Alabama Folk School turns ‘Irish Folk’ for a weekend

Camp McDowell-a beautiful rustic setting

I’ve just returned from Camp McDowell where I and a great group of instructors helped turn the Alabama Folk School into an ‘Irish Folk School’ for a weekend of music, dancing and craftwork that made all the participants feel as if they had been magically transported to the Emerald Isle itself.

Folk School director Danielle Dunbar is to be commended for her hard work in putting together the first ‘Irish Music & Dance’-themed weekend in the school’s history. Participants were able to experience the flavor of Ireland in many ways. For example, Woodcarving instructor Dylan Goodson encouraged his workshop students to include Celtic imagery in their projects. Katie Cox, who works with Irish Step Dance students in Birmingham, had her group learning Irish Country dancing. And of course Irish music was represented by yours truly & my fiddle students, plus Rick Cunningham and his mandolin students.

Irish FIddle students at Alabama Folk School

I met up with my Irish Fiddle class on Friday night and we got right to work learning how to play jigs, reels and other traditional music of Ireland with an authentic feel. As with many workshop groups, it was a diverse group of adults and teens. Some came with little knowledge of Irish fiddling. Others came with some fiddling experience, and one member had already been taking two years of intensive study on Irish fiddling with a well-respected professional Irish fiddler from Belfast! So I had my work cut out for me finding the ‘common ground’ where everyone could have a good experience and come away from the weekend with some useful new fiddling information.

In tomorrow’s blog I’ll tell more about the rest of the workshop. A great Celtic music concert, traditional Irish food, and fiddling far into the night…those things were yet to come!

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