Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Playing for Irish Dancers

(by Marci Phelan)

The Tunes

Ceili, or social dancing, uses mostly double jigs and reels, though polkas can be substituted for reels in some cases. A few dances use special tunes, and waltzes are often requested at a ceili.

Step dancing requires reels, hornpipes (slow and fast), single jigs, double jigs (slow and fast), slip jigs, and set dances.

For all tune categories except set dances, you should have multiple tunes arranged and practiced ahead of time so you can transition smoothly from one to the next, providing music for a long period­ as long as 10 minutes for some ceili dances or a "step about" with lots of dancers ­without stopping. Set dances are individual so there's no need to transition from one to another.

Number of Steps and Introduction

Most step-dance steps are 16 bars long (8 bars on each foot), so a typical two-part, 32-bar tune (A-B format) is enough for two steps. If a dancer plans to do six steps, that means you'll play a two-part tune three times (or play three two-part tunes once each, or some combination).

For both ceili dancers and step dancers, you should almost always play an 8-bar introduction (except on slip jigs) so the dancers can gauge the tempo and know when to start dancing. Usually you play an extra A part as the introduction. This way, the dancer can let 8 bars go by and the dance steps will still "sync" with the typical 16-bar phrases of the music. Slip jigs are an exception, since the length of the A part varies (often being 4 instead of 8 measures). Play slip jigs normally (without an extra A part), and the dancer will simply wait 8 bars and then start dancing.


Tempos for step dancing are precise; the range of acceptable tempos is very narrow for each dance, so it's important to start playing at the right tempo and maintain the tempo throughout. See the attached list of tempos.

Tempos for ceili dances typically range from 110 to 125 and don't need to be nearly as precise as tempos for step dancing. Experienced dancers usually like faster tempos, though the best tempo has to do more with the complexity of the steps in the dance and other factors, such as the dance floor, the temperature, and humidity (play slower when the dance surface is slippery, uneven, or hard­like concrete­or when the weather is hot and muggy).

Special Note About Hornpipes
Hornpipes are often written evenly with eighth notes, but they aren't played that way. Each combination of two eighth notes is swung so it's played as a dotted eighth note followed by a sixteenth note. Sometimes you will find hornpipes written out as played.

Step Dancing

In general, younger and less-experienced dancers need faster tempos than older, more advanced dancers. The main reason is that more advanced dancers do more complex the steps and require more time to execute them. Although no expert has ever confirmed this for me, I suspect it also has to do with the fact that younger dancers, being smaller, take smaller steps. I have seen older and younger dancers both do the same steps, and the younger ones still need faster music than the older ones.

Adjust tempos, as needed. This chart will provide some ballpark figures to start with.

Music Type
Soft Shoe
(One step is usually 16 bars.)
Novice & Prizewinner
& Open
(Option = polkas for beginners only)
Light or Soft JigDouble Jigs120-122116-120112-116 (1)
Slip JigSlip Jigs120-122116-120112-116*
Single JigSingle Jigs120-122116-120112-116 (1)
Hard Shoe
Double, Treble, or Hard JigDouble Jigs (regu-lar or advanced)(Traditional) 92(Trad. or Adv.)
92 or 72-76
HornpipeHornpipes (regular or advanced)(Traditional)
76-82 (at two clicks/measure)
(Trad. or Adv.)
76-82 or 112-116
112-116* (at four clicks per measure)
Set Dances
(Hard Shoe)
Use music for the specified dance.Dancers set their own tempos on most set dances.
St. Patrick's DaySt. Patrick's Day9292 (1)92 (1)
BlackbirdBlackbird(1)70 minimum*70 minimum *
Job of JourneyworkJob of Journeywork(1)76 minimum*76 minimum*
Hurry the JugHurry the Jug(1)69 minimum*69 minimum*
Planxty DavisPlanxty Davis(1)40 minimum*40 minimum*
Planxty DruryPlanxty Drury(1)69 minimum*69 minimum*
* Tempo established by the Irish Dancing Commission and enforced during competition
(1) Not commonly danced in competition.

Tunes and Tempos commonly suggested for usage at a Feis:

Tune And Tempo Suggestions for a Feis

Don’t worry very much about learning these if they are new to you; it’s better to choose tunes you know and are comfortable with playing at a steady beat. (Tempo is the most important part of playing at a feis.) Simpler, catchy tunes are best, at least for lower levels. That said, we do have a few favorites that seem to keep popping up. Also look at other feis musicians’ CDs and MP3s for suggestions, such as those by Pat King, Mike Shaffer, Sean O’Brien, and Dean Crouch.

