Éilís Crean: Passing on 'The Irish Gift'

The  following is a transcript from the LIVE Community Chat held here at TheWildGeese.com on Friday, June 20, 2014 with with Éilís Crean, the founder of a very creative online Irish community called The Irish Gift, offering online classes in Irish traditional music, sean nós (old style) singing,  sean nós dancing, and in the Irish language.  Some editing has been applied for clarity.

The Wild Geese:  Céad míle fáilte, a chairde! So glad to see each one of you who have stopped by for this evening’s LIVE Wild Geese Community Chat here at TheWildGeese.com. 

With us from the U.S.A. is County Roscommon native Éilís Crean. Éilís is the founder of The Irish Gift, an online community of instructors and students who are dedicated to teaching and learning genuine Irish culture through the language and music.

My name is Ryan O’Rourke, and I’ll be the moderating this evening’s chat from here in the west of Ireland.  We’ll now turn it over for the next little while to Éilís. Welcome, Éilís!

The Irish Gift:  Thank Ryan, I appreciate the opportunity to be able t talk about all that we do at The Irish Gift (TIG).

The Wild Geese:  To start with, Éilís, how about telling us the basics about The Irish Gift?  History, philosophy, mission, etc.

The Irish Gift:  Sure I can do that.  I founded the TIG in honor of my dad who passed away over four years ago. Through the yers I realized what a great gift he had given me in consistently and cheerfully taking me to those fiddle lessons for all those years.

The Wild Geese:  Ah, I didn't know that.  That's beautiful.

The Irish Gift:  Yes, he was happiest playing music or seeing me learn it, and he was passionate about East Galway style.  He couldn't believe it when Eddie Kelly said he would teach my brother and me.

The Wild Geese:  Which overlaps into County Roscommon then, I suppose?

The Irish Gift:  Well, actually its very unusual for someone form Roscommon to be playing East Galway style.  The styles are very different.  But Eddie came to live in Roscommon.

The Wild Geese:  Ah, interesting.

Fran Reddy:  Éilís, how is the East Galway style of music different from anywhere else in Ireland?

The Irish Gift:  East Galway style is slower and has many many variations each time you play it, so you never play it the same way twice.

Fran Reddy:  Interesting ...

The Irish Gift:  And the variations are very subtle and can't be jazzy.  There is a certain way to do the variations.  And as Eddie used to say, you have to make it look easy!

The Wild Geese:  So the East Galway fiddle style might be the antithesis of Donegal style -- Donegal having such a DRIVING style.

The Irish Gift:  Yes it is the polar opposite!  Donegal style and Scottish style are very repetitive with choppy bowing.

The Wild Geese:  Indeed ... I've noticed that.

The Irish Gift:  EG has long bows, legato style.  It is also very deep and dark.  Donegal is bright.

Kelly O'Rourke:  Fascinating!

The Wild Geese:  Who are some of the major exponents of the East Galway style, then?

The Irish Gift:  Joe Burke the box (accordion) player would be the most famous.  He is a legend and inceidentally is endorsing my upcoming CD, and may feature on a track as well.  Eddie and Paddy Fahy played for years together.  Paddy Fahy is the famous composer from that region.  Kevin Crawford is passionate about EG, and he is from East Clare.  If you look at our logo, you will see that it depicts East Galway, East Clare, and Tipperary ... there is an overlap there in the style.

Kelly O'Rourke:  Do you play other instruments, yourself? What made you choose fiddle?

The Wild Geese:  I am a fiddle player, but I started off on other instruments and loved the accordion but my dad thought fiddle was more lady-like.  :-)  So fiddle it was, and my brother and dad played fiddle as well.

The Wild Geese:  Tell us more about the Irish language (Gaeilge) classes please, Éilís.

The Irish Gift:  We are the only group in the world that has online Irish language classes.  We have a guarantee that you can be fluent in six months, if you put the work in.

Fran Reddy:  And they're free?

The Irish Gift:  Our cómhrá class is free, and the other classes are $5 each!  Two classes per week, and 10 week semesters.

The Wild Geese:  Cannot beat that!

The Irish Gift:  You cannot -- our goal is to pass along the language.  All the money goes back into TIG to fly tutors out to teach in-person.

Fran Reddy:  Wow, that's great.

Kelly O'Rourke:  Sign me up!

The Irish Gift:  Kelly, would you like to sign up?

Kelly O'Rourke:  Yes! I live in a Gaeltacht, but I'm still finding it difficult to master.  Is that strange?

The Irish Gift:  You live in Ireland,  Kelly?

