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Showing posts from December, 2013

Playing for Irish Dancers

(by Marci Phelan)
The Tunes

Ceili, or social dancing, uses mostly double jigs and reels, though polkas can be substituted for reels in some cases. A few dances use special tunes, and waltzes are often requested at a ceili.

Step dancing requires reels, hornpipes (slow and fast), single jigs, double jigs (slow and fast), slip jigs, and set dances.

For all tune categories except set dances, you should have multiple tunes arranged and practiced ahead of time so you can transition smoothly from one to the next, providing music for a long period­ as long as 10 minutes for some ceili dances or a "step about" with lots of dancers ­without stopping. Set dances are individual so there's no need to transition from one to another.

Number of Steps and Introduction

Most step-dance steps are 16 bars long (8 bars on each foot), so a typical two-part, 32-bar tune (A-B format) is enough for two steps. If a dancer plans to do six steps, that means you'll play a two-part tune three times …

Tunes and Tempos commonly suggested for usage at a Feis:

Tune And Tempo Suggestions for a Feis

Don’t worry very much about learning these if they are new to you; it’s better to choose tunes you know and are comfortable with playing at a steady beat. (Tempo is the most important part of playing at a feis.) Simpler, catchy tunes are best, at least for lower levels. That said, we do have a few favorites that seem to keep popping up. Also look at other feis musicians’ CDs and MP3s for suggestions, such as those by Pat King, Mike Shaffer, Sean O’Brien, and Dean Crouch.

Reels: 112–116

Jenny’s ChickensChicago ReelCongress ReelRakes of MallowWalls of Limerick

Light/Double Jigs
Jigs: 112–116

Swallowtail JigRakes of KildareMy Darling AsleepApples in WinterSiege of Ennis

Slip Jigs
Jigs: 112–116

The ButterflyKid on the MountainFoxhunter’s JigBoys of Balisadare

Single Jigs
Jigs: 112–116
Advanced Beginner Treble Jig: 92
Oireachtas Treble Jig: 72–76

Haste to the WeddingKesh JigMerrily Kiss the Quaker

Traditional Hornpipe: 138–144
Oireachtas Hornpipe:…

Feis na nGleann

Feis na nGleann was established in 1904 in the picturesque Glens of Antrim by a group of cultural enthusiasts who wished to preserve the Irish language, traditions, songs, music, games and past-times for future generations.

The native Irish had struggled to preserve their ancient laws and customs for years and during the last quarter of the 19th century, Ireland was experiencing a massive cultural revolution. The north Antrim coast was no different.

An Cumann Luthcleas Gael (Gaelic Athletic Association) was founded in 1884, in Thurles, County Tipperary to preserve Gaelic games and was closely followed by the Gaelic League in the summer of 1893 in Dublin. The League's main aim was to preserve Irish as a spoken language and like the GAA, branches were being formed all over Ireland dedicated to keeping the language alive.

It was the establishment of a branch in Belfast that stirred interest in the North. Its president was Glenarm historian and leading Gaelic scholar Eoin MacNeill. H…

How to Apply As A Musician for Riverdance

Musicians should include a CV/resume, photograph, video and audio recording.

Please submit all applications to:
Music Department Supervisor, Abhann Productions, 133 Capel Street, Dublin 1, Ireland

Email queries to

Irish Dancers At The Crossroads No More

What images do you conjure in your mind when you think of 'Irish Dancing' ? Do you think of dancers at the crossroads in times gone by or the over dependence on false tan and hair pieces that grace the stage today?

Whatever your individual image of 'Irish Dancing', it remains a global phenomenon , from its humble formal beginnings in the latter part of the 19th Century to the jaw dropping shows that continue today around the World.