Reels: 112–116

  • Jenny’s Chickens
  • Chicago Reel
  • Congress Reel
  • Rakes of Mallow
  • Walls of Limerick

Light/Double Jigs
Jigs: 112–116

  • Swallowtail Jig
  • Rakes of Kildare
  • My Darling Asleep
  • Apples in Winter
  • Siege of Ennis

Slip Jigs
Jigs: 112–116

  • The Butterfly
  • Kid on the Mountain
  • Foxhunter’s Jig
  • Boys of Balisadare

Single Jigs
Jigs: 112–116
Advanced Beginner Treble Jig: 92
Oireachtas Treble Jig: 72–76

  • Haste to the Wedding
  • Kesh Jig
  • Merrily Kiss the Quaker

Traditional Hornpipe: 138–144
Oireachtas Hornpipe: 112–116

  • The Rights of Man
  • Pigeon on the Gate
  • Rolling Down the Hill
  • The Boys of Blue Hill

Feis na nGleann

Feis na nGleann was established in 1904 in the picturesque Glens of Antrim by a group of cultural enthusiasts who wished to preserve the Irish language, traditions, songs, music, games and past-times for future generations.

The native Irish had struggled to preserve their ancient laws and customs for years and during the last quarter of the 19th century, Ireland was experiencing a massive cultural revolution. The north Antrim coast was no different.

An Cumann Luthcleas Gael (Gaelic Athletic Association) was founded in 1884, in Thurles, County Tipperary to preserve Gaelic games and was closely followed by the Gaelic League in the summer of 1893 in Dublin. The League's main aim was to preserve Irish as a spoken language and like the GAA, branches were being formed all over Ireland dedicated to keeping the language alive.

It was the establishment of a branch in Belfast that stirred interest in the North. Its president was Glenarm historian and leading Gaelic scholar Eoin MacNeill. He could recall Irish being spoken in the Glens during his childhood and wished to see the language spoken with pride once again. League branches were soon formed in the Glens with ceilidthe (dances) arranged, visits to historical places, language classes and concerts.

The Irish language was spoken universally in the glens and Rathlin Island up until the 1850s, making it one of the last Gaeltacht areas in Ulster. Spoken Irish suffered as a result of the Antrim Coast Road being established in the 1850s, bringing with it trade and the English language. English was no stranger to the area, with the 17th century plantation introducing the language as well as Scots Gaelic and the dialect Lallans.

Although the native language was adopted by many newcomers, significant factors including the potato blight of 1840s Ireland which resulted in An Gorta Mor (The Great Famine) and the introduction of assisted immigration saw the number of Irish speakers significantly reduced.

The English language was associated with trade and prosperity by many native Irish speakers. The English-speaking landed gentry who arrived during the Plantation lived comfortably in what was referred to as the 'big houses', confounding the belief of many poor Catholics living in poverty under the landlord regime that English would bring them wealth.

Dr Douglas Hyde, Professor of Irish at the National University, recognised the need for Irishmen and women to show that they were a distinct nationality from their English suppressors and the Glensfolk turned out for the first Feis, showing strong support for his theory. In an 1892 speech to the Irish National Literary Society he pointed out that 'in order to de-Anglicise ourselves we must arrest the decay of the language'.

Fellow Gaelic League member Francis Joseph Bigger, a lawyer-historian from Belfast, came up with the idea of the Feis with friends, including Sam Waddel, Fred Hughes, Dennis McCullough, Joseph Campbell and his sister, whilst holidaying in Cushendun. Joseph was a Protestant Nationalist and an Irish language and history enthusiast. He pledged money to the preservation of high crosses, patriot graves and castles throughout Ireland. He was one of many professional and wealthy Protestants which supported the revival of Irish language and past-times.

They were enthusiastic in their approach and met with prominent Glensfolk on the February 28, 1904 to lay the foundations of the great cultural festival, and preparations began from that day forth.

English born Ada Mc Neill, who lived in Cushendun was a member of the founding committee. A staunch Nationalist and a member of the Gaelic League, she embraced the revival and rejected the views of her Unionist family. Miss Ada, as she was affectionately known in the Glens, represented the Glenswomen on the first Feis committee alongside Rose Young, of the Unionist Young family from Galgorm Manor, Ballymena and Margaret Dobbs, a language enthusiast and scholar from Portnagolan House, Cushendall, to name but a few. The festival's first president was Barbara McDonnell of Monavart, Cushendall.

