The weekend of 12 and 13 September 2015 saw the first Dutch Irish concertina workshop being held in Oud-Beijerland, The Netherlands. After having organised traditional Irish fiddle workshops for two years, we hosted our first non-fiddle workshop together with Jacqueline van Hoogenhuyze and Ellen Lagerwerf. These ladies, who have been playing the concertina for quite some time, helped us in creating and hosting this very special event.
Invited teachers were Cormac Begley from County Kerry and Jack Talty from County Clare who are both excellent concertina players. But even more importantly, they are very good teachers who have a lot of experience in teaching both beginners and advanced players. In the two days prior to the workshop, they had given two concertina concerts in the Netherlands and a detailed account of these can be found here.
There were 8 students in the workshop who all had different experiences with concertina playing, ranging from beginner to advanced. While the concertina is not a well-known instrument in Mainland Europe, the people who do take up the instrument are very eager to learn! As is usual in Irish Traditional Music, the lessons were catered for anglo-concertinas which produce a different tone on the push and pull ( given the same button being pressed ).
The two days were divided into several 1.5 hour blocks of classes with refreshments and lunch between the breaks. The first block was an introduction lesson where each student was asked to tell a bit about him/herself and play a tune for the teachers. After this, the group was divided into two groups – a beginner and advanced group – and Cormac and Jack both took turns in teaching each group. By having two teachers switch between the two groups, both the teachers and the students got to experience different approaches in teaching and learning techniques.
The main tune that was taught to all the students was the Slip Jig called ‘Na Ceannabháin Bhána’. This is a lovely tune and not too difficult to learn by ear. Once that tune was taught, the playing of the tune got expanded with example chord and harmonics playing. Other tunes were taught as well, but always with the intention to tackle a particular technical aspect of concertina playing.
After the last lesson of the Saturday and dinner, the workshop venue was transformed into a lovely place for a session where everybody joined in to play tunes. Some extra musicians came in for this occasion and Cormac and Jack also joined with some great tunes!
Sunday was the second and last day of the workshop and continued the learning of technique and playing the new tunes. At the end of the day, Cormac and Jack also gave a demonstration on how the concertina works physically by opening one up and showing some maintenance tips.
The workshop ended with all the students and teachers playing a tune together that was learnt during the workshop, where each student could take part on his/her own level, whether it being playing the melody, chords, harmonies or the melody in a different octave.
It has been a pleasure for us to organise such an amazing workshop here in The Netherlands. Judging from the reactions of both teachers and students, this is definitely something that should be done again next year! If you are interested in taking part in a concertina workshop, don’t hesitate to contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Meanwhile, you could also have a lookt at www.airt.ie; Cormac opens up his house situated in Ireland for anyone who is interested in taking courses in Irish music, poetry, painting, etc. Cormac and Jack both teach there as well so if you want to go to the source you should definitely check that out!
We would like to acknowledge Culture Ireland for their support of this event.