HomeMoorestown NewsTeaching Irish music is an aural tradition

Teaching Irish music is an aural tradition

Perkins Center hosts an Irish music meet and greet

Christine Harkinson/The Sun: The meet and greet will enable guitarists, banjo players, fiddlers and others to learn how to play Irish music and participate in jam sessions known as seisiuns.

Perkins Center for the Arts in Moorestown will host an Irish music session meet and greet featuring McDermott’s Handy on Friday, Aug. 25, at 7 p.m.

Guitarists, banjo players, fiddlers and more are invited to learn how to play Irish music and participate in seisiuns (Irish music jam sessions) with Kathy DeAngelo and Dennis Gormley, the husband-wife duo of McDermott’s Handy. Guests can either try out a tune or hang out and learn what it’s like to jam together Irish style.

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“I just like teaching,” DeAngelo said. “I like the interaction. I teach people of all ages, and I don’t teach people the same way, because every person is different.”

DeAngelo and Gormley play a variety of instruments, from the harp, fiddle and banjo to the guitar, flute and mandolin. They developed their passion for Irish dance music through fiddler Ed McDermott, who was also the inspiration behind their stage name.

According to their website, DeAngelo and Gormley were inducted into the hall of fame of the Mid-Atlantic Comhaltas Ceoltoiri Eireann during the weekend of the Fleadh Cheoil in 2014. The Delaware Valley Irish Hall of Fame inducted them in November of 2015.

DeAngelo and Gormley have more than 40 years of experience playing traditional Irish music, and they have a different approach to teaching others.

“We all teach music by ear, not sitting there with a piece of sheet music,” DeAngelo explained. “To teach somebody Irish music is an aural tradition. That also happens at a session: You’re not bringing your music stand and your music books … You have to know the tunes. We actually teach by ear.”

DeAngelo and Gormley play sessions around the Delaware Valley, among other places, and are involved in an effort known as the Next Generation of Traditional Irish Music. The initiative, an outgrowth of the first Irish American Children’s Weekend originally coordinated for the Garden State Discovery Museum in 1998, features the pair and Chris Brennan-Hagy teaching young musicians how to play Irish music at the Commodore John Barry Arts and Cultural Center in Philadelphia.

Players of all levels are welcome, and participants can bring instruments including fiddles, flutes, accordions and more. The program celebrated its 25th anniversary with a party in June.

“We had a lot of alumni there from kids who started with us at our program in 1998-’99 who came up, people who have traveled through our program,” DeAngelo recalled. “And it was gratifying as music teachers to see all of these young people come together. We put on a little concert for everybody at the party … 

“Kids played great, and it was very exciting. It was a good time.”

McDermott’s Handy and Perkins are partnering to hold weekly seisiuns in the fall, something DeAngelo is excited about.

“The great thing is that we’ll be doing – almost like we do with our Next Generation – we’ll be doing a workshop, like a teach-a-tune hour that will precede the session,” DeAngelo said. “Dennis and I will be teaching a tune, and then encourage those people who are in that class to stay for the session afterwards … 

“That’s built on our Next Generation model,” she added, “where we teach a tune first, and then get people to play that tune in the context of a session.”

McDermott’s Handy held its first meet and greet in June, an event that brought out many people in the community.

“It actually drew out some people we hadn’t seen for years who used to play at our sessions,” DeAngelo pointed out. “ … We had a really good time. People even volunteered tunes, and everybody joined in with what they did. It was a lot of fun. That space in Perkins (Folklife Center) where they have it is just, acoustically, a fabulous room to play music in.”

DeAngelo hopes that the Aug. 25 meet and greet is similar to the first.

“We’re looking to do more of the same,” she said. “We’re hoping that a lot of the people who came out to the first one will come out again.”

To RSVP for the event, meet and greet, visit https://canvas.perkinsarts.org/events/95.


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