Great companion of young Roger Casement, a fellow Feis committee member, Mc Neill and Dobbs were greatly influenced by the young man who often resided at Magheraintemple, Glenshesk at the 'big house' of his Uncle John, a well respected member of the Unionist community.

The Feis was established at a time when there was growing support for the Home Rule movement which sought to give Ireland more say in how the country was governed and abolish direct rule from London.

On Thursday June 30, 1904 the inaugural Feis na nGleann was held in Glenarriff, the Queen of the Glens. A procession from Cushendall was led by pipers from Armagh with banners representing the nine glens and also the clans of North Antrim. Native speakers of Irish still existed in Glendun, Glenariff and Rathlin.

Rathlin Island was magnificently represented with two hundred of the three hundred and twenty five Irish speakers on the island travelling over on a boat paid for by Casement, accompanied by their own piper.

Hurling, then called shinny, was a major attraction and the Carey Faughs played the Cushendun Emmets in the final played on the beach, with Casement as one of the umpires. A specially made copper trophy for the winners called The Shield of Heroes was presented to the winning team, the Carey Faughs, who still care for the shield today.

A wooden hall in Glenariff held the industrial and arts exhibitions, which were an integral part of the Feis, displaying the craftwork of the Glens people. Called the Local Industries section, it consisted of of 46 sections, covering spinning, quilting, furniture making and shoemaking. It was hoped that by displaying the handcrafts of the Glensfolk that much needed employment would be gained. It survives today as the Arts and Crafts section.

Among the thriving small businesses at the time was a toy making workshop in Cushendall established in the village in 1900, which helped raise the standard of skills in areas such as sewing, knitting and embroidery. A home industry workshop was also opened in Ballycastle, aimed at improving traditional skills.

Irish dancing took place during the first Feis, on a platform in a field and drew great crowds. It is now held indoors over a two day period and the most popular venue in recent years has been Carey Parochial Hall.

Much planning went on behind the scenes for the day long festival and two of the behind-the-scenes helpers were the talented brothers, artist John Campbell and poet Joseph Campbell.

'The Nine Glens', a poem written by Joseph, appeared on the first ever Feis programme and both men were fine singers, often appearing around the piano at Francis Joseph Bigger's house, Ard Righ. It was Joseph who penned the lyrics to 'My Lagan Love', one of many songs on the verge of distinction. His most well-known song in the Glens is 'The Blue Hills of Antrim' which is sung at many a traditional session in the area and further afield to this day.

Music plays an important part of the annual Feis to this day, with choir, solo and group competitions held over two days.

Scholarships to the Gaeltacht allowed children, whose parents could not afford to send them to be schooled through Irish, to spend their summers learning the language and bringing their improved tongue back to the glens.

At the centenary celebrations of the Feis in 2004, over two thousand visitors came to view the Arts and Crafts section alone, which was held in a marquee in Glenariff over two days and stretched to 68 sections, making the Feis even more successful 100 years on.

Monday, December 30, 2013

How to Apply As A Musician for Riverdance

Musicians should include a CV/resume, photograph, video and audio recording.

Please submit all applications to:
Music Department Supervisor, Abhann Productions, 133 Capel Street, Dublin 1, Ireland

Email queries to info@riverdance.com

Irish Dancers At The Crossroads No More

What images do you conjure in your mind when you think of 'Irish Dancing' ? Do you think of dancers at the crossroads in times gone by or the over dependence on false tan and hair pieces that grace the stage today?

Whatever your individual image of 'Irish Dancing', it remains a global phenomenon , from its humble formal beginnings in the latter part of the 19th Century to the jaw dropping shows that continue today around the World.

Indeed, Irish Dancing wasn't always as auspicious as it is today. The Irish people fought against the repression of the penal laws in the 17th Century ensuring that Irish education, Culture and dancing survived for future generations. It is to their credit that the sense of national pride was nurtured during these very difficult times often practicing in secret and following the tragedy of the Irish famine in mid 1840’s, a stoic sense of national pride needed to be fostered. Despite this draconian past, Ireland's culture, traditions coupled with the strong sense of nationalism ensured that language and dance survived.