Indeed, Irish Dancing wasn't always as auspicious as it is today. The Irish people fought against the repression of the penal laws in the 17th Century ensuring that Irish education, Culture and dancing survived for future generations. It is to their credit that the sense of national pride was nurtured during these very difficult times often practicing in secret and following the tragedy of the Irish famine in mid 1840’s, a stoic sense of national pride needed to be fostered. Despite this draconian past, Ireland's culture, traditions…

The history of Irish Dance

by Arthur Flynn

The early history of Irish dance reveals a constant shifting of population through migration and invasions. Each of these peoples brought their preferred types of dance and music. There are only vague references to the early history of Irish dancing, but there is evidence that among its first practitioners were the Druids, who danced in religious rituals honoring the oak tree and the sun. Traces of their circular dances survive in the ring dances of today. When the Celts arrived in Ireland from central Europe over two thousand years ago, they brought with them their own folk dances. Around 400 AD, after the conversion to Christianity, the new priests used the pagan style of ornamentation in illuminating their manuscripts, while the peasants retained the same qualities in their music and dancing.

The Anglo-Norman conquest in the twelfth century brought Norman customs and culture to Ireland. The Carol was a popular Norman dance in which the leader sang and was surrounde…

Irish Dancing - Ceilidh and Set Dancing

Irish dancing or Irish dance is a group of traditional dance forms originating in Ireland which can broadly be divided into social dance and performance dances. Irish social dances can be divided further into céilí and set dancing. Irish set dances are quadrilles, danced by four couples arranged in a square, while céilí dances are danced by varied formations (céilí) of two to sixteen people. In addition to their formation, there are significant stylistic differences between these two forms of social dance. Irish social dance is a living tradition, and variations in particular dances are found across the Irish dancing community; in some places, dances are deliberately modified and new dances are choreographed.
Irish dancing, popularized in 1994 by the world-famous show Riverdance, is notable for its rapid leg and foot movements, body and arms being kept largely stationary.
Most competitive dances are solo dances, though many stepdancers also perform and compete using céilí dances. The…

Playing In A Small Group

Chamber groups are small ensembles such as string quartets and piano trios, who play music intended for performance in close chambers such as parlors and living rooms, churches, or virtually any venue smaller than a large concert hall. While their small sizes and are ideal for intimate settings, chamber groups can, of course, also perform in great concert halls. Chamber orchestras with fifteen or more players blur the definition of a chamber group somewhat; however, while chamber orchestras are relatively large, they remain small and "chamber-like" in comparison to the immense size and volume of full modern orchestras.

It's the best way to meet people. It's much easier than a party. You go to a party, you wonder if someone is going to be approachable or not, but when you play music together, somehow you're communicating immediately, and you go to that level socially as well. Once you start playing music, you can communicate in a way that you could never do just …


Like our Facebook Page to enter to win a FREE A-STYLE MANDOLIN with padded case, chord book and free introduction lesson to get you started!

All you have to do to be eligible for the FREE MANDOLIN is register for either the Mandolin Group, the South Hadley Mandolin Orchestra, or private Mandolin Lessons (in person or online). Click here to register.

There will be a drawing from all of the entries at 7pm on Monday, January 6, 2014.

(sorry, only new students are eligible for the drawing)

NEFFA Thinks Paying Callers Is Not A Good Idea

Beth Parkes · Friends with Larry Unger and 1 other said this on my Facebook page earlier:

As a NEFFA board member, I would like to comment on Adam’s comments about the grant request that was not funded. In the lengthy letter explaining why the grant was not funded, it was explained that the committee felt that the financial design of the proposal was not economically feasible. His proposal included a hefty payment to callers and a relatively low admission. The design had a high break-even point. While the committee did question whether he could pull enough dancers from the well-served areas of Greenfield, “too many dances in the area” was not the primary reason for the grant not being funded.

And this is what I had said:  

"I tried to start up a contradance here in South Hadley at the town hall with a grant from NEFFA and the CDSC, but they all said there are too many dances already in western MA and they don't think there should be another one!  I was shocked actually, especi…