Kelly O'Rourke:  Yes

The Irish Gift:  We have a new beginner class starting in the next few weeks.  There are 4 in the class so far.

The Wild Geese:  Éilís, you're living in Tennessee now, is that correct?

The Irish Gift:  Yes I am in Nashville and love it.  It's a great city and they are huge into startup companies.

Fran Reddy:  And music!

The Irish Gift:  So, I am chipping away here to get TIG to progress more and the word out there.

Kelly O'Rourke:  Do you think Irish is a difficult language? What barriers do your learners tell you about?

The Irish Gift:  Our online community is better than locally.  Irish is very difficult because all the exceptions to the rules!  And no one wants to go through the rules systematically ... but we do.  And we have had fantastic success.  I have people who have been learning for six months, and they write me and text all in Irish.

Kelly O'Rourke:  Iontach!

The Wild Geese:  Nice!

The Irish Gift:  I feel very proud of that achievement.  We were considering getting a Gaelitacht in the south.  They have one in the midwest, and in Canada.

The Wild Geese:  Like the one up in Minnesota.

The Irish Gift:  Yes, that must be the mid-west one

The Wild Geese:  So in addition to teaching lessons in East Galway fiddle and the Irish language, tell us in which other areas folks who are looking to connect meaningfully with their Irish roots can learn from the Irish Gift.

The Irish Gift:  My dream is to have a cultural center here.  The sean nós singing classes are a great hit as well.  We have the most amazing teachers.

The Wild Geese:  Are the sean nós singing & dancing classes available online?

The Irish Gift:  Yes, they are.

The Wild Geese:  Great!

The Irish Gift:  We also record the classes and have them as tutorials.  There is great interest.

The Wild Geese:  I've done some sean nós dancing at sessions in Galway, Eílís.  :-)

The Irish Gift:  It's a great art-form, right?

The Wild Geese:  Great fun.  Tremendous tradition.

The Irish Gift:  Yes, and so old and rich

Kelly O'Rourke:  It's a great workout as well!

The Wild Geese:  The way you can hear the music in the steps.

The Irish Gift:  You feel like you are connecting to all those who have gone before us.

Fran Reddy:  I'll have to watch it

The Irish Gift:  Fran if you go onto our website you will see the clips -- http://theirishgift.org/classes/sean-nos-dancing/

Fran Reddy:  I will, thanks.  :-)

The Wild Geese:  Éilís ... are you hoping to have another "Ireland Immersion Weekend" (I think that's what you called it) in Nashville later this year?

The Irish Gift:  You know Ryan, we hit some bad luck last year and then I have been flt out working on the album that I haven't though about it yet.vvI will definitely have something.

The Wild Geese:  Good!

The Irish Gift:  I joined the Nashville Center for Entrepreneurs and I hope to make better more reliable connections this year.  It was going to be amazing (www.IrelandImmersionWeekend.com).

The Wild Geese:  In addition to our helping you as a Heritage Partner, Eilis, we want to know if there is anything we can do to help The Irish Gift organise the "Ireland Immersion Weekend" event later this year.  So let us know.

The Irish Gift:  Ryan, that's very good of you, thank you.  Some help would really encourage me to give it another go.  I really want to do it as it is in honor of my dad ... as is the album.  It's all the music of Eddie Kelly and East Galway.  Hope you'll all buy a copy when it comes out!

The Wild Geese:  What you are doing is so unique and genuine ... we want to help in any way possible.  You are showing people what TRUE Irish culture is ... people who only know green beer and leprechauns.

The Irish Gift:  That's exactly it.

The Wild Geese:  So, folks ... any last questions comments for Éilís this evening?

The Irish Gift:  It's been a real treat.  Thanks, Ryan, for having me and for helping me get the word out there.

The Wild Geese:  I was a big fan of what The Irish Gift was doing before our chat, and now I'm their number one fan! :-)

Fran Reddy:  It's been wonderful, thanks Éilís!

The Wild Geese:  You guys are doing hugely important work, so keep it up.

The Irish Gift:  Thanks, Ryan!  Anyone who would like to join a class can email me.

The Wild Geese:  Oh, we shall!  Thanks so much for your time today, Eilis.

The Irish Gift:  Go raibh míle maith agaibh!

The WIld Geese:  Oiche mhaith, gach duine!

To learn more about what The Irish Gift offers, you can read their introductory blog post here.  You may also visit their website (www.TheIrishGift.com) and their Facebook page.

Read more from The Irish Gift

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Tags: Arts, Connemara, Dance, Gaeilge, Galway, Irish Language, Roscommon, Traditional Music, United States

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