The 'Dance Master' was a predominant feature from the mid to late 18th century where usually a colorful individual would earn his living by teaching the children of the local gentry deportment as well as traditional Irish steps and was usually accompanied by a musician. The Dance Master also taught peasant children during the era of the hedge schools in Ireland when there was prohibition on the practice of Irish Culture and tradition and dance. The Dance Masters varied in their levels of accomplishment with some teaching only the basic rudiments of the craft in the form of the rising step, while the level of intricacy employed by others involved team dances and difficult footwork.

With similar etiquette to that which exists today among Irish Dance Teachers, Dance Masters seldom encroached on another Dance Masters territory and overall they were widely esteemed by the Community.

Outlets for this new founded skill began to emerge with small sessions engaging in communal dance instruction and open air displays when the weather permitted. Thus in this way, dancing at the Crossroads was born and following the Catholic Emancipation Act in 1829 Irish tradition had had its reprieve.

This practice continued well on into the late nineteenth Century with Dance Masters surviving in more isolated areas into the early twentieth Century. However, the devastating famine of the 1840’s which resulted in mass emigration and the deaths of almost a million people had far reaching effects on the emphasis towards the Irish Language and Culture.

Towards the end of the nineteenth Century as the Country struggled to rebuild it’s sense of nationalism the grip of the Catholic Church tightened with crossroads dancing and such informal gatherings as had become common being denounced from the pulpit as 'sinful'.

The Gaelic League was set up in 1893 to encourage the renewed interest in Irish Culture and the first ‘Ceili’ was organised in London in 1897 by the Irish Diaspora residing in London who wished to keep a stronghold on their own traditions. It was highly successful with many high profile members of the Gaelic League attending and it created a blueprint for encouraging the same in Ireland.

These ‘Ceili’ were encouraged in Ireland by the Catholic Church who wished that any socializing between men and women be supervised and with the introduction of the ‘Dance Halls Act’ in the 1930’s it seemed that dancing at the Crossroads had come to it's inevitable end.

Thus the first Irish ‘Feis’ was held in Macroom, Co. Cork on 20th March 1898 with Irish Dancers competing in Reel, Jig and Hornpipe and Irish Dance Schools were set up to fulfill the growing demand for tuition.

Irish Dancing continued to flourish throughout the 1930’s and 40’s with the introduction of ‘An Coimisiún le Rincí Gaelacha’ which was set up by Conradh na Gaeilge in 1929 to promote and preserve the skill of Irish Dancing and to aid in the running of Feiseanna. Feiseanna were organised competitions and proved hugely popular. Developing on the Tailteann Games, the nature of Irish Dance Costumes began to change with individual Schools creating their own costume embellished with Celtic Designs most of which were hand embroidered with Collar and Cuffs hand crocheted.

In the 1950's there was a marked decline in the numbers of Dancers particularly in rural areas with many people leaving school early and travelling to Dublin and other major cities with the promise of better prospects and a higher living standards. With the happening years of the 1960’s, 70's and 80's the main Dublin Venue, The Lord Major’s residence, The Mansion House continued to play host to many Dublin, Leinster and all Ireland Dance Championships although this was a controversial period with policy differences in 'An Coimisiún' leading to the setting up of 'Comhdháil na Muinteorí Rince Gaelacha' in 1969 and further differences in 'An Comhdháil' resulting in the setting up of ' Cumann Rince Naisiunta' in 1982. Since this period many other Irish Dance Organisations have been set up Worldwide exploiting areas where previously no Irish Dance Classes existed.

Then in April 1994, during the interval of the Eurovision Song contest in Mill Street, Co. Cork the history of Irish Dancing was re-written.

‘Riverdance’ as it was named, was a line up of uniformly clad Irish Dancers fronted by the American Duo, Jean Butler and Michael Flately in a piece created by the team of Moya Doherty, John Mc Colgan with Music by Bill Whelan.

They took to the stage with such force and energy that the dynamics of Irish Dance changed forever with Irish step dancing being transported into the 21st Century overnight.

Classes immediately saw huge influxes of eager students wishing to emulate the dancers they had seen with Butler and Flately becoming overnight sensations.

'Riverdance' the Show was launched in 1995 to Worldwide acclaim and has been instrumental over the last fifteen years in setting trends not only within Irish Dance footwork but with Irish Dance Costumes becoming lighter, shorter and more embellished with exotic fabrics being used in dazzling creations and spawning countless dancing shows.

