(Photo courtesy of Jeremy Sibson.)
I was fortunate to once again to participate in this year’s Craiceann Bodhrán Summer School on the small island of Inis Oírr of the west coat of Ireland. Here are some highlights from this year’s workshop…
This is my 6th time attending this event, and I was part of this year’s Masterclass group. Participants are invited to participate in this group prior to arrival. Classes consist of (4) 2.5 hour sessions with four instructors. This year's instructors included Colm Phelan, Mel Mercier, Jim Higgins, and Cormac Byrne.
Colm’s class covered a number of concepts, from odd-metered tunes and options for voicing the drum. In addition, Colm shared sheet music for some of his upcoming projects and lead interesting discussions regarding methods for accompaniment.
Mel Mercier is the son of Ireland’s first professional bodhrán player, Peadar Mercier. His class was an in depth session that explored feeling rhythms in a number of ways. In short, we learned how to play odd groupings within reels and jigs in order to add interesting accompaniments to these tune styles.
Mel also gave a lecture entitled, “The Bodhrán in my Family, Professional and Academic Life.” This lecture covered his many experiences as a musician and teacher, and drew heavily from his recent RTE documentary.
Jim Higgins is known for his use of the bodhrán as a bass line instrument. By utilizing specific tunings and voicing on his drums, Jim is able to use his drum as a bass guitar. His application of this drum, in effect, means that he his playing both bass and rhythm. His class demonstrated how to apply this concept to tunes.
Cormac Byrne’s class was an extension of Mel Mercier’s class. Cormac taught us how to feel various rhythms both as reels and jigs. As such, he demonstrated how each style can be played within the other for musical effect. In addition, Cormac had us play for almost the entire duration of the class. As such, we got quite the workout session for our hands!
In addition to our classes, the Masterclass was also required to put together a recital. This recital consisted of solo performances and a group piece. You can see my solo here and part of the group performance here. (Note: This video of the group performance is incomplete and a last minute schedule complication meant that members of the class had to leave prior to the performance. This video shows the bit that we were able to perform with missing members.)
This week also included some amazing concerts. On Tuesday night, Ímar gave an amazing performance. Wednesday was no different when Donal Lunny and friends performed in the intimate space of the Áras Éanna.
And when we were not in classes, we were and elective classes and amazing sessions. It was not uncommon to head off to bed well after midnight.
Craiceann always leaves me energized and excited to return to my own sessions and bands. As such, I highly recommend this event to anyone wishing to travel to learn the bodhrán.
You can see the video notes from the School here and find out more about the workshop here.
(And should you have any questions about getting to Craiceann, please do not hesitate to contact me!)