.

I agree with you on the points and value of having access to a teacher, especially one knowledgeable enough to be able to take the time to explain all the aspects you cited in your comment. Unfortunately, many of us have financial obstacles that force us to use "CD Mimicry" to learn a song (myself included). When I lived in Pennsylvania, I was honoured to have a large group of people that helped me grow as a musician and singer of traditional Irish Music. Now, after relocating to Rhode Island, I find it hard to locate individuals that are pure Trad Irish Musicians and Singers. I had gone to what was called a seisiun, only to find a mixture of Americana, Blues and Country Music with only a smattering of what I was taught as pure Irish Trad. I'm sure they are out there but I still haven't found them. Yes, there are some classes at some Irish Heritage & Language Centres, but they are usually cost prohibitive or at a distance that doesn't work for me.

I was especially interested in your use of phonetics and translations, meanings and cultural context. My own experience in Pennsylvania was with a remarkable woman who took the time to address these issues while encouraging me to persevere. Honestly, I am hoping with each new member we attract to join this group, that someone will step forward to provide that same encouragement to our members. Maybe that might be you. (No pressure, dude!!!) Please continue to add your comments and observations to our comment wall or discussions. Slainte,

Danny

a Dhomhnaill ,

    You've found a trad singer from R.I., work in Providence, who is 'chancer' enough to sing sean-nós as Gaeilge. If you'd like to get together I can get you on some sort of track that you'd like to be on, if I can. I've been at this a long time. email me at

Sheila_Hogg@brown.edu

beannacht leat,

Sighle

Lorcán Mac Mathúna said:

Yeah Domhnaill, cost is the big issue alright, that's why I would reccommend a week long school if you are seriously thinking of attending masterclass sort of sessions. It might be something you would do once in your life -although some people make the Willie Clancy a yearly pilgrimage- and it might include a wider holiday taking in other things as well. The thing is once you start travelling a bit of distance it becomes an expensive trip so you need to get a bit of "economy of scale" so to speak; into the endeavor.

re the phonetics, I think this is really important and it is very hard to do it when you are not in the same space as the pupil. -For are a few reasons; the quality of the aural signal has to be perfect  and that is not often the case on skype or the likes; there is a bit of pointing and hand signalling and phonetic exercises/illustration involved.

I would always teach people to recognise the orthographic patters of the written language so that they can then pronounce lyrics from other songs. Thats very important in my view.

Oh I can empathise re the Irish music sessions, thats a bit of a cod.

beir bua,

Lorcán



Dhomhnaill A. Lopez said:

Hey Lorcan. Thanks for posting your observations in this discussion.

I agree with you on the points and value of having access to a teacher, especially one knowledgeable enough to be able to take the time to explain all the aspects you cited in your comment. Unfortunately, many of us have financial obstacles that force us to use "CD Mimicry" to learn a song (myself included). When I lived in Pennsylvania, I was honoured to have a large group of people that helped me grow as a musician and singer of traditional Irish Music. Now, after relocating to Rhode Island, I find it hard to locate individuals that are pure Trad Irish Musicians and Singers. I had gone to what was called a seisiun, only to find a mixture of Americana, Blues and Country Music with only a smattering of what I was taught as pure Irish Trad. I'm sure they are out there but I still haven't found them. Yes, there are some classes at some Irish Heritage & Language Centres, but they are usually cost prohibitive or at a distance that doesn't work for me.

I was especially interested in your use of phonetics and translations, meanings and cultural context. My own experience in Pennsylvania was with a remarkable woman who took the time to address these issues while encouraging me to persevere. Honestly, I am hoping with each new member we attract to join this group, that someone will step forward to provide that same encouragement to our members. Maybe that might be you. (No pressure, dude!!!) Please continue to add your comments and observations to our comment wall or discussions. Slainte,

Danny

One volume

ornamentation to reflect emotion, not singing softly and then loudly

while free rhythm is in keeping with tradition, don't be too free (unfortunately that's very subjective)

there should be a noticeable distinction between your slows airs and lively tunes

sitting or standing very still, using a chair for support to stand behind and rest your hands on during performing is allowed

minimal tuning before performing is allowed so you have it in the right key (but for the love of God, please don't tune the whole song like several of competitors did at Fleadh Cheoil this year, it took 4 hours to get through 15 singers because of that)

ALSO, Judges at the Fleadh this year said they preferred if people stuck to one region, showing an expertise in the songs of a certain area or a certain singing style (this was shocking to me in that they didn't appreciate someone who wanted to learn different songs and styles and present them, they seem to want only one style represented at the fleadh per singer, I suppose if you sing in varying styles it makes it difficult for an adjudicator to score someone is they use a style they don't like as a way to differentiate between competitors.)

The issue of teaching and coaching is a tough one for me. I never feel as I get a straight answer from the many people I have approached. It could be they think it is too much of a project and don't want to take me on.

I have been told I have no place in trad music and I've been told I'm throwing in the towel too soon and should keep singing. And this is from people who heard the exact same songs.

Being in the over 50 crowd, I find native singers in Ireland often interpret my singing as an attempt to change the tradition, not realizing that--even though I'm older-- I am only about nine years into learning it. Many of the songs I learned while in Ireland as a young child are not considered appropriate as they reflect--how shall I put it--the mixed company of the areas where my family settled. But I think we should welcome in a couple of Thomas Moore songs since a message of Peace is really important. 

While I understand this issue of what is really "Irish" and adhere to it when competing, I was quite perplexed by songs such as the Humours of Whiskey making their way into the Fleadh competition. And that some of the singers played to the crowd, gestured with their hands. These were singers who --in some instances-- were placed in the top three. These were singers with coaches and teachers.

In fact, I will be honest and say I felt an overall "Americans Need Not Apply" when it came to the singing in English categories for women this year at the Fleadh. But that could just be me. 

That being said a person representing America was given a medal in the men's division, I think first. And there have been a few American winners in the past.

Bottom line, I wish I didn't have to introduce myself any time I sing, whether it be a singing session or in a fleadh cheoil, in fact I wish people couldn't see me or hear me talk or know anything about me, for it seems with growing frequency, people are incorporating what THEY want to project on me and my singing, instead of just listening.

It seems to be that coaches and teachers could be  changing what's considered appropriate and not sharing in a general way which would make the competition field even. Not being able to secure a coach or teacher has me doing far more speculating. But I still hope to find that person who has the key that can unlock the door to traditional singing for me. Until then, I'm content to serenade at the threshold. And truth be told, I think they can hear me through the door! 

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