The future of Irish Dancing is as strong as it has ever been, since the beginning of the 20th Century, Irish Dance has changed from a rural preoccupation of the working classes to the global phenomenon with exponential increases in Eastern Europe, South Africa and USA. In these challenging times where Tradition and Culture are often looked on as the staples in peoples lives, Irish Dancing has become synonymous with a deeply rooted sense of National pride.

The history of Irish Dance

by Arthur Flynn

The early history of Irish dance reveals a constant shifting of population through migration and invasions. Each of these peoples brought their preferred types of dance and music. There are only vague references to the early history of Irish dancing, but there is evidence that among its first practitioners were the Druids, who danced in religious rituals honoring the oak tree and the sun. Traces of their circular dances survive in the ring dances of today. When the Celts arrived in Ireland from central Europe over two thousand years ago, they brought with them their own folk dances. Around 400 AD, after the conversion to Christianity, the new priests used the pagan style of ornamentation in illuminating their manuscripts, while the peasants retained the same qualities in their music and dancing.

The Anglo-Norman conquest in the twelfth century brought Norman customs and culture to Ireland. The Carol was a popular Norman dance in which the leader sang and was surrounded by a circle of dancers who replied with the same song. This Norman dance was performed in conquered Irish towns.

Three principal Irish dances are mentioned often in sixteenth century writing: the Irish Hey, the Rinnce Fada (long dance) and the Trenchmore. One of the first references to dance is in a letter written by Sir Henry Sydney to Queen Elizabeth I in 1569. "They are very beautiful, magnificently dressed and first class dancers," Sydney wrote of the girls he saw dancing enthusiastic Irish jigs in Galway.

Sydney went on to describe the dance formation, observing the dancers in two straight lines which suggests they were performing an early version of the long dance.

During the mid sixteenth century, dances were performed in the great halls of the newly built castles. Some of the dances were adapted by the sixteenth century English invaders and brought to the court of Queen Elizabeth. One of these dances was the Trenchmore, which was an adaptation of an old Irish peasant dance. From this period onward another style of dance called the Hey was popular where female dancers wound in around their partners, in a fore-runner of the present day reel.

When royalty arrived in Ireland, they were greeted at the shore by young women performing native dances. When King James landed at Kinsale, County Cork, in 1780, he was welcomed by dancers. Three people stood abreast, each holding ends of a white handkerchief. They advanced to slow music and were followed by dancing couples, each couple holding a handkerchief between them. The tempo of the music increased and the dancers performed a variety of lively figures.

Irish dancing was accompanied by music played on the bagpipes and the harp. In the houses of the Anglo-Irish aristocracy, the master often joined with servants in some of the dances. Dancing was also performed during wakes. The mourners followed each other in a ring around the coffin to bagpipe music.

The Irish Dance Master

During the eighteenth century, the dancing master appeared in Ireland. He was a wandering dancing teacher who travelled from village to village in a district, teaching dance to peasants. Dancing masters were flamboyant characters who wore bright clothes and carried staffs. Their young pupils did not know the difference between their left and right feet. To overcome this problem, the dancing master would tie straw or hay to his pupils' left or right feet and instruct them to "lift hay foot" or "lift straw foot".
Group dances were developed by the masters to hold the interest of their less gifted pupils and to give them the chance to enjoy dancing. The standard of these dances was very high. Solo dancers were held in high esteem and often doors were taken off hinges and placed on the ground for the soloists to dance on.

Each dancing master had his own district and never encroached on another master's territory. It was not unknown for a dancing master to be kidnapped by the residents of a neighbouring parish. When dancing masters met at fairs, they challenged each other to a public dancing contest that only ended when one of them dropped with fatigue.

Several versions of the same dance were to be found in different parts of Ireland. In this way a rich heritage of Irish dances was assembled and modified over the centuries. Today, jigs, reels, hornpipes, sets, half sets, polkas and step dances are all performed. Solo dancing or step dancing first appeared at the end of the eighteenth century.

The costumes worn by Irish dancers today commemorate the clothing of the past. Each school of dancing has its own distinct dancing costume. Dresses are based on the Irish peasant dress worn two hundred years ago. Most of the dresses are adorned with hand-embroidered Celtic designs, copies of the Tara brooch are often worn on the shoulder. The brooch hold a cape which falls over the back. The clothes worn by men are less embellished but steeped in history- they wear a plain kilt and jacket, with a folded cloak draped from the shoulder. Male and female dancers today wear hornpipe shoes, and for reels and jigs, soft shoes similar to ballet pumps are worn.

