Catherine McEvoy.

Wonderful staff for CIAW's 30th

Hey, did you hear that the Catskills Irish Arts Week is turning 30?  Yes! 30!!

 This July 15-19, North America’s largest summer school for traditional Irish music and dance will celebrate its pearl anniversary with a staff stacked with over 40 of the finest teachers/artists in Ireland and America.  If you are a traditional music aficionado, this is where you’ll want to be this summer, no question.

 If you’ve been, you know that the Catskills Irish Arts Week is an Irish music institution.  It’s hard to come up with a top musician who hasn’t been on staff at one point or another over the years – why, East Durham is where many folks from Ireland who are now household names in the U.S. first spread their wings.  Further, it’s been ground zero for so many fledgling musicians who got their first real taste of the music and culture over the years.  It’s where lifelong memories in the music are made and once you’ve been touched by the magic it’s hard to get away.

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 But CIAW is also where you come if you want to keep up with what’s going on in the world of Irish music.  There, you’re able to stay up to date with word-of-mouth news, learn about things that are happening from the people making them happen and buy some of the CDs you read about in this column along the way.

 Longtime CIAW director Paul Keating has put together a special staff for this anniversary week and it’s stunning.  The group of fiddle instructors, which includes Gerry O’Connor, Sorcha Costello, Rose Conway Flanagan, Bernadette Nic Gabhann, Nathan Gourley, Willie Kelly, and Brendan Callahan, is an attraction in itself.  All brilliant performers and teachers, these instructors cover levels from Advanced Beginner to Advanced, offering something special for pretty much everyone.

 Sorcha Costello.

The wind players are superb as well.  Flute players will be delighted to see domestic stars Siobhan Kelly and Larry Nugent on staff, and the great Catherine McEvoy will be over from Ireland as well.  Brenda Dowling, Eileen Clune-Goodman, and the legendary Mary Bergin will be on hand as well for the whistle players to learn from.

 The button accordion offerings, with options for both B/C and C#/D players, are equally strong.  Instructors include a robust group that includes Patty Furlong, Diarmuid O Meachair (who is teaching C#/D AND melodion), Colm Gannon, and Loretta Egan Murphy, bringing with them years of teaching and performing experience.  In other free reed news, Caitlin Nic Gabhann and Catriona Fee will also be there to teach concertina for advanced beginner, intermediate, and advanced students.

 Brendan Dolan and Michelle Bergin, both very fine players and teachers, comprise the piano staff, while Aisling Lyons and Séamus O’Flaherty, who are coming over from Clare and Galway, respectively, will be there to teach harp.

 Joey Abarta, Isaac Alderson, and Conor Mallon (from Co. Armagh) will be there to teach uilleann pipes at all levels, while Pauline Conneely and Jefferson Hamer will do the same for students of the banjo and mandolin.

 Speaking of strings, Alan Murray will be on staff to teach guitar and bouzouki, while Graham Dunne, who tours with Niamh Parsons, will teach guitar.  Colin Harte is the week’s only bodhrán tutor.

 There are lots of options for the singers interested in coming!  First up is the great Niamh Parsons!  And when he’s not teaching harp, Seamus O’Flaherty will run a class on songs in Irish.  Liz Hanley, of Green Fields of America fame, who has a new album of songs on the way, I hear, will be there as well.  And when he’s not teaching mandolin, Jefferson Hamer will run a class on Child Ballads.  (If you’ve not heard it, Hamer did an amazing album of Child Ballads in 2013 with Anaïs Mitchell. Yes, the Anaïs Mitchell of “Tony Award winning Broadway show ‘Hadestown’” fame.  If you’ve not heard it, rush out – it’s an enduring classic.)

 The dance offerings are once again exceptional.  Crowd favorite Padraig McEneany will once again be on staff to teach set dancing, while Jackie O’Riley will handle the sean nós solo steps and Regan Wick, who is a World Medal Winner and a past member of the Green Fields of America, will teach contemporary solo step

 If music and dance aren’t your thing, Siobhán Ní Chiobháin will offer an Irish language class and Deirdre Cronin will be back to teach creative writing!  I’ve been in touch with Cronin and she’s got some exciting things for folks to work on!

 Finally, there are group classes for kids. Ann Marie Acosta, chair of CCÉ Mid-Atlantic (, will be running a pair of mixed instrument ensembles, one intermediate/advanced for kids 12 and over, and the other at a basic/beginner level for children ages 5-11.  This is an outstanding option for young people wanting to socialize with young folks on other instruments in a structured environment.

 Classes run daily 10-11:30 and 1:30-3:00 and students can register on a full time (twice daily) or part time (once daily) basis.  The CIAW lecture series runs daily at the Shamrock House from 4:00-5:15.  Concerts and ceilithe happen every night from 7:30-9:30 pm, except for Wednesday, when the big barn dance will take center stage.  Registration covers your admission to all these events, but these events are also open to the public, admission payable at the gate.  At the end of every day from 10 p.m.midnight, sessions and listening rooms abound and are free and open to the public.

 At week’s end, from noon-6:00pm on Saturday the 20th, the festival finale will take place on the MJQ festival grounds and feature the week’s instructors in a final blow out event.  The finale is not part of student registration, but tickets can be purchased in advance for only $15 and can be ordered either as part of your registration or purchased at the Quill office during the week.  (If you wait until the day to buy, tickets are $25, so get on that early!)

Gerry O'Connor.

 The 30th Anniversary of the Catskills Irish Arts Week is a big deal.  That it’s been going strong for such a long period is a testament to the strength of the community and its commitment to traditional music and dance.  I know Keating’s got a few surprises in store for the week as well, so you have ever reason to go – hope to see you there!  For more information on the staff, how to register, and transportation & accommodation options, visit