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Gearoid O'hallmhurain As A Teacher


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I took just that from him about 10 years ago at Catskills (also took intermediate from Micheal O'R - sorry, can't spell his last name). Knowledgeable, interesting, good tunes, got a lot out of it, fun week in an authentically damp setting.


That said, I can't resist one story from that year. The last day we all met in the facsimile Irish stone cottage on the central grounds with Fr. Charlie Coen (now Monsignor Charlie, who taught beginners that year) and Dr. Gearoid O. They talked about Irish life (Fr. C. born in such a cottage, G. O. said he was one generation removed). Eventually we had all been in there over an hour. It was very warm and rather stuffy. We were all ready to stop. The two concertina teachers had agreed on a tune to wrap up, a hornpipe I think.


Just then a student entered the cottage and asked a question that had already been answered at considerable length. I think several of us were about to tell him we had already covered it, but Gearoid began to speak in reply. Now he is a professor. Being one myself, I know the disease. We never get tired of talking, gads! We all saw another long spell in the hot cottage coming - everyone was respectful of our learned teachers and would not dream of walking out on them in such a rare gathering. What could we do? Just then, Fr. Charlie tears into the hornpipe, saving us all! God bless him! Gearoid is respectful of his elders, including Fr. Charlie, and stopping in mid-sentence, joined in. We all gave rousing applause as soon as they stopped and slipped out for our chosen afternoon libations.


I still laugh when I think of it. Must get back some year.



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G.O. has taught at the Swannanoa Gathering and in my opinion is a very good, if somewhat professorial instructor. He also taught a good range of tunes -- including delightful rare tunes from important but obscure players from Ireland. And our class he shared very interesting stories about those players he has recorded and interviewed during his research. In all, his class was well worth taking.


Or if you have a choice, Father Charlie is an even better choice. His tunes are generally more simple in construction, but his selections are fun to play and wonderful additions to your repertoire.


Ross Schlabach

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I attended several weeklong workshop series with him at the Friday Harbor Irish Music Camp in years past. Good music, good instruction and a great deal of background information. He used to have students play newly learned tunes in groups rather than individually, which moved through that part more rapidly, gave shy players greater confidence as they weren't alone and weaker players someone to lead the path through the tune.


Always enjoyed the time with him.

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I've had more than one workshop with him. His playing and his specialty style/repertoire (pure-drop style music of County Clare) are very much my own focus, so I loved the time with him. His strength and affinity seems to be, filling you in on nuances of style, ornamentation, etc., particular to the Clare idiom, as well as history and cultural background. That's not at all to say he is not a good technique teacher---he is. Excellent at explaining and demonstrating ornaments, bass effects, stylistic emphasis areas. But one may have to ASK sometimes for that input. He is very responsive at eliciting and supplying, what people would like to learn during the class.


A previous poster mentioned the use of groups in his classes. That was the one area I did not care for. The reason being, he didn't just have people play in groups. He sent people off for a good half hour of each 2.5-hour class day to "work with each other" on that day's tune in groups while he circulated and checked in with one group at a time. I find "working with each other" completely useless (in contrast with practice time alone, which is useful). I'm spending the travel/hotel/food/class tuition dough for time with the teacher/master player, not time off somewhere in a circle with students. But he is a delightful, witty, and super-erudite font of knowledge about TIM and Clare concertina, and IMHO a wonderful, wonderful concertina player. The exposure to his own playing, aside from anything he teaches you, was super-valuable.


On groups in classes . . .It comes to mind that I've been in other classes where groups were used, those being in East Clare with Mary Macnamara. But in Mary's classes, you were not off away from her. She just divided the class into groups and took one group through the tune playing along with her, while the other groups remained present, but watching and listening. That was great because you were still there soaking up Mary's beat and swing, getting it into your bones by tapping your foot along with the music, and even doing silent "shadow playing" along with Mary and the group she is taking through a tune. She would alternate that with, everybody playing together along with her.

Edited by ceemonster
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