Today there are many organisations promoting Irish dance. The Feis has been an important part of rural cultural life. Children, teenagers and adults compete in separate competitions for Feis titles and prizes. There are group and solo competitions where dancers are graded by age from six to seventeen and then into the senior categories.

There are dancing championships in all four provinces, and winners of these provincial competitions qualify for the All Ireland Championships. The World Championships are held in Dublin at Easter where dancers from England, Ireland, USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand compete for the World title.

The Irish word céili originally referred to a gathering of neighbors in a house to have an enjoyable time, dancing, playing music and storytelling. Today it refers to an informal evening of dancing. Céilis are held in large towns and country districts where young and old enjoy together group dances. The céili can be traced back to pre-famine times, when dancing at the cross-roads was a popular rural pastime. These dances were usually held on Sunday evenings in summer when young people would gather at the cross-roads. The music was often performed by a fiddler seated on a three legged stool with his upturned hat beside him for a collection. The fiddler began with a reel such as the lively "Silver Tip", but he had to play it several times before the dancers joined in. The young men were reluctant to begin the dance but after some encouragement from the fiddler, the sets of eight filled up the dancing area.

The world-wide success of Riverdance and more recently Lord of the Dance has placed Irish dance on the international stage. Dancing schools in Ireland today are filled with young pupils keen to imitate and learn the dancing styles which brought Jean Butler and Michael Flatley international acclaim.

Today there are many opportunities to watch and enjoy Irish dancing. It is still a regular part of social functions. Dancing sessions at céilis are usually preceded by a teaching period where novices are shown the initial steps. During the summer months, céilis are held in many Irish towns. Visitors are always welcome to join in and with on the spot, informal instruction, anyone can quickly master the first steps and soon share the Irish enthusiasm for Irish dance.

Irish Dancing - Ceilidh and Set Dancing

Irish dancing or Irish dance is a group of traditional dance forms originating in Ireland which can broadly be divided into social dance and performance dances. Irish social dances can be divided further into céilí and set dancing. Irish set dances are quadrilles, danced by four couples arranged in a square, while céilí dances are danced by varied formations (céilí) of two to sixteen people. In addition to their formation, there are significant stylistic differences between these two forms of social dance. Irish social dance is a living tradition, and variations in particular dances are found across the Irish dancing community; in some places, dances are deliberately modified and new dances are choreographed.

Irish dancing, popularized in 1994 by the world-famous show Riverdance, is notable for its rapid leg and foot movements, body and arms being kept largely stationary.

Most competitive dances are solo dances, though many stepdancers also perform and compete using céilí dances. The solo stepdance is generally characterized by a controlled but not rigid upper body, straight arms, and quick, precise movements of the feet. The solo dances can either be in "soft shoe" or "hard shoe".
The dancing traditions of Ireland probably grew in close association with traditional Irish music. Although its origins are unclear, Irish dancing was later influenced by dance forms from the Continent, especially the Quadrille. Travelling dancing masters taught all over Ireland, as late as the 18th and early 19th centuries. During this time, places for competitions and fairs were always small, so there was little room for the Dance Masters to perform. They would dance on tabletops, sometimes even the top of a barrel. Because of this, the dancing styles were very contained, with hands rigid at the sides, and a lack of arm movement and travelling across the stage. As time went on, larger places for dance competitions and performances were found, so styles grew to include more movement, more dancing across the stage as seen, for example, in Riverdance.

Irish social, or céilí /ˈkeɪli/ dances vary widely throughout Ireland and the rest of the world. A céilí dance may be performed with as few as two people and as many as sixteen. Céilí dances may also be danced with an unlimited number of couples in a long line or proceeding around in a circle (such as in "The Walls of Limerick", "The Waves of Tory", "Haymakers Jig", "An Rince Mor" or "Bonfire Dance"). Céilí dances are often fast and some are quite complex ("Antrim Reel", "Morris Reel"). In a social setting, a céilí dance may be "called" – that is, the upcoming steps are announced during the dance for the benefit of newcomers. The céilí dances are typically danced to Irish instruments such as the Irish Bodhran hand drum or fiddle in addition to the concertina (and similar instruments), guitar, whistle or flute.

