Another successful "Irish Fest" just ended here in Milwaukee Wisconsin. It's billed as the world's largest Irish festival, and runs 4 days.
Every year, as many know, there is an "Irish Fest Summer School" the week before the actual fest. There are classes ranging from fiddle and whistle to story-telling and weaving. The best class, of course, is the concertina class.
In the past, the Irish Fest commintee has gotten top quality teachers for their concertina class, with the likes of Gearoid O hAllmhurain, Frank Edgely and Jacqueline McCarthy.
This year was no different as Chicago's own multi-instrument wiz John Williams (www.johnwilliamsmusic.com/) stepped in. What a GREAT class and what fun. While his teaching style at first seems laid back, you quickly realize he's covering lots of gound. He brought and taught out of a booklet of music titled "Twenty Dead Handy Irish Tunes - distilled and collected in Chicago - by John Williams".
He proviided some annotations and history with the tunes and played them two different ways - his "teaching" style, where he plays the notes as they appear on the page with occasional ornamentation and/or chords, and his "performance" style, where he plays it as if he were performing on stage with furiously fast flying fingers.
The week or classes, unfortunately, went WAY too fast. We learned a lot, played a lot and had a lot of fun. Next year seems so far away.
John also played at the fest several times with guitarist Dean Magraw. John switched between concertina, button accordian and irish flute.