Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann, Mid-Atlantic Region

IRISH MUSIC TOOLBOX by midatlanticcce
March 31, 2011, 4:29 pm
Filed under: Classes / Lessons / Education, NYC


“…the greatest part of their art seems to lie in veiling it, as if ‘That which is concealed is bettered—art revealed is art shamed’.'”–Giraldus Cambrensis, Topigraphia Hiberniae, 1188

A musician plays. But his or her audience also plays in their souls or in their hearts. And if they play along with you spiritually, something else happens…” Tony McMahon

In this special eight-week course taught at the Irish Arts Center, the uniquely Irish aesthetic of ‘art that conceals art’ converges with basic music theory to provide practical tools that will revolutionize the way you experience Irish music as a listener and a player.  The website for IAC classes is here:  Prospective students can find registration info there, or may call Rachael Gilkey at the Irish Arts Center at (212) 757-3318.

The course will be taught in two parts:

Irish Music Toolbox I (Instructor: Caitlin Warbelow)

The first weeks of the class are about relationships and how they affect us: specifically, the most basic relationships between notes and the extraordinarily powerful impact these can have on our thoughts, feelings, and reactions. Intervals, scales, modes, triads, and chords are some words that can help us begin to explore those relationships and how they influence what we can hear, and what we can play. These basic practical tools can help us become more deeply aware of our experience of music, to create as a both a listener and a player. For players of any instrument (including bodhranists and vocalists) No experience needed.  Students who have taken prior music theory classes are welcome to take this class as a review.  Please bring your instrument, a notebook, and a pencil to class.

Irish Music Toolbox II (Instructor: Marta Cook)

“Those things which bring private and ineffable delight to people of subtle appreciation and sharp discernment, burden rather than delight the ears of those who, in spite of looking do not see and in spite of hearing do not understand…” Cambrensis

Is there a “wrong” way to play Irish music? What does it really mean to be “authentic” or “traditional”? What do we mean by “innovation” and “personal expression”? Is this a solo musical form or a communal one? Is it a simple music or a complex one? What’s this got to do with sessions, and what on earth does any of this have to do with “music theory”?!

The second half of the Irish Music Toolbox class explores the different ways in which our expectations about relationships in music create powerful experiences.  Different musical values lead to different expectations. So what do we expect when we listen to Irish music? Do our expectations burden our ears, or delight them? What are the values of “art that conceals art,” and how do fundamental musical processes in melody, harmony, and rhythm reflect these values? Interaction with these questions will provide practical tools to learn tunes more quickly, play them more beautifully, and appreciate hearing them more profoundly. In the process we’ll painlessly acquire a solid holistic understanding of concepts from more intermediate/advanced general music theory, as well as social and historical context that engages timely questions of tradition, innovation, and personal expression in Irish music from rare field recordings to modern commercial releases.

Extensive multimedia support–music, videos, readings–will be available both online and in hard copy. Open to anyone with an interest in Irish music. No experience necessary. Feel free to Marta with questions at


  • Marta Cook is an American harpist and composer. Her music was nurtured by the vibrant Irish community inChicago and by seminal Cork harper and scholar Maire Ni Chathasaigh. A traditional musician from a young age, Marta trained as a classical harpist with Sarah Bullen (NY Phil, Chicago Symphony) and studied musicology at the University of Chicago. She won first-prize at the All-Ireland Fleadh Cheoil, played with Yo-Yo Ma on his most recent Grammy-winning album, and will be featured at the 2011 World Harp Congress.
  • Originally from Fairbanks, Alaska, Caitlin Warbelow is a fiddler and violinist residing in New York City.  Caitlin began her classical studies at age three, eventually winning honors from the National Foundation for the Advancement of the Arts and the National Suzuki Conference, as well as the Joachim and Rice full scholarship at Boston University (where she studied with Yuri Mazurkevitch) and merit scholarships at the Meadowmount School (where she studied with Sally Thomas of Juilliard).  In the folk and traditional music realms, she has won the New England Fiddle Championship, the Mid-Atlantic Fleadh Cheoil, and the Lake Champlain Bluegrass Festival, among others.  Caitlin has toured with many internationally known artists including Cherish the Ladies and Michael Londra, and currently performs, teaches, and records extensively in NYC.  Her debut album will be released later this year.

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: