Three Clare men are among a group of top musicians who have joined forces to create free Traditional music courses for the Galway-based online learning platform Alison.com.
The new Traditional Irish Music Hub includes certified courses at Beginner, Beginner 2 and Intermediate Levels in fiddle, guitar, bodhrán, flute, tin whistle, concertina, button accordion and sean-nós voice, taught by award-winning musicians. Among the tutors are Clare men Brian O’Loughlin on flute and tin whistle and his brother Conor O’Loughlin on concertina along with Dermot Sheedy on bodhran.
All three are well-known in local music circles and beyond, having won multiple Fleadh Cheoil competitions at many levels and going on to perform and record professionally. Dermot Sheedy is the percussionist with Hermitage Green, who have had a string of successful albums with Sony, while Brian O’Loughlin has recorded in a trio and as a member of the all-Ireland winning Shandrum Céilí Band. Conor O’Loughlin teaches with Music Generation and is no stranger to prizes, including the Siansa Gael Linn competition which he won with the group Dúchas. He was touring with his band The Conifers when Covid hit and he just made it home before the lockdown.
The courses were organised by TG4 live music presenter Doireann Ní Ghlacáin and recorded by Clare musician Liam O’Brien when restrictions allowed.
All the tutors are happy to share their expertise and carry on Irish music’s oral tradition with Alison.com’s worldwide audience of learners. The social enterprise believes in making education freely accessible and has clocked up 21 million learners since it was founded by Galway man Mike Feerick 14 years ago.
Doireann, whose maternal grandfather was the great Sean O’Riada, said: “It’s been a pleasure to get some of the best artists I know together to make these courses. They’re all experienced teachers as well as working musicians and generous with their time and expertise. We all learnt our craft from those before us, and it’s our responsibility and a privilege to pass what we know on to the next generation.”
Brian O’Loughlin said: “I love how the tradition has been carried and passed on and I feel very honoured to be a small link in that chain.”
Dermot Sheedy believes the bodhrán has a place beyond Trad music: “In my course, I teach traditional music but I also teach that you can apply the beats that I have taught you across so many different genres of music. The way the instrument will evolve in the future is by players listening to other styles of percussion and hopping in with that. It’s an all-round instrument and a great gateway for people getting into traditional music.”
With a degree in Irish Music and Dance from the University of Limerick’s Irish World Academy of Music and Dance, Conor O’Loughlin is well qualified to teach the instrument. He said: The concertina isn’t an easy instrument to learn but it’s very satisfying when you get to the point of being able to play a tune and add chords to it.”
For Mike Feerick, having the courses published has been a labour of love. He said: “We are delighted to make lessons on how to play Irish Traditional music, across a wide variety of instruments, accessible for free to anyone, anywhere across the globe. An inspiration for doing this was Music Generation which has, through the support of U2 and the Irish government, made music a bigger part of the lives of young Irish people. We see this initiative as building upon their success.
“Irish music is a powerful part of Irish culture and in our experience as a country of emigrants, we have brought our music to the four corners of the world. If you are going to learn how to play a musical instrument, it is wonderful to be able to learn for free from the very best experts, and that is what this new series of free courses from Alison provides.”
The tutors include:
Sean-nós singing – Nell Ní Chróinín, all-Ireland champion, winner of the singing prize in the TG4 Musician of the Year, youngest ever winner of the national ‘Corn Uí Riada’ competition. Since 2016, Nell has been the lead vocalist with well-known group Danú.
Concertina – Conor O’Loughlin, Fleadh Cheoil winner, former winner of the prestigious Siansa Gael Linn competition with the group Dúchas, member of The Conifers and Music Generation teacher.
Button Accordion – Conor Connolly, all-Ireland champion and 2019 Young Irish Musician of the Year.
Fiddle – Doireann Ní Ghlacáin, recording artist, presenter of Irish television station TG4’s live music and member of the famous Glackin and Ó Riada families.
Guitar – Michael McCague, singer/songwriter and member of At the Racket, At First Light and Téada.
Bodhrán – Dermot Sheedy, Fleadh Cheoil winner, former member of Ciorras and drummer with top band Hermitage Green.
Flute and tin whistle – Brian O’Loughlin, Fleadh Cheoil winner and member of the triple all-Ireland winning Shandrum Ceili Band.
Alison.com is a free online learning platform based in Galway. As a social enterprise, its ethos is making learning freely available to people everywhere. It has 21 million learners worldwide, over 4 million graduates and 3,500 courses on a vast range of topics.
Check out the Traditional Irish Music Hub.