The term céilí dance was invented in the late 19th century by the Gaelic League. Céilí as a noun differs from the adjective céilí. A céilí is a social gathering featuring Irish music and dance. Céilí dancing is a specific type of Irish dance. Some céilithe (plural of céilí) will only have céilí dancing, some only have set dancing, and some will have a mixture.


Sunday, December 29, 2013

Playing In A Small Group

Chamber groups are small ensembles such as string quartets and piano trios, who play music intended for performance in close chambers such as parlors and living rooms, churches, or virtually any venue smaller than a large concert hall. While their small sizes and are ideal for intimate settings, chamber groups can, of course, also perform in great concert halls. Chamber orchestras with fifteen or more players blur the definition of a chamber group somewhat; however, while chamber orchestras are relatively large, they remain small and "chamber-like" in comparison to the immense size and volume of full modern orchestras.

It's the best way to meet people. It's much easier than a party. You go to a party, you wonder if someone is going to be approachable or not, but when you play music together, somehow you're communicating immediately, and you go to that level socially as well. Once you start playing music, you can communicate in a way that you could never do just with words.

You form bonds with people you might not otherwise have a conversation with. But because you've shared something so personal, it becomes easier.

It's the ultimate egalitarian experience, because everyone is necessary all the time. Everyone's complete focus is necessary all the time. Everyone coming into the experience understands and respects that. We all realize that we're bringing our best, and we're each bringing unique contributions to the group.

That's one of the best things about it, too. Each person brings something unique, so you have access to the brains of the other people to make a product that you couldn't make on your own. Sometimes there are heated debates, but it's all in good fun.

Playing chamber music helps enhance your musicianship. It’s easy to ‘hide’ in a large orchestra or
band, but in a small group your skills are much more exposed. You work harder to play accurately
and in tune, to listen and blend, to create musical phrases – and as a result, these musical skills

Playing in a small group allows you to be more autonomous and independent. You can make your
own rehearsal and performance decisions, and you can choose your own repertoire. You’re not
beholden to a conductor. You can tailor your performances to your own interests and/or the jobs
you’re hired to play.

Playing in a chamber group helps develop your communication skills. All members of the group
have an opinion on how the music should be played. Listening to all ideas and implementing the
ones that work best help to hone collaborative skills that you can use later on in college, your
career, and in everyday life.

There is a wide variety of music available for almost any instrumental combination. Some include
piano and/or voice(s). Pops, holiday, classical, jazz, etc…. You can find just about anything by going
online or checking with your music teacher.

Chamber groups are portable! It’s a lot easier to take a trio, quartet or quintet ‘on the road’ than a
full band. Small groups fit better into more venues, creating more opportunities to gig.

Playing chamber music is both a social and musical activity. Start a group containing friends you
already have, or start a group with people you hope to become friends with. Either way, you will
have fun!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013


Like our Facebook Page to enter to win a FREE A-STYLE MANDOLIN with padded case, chord book and free introduction lesson to get you started!

All you have to do to be eligible for the FREE MANDOLIN is register for either the Mandolin Group, the South Hadley Mandolin Orchestra, or private Mandolin Lessons (in person or online). Click here to register.

There will be a drawing from all of the entries at 7pm on Monday, January 6, 2014.

(sorry, only new students are eligible for the drawing)

Sunday, December 15, 2013

NEFFA Thinks Paying Callers Is Not A Good Idea

Beth Parkes · Friends with Larry Unger and 1 other said this on my Facebook page earlier:

As a NEFFA board member, I would like to comment on Adam’s comments about the grant request that was not funded. In the lengthy letter explaining why the grant was not funded, it was explained that the committee felt that the financial design of the proposal was not economically feasible. His proposal included a hefty payment to callers and a relatively low admission. The design had a high break-even point. While the committee did question whether he could pull enough dancers from the well-served areas of Greenfield, “too many dances in the area” was not the primary reason for the grant not being funded.

And this is what I had said:  

"I tried to start up a contradance here in South Hadley at the town hall with a grant from NEFFA and the CDSC, but they all said there are too many dances already in western MA and they don't think there should be another one!  I was shocked actually, especially considering that I already have a couple dozen people that want to do it.  And callers such as David and Ralph who have committed to calling the dances!"

NEFFA is the New England Folk Festival Association

Les Poules huppées

CRESTED HENS, THE (Les Poules huppées). French, Bourrée à 3 temps (3/8 time). E Dorian. Standard tuning (fiddle). Composed in 1983 by French...